「鬼斬丸の力」 (Onikirimaru no Chikara)
“The Onikirimaru’s Power”
With the second season slated for October, how does Hiiro no Kakera‘s first half fare in terms of keeping viewer interest and as a self-contained season? It’s a difficult question to answer – do you look only at the finale to derive a satisfying conclusion or do you look at the sum of all the parts?
In terms of plot, the season finale received a much-needed boost in its engines and managed to resolve the main conflict that has been present throughout the series – I may not exactly love how they got there, but in terms of conclusions, the issue of the Onikirimaru has been resolved well enough that the season ends on a high note, but the door is open for the issue to be revisited in the second season if there are no new conflicts to take its place. A new obstacle for the protagonists to face might be nice, but the Onikirimaru storyline might be a better alternative for the sake of consistency. I do think there are plenty of material left for the producers to harvest a plot for the second season, especially if they continue at the pace of the first half. It would be wise for them to give plot progression a little more attention next time though as it still remains Hiiro‘s weakest link.
Unfortunately, the finale does expose a lot of that weakness in plot – there are no glaring gaps in logic per se, but the episode does need a little bit of suspension of belief to digest everything. It’s mainly an issue with how fast the conflict hits the cast and is resolved. The Onikirimaru’s seal breaking and Tamaki awakening as the Tamayori Princess have been the core conflicts that the show has been exploring for the better part of its thirteen-episode run. For such important components of the story, more care should have been given to make sure it got the developments it fully deserved. My biggest gripe will have to be the abrupt, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of Tamaki finally becoming the Tamayori Princess – I was extremely happy she finally became the legendary figure, but it happened in such a nondescript way I can’t help but feel a little jilted. Grandma’s sudden appearance doesn’t help matters, because where has she been this whole series? She has been a completely peripheral character, which I wouldn’t mind as much had she not actively blocked the progression of the story for the majority of the series; I’ve said this before many times, but I feel it’s an issue that needs to be revisited. Obstacles to complicate matters for the protagonists are perfectly fine – even welcomed. But when that obstacle gets to a point where it becomes a complete roadblock, it really drags the story down unnecessarily. I feel this was Hiiro no Kakera‘s biggest problem when it came to the slow pacing and lack of forward movement; you can have all the willing characters in the world, but when you don’t have the proper means to use them, something falls a little flat.
The build-up to the final conflict has been fantastic though, with Tamaki proving her worth every step of the way and Takuma facing his inner demons; it will always remain my favorite part of Hiiro – sometimes it’s more about the journey and not its destination. And the journey certainly has been a little gem – there wasn’t a moment where empathy was lost.
When you polish that gem a little, you have the real ingredients for a successful finale. The characters are a real delight as always and even though there were some instances of plot-induced behavior, they still retained the charm that first drew me into their world. Hiiro no Kakera is at its best when it allows its cast to take the spotlight, so it’s no surprise that my favorite portions of the finale were the moments that involved Tamaki and her fight to save Takuma from himself, as well as all the Guardians rallying around them. They’re the glue that ties the show together and I’m glad the producers realize their value – each cast member is utilized to their fullest and none of them feel like the cardboard cutouts that they could have so easily become. Studio DEEN fully deserves some credit giving movement to these characters, so props!
Like I said, the finale managed to conclude the first half of Hiiro no Kakera in a manner that leaves the door open for the second season while also giving enough of a resolution to keep things self-contained. It’s not an easy thing to do, and while I do have my gripes, at the end of the day it doesn’t worry me as much because there’s a second season. I know the producers have the time to answer some of the questions that went unanswered, such as the full extent of Masataka and Ryou’s involvement. Even though they brought out some new developments that piqued my interest (most notably the collection of images the Onikirimaru showed everyone upon its unsealing), it doesn’t feel as tacked on and rushed as it could have been since I fully expect it to be fleshed out upon the show’s return in October.
For now though, I’m content with the final shot of the episode. It’s a perfect snapshot of the show’s winning charm and what better way to conclude the season than to show the audience the characters they’ve been rooting for?
Admittedly, Hiiro no Kakera was probably not very high on anyone’s watch list. It’s born of a very niche genre peppered with some disappointing adaptations, so it’s no surprise expectations for this spin on Otomate’s game were low to non-existent. But honestly, Hiiro surprised me almost every week – while flawed, the show had the ability to showcase its strengths so that its weaknesses were mostly overshadowed by the dynamic cast and the interactions between them. Each episode felt confident and while the pacing did feel a tad too slow, there was never really a moment I questioned its direction. To me, nonsensical or frustrating developments don’t matter as long as they feel organic to the story – I want to know that the producers are confident in their work, that they know where their work is going. That sense of confidence and certainty is important for viewers since it establishes a sense of trust; the producers and writers are fully in control of their work, so the audience can rest assured as the story unfolds. And aside from that issue with Grandma, I felt plenty assured that Studio DEEN knew what it was doing with the series. They knew what its weakness and strengths were, and Hiiro no Kakera never tried to be more than what it was, or to be what it wasn’t.
The season was a fun ride for me and it was a pleasure blogging the first season. I’m definitely looking forward to the second half in October – if Studio DEEN keeps up the charming character interactions and mix it with a slightly faster plot progression, they have a pretty good adaptation on their hands. Since this is only the end to the first season, I’ll keep my final impressions brief and save all the tl;dr for when the series actually ends! Thank you to all the readers who stuck around with me throughout my coverage – you have my deepest thanks! It was a treat reading all the positive comments and seeing that people enjoyed the show as much as I did. Hopefully we’ll meet each other again in October… so until then, bye everyone!