Wrapping up Akanesasu Shoujo

I don’t really understand this conclusion. On the one hand, I applaud the show for steering away from a typical final blowout battle against the root of all evil. In fact, the King of Twilight never once rears his head (probably because he doesn’t actually exist). But on the other hand, the ending we get isn’t wholly satisfying. First, we gotta get a few crucial plot points out of the way. Kyohei, Asuka’s brother, mysteriously disappears in every fragment. Sure, there’s an infinite number of fragments, but that does not imply infinite possibilities. His disappearance is kind of like a point of divergence. What’s different is how the different Asukas cope with their loss. Second, every Asuka eventually feels guilty and tries to atone in some way. Maybe the Asuka in the water world decided to cover up her sadness with conspicuous consumption. Third, Asuka meets a version of herself who has chosen to become an emissary of Twilight. That kid who destroyed Seriousuka’s fragment? It wasn’t Kyohei after all. It was this emotionless Asuka and she’s got quite a story of her own to tell. Last but not least, we are told that Twilight is nothing than a force of nature — a neverending cycle between birth and death, creation and destruction. Phew.

So like I said, there isn’t some big battle against the ultimate bad guy. I wonder if the ultimate bad guy even exists. Maybe the idea that there’s even a King of Twilight is just speculation. I will admit, however, that I didn’t pay super close attention to the series, so I might have missed something. As it currently stands, however, I don’t think there ever was a king. This was just a red herring to toy with the fact that we always want to blame tragedies on some external factor. Anyways, my point is that Asuka ends up facing herself and she does it alone. Hell, she never even transforms… kinda. Even Yu ends up becoming an Equalizer, but it never happens to Asuka. I guess if we’re curious what her transformed state would’ve looked like, it can’t be too different from what Seriousuka was rocking. In any case, emotionless Asuka tells Asuka that the latter’s fragment will be spared if she willingly surrenders herself to the former. Even though her friends all showed up to help her, Asuka still gives herself up. Is it because she wants to be a martyr? Nah, she simply realizes that she needs to face herself.

So in effect, we trade one cliche for another, but I guess I don’t mind it too much since a final boss battle might have been silly. Asuka ends up awakening emotionless Asuka’s deeply buried feelings. She admits that she feels guilty about Kyohei’s disappearance. What’s interesting, however, is that it is a little more nuanced than that. Sure, she was sad that her brother disappeared, but the girl came to realize that she was often faking her emotions around the adults. She would subconsciously cry and blame herself around them so that they would pity her. When Asuka grew older, this realization made her hate herself. This realization made all of the Asukas hate themselves. They just dealt with it in vastly different ways. Our Asuka started telling everyone that she would take over the family business even though this wasn’t really her dream. I like this, because it shines a new light on the altercation between her and her father in a previous episode. He never took Asuka’s claims about taking over the business seriously, and I thought that maybe he didn’t like her carefree, goofy nature. But maybe the father saw through his daughter’s lies and knew that she was just trying to punish herself by following in her brother’s footsteps. But let’s move on.

Emotionless Asuka, on the other hand, became nihilistic. In her fragment, she didn’t have her Yu to rely upon, and this is why Twilight called out to her. Not only did she become its emissary, she used its powers to destroy her own world. After that, she hated that other Asuka’s could move on and be happy when she couldn’t. They all suffered the same tragic loss, so how come they aren’t all equally unhappy? But in the end, Asuka convinces emotionless Asuka that they need to stop blaming themselves, need to stop lying to themselves and others, and need to move on from Kyohei’s disappearance. After all, it’s that cliche thing where he’ll always be in their hearts. And doing so, this frees them both. I assume that emotionless Asuka will no longer be the emissary of Twilight. As for our Asuka, she simply returns to her world to live out the rest of her normal life. So in one sense, I like this resolution because it deals with a lot of raw feelings: loss, grief, acceptance, so on and so forth. We also have to face the fact that we don’t always react to tragedy in the most noble of ways. Even if she did so inadvertently at first, Asuka did milk her brother’s disappearance for sympathy. It’s just that you can’t keep holding this against yourself forever. It’s not exactly the most egregious sin that you can commit. Learning to forgive yourself, especially during those tumultuous teenage years, is a way better beatdown than yet another generic fight against some baddie who hasn’t had any development.

But where does that leave the rest of the story? I don’t really know. Did saving emotionless Asuka and herself also somehow save Seriousuka? Did saving emotionless Asuka somehow undo all the damage she’s done to other fragments? That appears to be what the ending implies. Asuka wakes up one morning to her grandmother talking about a miso thief. Sure enough, when they check one of their big buckets of miso, someone has stolen a bento-sized chunk of the delicious fermented stuff. Asuka ends up racing to the beach for whatever reason, but of course, she doesn’t find Seriousuka. All we can do is hope that the girl is somehow okay. I’m left, however, with questions like, “Why is that tree in Seriousuka’s fragment able to push back against Twilight?” I don’t mind the fact that Twilight is just a force of nature, and as a result, it doesn’t really have any specific aims per se. Like entropy, it simply is. I can accept that emotionless Asuka’s sadness somehow allowed her to wield the power of Twilight and become a personification of it. I just don’t know how I feel about everything being wrapped up in a tidy bow just because our Asuka had a nice emotional breakthrough with her counterpart. Then again, this pretty much resembles the rest of the series: strong in some areas, but half-assed in the rest.

I have a soft spot for Akanesasu Shoujo, because I just really, really like the characters, Asuka especially. Her cheerful energy just shines through in practically every scene. Her interactions with her friends seriously carried the show, and boy, did it really needed to be carried. The plot has some potential, and like I said, I even like the “final battle” we got. But man, the animation was ratchet, and the serious plot stuff often felt rushed or half-assed. Your level of enjoyment will depend heavily on whether or not you can let things go. We have a natural inclination to search for answers and uncover the truth. Some of us feel this more strongly than others. I can respect that it adeptly wrapped up Asuka’s character arc (evident by her receiving a cassette tape at the very end), but a lot of things remain unexplained in Akanesasu Shoujo. This ultimately leaves me somewhat unfulfilled and unsatisfied by the show’s ending. If you can overlook that better than I can, then I think you might find a show full of humorous, heartwarming interactions between four friends (plus a few extras).

Final grade: C+

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