Megalobox finale – The final match of the Megalonia tournament certainly does not disappoint for spectacle or emotion. The writing and production give their all for maximum payoff to everything they’ve been building up. If there is one tiny flaw, it’s that after picking two characters who died at the end of their respective arcs in the original version of the story, then throwing some form of “Dead” into every episode title, it feels like a last-minute loss of courage to not have anyone die.
But it is true enough to Ashita no Joe that both Joe’s and Yūri’s fighting careers end there, with Yūri paying a heavy price for his choice to level the playing field and Joe having achieved what he set out to do. And that’s not just fighting his way to the top, but specifically meeting Yūri there.
Take a couple steps back to look at it as a whole, and Megalobox is really about men who are only able to find emotional fulfillment with each other in the ring. I mean, Yūri broke up with his girlfriend over Joe. Joe left Aragaki and Mikio happy, but for him it was all about proving himself worthy of Yūri. And we don’t even need to get into the meaning of lines like “With you, I can go further than I’ve ever gone before.” Call it a portrayal trying to open up a wider definition of masculinity, or call it coded gayness, but it’s very hard not to see once the story is over.
In addition to all that, it’s been a pretty terrific sports show. Even better, this is a great candidate for recommending to people who don’t like anime yet.
Hakyu Hoshin Engi finale – It fits with the absurd nature of the fights in this show that the guy who’s survived two nuclear bombs and a black hole and the one sustained by one-third of the soul of a being more ancient than Earth are ultimately reduced to throwing punches and kneeing each other in the groin. Truly, this war has ended the Sennin.
But it’s Hiko’s death that deals the fatal blow to Bunchū. Too late, he realizes that his devotion to Yin wasn’t really for his old flame, or her descendants, but for Hiko, making this the second show ending this season to have been driven by a man pining for another man.
Despite the huge tangle of loose ends, Hakyu Hoshin Engi very nearly manages to tie all of them off. King Chū’s last act provides definitive closure for his dynasty and empire. I loved seeing the Unshō Sisters again, and it’s nice to know they’ve got a project to keep them occupied. The mysterious pieces of Taikōbō’s past are all assembled now. Ōtenkun, Bunchū, Dakki, and Joka have all been taken care of.
But there was nothing mentioned about that plan to merge with the planet, and all those scenes of various people sitting in the room with the grandfather clock are still floating out there unconnected to anything. Was that in the manga? Was that just an expositional tool that didn’t really work?
So we come back to the problem this show has always struggled with: originally planned to run a year, it could only get funded for 6 months, and it shows. Too many characters we never really got to know, too much of a sense that there are pieces missing. But it did succeed in the one thing anime adaptations are really for: It’s made me want to read the manga and get the whole story.
Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS! finale – To the surprise of no one but the characters, the prime minister has indeed pulled off a coup. And it turns out he and the king have the same feud as Ata and Kyōtarō, and Furanui and Karls. One just wants everyone to be happy, and the other can’t believe that that’s enough. Well, this show has only one message, so it doubles down and pretty soon everyone is covered in glitter, the citizens of Honyala Land are restored, and men are pledging their familial love to each other. All’s well that end’s well.
Which is nice as far as it goes, but if you were watching this for a continuation of the sharp magical-girl-parodying satire of the previous seasons, HAPPY KISS! has been a huge disappointment. There was only one major change in the team making this season, the loss of Michiko Yokote as head writer, and that seems to have been a fatal blow. I still recommend the earlier seasons, but I’m going to pretend this show really ended with the direct-to-video followup to season 2.
Steins;Gate 0 #12 – A clue to Kagari’s past emerges in the form of a song she remembers her mother singing. Tracing its journey leads back and forth in time and space, weaving through the relationships of many characters and leading back to Kagari’s memories— and the unsettling confirmation that she was in the power of the American researchers before losing her memory.
This was an intricate puzzle-box of an episode, almost self-contained enough to be a standalone short story. There’s a little bit of everything threaded in: joy, sadness, fear, love, and of course that hilariously mortifying moment when Okabe finds himself talking to his mom. Not a dramatic cliffhanger, but a nice neat closure to the season all the same.
The song with no origin breaks one rule Steins;Gate has held to since the original story. Even though seemingly paradoxical conditions can be created within timelines as they are changed, there’s still a one-way path of cause and effect leading across them. Okabe acts on information from events that never happened in the current timeline, but those events all happened to him in an order that makes sense and ultimately leads back to a time unaffected by time travel. So I wonder if the presence of a true paradox like this is a clue to the characters that this isn’t a “real” timeline. The Okabe of the original Steins;Gate has only a brief experience of this timeline, just long enough to get a message from a future self that he’ll never be which helps him erase it and create the one he wants. This Okabe is the one that needs to become that future self.
Persona5 the Animation #13 – Persona5 keeps it predictable: after finishing off a boss, it’s time to step back and throw in some lower-stakes material. We do finally get some real engagement between Akechi and Ren, though without any hints as to whether or not Akechi is the mysterious person in the black mask. What is hinted is that Akechi has figured out that Ren has some kind of connection to the Phantoms, which is frankly not too hard when they’re still operating at a security level where they discuss their plans out in public.
Yūsuke gets his day in the spotlight but it doesn’t illuminate much. He has exactly one interest and an almost religious devotion to keeping it unsullied by commercial considerations. It would be interesting to see how this develops once he’s out of school, but I have a feeling the story will contrive to have something more prestigious and charitable than what he was offered this time fall into his lap.
Well, if you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know what happens next. If you haven’t, here it is: We’ll put Steins;Gate 0 and Persona5 on the shelf for a couple weeks while checking out the summer premieres, then bring them back to battle for a spot in the updated lineup.