The penultimate episodes are upon us, so just before shows finally give us their final episodes, let’s see what we’ve got on our hands. Spoiiler – because I’ve dropped most of the shows I didn’t care for, anything ranged from “average” to “absolutely sublime”, the past two weeks, and especially the last, had been extraordinarily strong. A great finish to a good season. Now just to hope the finales all deliver as well.
The shows covered will be Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Death Parade, Durarara!!x2, Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch), Log Horizon S2, Parasyte: the Maxim (Kiseiju), and Shirobako.
1) Death Parade episodes 10-11:
The last two episodes have been magical. I think they truly worked great as “two episodes”, and were best to talk of them in said manner. Death Parade isn’t always consistent in its pace, but rather than call it “uneven”, it often feels, and certainly did this time around as if it’s a conscious decision, just as one could read an anthology of short stories that don’t all follow the same tone. So it was here, and these two slower episodes felt more thoughtful, more deliberate, and infinitely more intimate.
Episode 11’s skating-memory montage was magical, with the Chavvot music we already associated with “emotionally fraught moments,” and it was just so well done. It was almost an “Up!” moment. Decim and Chiyuki, just sitting there, like two people.
On the thematic front, those two episodes also kept at it, especially with Mayu’s decision, what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to try and understand people, to judge them, to judge ourselves? And Mayu was lied to by Ginti, but did he lie to her when he described the Void as terrible, or by telling her the souls could be brought back, or… or did Mayu create something precious which was not intended before? Ginti though, by his own words, always sends people to the Void, which goes with what Chiyuki told us previously – create darkness, and it’d be found. So Ginti couldn’t judge her, because for the first time he saw someone act altruistically, and rather than decide it’s reason to send them to reincarnation, it told him he cannot judge.
Mayu also made the powerful declaration, that she is the only one to say what’s “meaningful” in her life, and so long she deems it meaningful, that’s what matters.
Thankfully, the “mystery ongoing plot” was mostly kept in the background, as it’s usually where such shows fail, but seems it, and with it some of the show’s final stances will be left to the finale, to air later tonight.
2) Shirobako episodes 22-23:
Things go well! The final job is finally done, in spite of the Director’s past mishaps, and nature to procrastinate! Then things go, past the eleventh hour, pear-shaped. That’s the nature of Shirobako. Things go well, only so something could mess them up once again when you feel safe. Life is the constant struggle to keep going forward, despite the obstacles. And then when things go wrong, episode 23 is extremely “fan-servicey”, the “Funny Story” dude is torn down after a sequence where Director gets to be cool, channel his inner John Wayne, and the show channels Mawaru Penguindrum.
You see, “Funny Story” dude is like the safety in the show, he’s only there in order for us to feel vindicated when he gets his just deserves and is brought low. Zuka finally gets a break, and we all tear up, even before Aoi does, and feel vindicated when Aoi, our avatar within the show, does as well. This episode was very optimistic, it gave us, as fans, exactly what we wanted. I’d even go as far as saying it was a tad too optimistic for the life lessons Shirobako kept delivering, but as a fan, it sure felt great.
3) Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch) episodes 10-11:
Being a human is messy. Edwina provided the drugs that drugged Maria, and the medication that supposedly solved the illnesses Maria caused. Bernard will use witches to fulfill God’s will and further his glory, and Joseph will defy Maria’s wishes, go to war, in order to save Maria, who would rather not be saved than cause harm to those around her.
Episode 11 had Galfa and Joseph finally facing off. Galfa is understandable, as a character. He will step on everyone to get higher, because he’s been so low. You’d think he’d have more compassion for others, since he knows what it’s like being alone, weak, powerless, but it’s exactly the reason why he has no such compassion, or will not let it stay his hand. You see, he knows just how bad it is down in the gutters, and will let everyone else be there, if it means he can avoid sharing that position with him.
It’s not an excuse, it’s not a moral justification, and that’s exactly what Galfa is saying, that even speaking in those terms requires us to speak from a privileged position, which he did not enjoy. Even if Galfa gets to be king, he will carry this mentality within him, where he must save himself from the gutters. Fighting him, Joseph keeps trying to redeem him, while throwing him back down. Who’s right? Is anyone? I actually found Galfa much more understandable than Joseph, the good Christian, who spoke of forgiveness and trying to save Galfa as he beat him, just like the Church had done to Maria.
The last few minutes of the episode felt as a series finale, with Maria and Joseph finally hooking up officially, stopping the war (albeit locally), and such. Yes, there are some loose ends that need typing up, but it’s definitely feeling like “too many endings,” simply because it does feel like it ended, and yet it didn’t.
4) Durarara!!x2 Shou episodes 10-11:
Episode 10 opened with a small and touching vignette of Akane’s story, how she grew up in internal isolation not merely in spite of other girls’ warmth towards her, but because of it, because her “friends” were afraid of her, afraid of her parents. From there we moved to the chaos of Ikebukuro, but the chaos is not without purpose, not just from a story perspective, as the chaos is manufactured to show Ryugamine Mikado that the Dollars cannot be allowed to continue without rules, that the world isn’t so kind as to let him sit back and let things take their course. Either he will and feel guilty, or he will put a stop to things, and feel guilty. And all around him, Ikebukuro burns, as various parties cross paths and interfere with one another.
It’s standard Durarara!! fare, which is pretty good, but if you know Durarara!!, then there’s not too much for me to say here that I did not say in my write-up below.
5) Parasyte: The Maxim (Kiseiju) episodes 22-23:
After a solid episode, came two more that were pretty strong. Yes, we received some more “Earth, save it!” environmentalist messages beat over our heads, but the comeback to it was pretty good, a rejection and acceptance all in once – we save Earth for our own sake, but if we had to choose between ourselves and Earth, or between ourselves and other species, we’d choose ourselves. Parasyte too had something to say about understanding others, which we cannot, we just assume we can, and it’s hard enough to understand ourselves.
The old lady, Shinichi being accepted by humanity, and acting for the sake of humanity, for his own emotional sake, all were solid. Migi’s return, and the fight against Gotou harked back to the solid action of the first part of the show. It felt as if the show could and should’ve ended on this point, for an “alright” ending, but episode 23 happened, and more on that next week. Unfortunately, as a spoiler, it was a mess.
6) Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) episodes 9-10:
New student, an AI set on killing Koro-sensei and which disrupts the class for everyone else. Then Irina’s mentor comes around, and tells her this job does not work for her strengths. In both situations, Koro-sensei rehabilitates these people, makes the lonely AI a part of the class and drives her to work with others while creating a sense of identity and independence for her. Irina? She’s going to have to work through her weaknesses, just like the students.
And so, Koro-sensei continues helping everyone around him grow to be a better and more complete person, and the show continues to be exceedingly blunt with its morals. Not terrible, and there are several nice moments to be had, but damn, everything’s beating you on the head.
7) Log Horizon S2 episodes 23-24:
I didn’t really care for the last two episodes. There wasn’t anything wrong about them, but it all felt so tired. It just feels as if I’ll be glad when this show goes off the air, not because it’s bad, but because it’s starting to overstay its welcome, because things don’t really happen, and even when they do, it doesn’t feel that way. I’m talking on all angles, not just plot. I did like Isaac bonding with Iseleus, even if not for the “thematic point”, of the Adventurers bonding with those around them, with the world being changed by the weight adventurers exert on it merely by existing, but it didn’t really feel as if the move to episode 24’s grand Raid was very elegant, nor did it feel as if the show had that time to spare on themes it’s given to us earlier, instead of focusing on the final beats of the season.
I wasn’t even sold on Shiroe, now, and never before, finally being paralyzed by any of his decisions having repercussions that may not be something he can undo, by making decisions that affect them without their consent. This was also true for the arc early in the season, without it playing out like that. It almost felt like a ploy to push forth the aborted glasses-pushes. The one theme that stuck, as always, is that “without teamwork, we can’t progress. We gotta trust one another!”
There’s nothing wrong here, but it just felt weak and scattered.
I said so in the opening segment, but man, Death Parade and Shirobako are firing on all cylinders. While you may not appreciate a small decision here and there, in terms of message, or in terms of pacing, the overall effect, and the moisture in my eyes are a testament to just how strong those episodes are, and they straddle the case of understatement and overstatement of dramatic moments quite well. Maria finishes the top three with a very scrappy performance, it’s clear the show has what to say, and isn’t afraid of saying it.
Durarara!! might have lost some energy, as we left behind a whole slew of characters (such as Shizuo’s brother and Hijiribe Ruri), but it chugs along quite fine on the power of its interwoven storytelling and the irrepressible energy it has by dint of being Durarara!!
Now, the season finales are upon us, and soon, a new season. These are good anime weeks, after a mid-season that sometimes sagged.
Penultimate episodes, how do you feel when they tie up most of the loose ends? Do you feel that robs the finale of energy, or do you like it better when the finale can show the “afterwards” portion of the story?