Zetsuen no Tempest – 24 (Fin)

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Yoshino is shot in the arm, but not seriously hurt. Hanemura attacks the Genesis pillar, but his blows aren’t strong enough, and the tree viciously retaliates. Samon, Natsumuura and Tetsuma use magic to protect the nearby ships to minimize casualties. Hanemura sinks into the water, but the Sword of Exodus teleports to his location, and he uses it to destroy Genesis once and for all. All the magic in the world goes with it, leaving the Kusaribe clan powerless. Crime, war, and strife returns to the world, but it was not reset. Yoshino and Mahiro watch the goodbye video Aika recorded for them. Mahiro vows to keep working to one day save the world. Hakaze leaves her village and travels to Yoshino.

Everything came together very nicely in the finale to what turned out to be one of the highest-rated we’ve ever watched. That means most of it was gripping, powerful drama tinged with a surprising amount of comedy; a story about grant plans for the world and rival gods that did not forget about little moments between two people, however oddly-matched. Enemies became friends and then family. The hero who saves the world this time (Hanemura) is merely creating the opportunity for it to be saved again (Mahiro). The grief of a lost love is mitigated by all the good that loss did, and by a new potential love.

The final battle with the pillar, Eva-inspired super-weapons and all, was great fun, but the emotional heart of this episode is in the aftermath, in a world with no more magic. It’s striking how cheerful Samon and his men are, for one, but then why wouldn’t they be, the world’s been saved! People get on with their lives, and Aika gives her brother and boyfriend a properly Aika goodbye, complete with one last tease. But Mahiro gets all philosophical, pointing out that while everything came to a very good end doesn’t mean he has to like her means. She lived her life by a script not of her own making (that he knew of) and played her destined role, but he’s going to write his own script and shape his own destiny.

We’ll close with a quote by the initially reluctant but ultimately successful hero:

[This is] a story about those who seemed to have lost something, but were able to gain something by coming together.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • The old crones strike again, laying down a stunning salvo of harsh burns upon the young Hakaze, no longer a mage, but still not an ordinary girl (since she can’t cook, for one!) We’d still marry her. Yoshino better.
  • Hanemura’s ex agreed to meet with him, but we like how his scene ends with her simply showing up (we don’t even see her face). It’s a scene that doesn’t give us any answers, but is replete of possibilities. 
  • Even Mahiro may have found love, in the form of a pen pal he made of a girl whose life he helped save. Good for him! Aika’s methods may have been too rigid, but she was right about one thing: the best way to remember her is to live full, happy lives.
  • We like the idea of the world with magic being akin to a dream world; and now that the trees and magic are gone, civilization has woken up. It’s not a perfect world, but it never is.
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Zetsuen no Tempest – 23

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The team heads to the shore, where they’ll make their final preparations to implement their plan. Yoshino and Mahiro insist on being involved. This angers Hakaze, as Yoshino knows how she feels about him, but he convinces her to go along with it. When the day arrives, Hakaze disguises herself as the Mage of Exodus and attacks the fleet. Hanemura, dressed as the Dancing Princess, gets the fleet to back him up in fighting the Mage of Exodus, drawing them away from the pillar. When he’s close enough, Hanemura and Tetsuma switch places, Hanemura heads for the tree, and Yoshino and Mahiro hijack the survey boat. While their backs are turned on their hostages, one pulls a gun and shoots Yoshino.

How do seven people and one boat take on a armada of one hundred cruisers? Deception, and lots of it. Mahiro is the director of the ballet to save the world, and everyone has a specific role to play. Hanemura plays the classic hero, only hopefully someone who won’t go out with the Tree of Genesis and have to rely on Mahiro tracking down his ex-girlfriend (he forgets that if he fails, everyone’s screwed). Hakaze plays the evil Mage of Exodus, and Hanemura’s costume fits her just fine…like magic! Samon, Junichiro, Yamamoto, and Natsumura Tetsuma all play supporting roles. And while Aika decided hers would be a one-woman-play, tactically declining his help, Yoshino refuses to stand on the sidelines as others he cares about – including Hakaze – fight and sacrifice.

The mission commences in a wonderfully-drawn and paced sequence of the mission being carried out interspersed with Mahiro describing it. We love how pissed off Samon and Tetsuma are to be dressed like tourists, and that Hanemura must endure at least one more indignity by dressing in drag. Everything goes off without a hitch until Yoshino and Mahiro turn their backs on their prisoners, betraying their relative inexperience with terrorism. The cliffhanger wants us to believe Yoshino’s life is in danger again, and maybe it is, but we also know he’s been cut in half before, and survived. The question is: will Hanemura succeed in destroying Genesis?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Zetsuen no Tempest – 22

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Hakaze returns to the present with Aika’s letters for Yoshino and Mahiro, and tells them the full truth about her actions. They accept her decision calmly, as Aika predicted. Their lack of outward passion angers Hanemura, who as it happens is the only one with the power to defeat the Tree of Genesis, the Heart of which has been surrounded by a naval blockade of many nations, who have decided to protect Genesis at all costs, unaware it will lead to the resetting of civilization.

Mahiro’s entire raison d’être throughout this series was to exact revenge on the person who killed his sister. With this episode, that reason has gone kaput. She killed herself, so there’s no revenge to be taken, except, perhaps, on the Tree of Genesis itself, Aika’s natural enemy. Now that he and Yoshino know of Aika’s fate and her intentions, they are willing to follow through with the destruction of Genesis. As we learned last week, her death brought together the people required to save the world as they know it, including her reluctant backup, Hanemura.

This week, we learn how Mahiro, Yoshino, and Aika first came together. As it happens, both Mahiro’s father and Yoshino’s mother – who were marrying – bailed on their kids, but Mahiro brought Yoshino along. Thus, the guys both met Yoshino’s stepsister on the very same night. The bookend style of this flashback is a thing of beauty, as the three size each other up and decide on how they’ll address one another (informally). If Aika knew she was the Mage of Exodus back then, did she also already know how integral these lads would prove in her destined fight against Genesis? Or was she just happy a couple of amusing characters added some comedy to her tragedy?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 21

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Aika and Hakaze relocate to the riverside, where she warns Hakaze that the Tree of Genesis will reset civilization if not defeated. After some “sleuthing”, Aika concludes that she will use magic to kill herself, which ultimately led to Hakaze meeting Mahiro and Yoshino, which leads to the Tree of Genesis being defeated, which is her calling as Mage of Exodus. Hakaze, knowing how the boys took Aika’s death, tries to stop Aika with words and by force, but Aika’s magic is far more powerful, and knocks her out. When Hakaze comes to, she races to the Aika Manor, but she’s too late; Aika has killed herself again. A note she leaves instructs Hakaze to give the letter she wrote to Mahiro and Yoshino after their mission is complete.

Those of you who called Fuwa Aika being the murderer of Fuwa Aika, pat yourselves on the back. Us thicker-skulled ones, meanwhile, will simply step back and admire the awe of this latest twist in what has shaped up to be one of the best series we’ve watched since Penguindrum. Aika’s  suicide makes perfect “chicken-and-egg” temporal paradox sense. Her death led to the assembling of the people who will ultimately defeat Genesis and save civilization. Ergo, Aika must die no matter what. Hakaze puts the happiness of the lads ahead of civilization, but Aika points out that they’d probably die if Genesis isn’t iced. In any case, Aika is far more powerful (and a bit taller!) than Hakaze…by design.

Props to Aika’s epic downhill punch, and the girls’ subsequent mage duel, in which she dances through the air with her swords, cutting Hakaze’s attacks to ribbons.Props also to Aika’s assessment of the events as they will unfold once she dies. She defies Hakaze’s insistence she mustn’t die; it’s not Aika’s choice to make. As the human representatives of gods, she and Hakaze are slaves to them, just as Caliban is Prospero’s. Even if Hakaze sees it as a Hamlet-esque ending, she sees it as Tempest-esque. She’s just playing the role she must play: defeat Genesis, even at the cost of her own life. If she doesn’t, the whole stage (which all the world is) falls apart. Hell, props to everything about this episode. It just kicked ass.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 20

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Hakaze prepares to transport back to the past to investigate Aika’s murder and report back. Her findings will determine against whom Mahiro exacts his revenge, even if Hakaze herself turns out to be the murderer. She transports her flesh to the skeleton on the island and uses magic to travel to Aika’s hometown. She runs into her on the street just after she arrives four hours before she meets her end, but it’s no coincidence. Aika follows Hakaze to a rooftop and introduces herself as the true Mage of Exodus, then draws a massive magic sword.

Aha…of course Aika is the real Mage of Exodus! Without going into excessive detail (or resorting to whiteboard diagrams), it makes sense after everything we’ve seen. Aika always seemed to possess an aura of wisdom and sageiness beyond her years, and being the mage explains that. If she wants to confront her Genesis counterpart (no, not Collins), it also explains why Hakaze would fall for Yoshino. The desire to determine the truth for the man she loves led her right into Aika’s burdock-like clutches. The moment they cross paths is filled with tension, and that’s before Aika tells Hakaze who she really is.

As soon as Hakaze announced she was going back in time, the gears in our heads started to turn. That decision leads to a course of action that leads to her confrontation with and, at least in the first go-round, eventual killing of Aika, which results in the present timeline these past twenty episodes inhabited. It’s a chicken-and-egg paradox: Hakaze becomes the very person she was looking for: Aika’s killer. She needs to die as she did before if the timeline is to be preserved…but judging from the size of that sword, killing her won’t be easy, assuming that’s what Hakaze intends to do.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Samon finds another opportunity to demonstrate his singular wit – that wig joke was GOLD.

Zetsuen no Tempest – 19

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Hakaze meets with Yamamoto and Hayekawa and tells them Hanemura won’t reach his full strength unless the Tree of Exodus absorbs one final fruit that must be raised. Yamamoto shares with her the theory that the tree(s) are an extraterrestrial weapon designed to head off rival civilizations on other worlds. Yoshino and Mahiro wander around, finally meeting by chance at the graveyard. Yoshino admits that he is Aika’s boyfriend, but Mahiro is surprisingly calm about it. They return to the apartment together, and the next day Hakaze announces she’ll be returning to the past, to a time when Aika was still alive.

We actually really enjoyed how Mahiro took the truth about Aika’s boyfriend. It was certainly a big moment, and a possible turning point for the show, but it was handled with a surprisingly light touch. Yes, there’s the Hamlet-like meetup at the graveyard at dusk; the graveyard; the stare-down…but Mahiro had time to think about things, and once the most logical choice came to light (thanks to Hanemura earlier), when Yoshino finally told him, he’s not that upset about it. It could have been worse; she could have been with some random dick. Yoshino he knows to be a kind and decent guy. That said, having the truth revealed doesn’t release him of the pain of losing the woman it turned out he always loved and continues to love.

Mahiro can’t fault Yoshino for hiding the relationship – and his grief – even after Aika died, because he did the exact same thing: hold it all inside and let it stew. However, Yoshino wants a Tempest ending, a Hamlet ending will do for Mahiro. They may yet become enemies; just not over Yoshino dating Aika. We enjoyed how everyone around these two was prepared for Mahiro to lose it, and their shock when he doesn’t. We also like how neutral parties like Yamamoto and Hanemura talk about their nagging doubt. And since the mystery of who killed Aika remains, Hakaze is going to the past to find out firsthand, which could be interesting, as she’ll essentially be time-stalking Aika and Yoshino of that time…


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 17

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Hanemura’s Genesis-busting services are sought near and far. Such is his success, Hayakawa is reinstated, though his superiors are suspicious of events. Back in Japan, as Hanemura rests up, Mahiro, Samon and Junichirou begin a brainstorming session to determine who Yoshino’s girlfriend is, as he may carry the heart of Exodus and she could influence him. Meanwhile, after spending so much time with him, Hakaze has no choice but to confess to him, explaining how her love could kill his girlfriend. As Hanemura puts two and two together to suggest it’s Aika, Yoshino finally tells Hakaze that’s just who it is…or was.

Well, that’s it! Cat’s outta the bag! At least as far as Hakaze was concerned. Here she was, stewing and fuming and torturing herself, when all she needed to do was tell Yoshino she loved him and didn’t want to kill off his girlfriend to learn that that isn’t a possibility, ’cause she’s already been dead for a year. After everything these guys have been through, it’s amazing it’s never come up. But so deep and constant is Yoshino’s grief for his lost love, you can forgive him for not making a big deal of Hakaze’s increasingly erratic schizoid behavior. We get more beautiful, sad flashbacks of Yoshino with his Ophelia. When he finally revealed the photo to Hakaze, we couldn’t help but well up a little.

And yet, the episode manages to balance the drama with more bawdy comedy. Hakaze’s inner voice is pretty funny (and Sawashiro Miyuki certainly sells it) but the centerpiece was the brainstorming session between Mahiro, Samon, and Junichirou, with an exhausted Hanemura in the middle of it. They set up a frikkin’ whiteboard (so official!) and proceed to come up with every hairbrained possibility of who the girlfriend is (Teacher? Married woman? Big Boobs? Nurse?…Loli?), but it takes someone with a little more distance from everything (Hanemura) to suggest the most logical possibility…it’s Mahiro’s sister, stupid.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 16

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Samon and Yamamoto implement their plan to make Hanemura a very flashy public hero. Meanwhile Hakaze and Yoshino return to Kusaribe village to investigate a possible spy there trying to expose the villagers’ use of magic. Hakaze struggles to keep her feelings for Yoshino in check. When the spy reveals himself, takes a hostage, and sets fire to the shrine, Yoshino tries to resolve the situation without magic. The spy is apprehended, and Hakaze cannot help but embrace him. Yoshino’s effect on Hakaze has Tetsuma convinced he’s the real mage of Exodus.

Ever since Hakaze met Yoshino, she’s been extremely intrigued by him. Now that they’re spending so much time together in person, she’s constantly retreating into her thoughts, simultaneously worried about whether Yoshino finds her attractive and trying to convince herself that there’s nothing too these strange feelings. But the old ladies of the village see right through her: she’s got it bad for Yoshino, and by episode’s end she’s in his arms. She has no choice. The question is, is this just a girl falling for a guy, or is it the mage of Genesis being seduced by the mage of Exodus by some kind of calculation?

We as viewers know that Yoshino’s girlfriend is dead, but Hakaze doesn’t, and part of her reluctance was Junichiro’s warning that her intensified interest in Yoshino would lead the tree of Genesis killing his girlfriend. But even that isn’t enough, as Yoshino sticks his neck out and risks his life to save Sana, a village girl who’d already suffered enough, while also trying to preserve the secrets of the village. All the while characters heavily reference the Shakespeare works, leading us to wonder where this series is ultimately headed: to the tragic end of Hamlet, or the happy ending of The Tempest.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 14

Mahiro reawakens on New Years Day, and he’s told by Samon, Evangeline, and Takumi that they’re on the lookout for the Mage of Exodus, the one with the power to change the world that is now controlled by the Tree of Genesis. They believe Yoshino may be the mage. Samon goes on to say Hakaze has a crush on Yoshino, and chosen him as her partner as she travels around assessing the change Genesis has brought. They encounter Hanemura Megumu, who believes he may be the mage. Hakaze tests him with a duel, and while he posssesses the power to neutralize her magic, he lacks Exodu’s merciless will to kill and destroy.

Everything has gotten more complicated in the world, but the long and short of it appears to be this: Kusaribe Hakaze still has the power to decide the fate of the world, Takigawa Yoshino has inadvertently stolen her heart (though neither have quite grasped it yet). That means Yoshino has the power to influence her, which means he has the power to decide the fate of the world. So far, Samon, Evangeline, and Takumi are operating under the possibility Yoshino is the Mage of Exodus, which means he could be trying to erode Hakaze trust in the Tree of Genesis, which has created a world without war or social problems, but at the cost of billions of lives (like Jormungand on steroids).

But wait, who’s this wimpy guy with the red powers who is able to stand up to the Princess, who we get to see in a one-on-one battle for the first time? Well he could be the mage too, though like other “The Ones”, while he has the gift, he’s not ready to use it. In a series full of fated encounters, it’s fitting Yoshino randomly bumps into him on a train platform – and that Hakaze instinctively dropkicks him. But thankfully, he’s not your typical “nice evil guy who loses it”…not yet, at least. And we like how Samon playing Mahiro off Yoshino – and using his dead sister as a carrot – is going to continue.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 13

Mahiro is out cold for an entire month, during which time he dreams about the events that have unfolded thus far, his childhood with Yoshino, his life with Aika, and the day he found her dead. When he awakes, it is to a world in which cities are being swallowed by the Tree of Genesis. Samon asks him if he’d be able to kill Yoshino.

If that seems like half the length of our usual pre-review synopsis, that’s because we were only given half an episode to work with. The other half was a recap, told from Mahiro’s perspective and sprinkled with bits of new material here and there, along with the pretty flimsy conceit for subjecting us to said recap: Mahiro is having a very long, very intricate dream, and has a lot of time to think about things thus far. The recap was a bit deflating after a week-long hiatus, but we should have seen it coming.

We’re at a crossroads: the Tree of Genesis is awake and kicking hard, devouring chunks of civilization and humanity with impugnity. Giant branches popping out of skyscrapers is a very irrational thing, so you’d think the Kusaribe clan would be on top of things, trying to restore balance to the world. Meanwhile, we have this slightly unstable looking guy Hanemura showing off some kind of magic. Is he part of another clan? Good? Bad? Who knows. Here the plot merely thickens; it doesn’t solidify.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 12

Yoshino has successfully convinced Mahiro that the Tree of Exodus – and by extension Samon – could be responsible for Aika’s death, and Samon has no further leverage. Hakaze scours the island for the offering, but cannot find it, but a dud missile lands on the beach, and she uses it to break the prison of time and return to the present. Before anything more can be done, the Tree of Genesis goes berserk, spouting branches all over Japan and the rest of the world, breaking the barrier that controls Exodus. A battle between the trees commences, and in the melee, Yoshino and Mahiro are impaled by branches. Hakaze and Samon commence healing them, and must suppress Exodus to attempt to calm Genesis before all of civilization is destroyed.

No more standing around in deep thought and chatting and thrusting katanas into the ground and pointing chained machine guns at people – this week we get down to the climactic action, and there’s a lot of it. First, Hakaze finally returns to the present and sees the lads for the first time. It’s a sudden turn of events, but after all, the logic of the world is on her side, and it’s quite a triumphant moment. Unfortunately there’s no time for celebrations, as the same tree that helped get her back is now locked in a furious battle with Exodus, a battle that may well be the titular “civilization blaster”, turning men and their works to ash. Even Hakaze isn’t quite sure which tree to trust, but at the moment both are a threat to humanity, and must be dealt with.

Luckily for Yoshino, the shit hits the fan before Mahiro can tell him to reveal who Aika’s girlfriend was. Unluckily for both of them, the Genesis deems their service to Princess Hakaze complete, and seems to dispose of them by impalement by errant branch. It’s a frightening, visceral scene, enough to make us briefly forget the Kusaribes are wielders of healing magic that can mend them. But even if they do, there’s still a huge shitstorm left to deal with. All of civilization is at the mercy of two immensely powerful badass trees who do not like each other – vying for dominion over the earth.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 11

The back-and-forth between Yoshino, Samon, Mahiro and Hakaze continues. After determining the method by which Hakaze can be transported to the present without causing a paradox, Samon admits he left a suitible offering on the island to do just that in an emergency, but then proceeds to stall for time by trying to convince Mahiro that the Tree of Genesis is to blame for Aika’s death. Tetsuma reports to Samon that the killer was not of the Kusaribe clan after all. Hakaze surmises that just as she is the princess of the Tree of Genesis, a princess of the Tree of Exodus may have emerged; a mage of destruction.

With three characters standing in the same place for more than two episodes, we’re officially in Naruto Boss Battle territory now. Fortunately, the dialogue is a lot more engaging, and once we’d come to terms with the fact that very little would get done action-wise this week, again, we spent the episode listening carefully, rather than gnashing our teeth. And there were a fair share of revelations this week: most intriguing being that Hakaze can come back, but only if she uses magic that transports everything but her bones from the past to her present-day skeleton.

Samon also loses the only bargaining chip he had in his contract with Mahiro: Aika’s killer. His men can’t find him, and they’ve determined he’s not a Kusaribe. This happens late in the episode, after Samon had already stalled for time about as much as he could. The whole idea how how Aika’s death is related to the actions of the Tree of Genesis – which only acts in Hakaze’s best interests – is also fascinating. Did Aika in fact die so that Hakaze could live, through the intervention of the two guys who loved her? Should Hakaze really blame herself for things the tree did independently, for her sake?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 10

Yoshino offers his theory: that Samon is trying to fool them by trying to make it seem impossible to save her, while keeping Hakaze in despair. This turns out to be true, which irks Samon. He rebuts Yoshino by pointing out that Hakaze is still just bones in the present, but Yoshino counters that the time prison is also an illusion, caused by the psychology of distance and by keeping Hakaze asleep for two years before sending her to the island  Samon disproves that theory by having Hakaze carved word Yoshino says to her on the barrel. Mahiro remains on the fence, but Yoshino’s efforts were successful in buoying Hakaze’s spirit and deeply troubling Samon, turning the tides in her favor.

We must confess that we were a little disappointed in the lack of progress in this episode. Almost the entire running time is nothing but three people standing around throwing out theories and counterarguments. Considering a huge battle is raging and the Tree of Exodus is about to be awakened, this is a bit of a momentum-killer and the constant diversions into Samon’s inner thoughts reminded us a bit too much of a dragged out shounen battle. But Samon’s thoughts are important, since it’s how we witness his change of mood. For all of Yoshino’s insistence he has Samon figured out, he’s only bluffing, stalling for time, and helping Hakaze get out of her funk – and if Mahiro believes him, so much the better.

Well, Mahiro can’t quite believe him, and Samon does prove that there is a time shift and it isn’t just an elaborate illusion. Hakaze’s in the past, and needs to find a way to cross time in order to deal with Samon. She’s finally in the right state of mind, and Samon is seriously flustered. But the fact remains, last week we ended with Yoshino, Mahiro and Samon in a clearing, wondering how to proceed. This week we ended with Yoshino, Mahiro and Samon in a clearing, wondering how to proceed. We enjoyed the verbal sparring and shifting of the winds, but this episode didn’t take us as far as we thought it would.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)