It’s difficult to just talk about a Gundam series absent any deeper context. As one of the two most venerable mecha franchises in anime history (the other being Macross), there were Gundam episodes coming out before I was even alive. And although Sunrise has been willing to effectively reboot the series on more than one occasion, there are certain tropes that always seem to apply to any show with “Gundam” in the title somewhere.
Gundam AGE is another reboot, with no acknowledged ties between it and any of the predecessor series beyond the bare minimum: the name Gundam for the hero’s “mobile suit,” the usual mecha designs, and the annoying spherical robot named Haru (see above). In fact, there are enough differences, at least in the opening episodes, that I feel an initial review is warranted, even though my pledge to cover every new show this season didn’t extend to kids’ series.
Funimation spent 2010 simulcasting every noitaminA show it could get its hands on, which gave us gems like Tatami Galaxy, Shiki, and Princess Jellyfish. This year, the company has been much more selective about its simulcast choices in general, including with the noitaminA block. It selected the high-concept sci-fi dystopia series with thinly veiled social commentary over the carefully crafted character drama in winter and spring, and didn’t even pick up the dystopia show in the summer. That last decision was wise, as No. 6 was the worst noitaminA show we’ve had in years, but Fractale and [C] were also far weaker than their less political counterparts.
Guilty Crown is the latest show set in a dystopian future; here Japan has been taken over by a shadowy multinational organization and a band of resistance fighters seeks to liberate the country. One would think that Funimation would still be a bit shy of this sort of series, given how their last picks turned out, but instead the company is doubling down on their pick, running ads on anime related websites about how Guilty Crown is “the most anticipated new series” of the season.
Given the show is vying with the swan song of one of the most iconic series of the past decade, and the lavishly produced prequel of the popular Fate/Stay Night, that was and is a rather grandiose claim, but it may well be true. The more amazing fact is that all that anticipation looks to be justified.
With so much of Kamisama Dolls’ backstory left unearthed and so many conflicts left unresolved, there was always a question of how much closure the season finale would, or could, bring. I think Brains Base was more or less aware of their limitations here, and so the show openly admits that many of its plot threads have yet to be completed. Like Deadman Wonderland, a show which I’ve compared Kamisama Dolls to more than once, there’s too much story here to fit into one cour.
So there is the question: What does Kamisama Dolls resolve, and what does it leave open? Tidy up too many loose ends, and it will feel like the show is forcing its own resolution on a plot that clearly isn’t done. Tidy up too few, and the viewers are left without any catharsis at all, just a feeling that they’ve been jerked around for the past thirteen episodes.
Well, unless Kamisama Dolls decides to try to wrap up its entire plot by the end of the season with an unsatisfying, anime-only ending (which would be a major mistake), I now know how the remaining few episodes will play out. The conspiracy that threatens to destroy the Kurakami village elders and use the Kakashi for their own ends will be unearthed and either dealt a major setback or destroyed entirely. The only question is who will get hurt along the way.
At the moment, that list includes Aki, whom Mahiru abuses for her own amusement, and Hibino, whom Mahiru kidnaps when Aki tips off Mahiru to the fact she has a romantic rival. Not that Hibino or Kyouhei have admitted their relationship yet, but I think Aki has more of the right of it when he affirms something is going on between them than when Hibino or Kyouhei denies it. Besides, Mahiru’s jealous enough not to believe them anyway.
Remember how I said in last episode’s review that I didn’t want Mahiru to play the usual obsessive childhood friend role, and that I’d be really disappointed if she didn’t have some deeper character or twist around the archetype a bit? Well, I’m not disappointed. Mahiru is exactly what I was hoping she would be.
You see, the problem with many of the women serving as romantic interests in anime series is that their behavior, in real life, would be easy to classify as insane—and topping that list is the “girl who acts like the two are already married, even though he hasn’t shown the slightest interest in her” trope. Often, it’s paired with the male lead not realizing the extent of the girl’s affections (which is its own form of insanity, when you get down to it), but regardless, only in very rare circumstances is this one-sided pining depicted as being as wacked out as it really is.
Only a couple episodes ago, Kamisama Dolls illustrated why both Aki and Kyouhei wanted to leave the village behind them and never come back. Of course, just leaving behind your past isn’t something people can do, particularly when the past is following you around. Hibino’s father has reflected on how his own attempt to escape the notice of the village has ended in failure more than once. For once honored Sekis like Aki and Kyouhei, the pressure is far greater.
Externally, that conflict is illustrated by Kyouhei being followed out of the village by Kirio, Koushirou, and Moyako. Although the three are technically there for Aki, their lives become intermixed with Kyouhei’s yet again, as each has a compelling reason to stay in contact with him. And he has a reason to contact them as well, as he tries with Kushirou’s help to work out the tension between his younger siblings.
It would be hard for Kamisama Dolls to trump the angst and tragedy of the last episode, so it doesn’t bother. Instead, this episode starts off with what, I assume, is meant to be comic relief, before returning to the generally sinister atmosphere that characterizes the show at its best.
Like episode five, this episode is another time when the transition from manga to anime has combined two different stories within the bounds of a single episode. It’s not quite as bad this time, however. For while tone of the two parts vary radically from each other, the theme throughout is constant. The first half of the show gives answer to the question posed in the second.