Softenni – 12 (Finale)

Thinking back to before the season began, I thought Softenni was just gonna be another worthless ecchi anime, probably because the camera couldn’t focus on anything besides everyone’s panties in the PV.  Thinking back to the start of the season, I was unimpressed with the anime for its bland comedy and clichéd characters, not to mention the pitiful excuses so that they could add in unnecessary fanservice.  I picked it up though, since I thought it would be a challenge to blog this anime for an entire season when I otherwise would’ve dropped it, especially after that uneventful first episode.  But the series began to evolve, most noticeably when they had the practice tennis match (episode 6), with more authentic comedy, a decline in pointless fanservice, and an definite shift of focus toward tennis and the characters having fun together.  The latter half of Softenni really grew on me once these transformations occurred and I began to enjoy the series as a whole.  Now that it’s over and I look back on Softenni, I can say I have no regrets watching and blogging this anime.

Now with that being said, it’s nowhere near the best show of this season, but that late season climb did help it get out of the cellar for shows this season.  Consider that a victory for Softenni.  The anime was never going to be a powerhouse or juggernaut for this season but it provided some pretty entertaining and happy episodes.  It’s always smart to have a simple anime like this each season where you can just start watching, relax, and enjoy an anime that wants to be fun.  Comparing it to other anime, Softenni will almost always come up short but for what it wanted to be, I felt it did a proper job.

And now with onto the finale.  What an interesting way to end the series with a one-and-a-half episode flashback detailing the partnership between Asuna and Kotone.  You could consider it a little anti-climactic, especially if you were hoping for the tennis tournament or a decisive tennis match, but the unexpected backstory of Asuna and Kotone provided some actual character development beyond their rather shallow personalities.  If feels strange for any anime to have this mild drama and character development at the end, and after a full season of bizarre tennis comedy, even stranger to be happening to Softenni.  Wonder why they decided to have something serious like this end the season rather than some major fanservice and comedy episode.

Teamwork, again, was an apparent theme in this episode.  Kotone and Asuna both have problems during a match: Kotone lacks talent and Asuna lacks athleticism.  Kotone tries too hard and often has errant returns and puts too much pressure on herself when she falters.  Asuna’s weaknesses weren’t displayed as much, except when Kotone mocked her lack of strength on her serves and returns.  The episode took the approach to convenience Kotone, since she was the one who rejected the idea, that forming a team would be best for both of them since they covered their weaknesses.  It was yet another message of teamwork (more than friendship since Kotone and Asuna appeared to be friends after joining the club together) in Softenni, which is appropriate since doubles are one of the main characteristics of soft tennis.

The finale also took time to include all the characters of the series, too, most notably the entire Akadama soft tennis club and the national champion, Shidou.  They appeared in the present, at Asuna’s bedside in the hospital.  Showing the entire cast of characters in the finale is always a pleasant or heartwarming touch.  I was worried they wouldn’t find the time to bring everyone back together since the entire episode revolved around Asuna’s flashback, but they were all there, hoping Asuna would return to normal quickly.

However, while including everyone was a nice touch, the whole episode really never went beyond Asuna and Kotone.  While I appreciate the character development and backstory, especially one as important as this, I would have liked to see more characters involved.  It seemed the whole episode was Asuna and Kotone together with bits of Shiki sprinkled in.  With such a fun cast as Softenni, I wished the other characters were more involved, especially since it is the finale.  But I guess we had the entire season for episodes like that and this was a special time to develop the main characters and show how strong their friendship and partnership truly is.  Softenni had a unique finale considering all these aspects.  I’m glad it was unlike all the prior episodes and still an enjoyable one to watch.

One final complaint on the series before I’m done.  What’s up with Yayoi’s sudden appearance in the anime and then doing nothing with her character?  Her joining the soft tennis club in the tenth episode was completely unexpected, since you never see her in the opening, ending or any other sequences in the episodes, so you figured she’d do something vital to the story, especially since she is now the top player at Hakuou Middle School.  But she never did anything beyond stand in the background and make a few jokes.  That’s pretty underwhelming, considering we had a whole episode devoted to her character late in the series.  Despite her jokes being above average and doing a really good job of including Mishi into her humor, her character did nothing.  I was hoping for something big from her character, so I am disappointed to see she really didn’t do anything in these final episodes.  In fact, she was almost forgotten after she was added to the series (like in the eleventh episode).  It’s too bad since I liked her more than some of the other members of the tennis club.  Well, if there is ever another season of Softenni (I kinda doubt), then I’m sure we’ll be see Yayoi play a much bigger and better role.

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