And so the season ends, with solid episodes and flops both largely where you’d expect them. Shirobako ends with a lovely tribute to its entire cast and spirit, Death Parade ends with a brilliantly personal episode that demonstrates the show at its best, and Yuri Kuma pulls out all the stops with one of its most personal and beautiful episodes yet. The rest of this week’s finales varied in quality, but the season remains one of the strongest in recent memory. We’re gonna have to remember this one through the potentially darker months ahead – we’re always lucky to get a season this good.
Incidentally, next week’s Week in Review will be replaced by my eventual, absolutely overwhelmed First Episode Retrospective of Absolutely Everything. I’m guessing I won’t be able to give status reports every few shows this time, since this is going to be the most overwhelming preview week I’ve ever taken part in, but I’ll make sure to let people know as soon as the flood begins. See you all on the other side!
Alright, enough news and reflections. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN!
Shirobako 24: It can’t end. It’s not allowed to end! You can’t leave us, Shirobako – the world needs you. I need you!
We damn well better get a sequel. This episode was kind of tough to watch – it was basically a victory lap, touching on and solidifying all the ways these dozens of characters have grown over the weeks, and as such it served as a pretty painful reminder of everything we were about to lose. It kept astonishing me as the show panned over group shots and meetings that I cared about every single one of these characters. Normally a show can manage a handful of resonant characters, but Shirobako’s graceful distribution of tiny arcs, unique personality features, and quiet human moments has brought an entire community to life.
And so many of these characters have grown, as well. This entire episode was a continuous demonstration of Aoi’s growth, but all of her friends have climbed naturally into the confidence they now own, and even characters like Hiraoka were able to get endearing little moments. Nabe P’s “go on, Ace” felt totally earned – Aoi really has become a champion across these seasons. She’s the glue that holds Musani together, and though she doubts her own motivation, her speech at the end made the depth of her passion and commitment clear. This show loves people and anime so much that it can’t help but be infectious. Its passing makes me feel like Aoi’s speech was almost intended to make us feel better – to know that Shirobako may be going away, but great anime will still continue to be made. I hope we always have more shows like Shirobako to keep the faith.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 36: Well, this was a silly episode. It’s nice to see Hol Horse again (I actually spent a great deal of Stardust Crusaders’ first half assuming he was the “missing character” who’d eventually join the team, not Iggy), but this was a slow one overall, and Boingo only had about an episode’s worth of character in him in the first place. My favorite scene this week was easily the Dio opening – they’re really building up Dio’s presence well, and the whole sequence was filled with beautiful shots framed by his hideout’s aesthetically convenient spiderwebs. Hopefully this arc’s second half is more entertaining, but either way, we’re finally getting close to Dio!
Maria the Virgin Witch 12: Honestly wasn’t all that happy with this ending. It felt too easy – Maria got away with basically everything, war really did just end, and everybody lived happily ever after. For a show that was already interrogating Maria’s simplistic pacifism by the second episode, I expected more nuance in the conclusion than that, and many character journeys just kind of fizzled out. I liked the importance of Martha’s faith to Maria’s fate, but I didn’t expect Michael to just be won over by Maria’s conviction after all this time. I expected the church of the heavens to end their engagement in some kind of necessary compromise, likely prompted by Bernard making her a sainted tentpole of the church of man. And both Bernard and Galfa got pretty underserved by this ending, too.
There were good elements here, and I liked where some of the characters ended – Gilbert and Ezekiel in particular had nice journeys, with Gilbert falling entirely into insecure, judgmental servitude while Ezekiel rises out of it. And there were nice moments, like Viv saying she was off to sleep with some dudes and maybe bring world peace (Viv remains the best to the end). But overall this felt too much like a “and then they all lived happily ever after” bow pinned on a show that always seemed to understand and embrace the fact that the world is much more complicated than that. There seemed to be a real broad-minded intelligence in the way the show contrasted the very different but equally understandable perspectives of characters like Maria, Bernard, Ezekiel, and Galfa, and having it all just reduce to Maria “winning”… eh. I’m obviously normally fine with optimism in fiction, but this ending just didn’t seem to line up with this particular show. It didn’t feel like an earned victory.
Log Horizon II 25: And Log Horizon finishes strong, closing out with an exciting raid battle, a few closed and opened narrative doors, and even some actual animation. The whole cast got their expected moments in the sun, Shiroe’s conversation with Kanami was endearing and true to the show, and it all ended where it had to, with everyone enjoying one more goddamn family dinner. I’m gonna miss Log Horizon. Hopefully it comes back soon.
Rolling Girls 12: Well this sure was a total disaster. Not really sure how any show manages to fumble its own story this much, but this was pretty much one long, slow-motion fumble from start to finish. And there wasn’t even good animation! Damnit Rolling Girls, you promised me an exciting finale! Not… whatever this was. Ah well.
Death Parade 12: Jeez, what a finale. This one was Death Parade at its best – all the ideas about judgment and the meaning of a life came to the fore, the building relationship between Decim and Chiyuki was illustrated perfectly, and the aesthetics were as strong as ever. The animation wasn’t flashy, but there were so many excellent closeups, so many shots framed through glass or flowers that perfectly set the scene. And the meaning of life, judgment, and arbiters all gained new texture, with Decim’s question to Chiyuki forcing her declaration that all lives are valuable, and thus she doesn’t have the right to take one. We’ve spent a long time framing the arbiters as inhuman, but here that acquired a real note of sadness – being removed from the pain of living and human nature keeps them from understanding why death is also important.
And ultimately, Decim stating that he wants to be an arbiter who makes people happy with how they lived lends a new meaning to the contrast between reincarnation and the void. It’s not about punishment or reward – the arbitration process has always been about channeling regrets, which make people want to escape the cycle of living, but human lives are complicated. As we saw in the detective arc, many lives can be framed as worthwhile or painful purely through perspective, and Decim has the opportunity to make people cherish their lives, and look back on them with fondness. It’s not about rewarding or punishing people – it’s about whether Decim can make them find value in living itself, value enough to continue and go through it all again. This was a tremendous finale to an excellent show – I expected Death Parade to be solid but somewhat emotionally removed, and instead it’s proven to be one of the smartest and most heartfelt shows of the last few seasons. Fantastic work.
Parasyte 25: Parasyte finished up with a totally unnecessary and deeply unimpressive epilogue, ending on a sour note after an arc that did a fair amount of work to restore the show’s overall dignity. The show didn’t end up nearly as strong as it once promised, but… well… alright, actually, I’m just kinda happy it’s over. It got tiring talking about this show after all – I really didn’t expect Log Horizon to be far and away the best of the shows I ANN-covered these past couple seasons, but that’s where we’re at. Cya around, Parasyte.
Yuri Kuma Arashi 12: I guess I really should have expected Ikuhara would have a few more surprises up his sleeve, but yep, this episode certainly surprised me. The court wasn’t so bad after all! Kumaria is Sumika, or maybe all of our Sumikas! EVEN CYBORG BEARS CAN FIND LOVE! This was probably one of my favorite episodes of the series, up there with the Lulu-Ginko one-two punch around the halfway point, and it really did a lot of work to add a bit more heart to the series right at the end. Yuri Kuma Arashi ultimately didn’t match my admittedly crazy initial expectations, but it was still an excellent show, and clearly demonstrated Ikuhara is still a creator we desperately need. Please keep making things, Ikuhara. No one else is making smart shows about lesbian bears.
Yatterman Night 12: This would theoretically have been a very respectable finale, but god damn that animation. It’s such a shame – this episode’s ideal version wouldn’t have “fixed the show,” but the base concept was a nice way of twisting back the importance of symbols and heroes after the show had spent so much time articulating them as possible forces of evil. And the intended fight scenes were great, and what we actually got of the animation was spectacular… but jesus, those repeated cuts. I can’t remember seeing anything else like it – entire sequences were just repeated wholesale, one of them three goddamn times, and by the last few minutes it was basically impossible to tell what was even going on. The show ended up pulling from the OP, from its own first episode, and from a few minutes earlier in the same episode, and the end result was a visual meltdown. I’m honestly more okay with this than I would have been with a less ambitious and less smartly composed finale, but it’s still a tragic thing to see.