「妖眼幻視行 後編」 (妖眼 Genshikou Kouhen)
“Spectral Eyes, Phantom Vision, Part 2”
Exactly the right way to end the season.
As with last episode, I enjoyed this episode—this entire mini-arc—not because it’s more serious than most of the season. I enjoyed it because it meant something. And this arc tied up not only itself but the entire season both thematically and through character growth for our cowardly hero, Leonardo Watch. Or it tried to—I only give partial points for what felt like the writers trying to pull meaning out of a handful of disparate events by tying them together at the last moment. That’s more points than they would have gotten had they not tried, though, so it’s heartily appreciated.
The first part of this episode was so layered with despair and dread that it really set up the stakes for the final confrontation well. Then along came Sonic, and that monkey! Twice now the monkey has gotten to be the hero, and I’m 100% on board. That moment deftly signaled the change from “Everything is hopeless” to “There’s still a chance.” From then on, it was just about finding it, and making it happen.
What followed was not only Leo acting with incredible ingenuity, but doing something he rarely has cause (or the ability) to do: be the action hero himself. Leo is not a fighter on anything like his comrades’ level, but seeing him wrap the legs, swing the bottle, and take damage like a champ was incredible. Tortoise Knight indeed. Leo hunkered down, took all that damage, and clawed his way back into the fight in order to save his little sister. With a timely assist from that little sister herself.
Then, that Big Damn Heroes moment—I mean, it’s a trope for a reason. That was wonderful. After all the pain Leonardo had suffered through, to see them arrive in the nick of time, walking tall with their backs straight as they finished off the villain was SO GOOD. It makes you feel good about Leo having friends like these, just as the episode proved how deeply he deserves them.
I also really appreciate the return (remembrance) of White, and even a still-living Black later on. They (and especially White) help provide more of what the season was lacking, and that’s meaning. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but further showing what animates him, along with Michella, gave the brawl more impact.
I’m happy that Klause praised Leo so much. I’m happy that Toby survived, he seemed like a good guy who truly cares for Michella (and it’s always nice to see supporting characters change and grow, with their own internal and social lives, independent of the main character(s)). I also really appreciate that the season ended with a goofy crisis that mirrors the one it opened with, with slight tweaks, because it shows how much things haven’t changed, even if we know how much has. This last arc, and this last episode especially, were a splendid way to end the season. I wish we got more like this, but at least it ended on a strong note.
Final impressions below.
- Time to give this monster a Hellsalem’s Lot Hello. Headbutt, bitch!
- Cain is so blasé! What a Hellsalem’s Lot kid he is.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: The Last Jedi SUPER SPOILERY Review.
I had some harsh things to say about this season of Kekkai Sensen through some of the middle-to-latter stretch, so this section will serve an even more important purpose than normal. In the final accounting, how did this season do? I think the answer to that requires first clearing up a misconception I was laboring under for much of the season:
Kekkai Sensen & Beyond is not the same genre as the first season of the Kekkai Sensen anime was. The first one was an action drama, with plenty of goofy hijinks in between. This one was almost entirely slice-of-life. And that’s important to remember when judging the season, because it’s only fair to judge the series based on how well it did the thing it was trying to do, rather than bemoaning that it wasn’t what some of us (myself included) would prefer it to be.
(Though, I will maintain that a genre shift like this is understandably off-putting to some viewers, who can usually (and rightfully) assume that a second season will be the same basic genre as the first season, with any changes coming from natural plot and character progressions, as opposed to switching the focus so clearly—and that usually hews in the direction of more serious and plot-focused, not less. Though the genre shift between seasons here is a fairly subtle one, which is why it took me so long to clue in on it (not the least because it wasn’t set in stone until maybe episode seven or eight, when it was far too late for any season-spanning plot to qualify as such), but it’s still important because what was missing if this was an action comedy-drama like the first season, wasn’t missing at all if it’s slice-of-life.)
Of course, manga readers did not have this problem, since there was actually a genre shift between the manga and the first season of the anime. Which I will also maintain is a good idea, especially since it worked well, might as well give two different (albeit often overlapping) audience bases a version to enjoy. But that wasn’t the decision that was made, so it’s neither here nor there.)
Anywho, so this season of Kekkai Sensen was slice-of-life. And with slice-of-life, I built a rubric with which to judge whether a slice-of-life show is good. How’s the atmosphere? Hard to say, but if we bend that to mean setting, then it’s phenomenal. Characters? They can vary, but over all pretty dang good. Comedy? Not the primary point, but it’s frequently funny. Cuteness? It’s not that kind of slice-of-life bruv, but the action, as its optional fifth element, is still super fun. As an action slice-of-life, Kekkai Sensen & Beyond was really nice. The bedeviling part was the genre shift, because those who didn’t suspect it were thrown off, whereas those who watched the first season and were annoyed that it wasn’t the action slice-of-life, but watched this season anyway—well, they wouldn’t have been surprised if it continued the tonal shift that the first season had between itself in the manga, right? Sorry those of y’all that fall into that camp, but if you’ve already annoyed one preference base in order to attract a new one, better stick with it and make the two mediums different versions of the same story. Instead they managed to annoy both for a time, though while telling a basically good story (in different flavors), so probably not too much damage was done over all.
(They also could have differentiated this completely by labeling it a Fumoffu-style variant, but there wasn’t that much difference between the seasons from moment to moment, it was only in the overall narrative structure that the change becomes apparent. So they would have been weird, though I always approve of warning viewers ahead of time if this season is going to be sillier, or this one will be more serious, or whatever.)
All of which is to say that the comparative qualities of the two seasons is harder to judge than I initially thought, because they’re not the same genre. To continue using Full Metal Panic! as an example, it’s like comparing the first season or The Second Raid to Fumoffu. Comparing the first season to The Second Raid is all well and good, they’re the same kind of beast, but comparing either to Fumoffu is a fraught enterprise. This is that, only not as stark, so the inclination to do so is even stronger.
As an action slice-of-life though, this season was pretty damn good. Hellsalem’s Lot is still Kekkai Sensen’s not-so-secret weapon, there’s more personality in that city than in most other anime’s best five characters combined. And its characters are no slouches either, so getting to learn more about them was neat, even though yes, this could have been done during the course of a more encompassing plot. Where the show ran into trouble was when it tried to do too much (Werewolf Bureau) or not enough (first episode of Riel’s mini-arc). Where it excelled was when it hit the right balance (episode one, Bratatat Mom) or slowed down (Day In Day Out). And this final arc is one of the best pivots toward a heavily serious season ending mini-arc that I’ve seen in a long time.
Kekkai Sensen & Beyond is pretty nice in the final accounting, and it’ll be immeasurably helped by ending on a high note. Whether you enjoyed this one or the first season better is up to you. For what each one was trying to do, they did it pretty well.