「LAST DAY – 結実の日曜日 II 」 (Ketsujitsu no Nichiyōbi II)
“LAST DAY – Sunday’s Fruition II”
At this point, I can only pity DeSu2A; as it has always seemed to me, it really did want to explore these themes in an intelligent way. By taking away the freedom of choice, Yamato’s ideal of humanity would be able to work together as a single entity towards a “correct” future. In the end, he was saving them from the stagnation that prompted Polaris’s judgment, and thus his philosophy was not entirely unjustified. The same can be said of Hibiki; he finally comes to understand Yamato’s purpose, but doesn’t feel that what Yamato proposes is truly living. Better to risk stagnation and the end of the world if the alternative means giving up his freedom of choosing his future- by extension allowing humanity to choose its own future. It is easy to quickly dismiss his stance as naïve, but isn’t entirely unjustified either. With both characters trying to “save” the world in their own way, this was fertile ground for a meaningful debate. But as I’ve said before, the lack of any explorative depth to these themes in episode really hurts its credibility. It didn’t help that at this very last moment, the meandering narrative takes the odd detour into a completely separate issue, as Hibiki challenges Yamato for taking on the task to save the world alone. Somehow, the grand clash of world-deciding philosophies devolved into a trite argument about the necessity of camaraderie and friendship.
Given the writing we’ve seen, was there any doubt that this semi-reboot was how DeSu2A was going to wrap up? I honestly don’t think so, not since we learned how the final survivors would get to dictate the outcome of the world. All this while, Hibiki struggled on in an attempt to save his friends; one should even say the decision was expected of him, given how his ideal survived to the end and is analogous to the “best hope” for mankind’s continued survival compared to any other, including Yamato’s meritocracy. And it’s not like I had any particular issue with such an ending, had its fundamental themes been better explored and given a stronger characterization in Hibiki and Yamato. In some ways, choosing this end was the boldest move for DeSu2A; nothing of consequence actually get resolved in the end even as freedom is retained, and mankind still faces the risk of “stagnating” and falling to Polaris’s second judgment. But as it stands, the ending feels fairly run-of-the-mill. All the characters return to their normal lives, albeit slightly better off than they originally were.
But enough trashing, because there’s one shining moment that absolutely can’t go without a mention. I was cheering (rather vocally, I’d add) when the show went absolutely bonkers with the demon fusion, given that I had basically forgone all hopes of seeing it in the animation by that point. Of all the moments in the show, this was the most unabashed fanservice moment of them all: watching Hibiki take all the demons of his fallen compatriots and chain-fusing his way to the ultimate of SMT’s demon roster, Lucifer. It’s a brilliant nod to fans of the series, and along with the epic spectacle of a showdown between Hibiki and Yamato, made for a glorious way to send off the show in style.
What a strange beast DeSu2A was. Looking at it as a whole, it’s hard to call it anything but lackluster. I’ve seen many discussions noting the anime’s flaws, even made a few assertions of my own; weak characters, questionable narrative decisions and poor execution of its better ideas are just some of the terms I’ve been throwing around in the past few weeks. That the writing got especially bad towards the end didn’t help at all; the dialogue fell to post-apocalyptic clichés, a parody was nearly made out of a chain of character deaths, and the narrative seemed to lack any kind of thematic consistency.
And yet, despite all this, I don’t think DeSu2A was entirely without merit. Early in the series, I strongly believed that DeSu2A had given us one of the best example of how a video-game’s narrative should be adapted, because of the various changes to the source material it riskily implemented. Fast forward to today, and I perhaps might want to retract that statement; but the fundamentals of my belief remain firm. Opinions on the faithfulness of DeSu2A‘s adaption at the time were highly divided because of these huge changes. Some saw these changes as debasing fundamental aspects of the game’s storyline. Others took it more positively as an attempt to streamline the narrative.
I fell into the latter camp; I saw those changes as ways the anime could tell a potentially better story out of its source material. What I saw in the early episodes showed me some of that potential, a display of subtle awareness regarding the overarching plot. Changes that were made were smart, made to play up the motifs of survival and the desperate plight of the world. It allowed us to see the disaster-stricken world in a way the game tried but so failed to convey, and in doing so allowed us to better see how the characters reacted to the disaster-striken world. And then there was the big game-changer; Keita’s death showed us all that the anime was going to take the considerably darker, more interesting route in the game’s branching storyline, where the very survival of the characters were put into question. It allowed them to play up the game’s survival motif to an all-new level, and I marveled at the possibilities this would bring for character development as the cast slowly dwindled down.
Alas, the show never could quite follow through on the promise of its changes. Inconsistent writing failed to carry through the implications of these changes meaningfully into the latter half, when events such as the absurd chain of character deaths took place. Poor character development in Hibiki and Yamato, as they meandered around shallow generalizations of their philosophies, meant that the significant additions to their backstories were never fully exploited to flesh out characterization. It’s especially disappointing when we shifted from a story of survival and desperation to one where the underlying clash of philosophies took precedence; inconsistent themes meant that the plot started making some very confusing narrative decisions in trying to bridge themes of survival, camaraderie and the philosophies of men. I don’t think the underlying idea was ever wrong; I liked that DeSu2A was willing to risk retelling its own interpretation of the game’s storyline in an attempt to better explore the missed potential of its source material; but its many flaws in the narrative ultimately meant it never delivered on this potential.
And so, our quest for a truly great video-game adaptation continues. But for what it’s worth, DeSu2A was an decently entertaining watch, consistently delivering on the spectacle of its Septentriones and demon fights. There was never any question that I had fun throughout; the presentation for the anime was solid, and the general plot, when taken at face-value, provides a decent romp as it moves day by day towards the apocalypse. Once it brought on character deaths, it was something of a thrill to see who’s next to bite the dust in DeSu2A‘s Russian roulette game. (At least, until the absurd chain of deaths occurred) And if anything, this series will tempt you to try out the game, and see whether all of the fuss over its adaption was worth it; which probably was its primary intention all along.
You won’t have to look too far for the next video-game offering; next week’s mystery-thriller Danganronpa is our new flavor of the season. And for better or for worse, it’s being produced by the same director/writer team of Kishi and Ueza. I’ll be covering the introductory episode for that, so look forward to seeing if they can make it right this time!
Full-length images: 24.