Finales: Chihayafuru, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Papa finally catches a break

More goodbyes today. I hope Chihayafuru isn’t saying goodbye forever.

With no tournaments to play, or major crises to confront (minor ones, yes), the show spends time sowing seeds for the next season. We start with the end of the men’s championship and more time with Suo, the four-time champion who seems almost inhuman in his ability to know the card on the first syllable, when technically he should only be able to do so on 7 of them. The show kindly goes into his head and we learn one reason: he knows the reader–not that he’s cheating, and he’s vague about the details, but he says the reader for this tournament has the most love for the Japanese language. In other words, he knows how she reads. Of course, the kids watching on TV with growing despair don’t know this, but it seems odd this hasn’t been discussed before.

Anyway, everyone leaves disheartened except for Tsutomu, too intense to be intimidated, maybe. And so we move into the next part of the show, how they react to watching a player seemingly light-years ahead of them, and in this way we get lovely little scenes where everyone gets a little screen time. Except Nishida. Tsutomu has analyzed Chihaya’s playing and tells her that it isn’t psychic to know so many cards on the first syllable–in fact, she does it herself. It’s a sweet moment when Chihaya, shocked with realization, tries to reward him with a couple candies she had in her pocket, the only thing she has with her. And we get to see Tsutomu’s value to the team at the same time. A similar moment comes later with Chihaya muttering first words and lit-loving Kana basking in the sounds … which is turned on its ear a few seconds later. And, of course, Kana’s little tragedy, which is actually a little funny.

Taichi's new strategy: intimidation.

Taichi and Arata’s moment come over the phone. It’s still hard for me to care too much about Arata, but it’s good to see his little crisis, or rather, his friend’s, get resolved, and Taichi gains some insight on how to get better. Interesting that the male rivals seem to have no one but each other to talk things out. So after every character gets a moment (apart from Nishida … what’s up with that?) we get a fresh crisis for season two, and one more look at Chihaya herself, beautiful but socially inept and nerdy, a bundle of contradictions that gave this excellent show its center. I hope we haven’t seen the last of her.

Stupid boy, that's one of the reasons why we like her.

Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s finale promised to be exciting because the crisis hadn’t finished up yet. Everyone was still running from it.

Well, or fighting it. We learn through the conflict where she must have gotten that tricked-out trailer. We also learn what Manami’s husband does for a living. And by an amazing coincidence they have to do with the chase. I thought Remon had some secrets from the start, it would be the only way to explain her detachment from everything, and her perverse interest, which sounds like a contradiction but isn’t. No, really. So she and her new MIB BFF drive off some alien pods, Rimon flies off with another, and the rest of the gang run interference on the last few, Kaito and Ichika have a lovey-dovey train scene and then reach … The Place.

They carved a message for the future on a TREE?!?

And confusion reigns, well, after Ichika says emphatically that This Is The Place it does. They need proof that aliens were here. How about a glowing cube coming out of the lake. Good enough for you? But it explodes or something, and then we’re in Ichika’s brain, I think, or someones … she says something about Taiko being healed with her cells, so apparently he’s able to go wherever the hell she is, which and sounds looks exactly the same as the reality apart from the disembodied voice talking about visiting earth and falling in love there. So we don’t know if this is an old, similar story or Ichika in future time. Either way the SF in the show just got messy. Oh, the thing left for future humans to discover was carved on a tree. This tree, we learn when we return, is now a rotted stump. Meanwhile I’m still trying to figure out what the cube in the lake was. Isn’t THAT proof enough?

Never mind. The show makes up for it. Pods arrive, we get a tearful farewell scene, I’m waiting for more MIB to rescue them … but they don’t. Ichika leaves. I never expected that. The show about love triumphant becomes one about one happy summer and the bittersweet memories it left behind. It’s sad, it’s not the way I wanted it to end, but it’s beautiful. The love string is intact, though no one gets the one they want, including Kaito and Ichika, but what can you do? They remain friends, watch the footage the filmed together, carry on, and hope for some luck. … Then there’s the ending. I don’t want to say it spoils the mood, but, well …

They had a perfectly good bittersweet ending, but they had to mess with it.

So the show gives in to the need for a happier ending. At least they don’t show any more. The HS romance show disguised as a SF story comes to an end leaving a greater impression on me than I expected, mainly because of the characters. Tetsurou and Kanna especially took limited side roles and made themselves stand out, Tetsurou by never seeming to know exactly what he wanted, or being afraid to say it, in spite of his looks and charm, and Kanna … what was it about Kanna? Doomed in love from the start yet the one character you dearly hoped would not wind up alone. I can’t put my finger on how she managed this reaction. In fact, the entire show was like this, more moving than the material deserved. Well done.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! has about the best ending possible. The hardest part was telling Hina that her mother and father aren’t coming back, and if it seems wrong to wait so long, well, how would YOU do it? Sora tells her in the most tactful way possible, after that all you can do is wait for the bawling and the emotional scars to heal. That’s actually more interesting than the rest of the story. We don’t know the full extent of the aunt and uncle’s generosity (I couldn’t tell what that contract Yuuta signed was), but we do see them all moving to a new place at the end, hopefully closer to the girls’ school. But the best moment comes from, as usual, Raika, who agrees to be Yuuta’s “wife,” but only for a day, so Hina would have people to cheer for her at her school’s open house, but they don’t tell us that part until later. And so this forgettable show with a bit of bathos and a little too much inappropriate fanservice ends satisfactorily.

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