As is often the case in posts with that subheading, I can’t ignore the lead. Yes, Fumetsu no Anata e is returning for a second season. There was an announcement at the end of this episode (I wish more sequels happened that way) that Season 2 will air next fall. I was asked specifically about that last week and I guessed the odds were 75-25 against – the manga is reasonably popular but it doesn’t generate much auxiliary income through merchandise or presumably even disc sales. I guess the NHK gene won out over all that though, so we’re back for what I imagine will be another two cours in a year’s time.
The question of how I feel about that is complicated. Among the hardest for me to answer with any sequel, if I’m honest. I’m glad, in the end – that’s the simplest answer. But I’m hard-pressed to think of many series that had such a huge range between their best episodes and their worst (this show is going to be a Oniguma-sized bear to rank in December). How in the world is a series that can deliver the six weeks of, frankly, drivel that we’ve just endured capable of delivering a finale of such grace and eloquence? It’s not a mass-produced model, that’s for sure.
I can say this much – opening and closing with greatness is a fine thing for any anime to do. It doesn’t cancel out everything that came between – some of which was great, some fine, some painful to watch – but it’s a major achievement. The premiere was an abject masterpiece, and this finale was stellar in every respect. It’s remarkable how the reset from Jananda was like lifting a cloud of noxious black fog from the narrative – it really seemed as if Fumetsu was embracing its freedom with these 22 minutes. But it’s all the same damn writer!
Honestly, I truly think I hit on the essence of it very on with am observation based on the manga as much as anything – Fumetsu is a series that does better the less hard it tries. That applies to emotional impact most obviously (that was the clear difference between the Gugu and Yanome arcs), but also to plot. Janada was just overflowing with dreary twists and two-dimensional characters. With this series simpler is better across the board, I truly believe that. And I think this final episode, which was every bit the benediction I expected it to be, worked so splendidly.
For starters, there wasn’t a big element of surprise here. It was pretty clear how these events would end, just as it was with the first episode. But this simple observational style works beautifully for this series, and the Creator has never been utilized this effectively. Fushi grinding over whether to reveal himself to Pioran was thoroughly on-point (he even turned to Creator for advice). He worried about all the right things – did she have money, enough to eat, would she worry about him. But he got one thing totally wrong, and that was his belief that he was never able to give anyone happiness. He certainly gave Pioran that – he (and Gugu too) was the grandchild she never had. And he was the “little” brother Gugu wished he’d had.
Fushi gave the final arc of Pioran’s life meaning. Her desire to be with him was a choice, and it was wrong for him to try and take that choice away from her no matter how well-intentioned it was. Not to mention that he was forced to admit, at last, that he was lonely. Fushi is human in this most important sense – he loves and longs to be loved. Pioran is old, very old – about 90, which for a poor person in a pre-industrial society is extraordinarily old. Sometimes people just slowly wind down, like an old wristwatch (Google it). It’s painful for Fushi (and us) to see Pioran slowly losing the essence of who she is. But his unwavering desire to care for her is fulfilling for him in a way nothing else has been.
Pioran’s answer when Fushi asks if she has any wishes – “to be younger” – is pretty heart-rending. But she also makes it clear she’s lived the life she chose to lead. When she knows her time is close she sends Fushi away and calls out to the follower in black, whose presence I assume she’s intuited rather than directly sensed. Her last wish – to be taken from this body and reborn as “something more useful to Fushi”. Call it compassion or something else, the Creator grants her wish – after warning her that by divorcing her soul from her body, her sense of self would be fundamentally changed. He also (and I don’t see how this can be taken as anything but compassion) allows her a last sensation of being the young and beautiful person she was long ago.
As anime departures go, that was one of the best. Fumetsu no Anata e starts and ends with the passing of a kind soul, but this felt less tragic that the boy’s end – a death much too early. Pioran lived as she wished and died as she wished, and that tinges the sadness with comfort. For Fushi it surely brings a reminder that this likely to be his lot in life – goodbyes will be the only companion to stay with him always. He is, one senses, a fundamentally tragic character – human enough to understand how painful his fate is, but ultimately denied the finality that defines human existence.
The great unknown as a viewer, of course, is which Fumetsu no Anate e (and which Fushi – though it’s worth noting for fans of the moe version that the last time he aged up, he reverted back once he took another form) we can look forward to next year. I can’t but be hopeful when I reflect on what this series has shown itself capable of, yet that same reflection brings a lot of trepidation as well. I imagine what we’ll get is something of a mix of all we got this season – some good, some bad, and the occasional burst of profound brilliance. In the final analysis I’m very glad indeed to have Fumetsu back, because those moments of greatness are worth waiting for.