We got a few show endings this week, which were scattered between great and mediocre. Amagi’s real ending was last week, which allowed this episode to be… well, a kind of lukewarm one-off. But Bahamut ended well, and Fate Stay Night at least had good scenes within a weaker overall episode. So I guess what I’m saying is Shirobako saved Christmas, like we always knew it would. Let’s run ’em down!
Shirobako 12: What a joy this episode was. That entire scene with Anno felt like an extremely improbable gift – from his “I guess that’s just the age we live in” resignation to Aoi never having seen NGE to his excited fanboying over the animation of Andes Chucky, it all felt like some weird adorable dream from a show I somehow made up. Anno Saves Christmas. How does this even exist.
And then Sugie sweeps in to save their production with a week to go. They’ve been baiting his presence all along, and combining his final significance with both Aoi’s current crisis and her inspiration from Andes Chucky was just bulletproof storytelling. Shirobako constantly reinforces the one central thread I’ve learned from everything I know about the anime industry – the work is hard and you don’t make much money, but people keep at it because they’re inspired to do what they do. Aoi’s love of Andes Chucky literally saving the day really just underlines everything we’ve seen in plots like Misa’s dilemma, or the Ideon episode – it’s the passion grounded in the works that inspired them that keeps these people going, and aspiring to make works that move others in turn. Even though it was his turn to shine, this episode featured plenty of bittersweet moments from Sugie – from “I think Sugie-san is about twelve years older than my father” (and he’s still working, wow! Oh… he needs to still be working) to that devastating “if you hadn’t offered this job to me, I would have just ended up as extra baggage at Musani,” there were certainly heavy blows, as always. But Shirobako nails the balance of bitter and sweet, offering random surprises like Anno’s cameo all along the way.
Parasyte 12: Kana’s arc ended in kind of underwhelming fashion this week. The overall pacing of the material felt off somehow, and we’ve never really had a reason to be that attached to Kana, so this was maybe the first major plot resolution that just felt kinda perfunctory. That’s fine, though – Parasyte’s not a show I’m really emotionally invested in having be perfect all the time, it’s just an enjoyable thriller with a solid premise. And it’s looking like the next arc will actually get back to the good stuff, so I can’t really complain.
Log Horizon II 13: It’s a Valentine’s Day episode. What can you say about a Valentine’s Day episode? Well, unless it’s the Geass Valentine episode with those ridiculous hats, I guess. This Valentine’s Day episode did not have ridiculous hats. Aside from Serara’s hat, which was ridiculous and adorable. There was also plenty of cake. The end.
Amagi Brilliant Park 13: With the actual story wrapped up last week, this was very much one of those BD-extra style OVA episodes, and as far as those go, it was… well, okay. The episode’s own repeated gag might be the best (intentional?) summation – “the fundamentals are there, but the only response it exhibits is a yawn.” Tricen isn’t exactly the most interesting Amagi character (something else the episode actually draws attention to, jeez, meta as fuck), but I suppose it was nice to get a final moment with all the various characters. And though the majority of the episode wasn’t really funny or interesting or much of anything, that final ridiculous PV-montage was a nice enough payoff. Cya later, Amagi.
Fate Stay Night 12: So yeah, in spite of all my many comments about Fate being good for not much besides fight scenes, it turns out my favorite part of this episode was easily the silly date between Rin, Shirou, and also apparently Saber. There’s just a nice chemistry to this group – Rin talks circles around Shirou, Shirou gets flustered and defensive, Saber likes food. Scenes like these ones, which demonstrate just the kind of propriety-obsessed young teenager Shirou actually is, do far more to humanize his philosophy than any silly debates with Archer could. And Rin’s character is given equal texture through stuff like this. Her “wouldn’t your life be a lot easier if you let it go?” to Shirou was a perfect encapsulation of her hypocrisy, of the contradictions that make her compelling. Rin’s obviously driven by what her father wanted her to be, but sees his goals as her own because she runs on personal pride. And then she pushes her own personal expectations onto others, ignoring how it contradicts her own motivation. Fate’s philosophy is wonky, but when it focuses on the people behind the philosophy, it can demonstrate some real sensitivity.
And then we had a big cackling villain confrontation with good ol’ Caster. Caster’s barely a character in this show – she’s really just an antagonistic force, and not a particularly engaging one. What fights did occur in that confrontation were incredibly brief, and though there were some nice displays from ufotable’s effects team (Archer’s opening salvo against Caster was particularly lovely), the first season’s “climax” still felt incredibly talky and ultimately inconsequential. Yeah, Shirou lost Saber, but I’m sure he’ll get her back, or something. The one interesting tidbit in this episode’s second half was Rin prodding Archer about his “rooting for Saber,” which stumbled dangerously close to what I assume is Big Twist Spoiler territory. I actually really like what this show seems to be doing with Shirou and Archer in theory – I just wish the writing was a little better. But “Archer as a living demonstration of the failure of Shirou’s philosophy” is a great idea.
Rage of Bahamut 12: Fortunately, Bahamut ended as well as it possibly could have. This second half has certainly dragged in a variety of ways, lacking both the adventuresome flair and stellar animation of the first episodes, but the finale pulled out all the stops. Tons of great animation, both in kinetic fight scenes and intimate character movements. Beautiful backgrounds, as Bahamut’s titular rage lights up the countryside. Conflicts resolved quickly and effectively, with the cast quickly moving through Beelzebub, Lavalley, and Bahamut himself in fun, intelligent fashion. Both Kaisar and Favaro’s duel and their race to defeat Bahamut count among the show’s best setpieces, there were lovely character moments for everybody, and the show’s plot resolved as gracefully as it could. Bahamut ultimately didn’t amount to the action-adventure masterpiece it might have promised, but it was still a fun and unique show, and it’s nice to see it off in such fine fashion.