「片翼の堕天使(フォーリン・エンジェル)」 (Hen Tsubasa no Datenshi ( Forin . Enjieru ))
“One-Winged Fallen Angel”
This is not why you first started watching this show, but if it’s done right, it’s why you’ll remember it. This is drama-land, the traditional dive into the serious that many light-hearted shows take for the last few episodes. And that’s alright…while jokes and flirting and loveu-loveu misunderstandings are fun, they’re dime a dozen, something we can find in every one of the multiple romcoms that air every season. Yet if KyoAni can pull off the drama angle, chu2koi will resonate far past its comedy punching power, and ascend to that next level I so want for it. So how is it doing so far?
Good. Great, even. First of all, there’s the lead in. The traditional mistake in these kinds of shows is ramping up the drama in the penultimate episode without building towards it in the 10+ prior (I’m looking at you, Kannagi). KyoAni has not made this mistake. Though I stand by my criticisms of episodes 7 and 8, they laid the foundation for these much more effective last few episodes. This dive may be steep, but we saw it coming, so many points are earned there.
Next is the atmosphere. The atmosphere was so oppressive this episode, just so dour and “off” that it almost made it painful to watch…but in a good way, in a “this isn’t right. How are they going to fix it?” sort of way. It was in all the little things, the lighting, the downcast eyes, the long pauses as thoughts tumbled uncertainly by. A special note there – the use of silence (as in the absence of action or dialogue, not necessarily the cessation of all sound) sometimes seems like a lost art in these days of endless adaptations trying to pack too much material into too few episodes. That’s why an original series (or a heavily anime-original one, like this) is such a treat…the pacing can be designed specifically for the screen, if the studio and its storytellers are up to the challenge. So far, KyoAni is.
Then there are the feelings. The feelings were raw in this episode, completely exposed, like a live wire rattling across the cement and incinerating anyone who treads too near. In this, it was Deko-chan’s show. While the others were willing to let Rikka move on – mostly, though I’ll get to that – Dekomori cannot stand it. To her, she is losing her compatriot, the one person who really understood her…but not only that, she’s losing a friend. The look on her face when Rikka withstood her first chu2-mode set the stage, and her crying as Shinka hauled her off damn near smashed it to pieces (and my heart along with it). Yet what truly delivered the final blow was in the final major scene, the one between her and Yuuta. But I’ll get to that.
Shinka deserves special note for being the most perceptive and wise of them all–a veritable sempai, even though she’s the same age and grade. Yes, Shinka can be bitchy and authoritative, and she once tried to deny her past more than any other, but lately she seems to have come to accept it. She now spends most of her time with her chuunibyou friends, and is secure enough in herself to play the Dark Flame Master in front of the whole school. Yet just as she’s coming to accept her past, Rikka turns away from hers, and Yuuta continues denying his own. Shinka can’t do anything but damage control–ohhhh how I wanted to yurigasm about that hug, but I cannot. Shinka is a good girl and a kind friend, and she just wanted to be there for Dekomori when she needed someone the most, when she needed assurances and someone to tell her that it would all be alright. Of everyone, it’s looking like Shinka will be the one to come out of this final arc looking the best.
Now, the elephant in the room – what exactly should Yuuta and Rikka do? Since she took off her eyepatch, it seems like all the magic is gone from her life. She may be facing reality, but she’s a shell of her old lively, silly, and super cute self. Is this truly the “happy ending” that’s in store for our heroes? Walking forward into the future – together, certainly, we got that at least – but with the gray, dead hearts of the most jaded of adults?
I don’t think so, nor should it be. Here’s the thing – as Dekomori’s case so clearly showed us, it’s not as if they actually believed. It was an escape, yes, but that’s not something inherently bad – why else do so many of us watch anime, but to take a break from the tiresome world around us? They weren’t running away, they were having fun! What they were doing is no different from when I leap out of my chair and crow in joy at an awesome mecha battle or a wonderful kiss, nor of when I used to try to use The Force to levitate things when I was a kid (and by “when I was a kid,” I mean I’ve done that within the year).
No, that’s not quite right–they never actually believed, but they wanted to. Backed into a corner, Dekomori admitted it – she knew the Mjolnir Hammer didn’t exist, that her attacks were all fantasies. She’s not dumb, nor is Rikka! But compared to the bleak, dreary world they live in, this world with not even a fraction of the magic and wonder that flourishes in the worlds of their imaginations…well, it was cruel to force Dekomori into a corner, to make her admit that everything was a lie. She and Rikka wanted to believe, they wanted to have fun, and they wanted friends who understood this and accepted them for who they are. That’s all anyone really wants, when you come right down to it – and unfortunately, now none of them have that. Yuuta didn’t stand by Rikka when she needed it most – though it was for the best of intentions – and now she’s turned her back on Dekomori. The prejudices of adults are poisoning the lives of children…now there’s a story I’ve seen before.
As I’ve noted before, I’m something of a KyoAni skeptic. They’ve proven themselves to be marvelous adaptation makers and shrewd business people, but neither of those are marks of courage–after all, established businesses are naturally risk averse, and choosing to adapt an existing story is a crutch for those not willing to forge ahead without a brand to lean on. Yet finally, KyoAni is starting to distinguish themselves in my eyes. Dekomori is crushed, Yuuta is angry and confused, and Rikka is riding off into the sunset, perhaps never to return. The train is hurtling firmly through drama-land, with one more episode to hopefully turn off into the station, to home sweet home. This has been a sweet ride so far, and once I’ve very much enjoyed both watching and blogging. One more episode and we’ll see if it’s one is worth remembering forever.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The atmosphere is dour & the feelings raw. This is the dive into dramaland, w/ the series’ legacy on the line. So far, looking good #chu2koi
- There was so much in the pre-OP scenes that, any other episode, I would be fangirling about. A hug from Touka? Yumeha being adorable? Yet I can’t. The magic in Rikka is just too dead. Hau~…
- It was a good stroke when Deko-chan’s chu2 mode didn’t work, and nearly gave me the biggest jolt of them all. This is realism in fiction, folks. Doesn’t seem so great now, does it?
- I think the only times Rikka really looked alive was when she was with Yuuta, and when Deko-chan showed her those stones. Of the two, the latter won.
- I find it impressive that KyoAni managed to make the Yuuta vs Dekomori scene so dramatic, despite all the ridiculous, chuunibyou things Deko-chan was saying. That’s what happens when characters say this stuff for 11 episodes straight.
- You know, I’m actually quite fond of the real world, as I find it fascinating in a lot of ways. That said, I see where these kids are coming from in preferring their imaginations. I wouldn’t spend so much time reading / watching stories if I didn’t enjoy taking holidays into other worlds, after all!
- I have to admit, I love writing about a good dramatic episode most of all. Nothing gets my muse going like seeing someone else trot out their own and make it earn its keep.
- Related: KyoAni are still the masters of crying. No one can animate heart-wrenching tears like them. No one.
- What I want to see from the last episode: everyone learns to accept their chuunibyou pasts enough to have fun with them, even if they go about normally most of the time. They should become more of chuunibyou secret agents rather than overt warriors. Wait…chuunibyou spies. Actually, that sounds like an awesome idea! Spin-off plzkthks?
Full-length images: 03.