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Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara – Gao, Gao!

Gaworare   13   01 fixed

The most surprising series of Spring 2014 ends pretty much as expected, but that’s not a problem for me.

Gaworare has been an odd series right from the start, and in the final analysis quite a different sort of show than I expected.  It a sense it’s as if I bought a ticket for Paris and got off the plane and found myself in London, but ended up liking London a lot (which as it happens, I do).  When it comes to my anime I like being surprised, though the evidence suggests I’m in the minority on that – shows that belie their initial impressions tend to end up poorly rated and commercially unsuccessful, a group to which Gaworare is poised to add its name.

There was many phases that Gaworare passed through over the course of 13 episodes – starting out looking like a straight-up harem comedy, then largely taking on the air of a show satirizing harem comedy and LN tropes, and finally ending up as one that played it straight.  Straight in the sense of approaching its subject matter with sincerity and not parody, and in the sense of not having much humor altogether.  The last three episodes were deadly serious and plot-focused, and for me that isn’t the strength of Gaworare though the steady hand of director Watanabe Ayumu on the tiller certainly made things a lot more coherent and entertaining than they might have been.

The net effect of all that is that the show leaves a somewhat schizophrenic impression – to be honest I’m still not 100% sure what I just watched.  I have a pretty good idea of what actually happened in terms of the plot, I’m but not sure what the overall point was.  When a series is plays it straight for as long as Gaworare did in the final stages, it’s hard to say that satire was its main purpose (though with the LN still ongoing, I couldn’t say if that’s true of the source material too).  I suppose it was simply a comedy with satirical elements rather than a pointed commentary on the omnipresent LN harem genre – and it’s certainly not usual for anime comedies to get more serious in their final episodes.

I’ll say this much – I certainly didn’t expect a premise that ended up owing more to The Matrix than any other source, but that’s what we got.  The final ep progressed pretty much as you would have figured going in – Souta’s ever-burgeoning harem follows him into the digital world to help him do battle with Tenshi Takusei, a battle they ultimately win.  If there was a twist, maybe it was that Number Zero turned out to be Kagura, the founding Queen of Bladefield – but given that it was widely believed that she was another facet of Nanami anyway, that’s not too far afield (aBladefield?).

If there’s a message to be taken from the end, I think it’s that humanity is worth believing in and goodness will ultimately be rewarded – it’s hard to walk away from the parable-like story of Souta’s accident in the cruise ship in other other direction.  I was pretty convinced the man he saved was going to leave him to die, and indeed Souta’s darkest moment came not when he faced death, but when his faith was shaken by his belief that this is what happen.  But the man came back, with Souta’s entourage in tow – repaying Souta for the bravery and kindness he’d showed towards him.  Souta has been as unfailingly patient and compassionate and just plain good as any anime MC this season, so it’s certainly nice to see him get his happy ending.

As expected the romance side of the story was a very minor part of the conclusion, but if you’re marking the scorebook I think you’d have to say Akane for all intents and purposes became the "official" love interest.  Once Nanami’s true relationship to Souta was revealed that was a non-starter – Gaworare just isn’t that sort of show, and she always had more of a "best gal pal" vibe anyway.  And there were a running string of hints from both Akane and Souta that they felt that special feeling, leading right up to Souta’s reaction in the finale when Akane says "I love you" to him.  They have good chemistry, so I’m good with this – it definitely seems like the most natural direction for the story to go.  As to why the Akane of the postscript, who in theory has no idea who Souta is, said "You saved me – again", well…  I think this is a science-fiction series that’s still a fantasy at heart, and the only rules it instinctively wants to follow are those of the heart.

Did Gaworare exceed my expectations?  Without a doubt, though I do have a very high regard for Watanabe-sensei.  There was an initial euphoria at just how appealingly crazy the show was, followed by just a fleeting excitement caused by the hope that it might just shock and prove to be a truly exceptional show.  It didn’t do that, but it remained highly enjoyable for most of its run.  I’m a bit sad that it didn’t find a way to incorporate humor into the final three episodes, because I still feel that satire and straight-up screwball comedy are the greatest strengths of this series – and I can’t help but think that in the hands of a lesser director the ending might have been a bit of a rushed, arbitrary disaster.  But it was a good conclusion – just not, as was so often the case with Gaworare, what I was expecting.

What will stick with me about Gaworare is how expertly it kept its disparate elements in balance.  The satire worked because it was at its best razor-sharp and quite ruthless (and let’s be honest, the subject being satirized is deserving of that), but the characters were such likeable examples of their trope that it never felt mean-spirited.  And the stark dichotomy of tone between the comedy and the extremely dark moments was really impactful (that contrast, along with comedy, was largely absent in the final arc).  Whereas with Gokukoku no Brynhildr the dark and light were always intertwined, with this show they were quite distinct from each other.  Gaworare is not, as Midousuji said of Onoda-kun, a "mass-produced model" – it’s a strange show that doesn’t neatly fit into any box, and packed a lot of big laughs and genuinely surprising twists into its thirteen episodes.  That’s something that I wish I had the chance to say about more anime than I do, and that makes Gaworare a series well worth appreciating.

July 1, 2014 at 3:16 am
37 comments »
  • July 1, 2014 at 3:29 amk

    It’s gawo gawo
    がをがを

    • July 1, 2014 at 8:27 amretsurai

      hodor?

  • July 1, 2014 at 4:06 amwhemleh

    Akane was the best girl for Souta, but the Seitokaichou was best girl. Discuss.

    • July 1, 2014 at 4:19 amCrook

      Show Spoiler ▼

    • July 1, 2014 at 4:28 amGuardian Enzo

      Megumu was best girl, if you give it to the only one who got him to the altar.

      • July 2, 2014 at 10:36 pmofislacker

        But he’s a guy!

    • July 1, 2014 at 9:17 amWanderer

      Nanami has always been my favorite girl out of this group.

    • July 1, 2014 at 11:56 amHalfDemonInuyasha

      Hard to pick one out of all of them.

      I do like Akane, but I probably like Okiku the best, though Rin was also funny with the yandere flags and Mei is that perfect amount of tsundere, and Mimori’s energy was good too.

      I also wish we had more time for Serika and Hakua to get a bit more development.

    • July 1, 2014 at 6:39 pmZhinvu

      It really is hard to choose just one. I like Nanami because of the ponytail, and Mimori because somehow I find it cute when a girl refers to herself as “boku.” But really they’re all great.

  • July 1, 2014 at 4:45 ammarina2

    Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara is a nice twist on harem genre.

    It started as generic harem show then changed itself into something unique (for this genre)in the later eps.

  • July 1, 2014 at 4:45 amewok40k

    RAWR!!!

    If there’s a message to be taken from the end, I think it’s that humanity is worth believing in and goodness will ultimately be rewarded – it’s hard to walk away from the parable-like story of Souta’s accident in the cruise ship in other other direction. I was pretty convinced the man he saved was going to leave him to die, and indeed Souta’s darkest moment came not when he faced death, but when his faith was shaken by his belief that this is what happen. But the man came back, with Souta’s entourage in tow – repaying Souta for the bravery and kindness he’d showed towards him. Souta has been as unfailingly patient and compassionate and just plain good as any anime MC this season, so it’s certainly nice to see him get his happy ending.

    sometimes we need such simple, uplifting dtories just to get by in this crazy world…

  • July 1, 2014 at 5:58 amDvalinn

    Man, finishing this show feels like I’ve made quite the journey. For a show I initially had little expectations of – figured it would be something like Noucome – it sure managed to surprise me in more ways than one. It was surprisingly fun to watch, it took a lot of unexpected twists and turns and it avoided any opportunity to turn into a disaster. After all, most adaptations tend to fail when they cram around four light novels into one cour. This show adapted all the novels in that time, and actually made it work. The people who worked on this knew what they were doing, that’s for sure.

    This show took us from lighthearted fun to satire to epic battles to save the world, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed it all. It wasn’t perfect – some characters were rather underdeveloped, the story was rushed and not every joke worked – but it oozed fun regardless. It certainly had one of the most likeable casts this season, with a main hero who deserved his harem (and happy ending!) and plenty of fun girls (and one other guy) playing off of each other. I’ll miss these guys, seriously. This show was definitely the darkhorse of the season for me.

    The final episode managed to round off things in a satisfactory manner as well. The final important questions were answered (what is Sakura and who is Number Zero), the battle reached a nice conclusion while embracing the message of the show and there was still time left for some post-battle ‘where are they now’ segments for the cast. Not opposed to the apparent Akane ending either, since she was the one most obviously in love with him since the very beginning of the show and they did have chemistry together.

    And thank you as well, Guardian Enzo, for covering this show (both on your own site and this ending post). If any show can use some more exposure, it’s this one, and your posts were a joy to read.

    • July 1, 2014 at 6:54 amGuardian Enzo

      You’re Welcome, Dvalinn. It’s always nice to be surprised for the better, and Gaworare did that.

  • July 1, 2014 at 6:21 ammagoiichi

    I loved the show and now I know why Nanami doesn’t like to be left out. She’s a brocon lol.

  • July 1, 2014 at 6:28 amMyCandleNeedsBlowing

    Now do a review on YowaPeda as a whole since the finale has already aired Enzo, the show needs more love which should be watched not just sports fan by any anime fan, here’s hoping that season 2 will be featured on Randomc as well. It’s a gem that should be shared.

    • July 1, 2014 at 6:55 amGuardian Enzo

      I did one on LiA, just posted it. It doesn’t really make sense to do a finale post on a series that wasn’t covered here, as it’s not really a finale – it’s just going on hiatus for a cour.

      • July 1, 2014 at 7:20 amMyCandleNeedsBlowing

        Well, I was just hoping people who hasn’t watched the show would revisit YowaPeda so they could anticipate and appreciate the coming of Season Two, which was the whole point of my comment.

      • July 1, 2014 at 11:45 ammagoiichi

        I got the last 3 episodes left on my backlog. I thought it was strange that it would end at episode 38. Glad there will be more of the Pedal.

    • July 1, 2014 at 8:34 amLGrey

      Speaking of Yowapeda, I’m curious on why there aren’t any signs of OST anywhere. Well there’s the 2 albums of sound collection, but I don’t recognize anything from the anime on those albums. No signs of “that usual theme”.

  • July 1, 2014 at 6:32 amcutemi2

    RAWR RAWR, another anime that didn’t blogged by Random Curiosity.

  • July 1, 2014 at 10:28 amzztop

    Does the anime ending or material deviate from the source LN in any way?

    • July 1, 2014 at 10:43 amPancakes

      Show Spoiler ▼

  • July 1, 2014 at 10:39 amPancakes

    I’m not even sure how to properly describe this, it’s as though the creator loaded up on LSD, began with your typical harem schtick, then midway through the hallucinations of dancing ponies and talking rainbows decided to go full Matrix as a change of pace. Basically what happens if you transplanted Arrested Development into Japan and the producers decided to give it a serious storyline.

    Kanojo is not a genre deconstruction as the harem is largely isolated as a comedy mechanism (not the primary focus), but it still throws off any attempt at labelling. Probably the best way to head into this if it catches your interest is to think of it as one of those “oh Japan!” shows that defies any Western understanding and leaves you wondering wtf you just saw.

    The show is nowhere near perfect, embraces the harem tropes like they’re going of style (until the latter half), and has no issues confusing the hell out of anime-only viewers, but was still pretty fun if you didn’t dig too deep into it. Definitely glad I made Kanojo this season’s drinking show, likely wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much otherwise :P

    • July 1, 2014 at 1:04 pmGuardian Enzo

      I don’t think it’s embracing the harem tropes so much as ruthlessly satirizing them. But it manages to be both ruthless and affectionate, which is a rare feat.

  • July 1, 2014 at 10:56 amJason Isenberg

    I smell one of the biggest surprises of the year coming lol. I thoroughly enjoyed this show, it was kinda slow I found it to be at the start and then when the dark sides of the story (which were quite dark amazingly) came around I was actually surprised. Glad I kept watching it because it was fun and funny and then come around to the last few weeks of the show things got serious, I suddenly wanted more. Lets just say I wasn’t disappointed :)

  • July 1, 2014 at 2:44 pmAnnyms

    I think it’s assumed that Agent Zero is another facet of Nanami because she calls Souta her little brother. Did it reveal she was Kagura in the show? I was pretty confused at what was going on that I could have missed it. The show still surprised me though with how much I enjoyed it.

    • July 1, 2014 at 3:03 pmwhemleh

      I’m fairly sure she introduced herself to Souta as Kagura Bladefield there in the last episode.

      • July 1, 2014 at 3:54 pmGuardian Enzo

        She did.

      • July 1, 2014 at 9:25 pmAnnyms

        Well, I guess that was during one of the multiple moments where I tried to contemplate what was exactly going on during that last episode. Whoops.

      • July 2, 2014 at 2:05 pmAnnyms

        Or I should realize that I didn’t watch the last episode yet… I might need a break from many things going on in my life right now haha

  • July 1, 2014 at 6:34 pmZhinvu

    - The show’s opening song is one of my favorites this season. The show itself was also a surprise because of the story.
    - I liked how TV Trope describe the show as it was the same impression I got. It stated:

    “It’s one of the friendliest examples of a harem around, with the members largely treating it as a good-natured competition, and being willing to encourage each other in their pursuit.”

    - Gotta admit I was at first slightly creeped out by Hakua’s verbal tic, because Rena from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni had the same habit when she talks.
    - I also wonder if the LN ever confirmed Megumu’s gender.
    - Nendo-Ruri was one of my highlights of the show.

    • July 1, 2014 at 10:51 pmGuardian Enzo

      I don’t think Meg’s gender was ever in doubt, in doubt. If we were supposed to think he was actually a girl, I never saw any hints of that, of that.

      • July 2, 2014 at 3:36 amZhinvu

        I see what you did there Enzo. Good one! Now that you mention it, they never did drop any hints that will make the audience think Megumu is a girl. I guess I was waiting for a punchline like Haganai Show Spoiler ▼

  • July 2, 2014 at 7:56 pminanis

    mmmm soo he is now in a virtual word? (since sacramento and the other girl as programs…)

    well i guess that is he has to live a dream forever then it better be a good dream xD

    • July 2, 2014 at 9:01 pmLGrey

      It’s the opposite – Kagura said that he’s in the real world now. As to why Sakura & the other one can manifest, well, I don’t know about that.

  • July 5, 2014 at 11:24 amDuzz

    It was a really funny show, I liked it a lot! Kinda went all “Burning Burning Fighter!” On me at the end or Matrix but wasn’t even sure what happened.

    Still Akane seems to win but then everyone willing to shared. Only think I feel bad about is there is no childhood friend in Rin And Oki-Nee is not Oki-Nee.

  • July 12, 2014 at 1:38 amanonon

    “The net effect of all that is that the show leaves a somewhat schizophrenic impression – to be honest I’m still not 100% sure what I just watched.”

    I could not have phrased the ending impression better myself.

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