Mekakucity Actors – 12 (Fin)

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While I recognize the wide appeal of the music of this show, I found the meandering, anecdotal lyrics to be tiresome and less deep and clever than they thought they were. That, along with a stubborn reluctance to ever let its audience in on its secrets, contributed to the less-than-glamorous scores I’ve been giving the episodes, and why Mekakucity Actors closes with an uneven finale that had me wishing for more.

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I found myself far more engaged with various character portraits than with the over-arching plot centered around Marry, the granddaughter of the “Monster” whose exploits were narrated in the show’s omake sections. That plot is resolved this week, as we learn Marry is the one who, wishing to be with her friends, basically created the world where everyone’s living.

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I will say, I enjoyed how the Mekakushi-dan was finally whole this week and operated as a team, but I still felt a bit short-changed. Considering the time spent thus far on their individual stories, their collaboration is all too brief, and there’s no more time to explore the new dynamics, aside from a couple incidental quips.

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This could be a factor of my watching too much varied anime at once, but I must admit I was a bit confused why not only Ene was in a human body again (I recalled last seeing that body in a liquid-filled tube, but what happened in between?), but also Shintaro just showing up with Ayano. And what exactly happened with Hiyori? I’m not trying to blame the show for my lack of comprehension regarding certain matters, but it really felt like certain things were omitted simply due to lack of time.

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Granted, the animation it pretty good as the snake takes oveer Konoha’s body and becomes “dark Konoha”, and Marry’s transformation and the big moment when she decides not to reset everything back to happier days like the snake wanted, but cancelling her wish, which causes the snake’s existence to cease. But in this case, pretty good animation wasn’t enough to carry it.

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I only ever saw disjointed flashes of excellence in this show, and it doesn’t help that there already has been a Shinbou-directed Shaft series where a cute red-eyed half-medusa girl voiced by Hanazawa Kana is the key to everything. The show did technically wrap up the main plot, but it felt quite rushed and I found much of the shows’ potential to have been kept bottled up. As such, Actors goes into the “Just Okay” pile of Shaft/Shinbou efforts.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.33
MAL Score: 7.75

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Mekakucity Actors – 11

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Mekakucity continued its freewheeling M.O. of jumping from flashbacks to the present and from one group of characters to another, shedding more light on how they got to where they are, where they’re headed, and how they’ll get there—in a word, as a single united group.

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The snake possessing Kenjirou’s original plan was foiled by Ayano’s suicide, but he’s still at it, and wants to use the group to fulfill his host’s wish. It wants to do this not because it’s necessarily evil (though it doesn’t think much of humans) but because doing so allows it to exist in the first place.

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Still, the snake is a prety wishy-washy and somewhat creul entity, so he doesn’t have my sympathy. If the choice is between letting it continuing existing or letting the Mekukashi-dan, I’m going with the latter. But it’s clear that neither side really had a choice in the matter. When the snake encounters wishes, it’s in its nature to fulfill them, no matter how much chaos it costs.

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As he lingers at his sister’s gravestone, Kano finally lowers his armor and has a good cry in the arms of Seto, who arrived wondering what was up. Kano has a right to be upset; he watched his sister fall into another dimension, never to be seen again, but both his pain of those events and the responsibility to right things isn’t his alone.

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Similarly, when they finally chase him down, Kido and Momo explain to Hibiya that he’s more likely to save Hiyori if working together with them. When they’re captured and imprisoned in a futuristic jail by mysterious enemy in white suits, Momo ups her idol powers to call for help and cheer Hibiya up, all while being concealed by Kido’s powers.

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It works, as it draws not only Kano, Seto, Marry and Haruka to their location, but Takane as well, back in a physical body. The only Actor missing is Shintaro, who spends the episode in his house talking to Shion, then entering the dreamworld where he meets with Ayano and repeats the refrain of the episode: the time for fighting alone is over.

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Mekakucity Actors – 10

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It’s been abundantly clear for some time now that Mekakucity isn’t particularly interested in presenting a linear narrative, preferring to blend episodes of the present with glimpses of the pasts of the characters involved in that present, for us to better understand, or more to the point, care about said characters.

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This week, the present is mostly placed on the back burner in favor of Kozakura Marry’s backstory. Wouldn’t you know it, she’s the granddaughter of the “monster” in the fairy tale. One day, fearful townsfolk come to kill the monster, but she fiercely protects her husband and daughter Shion—Marry’s mom—before leaving them, and the world.

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Marry was raised to believe her eyes would turn others to stone, just like her grandmother Medusa, but her life of lonliness grows intolerable, and she can’t help but cry out for help. Help arrives in the form of Seto Kousuke, who has eyes just like hers, even if they’re embued with a different power. In any case, a connection between two kindred spirits is formed, and the rest is history.

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The entire flashback is neatly framed by a dream the present-day Marry is having while nodding off, when she’s supposed to be keeping an eye on Amamiya Hibiya. This leads to her finding Konoha and bringing him back to HQ, and after seeing Marry’s mom and dad, we couldn’t help but wonder if Honoka’s resemblance to them was intentional. In any case, Akiyuki Shinbou certainly has a thing for manipulative asshole snakes…and now that we know where Marry is coming from, we care about her more than we did before.

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Mekakucity Actors – 09

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The story of Mekakucity Actors is gradually moving forward as more pieces of the central mystery come into focus and fall into place, but it’s a circuitous route forward full of switchbacks, some of which go downhill into the past before coming back up. Along with Ene, we are Kano’s guide as he leads us down one, to the time when he, Seto and Kido became family when Ayano’s parents adopted them.

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At first, this seems like a good thing: two well-off archaeologists bringing disadvantaged children into their home (another very stylish structure studded with vivid full-length stained glass windows). But then Ayaka dies in a landslide, and Ayano finds a journal of her investigations. The entries are brought to life in Ayano’s head with intricate, really gorgeous ink illustrations that have an Aubrey Beardsley thing going on.

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When science and reason failed her, Ayaka began shed those constructs, and entertained the possibility—accompanied by compelling evidence—that the monster fairy tail she often read to Ayano (and snippets of which end each episode) are, in fact, real events. The monster was persuaded by a serpent under an apple tree (a la Genesis) into creating a new world (and eating a fruit from the tree of knowledge did indeed lead to a new world for Adam and Eve).

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But while the fairy tale ends “happily ever after”, the real story predictably doesn’t. It would appear the serpent is trying to recreate Medusa in the real world by gathering children like Seto, Kano, and Kido together. Ene and Haruka were sacrifices to that end. And even more disconcerting, Ayano’s dad seems to have a Jekyll & Hyde condition, in which Hyde is the Serpent.

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So…what to make of all this? We’re certainly very intrigued in this stylish synthesis of folk stories, mythology, and the modern scenario of uniquely-dressed kids with superpowers. Like the Monogatari Series, director Shinbo explores personalities who t and weaves soaring, timeless tales into the contemporary present with lots of panache. Mekakucity has yet to truly wow the way the best moments of Monogatari did, but it has three episodes left, and a strong finish can go a long way.

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P.S. Rentaro’s “first gift” to Ayano is a Coelocanth, a “living fossil” of a fish thought to be extinct but turned out not to be….kind of like Ayano, right?

Mekakucity Actors – 08

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While this episode didn’t quite make all the connections we thought it would (between Takane, Haruka, and Shintaro, for instance), it still confirmed and shed light on a great many things. Granted, it did a lot of this while people were statically lounging around in a room, but that room had a striking design with mod furnishings we see from multiple, schematic-like angles, all Shaft mainstays.

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Prior to discussing with Shintaro what the Mekakushi-dan he’s now a member of know about their “situation” Tsubomi and the others visit the hospital, but don’t see Haruka. They do meet Hibiya, and when his eyes turn red they promptly take him with them to HQ, realizing he’s one of them, in a earlier state of development they all went through in one form or another.

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Also, the giant snake void portal thing we’ve witnessed is something they all have in common: they all experienced life-threatening events with loved ones; both were sucked in, but only one came out, and with superpowers. We catch a glimpse Tsubomi’s pivotal event in the cold open. Striking stained glass windows also depict it, as well as those of Kano, Seto, and Momo.

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These windows had us equating the past, present, and future Mekakushi-dan members as something very similar to “saints”, once-ordinary people who were touched by something very similar to a “god”, and can now perform something very similar to “miracles.” But they—and those lost in the “void”—could also be described as martyrs; their past wishes having ended their lives as normal humans.

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One more connection made this week, and quite by accident: while checking in on Marry (who was supposed to be watching Hibiya but dozed off), he spots a photo of Kido, Kano, and Seto with none other than Ayano. As of yet, Shintaro hasn’t displayed a power, nor do we know of a time when his life was in danger that would cause them one to be bestowed upon him.

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But in the non-standard ED (with more anecdotal lyrics), we see what seems to be his last encounter with Ayano, who loved him, and he definitely seems to make a wish: for her not to die. Is she, and the others’ loved ones in the void, really dead, or can they be retrieved, perhaps in exchange for returning their powers? We’ll see…at least I hope we will.

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Mekakucity Actors – 07

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Last week’s episode started with Takane running as fast as she could (though not swinging her arms the way you’re supposed to), apparently worried for Haruka. To illustrate her state of mind, the entire town around her was blowing up and crumbling to dust. It was as if her world could not exist without him. Ultimately, it wasn’t a case of the world that disappeared around her that day, but of her disappearing from the world, at least in her corporeal state.

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After a meaningful discussion with the extremely perceptive Ayano in the hallway, Takane realizes she loves Haruka. I was fully prepared for Haruka to end up dead when she returned to the hospital. But before she can even leave the school, she collapses, and that’s the end of Takane That Was. It’s a horrifying and profoundly sad moment in an episode full of bad things happening to good people, possibly due to hasty decisions they make.

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During her transformation to the avatar we were first introduced to, we catch a glimpse of a small girl in black, who is most likely responsible. She also seemed to speak with Haruka in the hospital and hastily struck a deal that put him in a new body as well. Did Ene transform as a result of her wish to be with Haruka, who had just lost his body too? That small girl in black also resembles the “monster” in the post-credit “fairy-tales” (this week’s almost moved us to tears). She kinda reminds me of Shinobu so far.

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Obviously, this monster girl is up to something, messing with the lives of people who used to be normal. But more and more connections are being made between those people, suggesting they may be able to figure a way to respond to what’s been done to them. These “small world” connections needn’t necessarily be over shared supernatural powers.

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A primary purpose of friendship in general is to enrich one’s life, as well as affirm it through continued contact and familiarity with others. Takane, Haruka, Ayano and Shintaro were once ordinary friends. Takane is now in Shintaro’s phone and computer, trying to be the girl “he needs” Ayano couldn’t, but now she’s on the cusp of reuniting with Haruka. On the one hand, she’s been cursed. On the other, she has a second chance.

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Mekakucity Actors – 06

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Did you go into this week thinking we’d see what became of Shintaro, Konoha, Hibiya and Ayano? I did, but I forgot that this show has exhibited a penchant for non-linear storytelling, and further reinforces that this week with an intriguing flashback.

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A big part of its intrigue is the fact that it centers on two close friends (and potentially something more), Enomoto Takane and Kokonose Haruka. We’ve seen these two before, but in this flashback, Takane isn’t a digital avatar and Haruka isn’t a futuristic-looking fellow with superpowers. They’re just normal high schoolers, the only two members of the club they’re in.

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They decide to hold a shoot-em-up video game challenge for the school festival, and Takane dominates everyone who steps up to challenge her, eventually revealing that she is the celebrity gaming sensation “Ene” on the web. Already, we see her building what may become her future digital self.

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She’s been something of a one-note character since the beginning of the show, but this episode fleshes her out more, showing her as just as shy, insecure, and vulnerable as many of the other folks we’ve come across. The events this week shed some light on how she came to become a constant “companion” of Shintaro, as she promises to serve him and call him “master” if she loses to him.

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She does lose to him, decisively, which shakes her confidence, but falling from the pedestal the masses of people she beat is also liberating in its own way. There’s also a bittersweet quality to seeing Takane, Haruka, Shintaro and Ayano (who we know is now gone) hanging out as friends at school, considering what’s become of them in the present.

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