Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 13 (Fin) – Deciding for Themselves

Chisato ends up alone with Majima at the top of the Enkuboku for a final round. Majima makes things even more interesting by activating a 60-minute timer on a bomb that will presumably bring the tower down. Why Chisato doesn’t just repeatedly shoot Majima right next to his ears is unclear, but the duel that ensues is pretty evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the power goes out on the whole tower to ensure no hackers, friend or foe, will be able to interfere with Majima and Chiato’s fight. The elevator still has aux power, so Fuki heads down with a seriously injured Sakura while Takina asks her to let her climb back up to help Chisato. Fuki decides that she and Takina should get to decide what they want to do for once.

After pulling off a particularly tricky acrobatic move on Majima, Chisato suddenly finds her artificial heart starting to give out. Majima, who may be a jerk, has no interest in fighting her in this state, so he shoots open a vending machine, offers her a juice and the two have a short break. Chisato want him to stop the clock, but he won’t.

Whither Mr. Yoshi? Helped along by Himegama, he continues his retreat, but is confronted by Mika, who actually doesn’t have a bum leg. Himagama charges him, but he wallops her with his cane, then riddles her with non-lethal bullets. Left unprotected, Mika has come for Yoshi’s briefcase, to tell him it’s time to let the kids make their own choices, then kills the man he clearly never really stopped loving.

After engaging it some philosophical sparring regarding who is the hero, who is the villain, and what constitutes a properly-lived life (Majima is resolved to restore “balance”, Chisato is fine with the status quo) their fight resumes. Chisato is feeling better but still far from 100%, and the clock is still ticking.

Eventually one of Majima’s many bullets grazes Chisato, and she goes down. Majima steps on her and prepares to shoot her, but just then Takina appears, and Chisato uses the moment of distraction to pull Majima head-over-heels.

The two hit the glass, which cracks and then shatters (in reality, glass in a tower like this would be several inches thick, like that in the CN Tower, but whatever); the two begin to fall. We don’t see what becomes of Majima, which means he’s clearly not dead, while Takina ensnares Chisato with her restraining wire.

The phone countdown hits zero, and the “punishment explosion” turns out to be a massive fireworks display, which was likely meant to cap off the Enkuboku opening anyway. Majima, while likely not dead, is at least out of their hair for the time being, and both Takina and Chisato are alive.

In the first of two epilogues, Sakura has made a full recovery and is back to her exuberant, poop parfait-lovin’ self, Fuki is still meekly deferent to Mika, and life at LycoReco has returned to normal,  except that Chisato has not been around, while Takina is out on a job.

That job turns out to be traveling to Miyako to find Chisato, but the mission is first portrayed as her tracking down and eliminating a target. The two end up trading gunfire in the forest and then shooting each other with restraining wire, and when they realize they’re…each other, they hop into each other with joy (while also scolding each other for coming at each other so hot).

Takina explains to Chisato how a regular café patron happened to capture Chisato in the background of a photo of her and her boyfriend, and so even with no internet or cameras, they were able to find her. Takina also notes that she’s glad Chisato is alive and well.

Chisato actually slipped out of the hospital and traveled to Miyako not sure about the nature of the operation she underwent. Turns out Mr. Yoshi was lying; the heart wasn’t in his chest, but in the briefcase. Now that it’s in Chisato’s chest, she’s going to live a long, healthy life.

The scenes at the seaside café and then on the beach are some of the most richly-colored and beautiful of the series, and really lend a lovely gravitas to what these two have been through…and what they mean to each other. When asked what she should do with the extra life she’s been given, Takina proposes she do something she’s always wanted to.

That brings us to the bonus epilogue: LycoReco Hawaii! No doubt thanks to Kurumi’s skills, the whole gang is able to travel to the states and set up a café truck by the ocean. Everyone seems to be doing their part and having fun, and we also learn their side hustle of helping people out is still going on as well, only now in adorable Hawaiian garb.

It’s a cute and satisfying all’s-well-that-ends-well ending. Sure, there are still a lot of guns still in Tokyo, and a heavily-bandaged Majima out there egging people. The moral quandary that is Lycoris and the DA is still hanging out there too.

But Chisato and Takina are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. They who were tools for the adults are now free to live their lives how they see fit. For that reason alone, I can walk away from this show with a smile.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 12 (Fin) – Blossoms That Never Scatter

When Miyuki tells Kaguya how he’s been accepted to Harvard and will be gone this time next year, she pretty much turns to stone and then shatters into pieces. But she drags Ai out from whatever she’s doing to update her on where things stand. They both know that the basic plan hasn’t changed—confess to Miyuki—it’s just a matter of how.

Kaguya tries a number of methods, but all are pooh-poohed by Ai in various ways. That is, until Kaguya digs deep, describes all the unique ways she loves the president, including his drive to move forward, and starts to cry as she notes how cruel it would be to ask him not to go overseas. Ai, realizing she went too far, draws Kaguya into a hug and assures her that they’ll get her confession to Miyuki without fail.

In Yuu/Tsubame land, things seem to be going swimmingly. Yuu prepared a hella warm coat for Tsubame to wear when the evening chill came around, and even impresses her with his knowledge of flower language and a red cherry blossom tree in the spot where she wishes to give him an update on her answer to his confession.

Her answer, while not no, is that she doesn’t yet have an answer. That’s fair enough; Tsubame only just realized when Yuu gave her that heart how he truly feels about her, and she’s still getting used to seeing him like that. As for Yuu, he isn’t even aware he did confess with that heart until he watches her perform in the play about the Hoshin legend.

Thanks in part to Ai, Kaguya is poised to have a perfect opportunity to confess to Miyuki: when she’s resplendent in her archer’s garb and lit by the burning flame of her arrow, and Miyuki is completely captivated by her beauty. Unfortunately, Miyuki is nowhere to be found when the time comes to light the campfire!

Instead, shortly after the fire is lit, it suddenly rains cards signed by “Arsene”, the Phantom Thief Chika has been chasing throughout the festival. The jewel from the dragon’s mouth is also missing. Kaguya can’t believe her terrible luck; for all this nonsense to be happening when she’s supposed to be confessing. But the thing is, the Phantom Thief is none other than Miyuki.

When Chika runs off with Erika to further investigate, Kaguya already puts two and two and four together and realizes this is one big scheme by Miyuki, and that she’s going to catch him and then confess to him. That involves sipping canned coffee together, but the machine won’t accept the lowest-denomination bills she has (10,000 yen).

But hey, at least she has the heart trinket to give him, right? Well, no…she managed to lose that when she changed in and out of her archery garb. At the same time, the narrator explains how Miyuki, while initially in a kind of whimsical enthusiasm fugue state, is starting to come to his senses and feel embarrassment for his current situation (and goofy master thief getup).

As Kaguya ascends the clock tower to meet Miyuki, they both find themselves bereft of their usual arsenals of weapons in their long war game of love. There’s nothing left but their feelings, their words, and the months before Miyuki heads to California.

This would make for an infuriatingly frustrating end to the third season…if this were the final episode in its entirety. Thankfully, this is not the end, and as soon as I realized I’d only watched the first of a two-part double episode, I regained my composure and kept watching.

When Kaguya reaches the top, the narrator repeats his spiel from the very first episodes, about how love is war, those in love live in terror, etc. But Miyuki and Kaguya go on that they must convey their feelings for the one they love, even if it means they “lose”, or they’ll never move forward.

While donning his ridiculous top hat, Miyuki tells Kaguya having her beside him for this, his big final culture festival moment, and Kaguya goes through all the things in her head she should say to him out loud. That she wants him to stay by her side forever, and that even if she’s not sure he would ever like a “cold, hateful woman”, but if he confessed to her right then and there, she’d 100% accept it.

Miyuki doesn’t confess with words, but he does confess by unleashing the jewel of the dragon—which turned out to be a weather balloon—with an app, and has it drift over the campfire until it pops, revealing a massive swarm of heart-shaped balloons that float up to their vantage point atop the tower.

He and the narrator recount Miyuki’s efforts for the “Ultra Romantic Campaign” that culminated in this heart balloon blizzard; a plan he first set into motion the same day he applied to Stanford. He planned every last detail, including ensuring Chika, Yuu, and Miko didn’t interfere at the proper time.

Just like Kaguya, Miyuki launches into a self-deprecating inner monologue about how he worked his goddamn tail off to become her equal, and explains that if he overtly confessed or ask her out in words, he’d be confirming the fact they weren’t equals. No, he needed to do something that would make her confess to him.

But what’s most important to Miyuki isn’t that she confess, or that they go out…it’s that they are able to remain together. To that end, he got the principal to agree to write a second letter of recommendation for Kaguya, and atop that tower, as he holds a blue balloon heart and she holds a red one, he asks her to apply to Stanford and go with him to the U.S.

It’s not a confession, but despite what a shock it brings to Kaguya, she’s so happy to hear these words that she agrees on the spot, so quickly that it weird Miyuki out a little. And now that Miyuki has expressed how he feels and what he wants, Kaguya can do the same, and does so with a passionate kiss that is witnessed but notably and mercifully not interrupted by Chika’s Scooby Gang.

In between these stunningly epic scenes of some of the most gratifying payoffs in anime rom-comdom, the rest of the cast get their curtain calls for the season. Nagisa dances with Maki, assuring her that she likes her more than Tsubasa; Kobachi admits to her bae it’s time to stop being so overprotective of Miko; Yuu deems it unkind to steal Tsubame away from her adoring fans and classmates and instead tracks down Miko, shows her footage of the campfire she made happen, and tells her to go enjoy it already.

Later that night, Kaguya recounts her Ultra Romantic evening with the President to Ai in a voice best described as … “giddysmug”. She gleefully describes the kiss as tasting like ketchup (since Miyuki had just eaten a corn dog) and goes on to decribe how she used her tongue during the kiss, which we see made a lasting impact on Miyuki.

Mind you, neither Miyuki nor Kaguya actually verbally confessed … but c’maaaahn. Even these two clueless doofuses cannot deny what they are to one another, and while there’s certainly a lot to think about and plan (including how to get the other to verbally confess to them!), the fact that their future is secure together is a great weight lifted from their shoulders.

Student Council antics continue as usual, with Chika coming up with a game that will start some shit, and Yuu and Miko sparring like siblings. Kaguya and Miyuki look on with pride and contentment, the Miyuki’s desk hiding the fact that they’re holding hands. It was definitely touch-and-go throughout this stressful closing culture festival arc, but Love is War nailed the landing, and I never should have doubted it would.

If a fourth season comes around—and apparently there’s an enormous amount of source material left to adapt—it will be icing on an already perfect cake. But when we’re talking about icing this well made, there’s no such thing as too much. Keep making this show until these dweebs are old and gray with grandchildren running around in California; I wouldn’t need any other anime to sustain me!

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Re: Zero – 50 (S2 Fin) – Number One Knight

The only thing standing between Subaru & Co. and winning the day is one of the Three Great Mabeasts, the Great Rabbit, who surround the Graveyard just as Subaru returns from the mansion with a newly-revitalized Beatrice. What with the weakness of her contractor (Subie) and the length of time since her last real battle (400+ years), Beako deems she has just the right handicap to make the fight interesting.

With that, she unleashes El Minya—a shower of pink crystal shards that obliterate bunnies on contact. They keep coming, but her contractor, Subaru maintains hand contact and uses El Minya as well until the Rabbits, not being truly infinite, reach their maximum number. Subie then builds a crystal paddock to restrain them, which Emilia traces and reinforces with her ice magic, rising them off the ground.

Having been given sufficient time to prepare it, Beako finishes the Rabbit off with Al Shamac, transporting it in its entirety to an isolated space—like the forbidden library—from which it will never be able to return. A great psychological weight lifts from everyone—and myself!—when they realize that the battle is over, and they won.

Just when Beako is hoping for a little more enthusiastic celebration, she gets more than she bargained for when Subie lifts her up and spins her around in elation. Beako and Roswaal pay their respects to Echidna, their mother and teacher. Beako realizes for the first time that the Roswaal before her is the Roswaal she knew—the product of soul transcription, Echidna’s dream was realized.

Given some time to themselves outside the graveyard during a gorgeous sunrise, Emilia bashfully, adorably broaches the topic of “the baby in her belly!” It’s a phrase that nearly causes Subie to jump out of his shoes, but is only the result of some god-level trolling on Puck’s part, who convinced Lia that a mere kiss like the one she shared with Subie is enough to create life!

What follows is a “purification ritual” at the chapel, in which everyone in the main circle Roswaal wronged is given a much deserved slap or slug to the face. Ram, who is recovering quickly thanks to Beako, doesn’t stop them, as not even she can deny he’s made mistakes—one of them never being aware how much she loves him until now.

Emilia and Subaru knows they need Roswaal’s power for the Royal Selection and Battles to Come, but what’s stopping him from turning on them again? He removes his shirt to show just that: an oath sealed by a curse, which he received after losing to Subaru (on whose chest it would have appeared had he lost). Gar and Petra object anyway, but defer to everyone else, while Lia is sufficiently satisfied upon hearing a simple “I’m sorry” from the margrave.

A little time passes, but not much. With Roswaal’s mansion in ruins, the house of Annerose Miload, of a Mathers branch family, serves as the venue for the knighting of one Natsuki Subaru by one Emilia. Before the ceremony, Roswaal informs Subaru that he still intends to bring Echidna back, blood, breath, and soul.

Because he lacks the Tome of Wisdom, and the pain of losing what may be lost in his quest to revive teacher might surely cause him to Burn Everything Down, he instead vows to keep a close eye on Subaru and the path he walks. Like Roswaal, Subaru has lost so much, but every time he picks up the pieces, refusing to lose anything, bearing every wound those initial losses create.

After some flowery dialogue, the deed is done; Subaru officially becomes Sir Subaru. Subaru marks the occasion by telling Emilia how sexy and cute she looks in her be-knighting outfit, and in another sign of how much stronger she’s become, Lia laughs it off and sticks out her tongue rather than crumbling before praise. More importantly, Subaru now dons world-appropriate clothes that match Emilia’s white-and-purple theme.

As the well-earned party rages indoors, Subaru goes out onto the balcony for some quiet contemplation, and Emilia soon joins him, accurately accusing him of being drunk…on himself and the atmosphere, not booze. Emilia tells him there’s something she wants to talk to him about, and asks him to come to her room later to do so, employing a pinky swear to seal their agreement.

Subaru assures her no matter what she needs to say, he’ll never become “disenchanted” with her. After all, she just made him her Number One Knight! Emilia compliments Subaru’s sweet face, and remarks that the scene they’re beholding just might be her “ideal”, and she’ll never forget it. It was at this point I was convinced a shoe or two would drop, pulling the rug from everyone’s feet and plunging the celebratory mood into some fresh devilry as White Fox often does.

But it didn’t! The fact Rem never woke up aside, this was a totally happy ending, not leaving us with any cliffhanger we’d have to stew with for an unknown duration until a third season arrived to sate our hunger anew. And I’m very happy about that, and where everyone stands at this stopping point.

The gorgeous way the episode fades to white as Subaru and Emilia dance a waltz while surrounded by friends and allies—that’s pretty much my ideal too! Emilia finally got the character-building arc she deserved, and cemented her role as Best Girl. The Royal Selection, Rem’s reawakening, and dealing with the Sin Archbishops can wait. For now, Let’s party!

The Day I Became a God – 12 (Fin) – The Easy Way Out

Up to this point, The Day I Became a God had told a compelling and reasonably plausible sci-fi tale about a child who was given a new lease on life (i.e. “became a god”) thanks to bleeding-edge technology, only to have that tech stripped away when the ramifications of its wider use were considered too constructive.

That decision was made by the highest world powers who had to that point played no role in the narrative, and play no role afterwards. Thanks to Suzuki Hiroto’s hacking, Youta is able to find the Hina who is no longer a god and even gain entry to her care facility.

Youta put the consequences of his fraud out of his mind because he held out hope one more miracle would occur: Hina would not only remember him and their happy summer together with his friends and family, but make the decision to return home with him.

Rather than accept the new normal and move forward, Youta insisted on getting everything back to the way it was—on moving backward. And while I certainly sympathized with, and may even have acted as he did in his position, in the end he was wrong, and misguided. Just being in that facility under false pretenses marked him as a criminal.

Throughout the sanitarium part of the series, Shiba had been painted as Youta’s adversary; his rival for the deciding of Hina’s future. It was even implied Shiba had a personal stake in remaining in the here-and-now Hina’s care, which is considerable and not to be undertaken lightly. This week she confronts him about his fraud, but rather than expel him immediately from the facility and turn him over to the police, she gives him One More Day.

The show had me until then, then lost me as soon as that decision was made. I understand this is a fictional show that makes choices out of dramatic license, but for someone who claims to be so committed to Hina’s health and safety, Shiba’s “small kindness” to Youta is as baffling as it is reckless.

Sure, we may know Youta means no harm, but have neither the training or experience to know the extent of how much he may harm her nonetheless. Shiba does, and rather than immediately remove a potential agent of further harm, she lets him not only linger, but take Hina away.

Youta is depicted as being at his lowest point as he’s roughly escorted out of the facility to a waiting car. That should be it, but Shiba takes Hina out into the freezing cold to allow for an extended goodbye, during which it dawns on Youta why Hina kept discarding the card with the drawing of him. The real him was already there, unlike the others, so his card wasn’t needed.

With the real Youta now about to be “missing” Hina verbally protests, repeating how she “loves Yoha[sic]”, jumping out of Shiba’s arms, steadying herself, then walking barefoot into his waiting arms. Finally, Youta has evidence that her memories aren’t gone. She remembers him and his family and friends.

The Hina he knew is still “in there”, merely in a more frail body with a smaller vocabulary, and we can deduce that she wants him to remain in her life.

And hey, that’s great! It really is! But Hina remembering Youta, and even declaring she loves him, doesn’t mean he can immediately take her back home like nothing happened! Shiba was preparing to take Hina to a better facility overseas, implying that the current facility—clearly no slouch itself—wasn’t quite up to spec in terms of being the best place for Hina’s continued care and development.

Youta’s house may be a loving home, but I have to question whether Youta and his parents truly have Hina’s best interests at heart. None of them have caregiver training for special needs children. Worse, Youta returns home immediately, and it’s clear his house hasn’t been modified for Hina’s needs.

If there were plans for Shiba to take Hina abroad, why would she simply give up guardianship and custody to someone she knew was a high school student pretending to be a pediatric researcher? At the very least, Shiba would move into Youta’s house to help with Hina. I’m sorry, but none of these events make any logical sense if you push past the emotional manipulation and think about any of it for one second.

Instead, things carry on as if Hina had simply been kidnapped and returned safe and sound. Youta figures out that the things she did as “Odin”—playing basketball, eating ramen, making a film, etc.—were things the pre-chip Hina wanted to do but couldn’t due to her Logos Syndrome. But then why did pre-chip Hina want to revitalize a restaurant…or get Youta laid by a mahjongg otaku??

Youta decides that Hina always was a god, and even remains one, and credits her with helping him decide his path in life: he’ll go to college to become the foremost researcher on her condition. Wonderful sentiments, but the fact of the matter is he is woefully ill-equipped to help her now.

While he’s plugging away at the books (pre-med is no joke), Hina will need 24-hour care. Assuming he’ll leave that to his parents, will they get the training they need? Again, the fact Shiba simply vanishes without a trace is maddening.

Sora finally finishes her movie, which turns out to be a reflection of Youta and Hina’s arc: a guy rescuing a girl the world needed sacrifice in order to save it. The film sidesteps what effect the actual end of the world would have on their happiness; I guess they’d just enjoy their lives together until the oxygen ran out, because that’s better than being apart and the world going on?

The film is followed by the making-of segments, during which Hina sits down and gets real about her time on the earth with Youta & company. She likens the memories she’s made with them to be a chest full of dazzling jewels she’ll treasure for all of her days—even if “the world should end.”

You’d be forgiven for tearing up during this scene, as with other touching scenes designed to invoke tears. Youta and the others were tearing up. Heck, I teared up too! But once the tears dried, I was simply frustrated to the point of indignation.

This was a show that had all the resources to deliver a realistic ending, in which the acceptance of the loss and change in Youta’s life would spur his own growth and change, bolstering the change God-Hina had already caused. The previous two episodes paved the way for that kind of ending. It would have been difficult, and sad, but it would have felt genuine.

Instead, the show took the easy way out and gave Youta everything he wanted in a painfully artificial happy ending that shredded all previous nuance or appeals to realism. There are no apparent consequences for the fraud he committed, nor for removing Hina from a highly-controlled care facility and dropping her into the chaos of his family and friends.

Youta claims to now know the path he wants to walk, but reached that epiphany only after being unjustly rewarded for his missteps and ignorance. He learned that if he was stubborn and passionate enough, all obstacles would fold and he’d get his way…and they did. Finally, the less said about any romantic undertones to his bond with Hina, the better. I wish this ending didn’t leave such a bitter taste in my mouth, but here we are.

Oresuki – 06 – Effort Is Not Always Rewarded

A week has passed since “the breakup” between Joro and his friends, and the day of the Flower Dance has arrived. During that week Joro has had one and only one companion: Asunaro. That means when they learn of a new problem—the PTA is bristling at the idea of two boys dancing together—she’s all too happy to step in as the substitute. She doesn’t even have to ask; Joro asks her.

Turns out President—or should I say Detective—Cosmos has been On The Case all week, and finally has her conclusions to share with Asunaro, who insists on Joro being present. In the impromptu hearing within the StuCo office, Cosmos lays out the scenario that we had suspected: Asunaro spread false rumors about Joro so she could isolate him, and furthermore worked to get Sun kicked off the dance so she could take his place…and be the girl Joro would eventually marry.

Joro stays silent for the majority of this hearing, and all we hear are his reactions, including what even he deems may be a tonally inappropriate aside about how yet another girl fell in love at that damnable baseball game. In Asunaro’s case, she fell for Joro when he protected her from a foul ball. In reality, he was in the right place at the right time because he was trying to get a better view of the girl he’d learn was Pansy.

But once Cosmos is finished revealing all the underhanded things Asunaro did, and Asunaro’s first impulse is to beg him to be with her more than anyone else, Joro finally speaks up, and it’s in the voice of Dark Joro. He’s cruel and unyielding in his complete and utter rejection of her not just as a romantic interest, but a friend.

Of course, both Cosmos and I see through his act: in truth, he’s rattling her cage. There can’t be any doubt of his rejection of her if she’s to move forward, starting with recanting the libelious story in the next newspaper issue.

Cosmos’ closing lesson to Asunaro before Joro rejects her is that hard work alone isn’t enough to get rewarded with the desired results: in her case, Joro all to herself. As was explored in Fruits Basket more recently and many a romance before, a zero-sum game of love rarely succeeds. Even if Joro did love her, he’s going to hang out with other people and have his own life; that’s only healthy for both parties in a relationship.

With Asunaro’s plot revealed (but only to Cosmos, Joro, and Sun), the Flower Dance continues unabated, and it was worth the wait. Himawari and Cosmos are positively resplendent in their gowns as they twirl across the stage with a tuxedo-ed Joro. His third dance partner is of course Pansy, and even cold-hearted Joro can’t help but be charmed by her ethereal beauty, as well of her reciting the meanings three of the many colors of pansies.

When the dance concludes, Asunaro is hard at work on her retraction, while Pansy is officially welcomed into the circle of friends Joro had been working to get her into all this time, whether intentionally or subconsciously. It’s also become clear that Cosmos has something of a thing for Joro, and isn’t nearly ready to surrender him to Pansy. Still, considering her lecture to Asunaro, she’ll go about it the right way.

Astra Lost in Space – 12 (Fin) – Lost No Longer

We’re blessed with a double-length Astra finale, which really gives the show time and space to breathe and finish telling the story it’s apparent it always wanted to tell, and more importantly treated a loyal audience to a proper sendoff of the characters we’ve gradually come to love—and who have grown to love one another—one by one.

The first half, itself the length of a normal episode, is devoted to the return trip home. With Charce’s suicide plan foiled and Kanata down an arm but otherwise fine, the work of restocking the ship for the journey back to Astra. Kanata has to rest while the others work outside, but Aries quells his loneliness and FOMO by keeping him company.

Once they’re off Planet Galem, there’s ample time for the crew to assemble and hear Charce’s story of the history of their world—the real history, corroborating and continuing the story begun by Polina. Turns out the plan to relocate humanity’s population was so fraught with conflict, half of that population was killed in bitter wars for land on the new planet before the migration even took place.

The survivors of the conflict vowed never to let anything like that occur again, and so abolished nations and religions on Astra. Furthermore, the first generation to move and live there was the last to know about the true history of Earth; an alternate history of WWIII was fabricated, and the very timeline of humanity turned back 100 years.

All this time, the crew thought they were living in the year 2063, when it has actually been 2163; over one hundred years since the migration was successfully completed. It also means Polina wasn’t asleep for twelve years, but one hundred and twelve—yet doesn’t look a day over 29!

The crew decides that the world can’t go on living with a false history, but understands that telling the world the wrong way could be disastrous, not just to them but to the world.

Ulgar suggests they contact a trustworthy police lieutenant, and an detailed message is sent to him through Aries’ mom, including photos and videos of the still very much alive crew of Camp B5 and the log Aries has been making throughout the show (a nice touch).

By the time the Astra reaches orbit of Planet Astra, Lt. Grace is already at work arresting the King of Vixia, as well as his successor for his role in Princess Seira’s murder. Nothing a cop likes more than a bonanza of hard evidence. Very satisfying to watch these jerk-ass crooks made to pay for their heinous crimes.

The kids are met by an armed fleet in orbit, but after a few tense moments, contact is made and they identify themselves as friendly escorts, reporting that their originals have been apprehended and they are free to land. This is one of those instances where the extra length really counts, as we get to savor the crew’s arrival home and their ship’s final landing.

Once they arrive, and they get to tell their story to every media outlet on the planet, the crew become instant celebrities. Kanata and Charce tell the higher authorities about the need to spread the truth, something the higher-ups ultimately go with.

That bitter pill of truth is washed down without excessive unrest due in no small part to the charm of the crew, including the humanizing memoir about their five-month odyssey written by Kanata…not to mention the modelling chops of Quitterie and King Charce.

The length of the episode not only means it gets to take its time with a happy ending, but jumps seven years into the future, when the bulk of the crew is now 24. Everyone has changed their look a bit, but remain themselves and more importantly, remain good friends with one another, as you’d expect from what they went through. Yunhua sings a song inspired by those experiences, which essentially plays the series out.

Quitterie is married to Zack, while Funi is in high school and looks just like Quitterie (and has Polina as a teacher). Ulgar is now a serious journalist, while Kanata has achieved his goal of becoming a captain in seven years. His new ship is his old ship; buying the over 100-year-old Astra with funds earned from his book and fame.

With his past and present trusty mates Zack and Charce, they take off to chart the exit points of the wormholes and beyond, but they’ll be back. After all, Charce has kingly duties to get back to; Zack has a wife to get back to, and Kanata has to get back to Aries so they can marry and have a daughter they can name Seira.

And there you have it: Kanata no Astra, not just an epic survival story of a group of extraordinary kids, but herald to a bold new truth for humanity. One could say almost too much befell these kids; that they’re too special. But to that I say…what do you expect? They are, after all, the clones of people rich and powerful and ambitious enough to, well, clone themselves.

They were always destined for greatness, but it wasn’t going to be given to them; they were literally left for dead. But their originals made one critical blunder, forgetting about the presence of one last ship in old Earth’s orbit, the chariot of their downfall and their clones’ salvation. In the end, the clones surpassed their originals to become entirely different people—better people.

People who, rather than lying and cheating and stealing their way through life, scratched and tore and screamed to break the bonds of their origins, united together in love and fellowship, and changed the goddamned world. Hell of a story if you ask me.

Owarimonogatari S2 – 03 (Fin)

The first two 40-odd-minute episodes of this second “season” of Owarimonogatari, were good, but seemed to be lacking in something very crucial to an “Endstory” – an ending. So it’s just as well I was mistaken that there would only be two episodes, because this, the third episode, provides that ending.

And what a frikkin’ ending it is! Few series have been so painstakingly fastidious in their careful preparation of a nearly all-encompassing conclusion to the story of its protagonist than Monogatari has been with Araragi Koyomi. It’s only fitting that if indeed his story is over—a story in which he’s helped save so many cute young women, one after another—that the last person left for him to save is…himself.

At Shirahebi Park, formerly the site of Shirahebi Shrine and the town’s god, which was obliterated along with the lake by Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade landing there 400 years ago—a site of so many conversations between Koyomi and those girls—Izuko lays out the minimum requirements of victory.

First, that Hachikuji Mayoi be enshrined a the new god of North Shirahebi shrine, so that she has a purpose in the material world and won’t be swallowed by “the darkness”. Second: that Oshino Ougi be eliminated. Mind you, Izuko isn’t certain who or what Ougi is, only what she isn’t (i.e. Meme’s niece.)

That Ougi is a near-total unknown makes her a threat to the spiritual and physical health of the town, so she has to go, just as any of the other harmful apparitions that have cropped up.

As Itsuko convinces Koyomi (and me) of Ougi’s need to go, Ougi picks up Tsukihi (who is actually a phoenix in human disguise) from Nadeko’s house, where it was being underscored how much Nadeko thinks about and is working towards a finite future, whereas Tsukihi is content to simply live with others in an everlasting present.

I must admit, it felt for all the world like Ougi was either taking Tsukihi hostage (out of an abundance of caution in case Araragi didn’t join her side) or attempting to recruit the phoenix as a kind of last-ditch ally. In any case, the person Ougi is with quickly transitions from Tsukihi to Koyomi in that iconic ruined cram school classroom, who tells Ougi he’s ascertained her identity.

Ougi is, and always has been, him. She is he.

Eager to clearly explain everything, Owarimonogatari steps back a bit to the original meeting between Itsuko, Koyomi, Kiss-Shot, Mayoi, and Ononoki, and explains to Koyomi how Ougi is really him (all while everyone plays cricket in the park, after having played baseball earlier).

Ougi, originally introduced to Koyomi as a “fan” of Kanbaru, explains her name Ougi. Itsuko’s older sister (Kanbaru’s mother) faced a similar “unknown”, the “Rainy Devil”, who was the materialization of her self-control, and the left arm of which was passed to Suruga, her daughter.

When that arm came in contact with the First Minion’s energy drain, it connected the Devil, Koyomi, and Kiss-Shot, and by that route Koyomi’s desire to criticize himself for his actions were materialized into Oshino Ougi, or “Dark Koyomi.”

It’s a complex yet surprisingly elegant and satisfying explanation that ties together so many threads of the Monogatari mythos. Ougi is a fundamental product of all of Koyomi’s victories saving the girls in his life; victories that didn’t come without a great deal of self-doubt about the rightness or wrongness of the methods he used.

Itsuko used the immortal Tsukihi as a lure to draw Ougi out so Koyomi could do the same thing he’s done all along: “killing himself for the sake of others.” Ougi represents Koyomi’s adolescence, and it’s time to end it, and her.

It’s no coincidence that Koyomi is faced with having to “kill” his adolescence on the eve of graduation from high school and entry into college and adulthood. But when the true “darkness” opens up and is about to swallow Ougi, Koyomi finally goes against the grain and saves himself. 

He loses his right arm (and isn’t a vampire at the moment, so that’s a big deal), but Ougi is saved, and with it his adolescence (both his doubt, unfair self-critique, and love of young ladies)—even if it makes him “the worst” to put himself first.

Ougi is tickled, but saving Ougi only means he’ll be swallowed along with her by the “darkness”—until, that is, Hanekawa finally comes through, bringing Meme to the ruined classroom with only moments to spare, to declare that Oshino Ougi is his niece, and Koyomi has pushed her down and may not have the most honorable intentions with her.

These are lies, but the acknowledgement, like the words in a spell, are what were needed to legitimize Ougi’s existence in the world, and close the darkness. From that moment on, Ougi is no longer Dark Koyomi, or any part of him.

His adolescence is gone, replaced by nothing more or less than Meme’s ‘niece’. His lesson, all along, was that love isn’t forsaking yourself for the sake of others. He’s gotta think about number one from time to time.

But, as the epilogue illustrates, it’s not the end of Koyomi as we know him. He’s still him, which means if a young woman needs help, he’ll come to her aid and do anything he can. The difference is, that “anything” will now have a limit; “anything” is no longer “everything.” Koyomi can save and protect without sacrificing himself.

This is why the new god of North Shirahebi Shrine in Hachikuji Mayoi bows to him rather than the other way ’round; why an otherworldly powerful, fully-restored vampire in Kiss-Shot decides to return to the form of a far less strong young girl in his shadow; and before the graduation ceremony, Hitagi and Tsubasa let him go do his thing when he spots another young woman in distress.

And that’s it for Owarimonogatari! As I said, quite an epic ending; and one that covered a lot more than previous, “smaller” arcs. Chronologically speaking, Ougi Dark covers the second-latest Monogatari events adapted to TV, with only the already-released Hanamonogatari taking place later on the timeline.

I’ve yet to watch last year’s Koyomimonogatari ONA side-story (Update: now I have), or the Shinobu-centric Kizumonogatari film trilogy that takes place at the very beginning of the chronological spectrum (Update: that too). Once I do, I’ll have watched everything Monogatari has to offer; a span of 97 (Update: 103) total episodes. Of course, there are many novels that have yet to be adapted, so this remarkable run is most likely not quite finished.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 12 (Fin)

Going into the finale, I held out a glimmer of hope that Kotarou would be able eke out a high enough score to get into Akane’s school, and even if he wasn’t accepted, they’d figure something out.

Well, the finale wastes no time giving us the answer, dropping the news that Kotarou was not accepted in the first minute. It’s a crushing blow, especially knowing how many “first loves” like this are ended by long distance.

Still, if he had passed and been able to attend high school with Akane, where would the drama be? Kotarou’s mentor tells him that nothing an author goes through is for naught; one could say the same of lovers.

One person who hopes long distance will change things is Akane’s sister, who reasonably asks Akane if she’ll take the move as an opportunity to break up with Kotarou and turn the page rather than endure the pain of the distance. Akane is adamant that that’s not what she wants…and that her sister is a jerk.

Another is Chinatsu, who is ecstatic when Kotarou is accepted to the municipal school and takes it to mean fate has worked out in her favor. She decides the time is right to confess to Kotarou; to tell him she’s always like him, and ask if she’s good enough.

And she’s just…not. Everything worked out in her favor except the most important thing: that Kotarou is able to return her feelings. He’s not. She accepts the loss (again) and tries to look forward to the next year with Kotarou as just a friend.

Chinatsu tells Akane about her confession attempt, but Kotarou doesn’t, which makes their last date together before her move more fraught. When Kotarou tells her all the ways HE will make this work—getting a job to afford train fare to Chiba as many times a week as he can manage—she becomes overwhelmed by the burden she believes she’s putting on him.

This is another case of these two being in uncharted territory with no map compass, or experience. Kotarou’s a great guy who loves Akane, but she needs more than for him to say HE’s got this; she has to be a participant in making their relationship survive, and because she’s anxious by nature (doubly so when it comes to him), his unceasing niceness actually works against him as she becomes overwhelmed, cries, kisses him, and runs off.

That meeting on the river is the last time they see each other…before the move, but Kotarou decides to take the advice of friends and start writing as a way to process his feelings. He posts the stories of his first tender love to an online board, where they resonate because everyone has been there, and many even wish they could go back to a time when love was so simple.

Ironically, he’s posting these stories at the end of those simple times. From here on out, things will get more complicated by all of the things in life that interfere or threaten what we want most: to simply be with the person we love.

Yet even though he’s too late to say goodbye to Akane in person either at her now-vacant house or at the train station, Kotarou’s feelings, and the fact they’ll never change, manage to get through to her, and they’re the same feelings she has for him: a deep, warm love that is poised to endure the challenges of growing into adulthood.

And so ends the first stage of the romance between Kotarou and Akane. It turns out not to be fleeting, as thanks to the magic of LINE they stay in touch almost constantly, and also meet up quite a bit once Kotarou makes enough money.

As the credits roll, we see the couple enjoying more firsts like movie night alone (with the parents coming home too early); their first trip together alone; missing out on chatting when Akane gets home too late; Kotarou having drinks with Akane’s parents; Akane being fitted for a wedding dress.

It may seem like jumping ahead, but Tsuki ga Kirei isn’t about these moments and days and nights years…it was the story of how these two found each other, fell in love, and never stopped loving. It was a foundation, and it was a damned strong one.

By the end, after the challenges of long distance and high school and entering the workplace and more hard work and more distance, Kotarou and Akane come out of it wonderfully, get married, and have a child.

It’s the happy ending I hoped for, but with the added bonus of having been earned due to the challenges endured and sacrifices made. And brothers and sisters, if any of you came out of this episode—and that beautiful closing montage in particular—with totally dry eyes, you may want to check your pulse!

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 12 (Fin)

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Now that he’s killed the Daddy who never loved him, and is well on the way to destroying the capital with the sister he turned into a monster, there’s not much for Biba to do but sit on the throne and…wait. Wait to be defeated by Ikoma, that is.

There wasn’t really much doubt of that, as this show has typically stuck to tried-and-true plot developments. That being said, Ikoma and Kurusu storming the city, going to town, and leaving piles of bodies in their wake is a sight to behold, as is the latter’s understanding that he’s to waste no time ending the former should he go Full Kabane. (Never go Full Kabane; the audience can’t connect.)

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While on the outside Mumei is at the core of a grotesque yet also oddly beautiful fused colony, in her mind she’s fighting memories of being weak and stamping them out. It’s as much a prison for her mind as her body.

As for Ayame, she’s able to break some locals out of a prison of fear and rigid lashing-out simply by getting in their face. Not sure that wouldn’t have resulted in someone accidentally pulling a trigger on her, but she’s always had relatively good luck.

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With Kurusu by his side, Ikoma continues to carve his way to Mumei, leading to a minor boss fight with one of Biba’s lieutenants, who tries to run a train into Ikoma but is thwarted when Ikoma’s super-Kabaneri power allows him to blast the train straight off the rails and into mid air. He then kills the guy himself with his arm-gun, justifying the killing by saying the guy kill too many. No arguments here.

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There’s just one last obstacle before he can save Mumei: Biba himself, who takes the stage excited to “hunt” a rare, fearless foe such as Ikoma. In her fever dream prison, Mumei sees Ikoma as the one blue butterfly in a cloud of red ones, because butterflies have never been used in this way in anime before.

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In all seriousness, as we’ve seen, Biba is highly skilled at combat, but when you don’t seem to be fighting for much anymore, but when up against a singularly motivated and nigh unkillable Kabaneri, it was only a matter of time before he took a hard lick that took him down.

Biba doesn’t stay down, however, even after Ikoma downs him and gives Mumei the magical white blood, reviving her and bringing her back to normal. It isn’t Ikoma who delivers the killing blow to Biba; he’s unconscious. It’s Mumei, who repeatedly implored Biba to stop hurting Ikoma, and stabbed him through the heart when he didn’t.

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With Biba dead and Mumei back to normal, she and Kurusu (with Ikoma on his back) race back to the Kotetsujou, which seems like a rather manufactured final hurdle, even though I did like how happy she looked when she saw the whole gang ready to catch her with a big fabric net.

The only real problem is that Ikoma won’t wake up…until he does, on Mumei’s insistence. When he does, she embraces him closely, her shield returned to her by white blood Biba must have injected before being killed, a last act of selflessness and compassion in a life full of violence and hatred.

With Mumei and Ikoma both alive and relatively unhurt (amazingly), the Kotetsujou steams off into the sunset, ending a very dark show on a very bright—if awfully tidy—parting note.

Kabaneri initially grabbed my attention with superior visuals (and audio) and thrilling action. But once the novelty of that quality wore off, the shows shortcomings grew more conspicuous, keeping this show rather far from greatness. Still, it was a hell of a rousing watch…most of the time.

If a second season comes one day, I will definitely give it a look—I’d like to see Mumei’s humanity restored, for one thing—but if it’s all the same to Wit Studio, I’d prefer a second season of Attack on Titan first.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Well, have egg on my face. Just when I thought the show had already reached its main resolution, just when I wasn’t in love with the direction I thought it was taking with Satoru’s new future, and just when I was a little impatient that last week seemingly ended in the same place as the week before, ERASED didn’t just ignore and then subvert my expectations; it pushed them off a school roof with gusto.

It all starts with a little necessary backtracking. Satoru isn’t calm and cool up on that roof alone with Yashiro because he’s content with the life he’s lived and the good he’s done for those around him. It’s because he has a plan. It’s a plan that we can only speculate about until it happens, but it was made with the help of Kenta and Hiromi, who are committed to helping Satoru again, if that’s what he wants.

They feel that way because when he, the superhero, needed help, he believed in them, and so they believed right back. Without that mutual belief in one another, the amazing things he achieved wouldn’t have happened…and Satoru would have likely been murdered up on the roof.

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Call it “One Last Job” for Satoru & Friends: the job that even their nemesis doesn’t see coming, because he’s so consumed with putting Satoru in a box with either jail or death as the escape routes, like a rat in a maze. He uses a fatal muscle relaxant IV on Kumi (with Satoru’s fingerprints on the bag) to create that awful choice, and keeps grinning with glee about finally besting the one who ruined all his plans.

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This is as superhero-y as you can get: the Villain thinking he has the Hero, his Nemesis, in his clutches and at his mercy, and just when victory as he sees it is in sight, the hero wiggles out. The hero wins, with a move way out of left field and yet deliciously awesome in its precision and timing.

Satoru says Yashiro the one who has lost, not only because he was able to save all those victims from him (including his mother in the future) and thwart all his attempts to frame him (including this one), but because for fifteen years—only an instant for him, but an agonizing crawl for Yashiro—while he slept, Yashiro didn’t kill him.

He couldn’t, because Satoru was the only one who knew who he was; that something that fills the void everyone has and needs to have filled. He can’t kill him because of that.

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And Satoru means that quite literally. Sure, Yashiro could let go, which he does, but if Satoru dies then, so does the one thing in his life that’s made him feel anything. The void returns. But Yashiro doesn’t die even when Yashiro decides to let go, because his friends arranged a cushion for him to land safely on, and they also serve as witnesses for Yashiro’s attempted murder.

Yashiro lost because he was alone; because the only person that could fill his void was someone he was committed to ruining; tormenting; erasing. And yet, Yashiro, who truly took fifteen years of Satoru’s life away from him, may have actually been doing him a favor, for the life Satoru lived when we met him was one of dark repressed memories, dead classmates and friends, and most importantly, a life where he had ceased “taking the bull by the horns”.

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It took more struggle to get there, but Satoru was, with his mom and his buddies, finally able to bring Yashiro to true justice. He was able to live on once his deep sleep had ended, and both his memories of heroic deeds, and the dramatic one he performed on the roof to put Yashiro away, filled a void in him that was present in the original timeline, before any Revivals.

This older Satoru keeps taking the bull by the horns. After being a real hero, he became able to write about heroes, compellingly enough to have anime made about them. He’s by all rights a great success, but when he returns back to the city after visiting all his old friends in Hokkaido (and I liked how they teased Misato as a possible love interest), a void still remains in him: one shaped like Kitagiri Airi, the wonderful soul who got lost in all the time-shifting…

…Or so we and Satoru thought. Or maybe he didn’t think that. Why else would he return to the bridge where he and Airi parted, with him in handcuffs and she in tears? Kayo was never meant to be the girl Satoru ended up with after all. When Airi appears, asking brightly if she could share some shelter from the snow with him, everything comes full circle.

It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true: believing in people leads them to believe in you; that’s how you gain allies and friends. It’s one big loop of believing and void-filling. And there you have it: a very nifty and moving ending to my favorite anime of the Winter! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 09

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Things move fast this week, but most of the things that occur are basically foregone conclusions. Kikuhiko and Sukeroku both become Shin’uchi, but in his debut, Sukeroku sticks it to the association president by performing his specialty, “Inokori”, in which he must embody multiple sides of one character, Saheiji, depending on who else he’s talking to. It’s a challenging story, but Sukeroku pulls it off and gets the only approval he needs: that of the crowd.

Now a Shin’uchi, Kikuhiko is committed to shedding a woman he feels someone of his stature can no longer be with. It’s not pride so much as obligation to the structures he was raised into, which demand that a man put things above his own personal feelings. His breakup with Miyokichi had been telegraphed for some time, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when the hammer comes down.

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Miyokichi, as it happens, isn’t the only one who gets dumped: as a result of his insolence in his debut, Sukeroku is taken aside by his master, who informs him Kiku, not he, will be the Eighth Generation Yakumo. Again, the writing was on the wall. As well-intending as Sukeroku is, and no matter how much practical sense it makes, he was never going to be able to successfully convince the old guard of his “change or die” views of rakugo.

For the elders, including his master, change is death; there is no difference. Oral tradition cannot truly survive if it becomes a game of Telephone. Tweaking tradition is a slippery slope, one that the elders would rather fall to their death by clinging to rather than allow it to be propped up with new ideas.

Furthermore, Sukeroku was always hampered by his modest origin; he was always an interloper, a “stray dog” who clawed his way into this world. There’s no way the master would allow such a person to succeed him, no matter how unassailable his talent. There may be TVs now, but castes still matter.

When Sukeroku argues too forcefully, Yakumo expels him, throwing him out of his house. And that’s how our two dumped and dejected people find and comfort each other.

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Speaking of comfort, Kikuhiko isn’t experiencing it just because everything seems to be going his way. In his mind, Sukeroku is still better at rakugo than him, no matter how many elders or syncophants say otherwise. He’s particularly irritated when a dilettante-ish rakugo critic tears down Sukeroku in an apparent effort to curry favor. Kiku ends the interview right there.

Then Master Yakumo’s wife dies, and with mortality on his mind, he informs Kikuhiko that he intends to give him his name. Kiku’s initial reaction is that it’s a mistake; Sukeroku should get the name; he’s more skilled; he doesn’t have any skill compared to that raw talent. But Yakumo reproaches his apprentice.

It’s not Kiku’s place to tell him who he should give his name to, nor to say whether he’s better or worse than Sukeroku. Just like his brother, Kiku spoke out of place, but out of humility and inferiority, not arrogance and outsize obligation to take rakugo upon his shoulders and “save” it, as Sukeroku wants to do. There’s more to being Eighth Generation than being The Best At Rakugo. 

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As Kiku continues to thrive but derive no joy from anything other than doing rakugo, Sukeroku and the scorned Miyokichi quickly shack up together and become an item. Just as Sukeroku and Kikuhiko must embody different people to perform their stories to suit their audiences, so too does Miyo, a skilled and experienced geisha, know how to be exactly the woman a particular man wants. She could be classy and prudish for Kiku, whom she loved, but knows Sukeroku less propriety.

I’m glad Miyo doesn’t waste any more time than she needs to worrying about Kiku; what’s done is done, and she’s moving on with someone who actually wants to be with her. Sukeroku doesn’t know if he’s quite that person yet…but he does like boobies. There’s something sad and close-looped about the two being depressed about the same person—Kikuhiko—but they must make do with each other.

Also, she doesn’t have time to wait around or worry; she has a baby on the way, and wants to raise it in the countryside. Her geisha house is shut down, so she steals the till with the intention of running off with Sukeroku.

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He stops by Kiku’s not for money or a place to stay, but to say goodbye, even as Kiku urges him to make peace with the master so he can give him his name. Sukeroku knows what he has to do to get back in the good graces of their master, and he can’t do it. He tells Kiku about Miyo and the baby and the country, and Kiku is not happy.

What is Kiku going to do without Sukeroku around annoying him and challenging him to be his best? What is he going to do with Yakumo’s name when he’s certain his drunk, uncouth, stray dog of a brother deserves it more? Someone he wants to punch and embrace in the same moment?

These unanswerable questions (which must attempt to be answered anyway, one day at a time) sow the seeds of a bitterness and regret that will stay with Kiku for years, then made worse one day when Sukeroku loses his life in his prime. That bitterness will come to define the man telling this story to Yotarou and Konatsu in the present.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 25 (Fin)

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UBW’s epilogue drops us in London two years after the end of the Holy Grail War, with Shirou tagging alongside Rin as her pupil at a Hogwarts-like magical college. It would also seem they’re living together, and are quite happy about it.

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After we’re shown some glimpses of their new life—home-cooked breakfast for Rin (still not a fan of the morning), an English love rival who spars with Rin in a kind of magical MMA bout; Shirou nursing Rin’s wounds after her defeat.

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The couple takes a day trip to Glastonbury to visit King Arthur’s tomb, a trip Rin plans so Shirou can properly say goodbye to Saber. It’s a nice touch, and the English countryside and ruins are lushly rendered.

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While on the bus ride home, with Rin asleep on his shoulder, Shirou reflects on the events that got him here to this point, by her side. A month after the war, Rin tells him of her plans to move to London and attend the mage’s university, inviting him to come along; an invitation he gladly accepts. Rin’s primary postwar goal is to make the man she loves happy, which means keeping him by her side.

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Back in the present, in an encounter I’m sure had more resonance for those more familiar with the franchise, a tall, stern man questions why Shirou is there, and remarks that it’s a “small world” when he hears of Shirou’s desire to be a HoJ. My guess is this guy knew Kiritsugu.

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Shirou has been invited to join the Mages Association and eventually Clock Tower, but he declines. Rin isn’t particularly surprised, but is more than willing to follow him as they see the world they saved. Lots of great loving smiles from Rin in this epilogue.

Shirou and Rin’s indications, along with the post-credits sequence, suggest Shirou will never be able to escape the same path as Archer, but until then, he and Rin are going to have as many good times as they can. When the time comes, she hopes her positive influence in his life will enable him to move a little further forward and get “the right ending.”

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