「ベター・デイズ・アヘッド/last message」 (Betā Deizu Aheddo)
“Better Days Ahead”
I’m at peace with Astral Ocean – or rather, with the fan reaction it. I’ve been a fan of the series since the premiere, and I admit I let the persistent negativity that pervades every discussion of the series get to me for a while. In the end I look at it this way – if it were a choice of every series being this great with an annoying chorus of critics as a part of the deal, or every series being mediocre with happy fans everywhere, I’d take the classic show and the annoying comments every time. I’ve never been more of a BONES fan than I am with this show, because it took real guts for them to do something truly different with AO rather than take the path of least resistance and make a pale imitation of the beloved original, or a crappy knock-off that tries to cash in on every commercial trend in the industry (Gonzo, is that you?).
The only fly in the ointment is, of course, the annoying fact that we don’t know when or how episodes 23-24 are going to be delivered – and that’s a real concern, because this is shaping up as a pretty epic conclusion that’s going to need every minute of its remaining four episodes to roll out. The first takeaway from this episode is that Christophe knew a lot more than he was letting on, and he took significant steps to leave as little to chance as possible after his death. He was certainly right that Generation Bleu was finished – in its current location anyway – and it was just a question of exit strategies, really. Get the civilians out (at least the allies had the decency not to fire on them, even surprisingly trigger-happy Maggie) and then worry about what to do about the combat troops.
Essentially, this comes down to everyone choosing what’s important to them. Ao refuses to give up on the quartz gun, for obvious reasons. Rebecka seems inclined to drag herself back to Big Blue World – for whom she’s been spying on GenBleu all along – before Ivica shames her back into helping Pied Piper escape (succeeding where wannabe paramour Gazelle failed). And Chrisophe has made arrangements for (among other things) Fleur to take over his role at the head of what remains of GenBleu. With a pilot version of Georg left unwiped on Ao’s communicator, it’s possible to reload it onto the Triton and for the team to escape – which they do, while Ao unleashes all his adolescent rage and blasts his way down to the basement to pick up the quartz gun and blast his way out directly from underground.
This is where all Hell breaks loose, and lots of things happen which shed some light on the mysteries of the plot, but not so much as to bring everything into line. After a huge explosion of quartz pushes Nirvash up the surface (along with what can only be Nirvash type TheEND) the allies finally start firing – but HQ has entered a self-destruct mode. Ao appears ready to use the quartz gun against the allies, when Mama Hannah and Team Harlequin appear, having escaped but lost 200 of their colleagues, and Mama talks Ao back off the ledge. Truth appears, having merged with what the Allies call “Codename: Cannon”, and is in fact an LFO and an archetype, and it appears (though I’m not convinced) that type TheEND is destroyed along with HQ. Then there’s Elena, who uses a hug pillow to sneak away from Pier Piper, and shows up offering to join forces with the Allies forces.
So the one who I was pretty sure was dead is indeed, dead (though still influencing things due to his careful planning), the ones I weren’t sure about are alive, and of course, so is Truthie. There’s a lot of false fronts being erected here – indeed, it appears that the entire anti-Secret campaign by GenBleu was a known lie right from the beginning. Harlequin has pretended to join the Allies to allow Pied Piper to escape. It was interesting to hear the Secret/Georg tell Ao that the quarts are the “invaders” (not the coral), and indeed, part of Blanc’s last bargain was to team up with Japan to eliminate the remaining quartz, in exchange for the Secret (who’ve been using the Japanese as a convenient middleman all along) agreeing not to cause any more Scub Bursts. If nothing else, it bought Pied Piper a safe haven it desperately needed.
In the final analysis, it seems to me that Ao has simply inherited another set of lies in exchange for the ones he’s been living since he joined Pied Piper. He’s still the tool of corrupt adults who want to use him for their own ends, and still yearning to know once and for all what’s right and what’s wrong. Changing teams isn’t going to do it. Ao is going to have to change the game itself – I think we all know how he can do that – and it’s going to boil down to the rest of the cast being with him or against him. Elena has made her priorities clear – she wants Ao to use the gun, and bring back the world she (and presumably he) came from, so while she appears to have switched sides, I believe it’s a strategic move, like Harlequin’s – indeed, the Allies still believe she’s Mirror/Miller, and that’s something she can use to her advantage. Ivica will surely side with Ao in the end, and I suspect Hannah as well. What of Team Gazelle, and what of Rebecka – and perhaps most crucially, what of Fleur and Naru? Fleur’s heart clearly wants to be with Ao, but I sense that she’s going to a dark place at the moment and despair will savagely tempt her to do bad things. Naru’s connection to Ao is deepest of all, yet she’s arguably at the farthest remove from him – we can’t even know where her relationship with Truth stands, and whether he’ll ultimately prove to be a source for evil or good himself.
And oh by the way, there’s that little matter of Eureka and Renton, too – and she shows up in the preview. So does a dark-haired man who appears to be praying at a memorial altar in Ao’s home on Iwata, as Ao watches – but I don’t think that’s Renton. So who is he – and since we pretty much know Renton is going to show up sooner or later, when it that going to happen? As important as those two are going to be in the conclusion (whenever that is) I don’t think we’re looking at a Deux ex Eureka – the resolution for all this has to come from Ao himself, and nowhere else. If anything, seeing his parents might be the final nudge he needs to see what the right course of action is, and the burst of courage he needs to follow it.