Only a few shows actually aired this week, but they were all finales, so it managed to be a pretty heavy week all the same. Let’s run down some sad, sad endings.
Monogatari S2 26: This episode brought it all together. Not just Kaiki’s arc, or the larger Nadeko conflict – the entire point of Monogatari. Kaiki’s speech on the comforting falsehood of a personal reality, on the worthlessness of “happiness,” and on the need to engage with the pain of the real world, speaks to everything this show has ever tried to say. All these characters hide from their own desires or personalities, all of them construct personal worlds and perspectives, and all of them suffer for it, and are forced not to slay their demons, but accept them. Kaiki lays all of this out with eloquence, passion, and possibly-legitimate sincerity, and Nadeko accepts it, saving herself. And then of course Kaiki undercuts his own words – they were all just truisms, it’s really what any adult would tell a troubled kid. Which is also true – Isin’s stories may be elaborate, evocative tales of ghostbusting new-age therapy, but they’re still just stories about growing up and accepting yourself. But in spite of Kaiki’s nonchalance, that doesn’t diminish the worth of these stories. That doesn’t make them any less valuable, or powerful, or true.
Wonderful ending to a wonderful season. My essay for this one’s all set, and should be posted in the next couple days. It’s been quite a ride.
Nagi no Asukara 13: That was a finale! They’re certainly set up for the timeskip now – up until this episode I was wondering how they’d make best dramatic use of the sea god offering/long sleep, and this seems like a brilliant way to do it. Half the cast thrown into the sea and trapped in time, half the cast left to pick up the pieces on the land, and the series’ guiding character stolen away. Based on the show’s own website, it’s looking like Hikari and Kaname were held back in time just long enough to make the childhood crushes actually romantically relevant, which is a pretty funny trick. I’m very interested in seeing what propels the drama in the second half – given this is such a focused character story, I’m guessing Manaka’s absence will loom large drama-wise, but I’d really like to explore the characters and the world moving forward.
But that’s all speculation – it’s a good sign I’m indulging in it, since it means I’m really invested, but it doesn’t say anything about this episode. And this episode was great! Beautiful, exciting, affecting… everything also felt basically inevitable given the trajectory so far, which is generally how you want dramatic beats to land. Kill la Kill could take some notes on how to end a first half from this one.
White Album 13: Man, they really ramped up the shittiness of the characters this week! Well, not so much Setsuna – she was clearly the victim here, and should probably just get the hell out of this drama-nightmare. But Haruki in particular was basically King Shit in this finale, with his trademark passivity making things that much crueler for Setsuna. It’s all in character, of course – he knows his actions are unforgivable, but he’s bad at being emotionally honest and bad at taking charge in personal situations, and so he says little and lets Setsuna lead him to a moment terrible for her. But yeah, selfishness abounds between him and Touma. It’s very weird to see a romance that centers on what are likely some of the least forgivable actions of a character’s life – by the end, Haruki’s just emotionally void, and clearly, justifiably hating himself, with Setsuna’s continued presence just a knife in his back. It’s also noteworthy that the show moralizes as little as it does – the direction and music really do play into the “helplessly in love” tone of Haruki and Touma’s encounters. I don’t take that as approval – the sex scene is clearly painted as a sad betrayal, and Haruki actually relating how pathetic he thinks he is would be out of character. He wants Setsuna to say she hates him, and that he’s a monster, but she never does, and so he just sits there hating himself. And there’s no real thematic point it’s driving home, either – just a few people acting shitty because they’re young and selfish and in love.
Don’t know how I feel about the ending overall. There were very good climactic moments throughout, but I feel kind of unfulfilled. I guess that’s the point – like Haruki, I wanted Setsuna to explode, to hate him like he deserves. Instead she hides her tears, and acceptance of his actions is much more painful. I guess that means it worked? Even the audience is denied the catharsis that would let them move on? That’s a cruel trick, but the whole show’s been cruel.
Yeah, very conflicted. I’d intended to write a longer post about this show, but what message can be drawn from what happened here? People suck? I knew this would end in tragedy, but I figured it might also point to a way forward, and in the end these characters are still drowning in the past – Setsuna refusing to let go of her silly, selfish dream of them staying together, which in turn keeps her from truly lashing out at Haruki, which denies him the catharsis he needs to possibly move forward and forgive himself. Life is meaningless struggle? Don’t really want to follow that line, either. So should it just be considered a cautionary tale? Haruki’s certainly an excellent case study for how not to handle your own emotions.
The fact that I’m still thinking about it is good, I guess. It affected me, which is more than most shows can say. There are certainly no easy answers here.