Let’s celebrate by reviewing a show where anime stereotypes fight for their independence.
Well here we are with a sequel to Concrete Revolutio, my runaway favorite anime of last year as well as my favorite superhero thing during a time when Marvel’s Netflix shows were blowing my mind with their not-shittiness. The reason it managed to achieve that was because it managed to marry an awesome concept with actual storytelling that doesn’t involve character development for the sake of character development or producing “fun” in the hopes that it’ll distract you from the fact that it doesn’t have any end goal other than “we want your money”. What if all those anime tropes you love so much lived in the same world and were used by the government as military weapons or exploring space? Would they become lapdogs of their own country, or will they rebel because they’re the ones with the true power? Concrete Revolutio answers this whilst successfully marrying Baccano’s time-jumping style with substantial character development and more historical Japanese metaphors than your average foreign history book, easily making it the most fun anime I’ve seen in years.
Having said that, I couldn’t help but be worried about The Last Song’s existence. As we all know by now, Bones has a history of losing control of the plot the longer their shows go on, and it doesn’t really help that the initial excitement upon first discovery of the show’s brilliance is gone and I am completely against that godawful “more of the same” policy in regards to continuations and such, thus the sequel was going to have to try really hard to impress me. Also, part of the appeal in Revolutio were the questions it raised regarding what happened in the future to change these people who once got along so well, and such answers are rarely as exciting as the actual buildup to begin with, so Last Song was getting saddled with a lot of handicaps before it even aired.
Still, whilst I have no problem with keeping the first season’s episodic approach, I wish Last Song had found something as strong as the mystery behind why Jiro left the Superhuman Bureau to propel these pieces forward. The majority of what ties Last Song’s events lacks a clear villain other than the government itself, but because they’re so vaguely defined, it’s hard to really summon up much enthusiasm when they start wrecking the lives of both superhumans and non-superhumans. And there is a lot more non-superhuman focus this time, probably in order to show that when it comes to big events, nobody is spared even if you don’t have a direct stake in the war. I mean just look at the Brexit decision. Most Americans still don’t know how it affects them (and I’m iffy on the details myself), but believe you me when I say that I’m glad I don’t play the stock market.
Unfortunately, whilst these things are nice to see, they’re generally focused on one-off characters who don’t have much chemistry with the leads that are supposed to be the focus of the show, and the political metaphors can come off as edutainment as a result of the writers biting off more than they can chew. The Vietnam War episode that Gen Urobuchi wrote stands out to me in particular. I was under the impression that the episode underwhelmed me because I don’t care about that conflict, but according to quite a few people I hang out with, it was indeed a step-down in quality because its themes were tired, its dialogue was clunky, and the plot just sort of ended without really bringing much new to Jiro’s own story other than the result was more tragic than the Human-man episode. Also, a good chunk of these characters aren’t quite as interesting with their philosophies as Earth-chan or Raito, and the ones who are don’t stick around for too long, preferring to watch shit go down from space.
And it doesn’t help that for the most part, our main characters don’t play much of an active role besides aiding in these one-off characters’ development without supplying much story of their own. I know that part of Jiro’s narrative revolves around him running around trying to hold on to his new philosophy without realizing how fundamentally flawed it is, but you didn’t need half a season in order to realize that fact. Also, those who wished for Emi to get her turn in the spotlight like Kikko and Jaguar did in the first season should prepare to be massively disappointed, because she remains an enigma to the very end, even when she takes an active role in the plot. And whilst I’m generally fine with that sort of thing, she has such a strong connection with Jiro that it’s disappointing we don’t get to really understand why that is besides vague five-second exchanges and the fact that they grew up together.
I just want to make it clear before I go on that I do recommend The Last Song. It’s still full of interesting historical metaphors, the character arcs are still generally strong, and it manages to wrap up all its necessary elements with a conclusion that really got to me. Without spoiling anything, it really got me thinking about the current superhero boom we’re living in right now and how that ties in to current political events, especially given how chaotic it’s become this year. Also, the final few minutes are hilarious, and I will hear nothing to the contrary. But we all know how I feel about sequels that aren’t as good as their daddy and that it’s a practice we should never encourage because that gives producers the notion that as long as it stays entertaining, we want more of it. To which I say, bullshit. If you’re not aiming to evolve in a forward direction, then why the fuck am I still supporting more of you with my own money?
Let’s finish off this review by continuing to go through the list of step-downs from the first season that Last Song made. The animation is even worse than before, especially when you compare it to Bones’ other two shows that season. Given the existence of said shows, along with the fact that Revolutio’s sales were worse than Aku no Hana’s, it’s not really surprising, but it’s still massively disappointing to see. The show still experiences peaks in animation during the important action scenes, but as much as I liked the episode where Jiro’s past is revealed to him and the whole world via that propaganda film, my god was the production horrendous. I couldn’t believe this was made by Bones at time.
Unfortunately, The Last Song made me go “oh yeah, Bones made this” with its story becomes messier than a fight on Jerry Springer by the end. Everyone, including the dead, betrays each other about twenty times apiece, and the “Civil War” between the different type of super humans that functions as the final act of the show feels like an hour had been cut from the final product – probably as a consequence of the fact that this season is two episodes shorter than the last one, and I don’t think we’re getting a Batman v Superman/Gatchaman Crowds-like extended cut anytime soon. It doesn’t exactly fall apart because the ending makes sense in abstract, and yes I’d prefer to be missing the bigger picture as opposed to being bored or the ending itself to be flat-out catastrophic. Still, this season (and the first season as well for that matter) really could have benefitted from the hour-long lengths most TV dramas give their episodes, as I need my breathing room as well.
As a final point though, the opening and ending credits are pretty lame compared to their more energetic predecessors. Cool visuals accompanying them, but would you really download those songs on your iPhone and listen to them on the train? I certainly wouldn’t, and apparently Funimation agrees with me because I don’t exactly see them promoting those credits on their channel. But then again, that is also typical of Bones shows isn’t it? The initial ending credits to Darker than Black and the initial opening credits to Eureka Seven are a barrel of fun to listen to, but what came after their initial thirteen episodes was a bunch of bland J-pop/rock whose only worthwhile contribution to society is being a cure for insomnia.
- If The Last Song’s opening and ending credits are on the Funi Youtube channel and I missed them, don’t tell me. I’ve long since ceased to care.
- So how long until I can actually own this series? And please, Funi, fix your sound mixing when it comes to the dubs.
- Speaking of lame opening/ending songs, the ones in Osomatsu-san are really underwhelming without the crazy visuals to back them up.