Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 12 (Fin)

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Edogawa Jou and Arahabaki execute a plan to summon Kuzuryuu to further her plans for world conquest. Tamamo-no-Mae uses Kagami’s natural counter to defeat her, a barrier is cast upon the island, locking out Tsurugi and her brother, and Jou drugs Tama and “eats” her. Tamamo-no-Mae appears before Tama as a golem, and through Tama implores Sasami to save innocent lives by swearing to become Arahabaki’s priestess and earthly liason in the new world they’ll create.

Sasami is only stalling for time, as she has placed her entire house within Tama and is therefore within the island’s barrier. Kagami reveals she hid herself within Tamamo’s golem. She defeats her and undoes the damage done to the island, and Sasami and her house materialize. Tsurugi’s brother stops by to defeat Kuzuryuu as he tries to escape, and Jou and Sasami are thrown into the sea. They wash up on the shore and Sasami declares them friends, at least until the day Jou kills her.

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At long last, here is our review for the final Winter finale, for a series that we’ve had trouble at times following along with due to all of the references to Japanese mythology, overt or otherwise, but this was a great episode that accomplished a lot more than we expected it to. It went in the not unpredictable direction of making Edogawa Jou a legitimate threat, while maintaining her new-found humanity, and therefore, our connection with her, right till the end. As opposed to being a random, one-dimensional evil threat, she is redeemed…mostly.

In one of her best moments, she confesses to Sasami she was a little scared of succeeding, because conquering the world would make her alone and unable to live as a normal human. Sasami’s desire to simply exist in the world she was born in, without any desire to lord over it, or any obligation to protect it; her desire to sleep in all day and goof off on the internet; her desire to make friends and share experiences – this desire is contagious. Her influence brought the Yagami sisters “down to earth”, so to speak, and it works for her would-be nemesis, too.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked how the scene in which Tamamo-no-Mae corners Tama as a Golem was done in a 16-bit JRPG style. She was a boss, after all.
  • We weren’t sure who Tsurugi’s bro was supposed to be…but we probably would if we knew our Japanese gods and goddesses. In any case, his homing death beam is a nice piece of kit.
  • Two aesthetic choices reminded us of Evangelion: first is Edogawa’s arm puffing up and then popping off; second is the scene where she and Sasami wash up on the shore, much like Shinji and Asuka in that famous final shot of EoE.
  • A very nice touch with the ED: after a whole season of chatting, goofing-off and tone-deafness, the song is finally sung properly and in full. It’s actually quite a pretty song, and it was great to finally hear the whole thing! You can listen here.
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Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 08

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Having grown incredibly corpulent as a result of an alteration by the myriad gods, Sasami seals herself in an Ama-no-Iwato (heavenly rock cave). Kamiomi, Kagami, and Tama attempt to penetrate it to see what’s eating her, but she deflects them with a barrage of weaponry. Tsurugi returns from Yomi by using the Ame-no-Murakumo, and sends Sasami into the past. In this time, Sasami witnesses her mother fight for a better world to pass on to her, while she goofs off downtown and contracts an illness that turns out to be possession by Tamamo-no-Mae ( a nine-tailed fox), who attacks her mother with a sessho-seki (killing stone golem) and is aware of the preent-day Sasami’s presence.

We’re almost embarrassed to note that most of our knowledge of Japanese mythology is coming from this series as we watch it, so we have no idea how faithfully they’re portraying it. Our gross ignorance aside, we greatly enjoyed this episode, in which Sasami is the victim of an alteration rather than the lucky recipient, has her barrier besieged by her brother and the Yagami sisters, and is sent to the past by Tsurugi to resolve it. We thought we’d seen the last of her mother Juju-sama after her defeat last week, but she returns here in her prime, as a woman torn between being a dutiful shrine maiden and a loving, caring mother. She cannot be both, but she still tries.

Seeing her mom in this time, still alive and non-evil, working so hard to make the world a better place for her, Sasami can’t help but feel guilt for what she amounted to. She sees what she did – casting away her duty as her mother’s relief – as a betrayal, and she doesn’t feel great about it. But at the same time, her mother longed to be the normal human mother Sasami wanted her to be. This week we’re also introduced to Micchan, a girl who has been spirited away and forgotten her name and family (she’s even dressed kinda like Chihiro!), who feels she and Sasami are both insecure by the superior capability and excellence around them. And as we know, Sasami ultimately gave up.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 06

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Sasami starts seeing her deceased mother in random places. One day while shopping she shows up and they spend the day together like an ordinary mother and daughter. But she has an ulterior motive: she’s made a pact with the god of the underworld and come back to make sure Sasami returns to her training to become a Tsukuyomi princess. The Yagami sisters are powerless against her; Kagami is stabbed and Tsurugi is pushed down the slope of Yomi. Before she can harm Tana, Sasami surrenders, and she and her mom are transported to another place, presumably to resume her training.

This episode was something. It had us thinking the myriad gods created Sasami’s mother as she remembered her to fulfill her wish to hang out with her more like ordinary people, not as Tsukuyomi princesses or nursing her when she was bedridden. And eventually the Yagami sisters would show up and tell her she’s just another wish fulfilled that must be put aside to move forward. Needless to say, we were dead wrong. The formula (such as it is) of previous episodes was roundly subverted this week. The priestess fish-out-of-water story is over, and we’re now in full Serious Mode, where everyone’s lives are at stake.

Put simply: the Moon believes it’s time for the Sun to step aside and let it rule the universe. To that end, Sasami’s mom has been sent to set her back on the path she strayed from. And Sasami’s protectors, virtually invincible up until this point, are dispatched with terrifying speed and ease by the mom, who was no slouch even when she was a human, and possesses a divine, god-slaying sword. (Both Tsurugi and the mom have some awesome dialogue throughout their dealings with each other). Anyone wondering if Sasami was going to one day face the consequences of walking away from her birthright…needn’t wonder any longer.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 03

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Sasami types about her family, the Tsukuyomi clan, descended from the first human to have the power of Amaterasu. She was given intense training at a remote shrine to become the latest vessel for her powers, but she got sick of it and left with her brother. When a third arm comes out of her chest as she’s typing, it represents a part of her personality that was repressed as part of her training – a sense of desire. It tells her her brother has returned to the shrine. Sasami follows him, accompanied by the Yagami sisters, who destroy the shrine. Tsusugi reveals she is actually Amaterasu, and she and her “sisters” came into being because of Sasami’s wish. With that, Sasami learns she, not her brother, had Amaterasu’s power all along.

This episode finally provides some concrete context for what the hell has been going on in the first two. It contains a lot of exposition and backstory and revealed identities, but still contains just as much excitement and action as its predecessors. A ton of revelations are dished out, not the least of which is Tsurugi’s true identity as Amaterasu incarnate, and her sisters aren’t really sisters, but gods she created from parts of herself she tore off. Tsurugi, Kagami, and Tama are here because of Sasami. She desired a normal life free of the responsibilities of being a vessel Amaterasu’s powers, and they coalesced to protect that life.

Her brother was a MacGuffin all along, having no divinity at all. Instead, he remains her steadfast, loyal, obedient, loving brother, whose duty is to protect her from sadness and harm. Even knowing he has no divine powers, Sasami seems to give herself a kick in the pants and march outside to make her brother’s efforts worthwhile. It turns out a curse made her a hikikomori, so now she can go outside with ease. But how far will she “try at life” before she finds herself with responsibilities and duties once again? If that happens, the Yagami sisters will be there to stamp it out, preserving Sasami’s god-given right to be as lazy and useless as she cares to be.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 02

Tsurugi notes that an unusual number of students are skipping school, including her colleague Kamiomi’s sister Sasami. Kagami believes they have become addicted to an MMORPG, so the Yagami sisters travel to Kamiomi’s home to investigate, using Sasami’s many computers. Worried they’ll shut the game down and erase all her progress, she attempts to sabotage their efforts, but fails. Eventually, everyone is sucked into the game, where a divine monster is keeping the game alive. Kagami deduces that the monster is the produce of Sasami’s wish for the game to never be shut down, as it was when the company was in financial trouble three years ago. She bids the monster rest in peace and the MMO is shut down.

After primarily showing last week, the beginning of this episode is all about telling. Specifically, that Sasami is most likely “unmotivated” beause she once possessed the powers of Amaterasu, the most powerful of the myriad gods that inhabit the world (In the Shinto religion, sheis the goddess of the sun and universe, from whom the Emperor of Japan is directly descended.) Emphasis on once. Now, apparently, her faceless brother Kamiomi has that power, and he accidentally used it to turn the world into chocolate last week. This week Sasami must deal with something accidentally done in service of her wish for an MMO game to never be shut down.The game was her escape three years ago, and all the other lesser gods heard that wish and made it come true.

It resulted in an unpopular game suddenly becoming all the rage, and that game’s central monster trapping the 10,000 players inside, thus the game will never end as she wished. From what little we see of it, it’s not the best game, and Sasami seems to realize that when the time comes to free all those people. Keeping the game alive was nice and all, but she didn’t need it anymore. And so we have another instance of the entire world being altered because of a misinterpreted whim made by those who just happen to have the powers of Amaterasu. or was this just the three Yagami sisters inviting themselves into Sasami’s house, messing up all her shit, and playing video games in the dark? It was both, and more.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 01

Tsukuyomi Sasami (Asuma Kana) is a demanding hikikomori (shut-in) who has her faceless older brother Kamiomi do everything for her. When he goes to school, she uses the Oni-chan Kanshi (Brother Surveillance) System to keep tabs on him as he interacts with the three Yagami sisters – Tsurugi (Chiwa Saito), Kagami (Hanazawa Kana), and Tama (Nonaka Ai). When Sasami accidentally turns the world into chocolate, the three of them have to fight the chocolate and return the world to normal.

“Sasami@Unmotivated” is exceedingly bizarre and quirky, but also a heckuva lot of fun to watch, and beautifully rendered, with extensive use of watercolor washes for backgrounds and textures. We were reminded quite a bit of Arakawa Under the Bridge, and not just because Sasami’s brother is voiced by Whitey. Both revel in the absurd, whether it’s a shut-in girl being waited on hand and foot by her brother, or that he is absolutely devoted and obsessed with her, almost to a fault, or that the Sasami has a “brother surveillance system”, or the simple fact that the brother never, ever shows his faaaace. Perhaps most interesting: Sasami may have to stay inside to avoid altering the world.

And that’s only part of the nuttiness. For some reason, all the discussion of Valentine’s Day chocolates suddenly has the world itself turning to chocolate, much to Sasami’s dismay. And after Sasami hangs out with the colorful and eccentric Yagami sisters one by one (although really, everyone’s pretty equally eccentric here), they whip out superpowers and save the world by encasing Sasami in chocolate, which makes her brother ecstatic. Yup, it almost wouldn’t be a proper Shinbou joint without the complicated brother-sister relationship. Like we said, this looked great, sounded great, and moved at a good clip. We’ll see if this quality – and lunacy – can be sustained.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)