「いつか, 黄昏の降る空の」 (Itsuka, Tasogare no Kodaru Sora e)
“After the Twilight Falls”
Akanesasu Shoujo could have ended on a far messier note. With Kyo’s existence still being up-in-the-air and the King of Twilight not showing up to greet anyone in the cast, the last episode could have tried to race to tie every loose end it saw in a mad dash to send off the Twilight dimensions. However, Akanesasu Shoujo took a more sensible route in focusing on Asuka making peace with her Emissary self and the other Asuka’s who have been unable to cope with Kyo disappearing.
The first half of the episode sets the mood for Asuka’s agreeance to join the Emissary by having her prod at her to liven up and share some chikuwa with her. It might appear to be her attempt to bring levity to the situation, but it was the best way for her to segue into figuring out how the Emissary fits in with the rest of the Asukaverse. The Emissary particularly hits a sore spot in Asuka as she points out the one factor that molds every iteration of Asuka: guilt. The Emissary’s guilt comes from how she sobbed for Kyo not because she was sad for his disappearance, but because it brought her attention and pity from those around her. Where it validated her existence to be acknowledged for having lost her brother. While our Asuka hadn’t reached the lengths of using grief as a means of getting people to appreciate her, she shares the guilt of trying to ignore her feelings by having her friends focus more on her while she lives out the life that Kyo was missing out on. Its similarity in spirit hits close to home with Asuka, but through Yuu and her friends, she was able to recently understand the parts of her that needed to embrace the grief she held in for Kyo. The Emissary also carries a resentment for our Asuka as she is the one Asuka that was able to have stable friends and appear happy, but the grief that doesn’t show up on the surface could only materialize through Asuka’s experience with the fragments. By setting herself free through their soul-bearing conversation, it creates a far more fulfilling conclusion than if the Radio Club courage-punched the King of Twilight or made the fragments all collectively crumble through a convoluted scheme cooked up out of nowhere.
The conclusion is also more gratifying by showing us how everyone else is doing. With the girls in a far better place than when they started, they are more comfortable with hanging out alongside themselves and plan for the future together. Asuka and Yuu are already planning their futures with Asuka diverging from her miso/chikuwa dreams by trying to get into the college Yuu is planning on studying at so they can be roommates. Additionally, it gives the side characters some book-end developments with the teacher finally having a wedding planned for him and his significant other and Miyuki joining the Radio Club after Asuka uses her connections with Annie Maxda to sweeten the deal. The finale ending with the hint that Seriousuka is still around and the cassette that Asuka needed to reach her twilight self leaves it open-ended in a way that feels satisfying without looking like a desperate pitch for a second season.
Often when people throw around the word “underrated,” it’s often towards things that are only marginally popular, but still highly beloved. Especially with movies, there will be discussions about how a critically beloved film with a cult following is “underrated”. Unlike such examples, I have confidence in saying that Akanesasu Shoujo is the most “underrated” anime of the Fall 2018 season. Its presence has been non-existent in weekly rankings, user reviews on sites have been less than generous regarding the first few episodes, and who knows if the DVD/Bluray sales made enough to make the supplementary mobile game that it was meant to be based on. The lack of popularity also lent itself to the idea that maybe the anime might shoot itself in the foot like some of the other ambitious shows I’ve covered that dropped off in excitement by the halfway point. But surprisingly, Akanesasu Shoujo has been consistently intriguing by embracing the fun nonsense that surrounds it, yet taking the characters seriously enough to never make a mockery out of their development or existence.
Its cast holds its own very well with the Radio Club being highly pleasant to follow. With Mia’s mischievous and playful interests, Nana’s depth behind her popular façade, Chloe’s embrace in allowing her friends in her life, and Yuu’s push to help save her friend’s well-being, they are all wonderful to follow as we experience the fun and creative worlds that reflect their development. Asuka’s dumb act is fascinating as the anime legitimizes how she acts by peeling back the layers behind why she acts how she does and how it links towards her inability to accept herself or her feelings. They also managed to make alternate dimension characters like Seriousuka and Ero Yuu to be quite amusing with their polar opposite personalities that are far more complex than they seem on the surface.
Tonally, the show is all over the place, but there is never a point where its absurdity mocks the audience or jumps the shark. Even in its more off-the-wall moments like the entire Wild West fragment or the wacky behavior that Ero Yuu and Asuka tend to embrace, it all not only fits within the plot but also validates the characters’ existences. Where there would be no other way to capture Mia’s interest in having rowdier interests, Asuka’s attempts to hide her pain behind unbridled positivity, or Ero Yuu’s personal investment in seeing Asuka at her happiest than to have the show’s sillier moments take hold. The earnestness and sincerity behind the goofiness the show has is its most admirable trait as it does the characters justice by painting them in every shade imaginable.
It’s actually surprising how amazing Akanesasu Shoujo turned out to be. Where the most I’m typing about it, the more I really fall for the characters and the fragments it painted within the past few months. It’s also inspiring to see how many people have been following it along with me as well with how people are genuinely excited to see what unravels next without feeling like it ran its course episodes ago like other supernatural shows that tend to peter out by the mid-way point. It will be interesting to see if anything will come out of Akanesasu Shoujo, but if anything, the memories that it made this season have been more than enough to have made the show a worthwhile experience. With an extremely talented voice cast, a lovable cast, genuine campiness, CGI that looks better than some of the 2D animation the show has, and a satisfactory finish, Akanesasu Shoujo goes above and beyond to be an absorbing, charming, and entertaining sci-fi adventure.