Impressions: Winter 2016, Weeks Twelve & Thirteen

It’s the end! Some shows lost their way; some were never going to recover. But it’s still been an enjoyable season overall.

Also this week: my undying regret that I didn’t pick up Shouwa Genroku or She and Her Cat until now. It’s binge time!

Jiggly Jiggly World Double Feature!

Episode 12

At first it looks like we’ve come full circle: a re-explanation of Phantoms, the scene in the courtyard. But really, this great episode only further reminds us of how little we’ve accomplished throughout this series.

Again the theme of family is explored, and it’s finally considered in relation to its past treatment. The gang gathering around the table, quizzed by Haruhiko’s ‘mother’, helped active viewers tie together the show’s work on the subject of the imagination acting in loco parentis. But these are links to a few key moments, rather than developments over the whole series. The connections are frail, and easily forgettable. As for Haruhiko’s reunion with his mother, when has this been explored before? Only last episode, and bringing out the ‘feels’ for this make that previous story seem far less integral.

Enigma is the only baddie who could give our heroes a pertinent threat of ‘death’ – losing your powers means losing your place in this paradise of a school where every problem only takes an episode to solve. But if all we needed for her to appear was our cast to have become the best, why couldn’t we have filled their journey there with stories more pertinent to what has turned out to be a rather exciting plot? Enigma’s lust for powers riffs off Haruhiko’s command of the powers of other phantoms. This could feel like the climax to the whole series, but instead it only feels like a mountain of its own momentum.

Sadly, I’m with Enigma; the powers in this show have been wasted on humans. Maybe if a phantom had written this narrative, it could have been more focused, more imaginative, and more deserving of KyoAni’s brilliant artwork.

Episode 13

Why is Haruhiko’s intellectualism still being mocked with a teddy bear outdoing his computer skills? How can the significance of his book-based upbringing be of any value if the series has laughed at the literary the whole way through?

Why was the final battle’s decisive moment one of awkwardness? Why would anyone care about kissing an illusion of their own creation in the midst of a fight against a being that plans to rule humanity?

Why was Enigma outdone by the power of Pokemon? Why does Haruhiko point to the growth of humanity when his character has been the only one to develop his powers at all?

Why, in a show perforated with academic ideas, does this major plot boil down to the most stereotypical scientists-abused-something-and-made-a-monster-who-wants-to-annihilate-humanity crap? Why was the biggest twist of the show guessable from the moment Ruru opened Haruhiko’s eyes?

Why does everything go back to normal? Why is nothing, not even the most overpowered phantom hellspawn, of an y consequence in this Phantom World?

Why, KyoAni?

Why?

GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri

https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/hCyxlXt.png

What a finale of two halves. Zorzal and Tyuule’s ‘defeat’ might be underwhelming to some, and it certainly lacked a grand enough conflict. It works in the sense that the JSDF have left the realm to deal with its own problems, which colours the nationalism more favourably than, say, America’s during the Cold War. But the gung-ho rescue overstated the simplicity of supporting the JSDF rather than reveling in the complexities that the series had previously explored. I got bored during the triumphant escape. Is this eally the last feeling of pride the show wants to leave us with?

Happily, GATE’s writers get back on their feet in the aftermath. The formation of government under Pina is a bold, hopeful note, and it’s helped along with a comedic montage of all the relationships that have bridged the GATE. Itami’s absence plays with the expectations his harem have built up for him; the convention may lap up the girls, but all Itami wants is fiction. His hobby, in contrast to his jealous friend, is not indulging in all these ‘real’ magical things, but creating them as fantasy. It’s a worthwhile message; the girls catch up to him anyway, but he’s still reluctant. We should not treat a people we’re dominant over, no matter how much they admire us, as slaves for our pleasure.

Such is the divide between Zorzal and Itami. One fights with chaos – dragons, ogres and mass cavalry charges – but the other can control chaos into a more powerful weapon – gunfire, planes, and the teamwork of Lelei and Rory at the end. One seeks to enslave and be the mightest, but the other encourages independance, peace, and a fair and happy relationship between nations. The JSDF are celebrated both sides of the GATE, and so are the characters from beyond it that we’ve loved too.

Some subtlety for the carnage would ticked more boxes, but this ended happily for me, and for Japan, and for magical world the GATE opened up to us. Thus the JSDF fought there.

Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu

There’s something deeply self-aware in this ending to the dark horse of this season. All the nods to character development seem to reflect on the show as a whole. The team have won by making something cheap and accessible; likewise, the studio behind Shoujo-tachi succeeded for me because they went for an easy-going romance. Tori, and the whole show, can be both shy and brash. No-one saw Shoujo-tachi as the next big hit, and – like Asamori-san – people won’t remember it in years to come. But it still succeeded in its own little, treasurable way.

But wait – romance? What romance? Really, the lack of a specific ‘ending’ for the love interests was heartwarming. It provided an openness that the team embodied as they met on the roof before the credits rolled, which our protagonist spoke of with indefinite employment plans. The ‘wasteland’ is not somewhere where you find your place, but a place where you keep moving. Hosokawa’s rise and fool was a great and hilarious micro-narrative that brought this whole idea together. Visual Novels, too, are not realms of single routes, but worlds that you recreate over and over again with different outcomes. Shoujo-tachi has stayed true to its subject matter by not making a ‘true’ romance at the end.

A light-hearted end, to what has always been a gentle yet often insightful drama.

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi

A harsh example of how one cog breaking down and cause the whole engine of a plot to collapse. The obviousness of Yashiro was never the problem; what Boku Machi failed to do was realise and utilize was this unsubtlety. The story ends as if we’re still on the edges of our seats. But the overdone end to our thriller is predicted before the opening credits. Our killer can’t kill Satoru because he needs him, and Satoru knows this, and makes plans to save himself from the inevitable fall. Excitement? Drama? There’s only a hole where the tension should be, and no-one in this finale can fill it.

The overemphasis on the open gate bore the same tiredness as Yashiro’s performance. For a series filled with touching, memorable moments, this climax has no emotional impact. But perhaps we should just move past this, because there’s a silver lining to the writer’s clouded vision of what makes for gripping entertainment. Right at the the end, the reunion with Airi brought back everything I’ve loved about Boku Machi. It summed up how Satoru’s revivals had let him rewrite his life, his career, and the lives of the people around him. Touching. A terrific way to end.

If only the path to that conclusion had not been paved with the overstatement of so many other themes that the show had given the viewer control of before. The notions of belief and being a hero were directly answered to rather than left as questions; Satoru’s thoughts on the first weren’t even ones I thought tied in with the plot as a whole. Symbols like Yuuki’s plane in the water communicated so much while never saying anything direct to the viewer. Had Boku Machi stuck to such intelligent ways of presenting theme and character, we could have had so much more fun with these last twenty-five minutes.

Everyone deserved a better ending than this.

Short-Cuts:

  • Ojisan to Marshmallow.  A sweet twist at the end, but less boob-related humour would have made these shorts go further.
  • Ooyasan wa Shishunki! Yes, Maeda-san. The landlord is so cute. But these shorts shrunk back towards the end, and it feels very little was accomplished.

 

That’s it for this season! Plan is to write-up reviews for these shows and more – got a few to binge – while starting up shorter, snappier impressions for the Spring season.

Look forward to everything UEM! has to offer in the new year!

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Current theme music: Flume – Never Be Like You feat. Kai (Wave Racer Remix)

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