Shingeki no Kyojin ends with a hodgepodge of meanings dragging behind it. More than once we’re told that people who live safely behind walls don’t deserve freedom, which I guess was the point of the final battle between Big Eren and Big Annie, ripping each other’s body parts loose and crashing around the safest place of the city, killing off hundreds of people who I guess don’t deserve freedom, including that bloody, crying little girl, who probably doesn’t even know what’s going on. As Armin says at one point, it’s complicated. You have Erwin, who in the end doesn’t seem to care about the lives lost, feeling it’s necessary for mankind’s survival, but not saying why. Levi, who’s seen many friends and comrades die, might be the voice of conscience, but most of the time he just says “I hope you’re right,” and nothing else. The show makes pains to show how inept those who hide behind that inner wall are, but gives us no reason for why their lives are thus less valuable than any others.
So let’s move on to the fight. It was better than I had feared. At first it looked like Annie, with her superior fighting ability, would win again, but Armin lets his blinding rage take control and becomes a mad flaming beast. It’s crazed, bloody action (especially with all the civilians getting squished) and it comes to a fitting conclusion when Mikasa stops Annie from climbing the wall and Levi stops Eren from eating Annie. The little guys on wires manage to get something done. After that it’s a letdown, all speeches about mankind, becoming monstrous to destroy monsters, and the philosophizing noted above. And in the end mankind doesn’t seem any better off than they were before. No matter. That’s not why the series has become a hit. It’s because it’s full of action, and it’s monstrous. The former was very well done and made up for the occasional artistic lapse, and the latter caught the audience’s imagination. Of course there will be a second series. The only question is when.
The Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S finale had to do two things. It had to top, or at least match, the terrific first season finale, and it had to somehow make this final story arc compelling. One out of two …
The battle was just as exciting and nutty as I had hoped. It was also messy. There were tides turning throughout but most of them were forgotten in a minute. The bad guys jam the good guys’ signals? Is that so bad? Their enemies are right in front of them. And when friends arrive with reinforcements, well, that’s good, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Just keep smashing things. With continuity issues, for me at least, the Index franchise can get away with almost anything. And, of course, everyone shows up at just the right time, says a line or two, and proceeds to kick ass while the techno score thumps on. I frankly hadn’t expected Mugino and her pals to appear, and when they did, I was delighted to see that they had their own agenda for being there. About the only ones that don’t show up are Accelerator and Touma.
There are too many great moments and lines delivered during the battle, so I won’t list them. It was great fun, and topped by Misaka doing the railgun thing–IN SPACE! And everyone ends up smiling. Let’s turn to the things you realize after all the craziness didn’t work, or at least left you scratching your head. The worst thing is this entire story arc. This bad guy organization was the dullest on record, a bunch of smirking bespectacled esper wannabees that I couldn’t care less about. Febri was just a cute little girl in danger, and we never really meet Janie, though we see her near the end, out of her pod, happily chatting with Febri. Those filaments were never really explained. And that entire missile business was confusing; I never understood what what going on (but nice touch using the sisters to help solve the problem, since they didn’t participate in the battle and I was just beginning to wonder where they were). And don’t get me started on Misaka’s speech to Aritomi, or that fact that it seemed to have an effect on him. Saten summed it up better when her robot was beating up a bad robot after the pilot had cursed all the espers: “Just so you know, I’m level zero!”
But who the hell really cares? The show promised us a big battle and it delivered, it used all the characters well and gave them moments to shine. And if a lot of it was confusing, or just over-the-top crazy, well, that’s one of the reasons we like it. Railgun (and Index) knows how absurd it is, doesn’t care, and occasionally, thanks to the Sisters’ pithy lines, winks at you about it all before going back to the bizarre, endearing characters and wild action. I miss it already.