During the twelfth week of the season: my reflections on why Ping Pong the Animation had an excellent ending and why Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin had an appropriate ending but one that left me unsatisfied, an analysis on the finale of Akuma no Riddle with a focus on Tokaku’s and Haru’s relationship (*Spoilers*), and thoughts on the utilization of the setting and the background art in Mushishi Zoku Shou.
I don’t often have common themes between multiple reviews in the same post, but given that it’s the one of the last weeks of the season and a number of anime are finishing this week, I’ve decided to focus some of these reviews on and about the endings themselves.
Best episode of the week: Mushishi Zoku Shou
Anime trending up this week: Akuma no Riddle
Anime trending down this week: Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (Episode 11)
Wouldn’t it be awesome to see the Sun Kingdom go to war with the Principality of Rain after what transpired during Nike’s trip back to her home country? Sure, everything ended peacefully because everything in romance anime are all ‘just a big misunderstandings’, but after trying to kidnap the queen and brainwash the king, I wouldn’t be surprised to see warship and soldiers attempt to overthrow the weak Principality as a result of these heinous acts. Then again, this anime has disappointed me time and time again, so I’m not too surprised that everything ends up happy and unrealistic.
Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (Episode 11 [Finale])
You can tell they want to make more Nanana. Never mind the fact that source material for this anime, the award-winning light novel, is still continuing, that the light novel has already spawned three different manga adaptations, and that the franchise has spun off Tensai’s own light novel series, all in addition to this 11 episode anime. The way the anime ended is a clear indication that they want to continue this series. They spent the entire ending song sequence hinting at future events that the light novel has probably already covered already, somewhere between volumes 3 through 7. They showed the unexplained and presumed dead Saki with glowing red eyes and cryptic red mark on her neck at the end, too. And also, the final shot of the anime was a mysterious treasure, one shaped like a sword, falling into a shadowy chest marked 777 in some unknown dungeon. There were also hints in earlier episodes too, like the background character that sorta looked like Masakaki Willy Wonka sitting on a bench with brightly colored clothes. And let’s not forget the main story of the series which is one that centers around Nanana’s death, something that the anime is far from finished exploring. So in that sense, the anime set itself up perfectly for more episodes to continue should this series ever be picked up again… but that doesn’t mean the ending was all that great.
My favorite types of endings are ones where the series is wrapped up completely and with a short, focused epilogue that shows the repercussions of the series and where the characters go with their lives. To put it in a sense, Nanana failed at providing me this closure. But instead of attempting at something impossible provided where the source material is going and what they want to do with continuing the series, they went with the open-ended finale that most anime series opt for. It’s like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with an unknown quantity remaining. It just feels incomplete, to step away from something like this when we’ve still got so much to do. So while I understand what A-1 Pictures is doing with this series and why this is a great ending for what they did, I still can’t find myself satisfied or happy with an ending of this caliber. Then again, I’m not sure what the series could’ve done different to please my tastes while also leaving the series open for more episodes later. I suppose the ending for Nanana was fated to be this way given the structure of the series and the source material, and this pattern is true for most anime that are based off concurrent manga and light novels. The trend of open-ended, ambiguous or vague endings is all too common in anime. They do serve an appropriate purpose, especially if the series is to continue in another season or another year, but they are unsatisfying conclusions to an anime series. These endings are highly appropriate in most instances but they are still one of my least favorite ways for an anime to finish.
Ping Pong the Animation (Episode 11 [Finale])
On the contrary – and that only makes sense if you just finished reading the Nanana review – Ping Pong the Animation showcases the ideal way for an anime to end. Of course, Ping Pong is rather special among anime these days as it is an older manga that finished years before the anime ever started. With most anime based off concurrently running manga or light novels – 6 of the 10 anime in this post are based on currently published material – Ping Pong is able to conclude its anime with the conclusion of its original manga. And by wrapping up the series, tying all the loose ends together and providing closure to every reasonable question, the series feels gratifying, like you’ve just completed something really rewarding. Additionally, because the anime knew it was ending at a specific time, it was able to develop its characters and bring its story from beginning to middle to end and provide its message all in a timely manner. This is why anime that are based off completed materials, video games or original anime often have better endings than shows that are based off materials that are still being published. These anime benefit from having an end in sight and a way to produce everything within a specific limit. Ping Pong is a highly successful anime in many areas, but being able to finish the way it did is a massive positive for the anime and an area where many anime fall after preforming so well. However, unlike those anime that wavers and falls at the end, especially in the event of an anime original ending, Ping Pong had everything planned out and was able to accomplish everything before the end. The ending wasn’t rushed or felt abnormally different than the rest of the series. Furthermore, the anime even had time to put in an epilogue at the end to show the ramifications for everyone we saw and learned in the series. We were able to see the outcomes of their growth and maturity and how the complexity of their relationships resulted in everyone being happy and content with their lives. And you know what… I felt the same at the end of Ping Pong; I am incredibly happy and content with this anime and with this finale.
No Game No Life (Episode 11)
Makes you wonder, does it? Makes you wonder how and why the Werebeasts were able to recreate Tokyo in their virtual game. And not only recreate Tokyo, but to put in such an accurate amount of detail that Sora and Shiro were unable to distinguish it from the real Tokyo that they left behind when they decided to go over to Tet’s place and play games. It’s not a question of whether they were able to get a map of the city and a few pictures and then build it, but they know where everything would go and even put in the details to make wards like Akihabara look like Akihabara. It makes you wonder what their intelligence is like and how they were able to obtain or derive that knowledge. There’s an obvious connection between the two worlds, evident by the fact that Sora and Shiro were able to arrive in their world through Tet’s abilities, but accurately defining what that knowledge or information is might be a ways away. It might reveal more about the mechanics of the series and what is really going on with Sora, Shiro and Tet, but it does hint at the possibility that this is all within the realm of our earth or in the minds of Sora and Shiro. But at this point, who knows for sure what’s going on. All that we can do at this point is speculate and wait for another season of No Game No Life.
Mushishi Zoku Shou (Episode 10 [Finale])
Well, unfortunately, for now, Mushishi Zoku Shou is over. Due this August will be a pair of the unaired episodes that were intended to air this Spring and the series will begin anew in October with the latter half of the series. So rather than focus on the details of the episode and how Mushishi always ends its seasons with Ginko-centric episodes (like this and the two from the first season), I want to put an emphasis and draw your attention to the setting and the background art in Mushishi. As a die-hard advocate of settings, especially how settings are utilized and how they influence the stories, I found this episode to be spectacular in how it employ its setting to be exceptionally meaningful in addition to also being remarkably beautiful. The entire episode was based on a lonesome mountain, requiring itself to rehabilitate following the devastating landslide. The missing ingredient that the mountain desperately needed was some kouki which is how Ginko found himself in yet another adventure. So in that sense, I was satisfied in seeing the setting have a significant impact on Ginko and the story as a whole. But part of that impact comes from the visuals of the setting, and Mushishi did a phenomenal job of depicting the environment, illustrating the stress of the natural disaster and the winter, and showing the splendor and magnificence of the mountain and the spring when life began again at the end. Mushishi is one of my all-time favorite anime because of how well it develops the setting in each episode, chiefly on how the people interact with their environment and how nature responds to them or their internal conflicts. Furthermore, Mushishi is one of the more picturesque anime there is and the upgrade in art between this season and the previous one was on display in this episode. That’s not to say the first season was not one of the best but that this season was able to improve upon something that was seemingly perfect and flawless before. It makes you wonder what the series will do next with its settings and nature when series begins again.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Episode 12)
Why does this season of JJBA feel inferior to the first season? Could it be that our current JoJo (Jotaro) doesn’t have the charm and robust personality of the previous JoJo (Joseph)? Is it the fact that the fights are now between Stands rather than between characters with Ripple? Is it the indirect nature of the story, with Jotaro and company still thousands of miles from their objective whereas Battle Tendency had multiple objectives that were performed one after the other? Each of the previous questions touch upon a valid point regarding the series and each has its own merits in evaluating the two halves of the same series. However, to me, the biggest deficiency between the two parts, and a significant reason why this season is below the first JJBA, is that it isn’t fabulous enough. That’s right, the flamboyancy and extravagance is absent. There are no more ultra-ridiculous poses. There is no more of that loud, brash, and witty humor that made Joseph so charming. There just isn’t anything flashy or bold about Jotaro. Sure, the two different protagonists are completely different people, just as Jonathan is different Joseph and Jotaro, but it’s still a factor that’s missing in this season. That fabulous and stylish factor from Battle Tendency is gone and it was a substantial reason why I feel in love with the franchise when I did. I’m still enthralled with the series and eager to see where this is going, but it’s just a fact about this series that makes it different from Battle Tendency. That’s not to say Stardust Crusaders is doomed to be forever below Battle Tendency, but that it is below the other series at this point. With three more seasons to go, a total of nine more moths of JoJo’s ahead of us, there is plenty the series can do to make up for the decrease in flamboyancy. However, it is worth nothing that the decrease in that style and personality is a factor on why this series is not at the level of Battle Tendency.
Isshuukan Friends (Episode 11)
Ever wonder what Kaori writes in her diary? Ever wonder how much detail she uses in her daily logs? Or whether she draws pictures to help solidify her memory? Maybe cute faces to express emotion to each line, so she remembers if something was super exciting or if she was confused or surprised about something? What’s her word choice like? And does she ever change or delete anything? I’ve always wondered what Kaori does whenever she opens and writes in her diary and I’d be curious to see what the contents hold. I also wonder how personal the diary is to her and if she’d be willing to let others read it too, as a window into her mind and her personality. Hopefully, before the series is over, we’ll get a glimpse to see what’s in Kaori’s diary.
Edit: Since writing this review, I’ve watched the special that accompanies the BD/DVD released of Isshuukan Friends and found that it is a short video from her diary. We’re able to witness Kaori’s thoughts and feelings in the written form and see what she reads every week in order to understand her past, her current friends and plan her future. I always enjoy watching the specials that come with these discs and I’m estatic to see that these videos are on Kaori’s diary. If you watched the anime and enjoyed it, then they’re well worth your time.
Hitsugi no Chaika (Episode 11)
With Tooru teaming up with Vivi and Zita, could this be a foreshadowing that the two sides will join forces before the end of the story? It certainly seems that way with these characters putting aside their differences in order to achieve a common goal. With the trio of enemies now working together inside this massive, hovering fortress, it certainly seems like the two pragmatic characters (Tooru and Zita) would be able to expand their alliance beyond just escaping this flying dungeon. Perhaps, at the end of the series, another Chaika will be doing something dangerous and Zita will need to sway her side to join with Tooru and white Chaika. Or maybe Tooru seems something that will doom white Chaika and persuades her to join with Vivi and the others to fight a greater evil. Whatever the reason, it just seems like the two sides are too good for each other and they work too well together. I figure that before too long, we’ll see the two run into each other again in a more normal situation but that they’ll talk things through rather than fight like they did last time.
Captain Earth (Episode 12)
Akuma no Riddle (Episode 12 [Finale]) **Warning: spoilers below**
No doubt, the best aspect of the ending to Akuma no Riddle was to see the various reactions of the people who watched this anime. Most of the responses to this finale ranged from stunned to dumbfounded to upset, displeased and even to disgusted. Of course, many fans were fine with the ending, and I, for one, came out rather happy with how everything finished with a conclusion and pleasant epilogue. Generally, most of the reactions focused on how all the girls lived, especially Hitsugi and Chitaru who were stabbed in the chest and drank poison to end their episode. But as I figured early on, I believed that none of the girls would die in Akuma no Riddle, so that sense of confirmation the ending provided for me gave me an uplifting feeling. That and all the girls I liked that seemed to ‘die’ where fine in the end, so that’s something else that’s positive, too.
Anyway, the subject for this episode’s review was supposed to be on the ending for Tokaku and Haru, so that previous paragraph is somewhat on topic – I just wanted to get that out there and this was the only platform for me to do it. So the ending of Akuma no Riddle finished with Tokaku and Haru together, going out to deliver the diplomas to all their friends who tried to ruthlessly murder Haru during the past few months. It’s clear that now, after surviving the Black Class, that Haru is free from the immediate threat of assassination attempts and now must live her destiny where she has to fear for her life due to her position within the clan and her ‘Queen Bee’ status. So it makes sense that Tokaku is still with her because there is still the threat of assassins trying to kill her and the thought is that Haru was able to survive the Black Class because she was paired with Tokaku. However, the ending doesn’t make it really clear what the relationship is like between Tokaku and Haru. Yes, the two are together at the end, but that could be because Tokaku realizes Haru’s life is still in danger, even with the Black Class completed. There was the issue of Haru’s ‘Queen Bee’ influence working on Tokaku, but the series generally played that aspect off and that the feelings between the two are genuine. But really, the ending does nothing to deny or confirm it, much like it did with the deaths or not-deaths of the assassins throughout the series. Akuma no Riddle enjoys the grey area a bit too much and leaving certain scenes of the series up to its viewers. If you’re a fan of yuri relationships, then sure, Tokaku and Haru will enjoy an innocent yet passionate love for the rest of their lives. And if that’s not you’re thing, then sure, why not, they’re business partners and Tokaku will be Haru’s bodyguard for life.
To be honest, I wish the anime had a more solid ending for both Tokaku and Haru. I always enjoy an anime with a definite ending and a satisfying epilogue (if you’ve read the whole post, you can see it’s the general theme of this week), so I was thrilled with this episode of Akuma no Riddle. The short, little sequences with each of the girls was a beautiful touch, especially showing how many of them progressed as characters and began solving their own issues (Haruki working at a construction site and earning an education to provide for her family, Kouko abandoning the assassin orphanage she grew up in, Mahiru coming to terms with her dual personalities), but it was really a non-ending for Tokaku and Haru. In fact, the situation that they’re in is the exact same as the middle of the series where the two were together in a somewhat ambiguous and platonic relationship. The ending doesn’t really show the progress in their relationship or the development that occurred after learning about queen bee syndrome. It’s the only part of the finale that I really have a problem with. But again, it goes back to Akuma no Riddle living in the grey area and leaving up these things to the viewers. So I guess, in a sense, it wants to make everyone happy, which is probably why it let all the girls live and gave us fanservice scenes in a majority of the episodes. Still, I would’ve been happier with knowing that the relationship between Tokaku and Haru was growing at the ending. It doesn’t need to be anything like a kiss but there needed to be more than the two linking arms in the finale scene. So in that sense, I’m a little upset. Then again, the manga is still ongoing, so maybe the final answers will be revealed in the future. In the meantime, I guess we just have to speculate (or fantasize).