It seemed like every time I started to enjoy this show, it would take a step in a different direction to undermine itself. This last episode isn't any different.
Last week I said that I was optimistic about the way that this would wrap up but was concerned that Yuu's problems wouldn't be fully resolved. As it turned out, I probably should've been worried about more than that. A lot of the events that happened in this episode felt like they came out of nowhere, going for the "cool" factor over trying to directly deal with the problems that these girls have. I've gone back to the same opinion of this show that I had after the first episode; I really don't see why it was necessary to have a teenage angst story when Black Rock Shooter herself and the world that she lives in is far more interesting. This was one of the biggest complaints about the OVA as well, and while there is a far better ratio of real world drama to highly stylized alternate universe fighting this time around, it still holds true here. The problem this time around is that the girls' reactions to their problems are blown up to a ridiculous extreme. I'm not sure if the writers thoughts that making the characters act like they had serious mental issues would make them more sympathetic, but I actually ended up disliking some of the characters because of it. Add in the fact that the alternate world is supposed to be a place where girls work out their emotional pain in a literal way and we've got a show that had some interesting concepts and even some good moments but still has the same pitfalls of the OVA.
Probably the most well-done part of the show was the connection between Yuu and STRength, even though it didn't come into play until the last few episodes. The drama of Yuu's life was a genuinely bad situation and while the way she chose to deal with it was sad, it made sense given what she had been through. Mato's character was pretty well-established as well, and I found myself sympathizing with her more as the show went on, especially after Yomi lost her mind, since all she really wanted was for her friends to get along and live life. That's not a bad thing to want. The scene a few episodes ago where she writes over the sad ending in the storybook was particularly compelling to me, since what she wrote not only reflected her wishes for Yomi, but for herself. Leading up to finale, I was glad that the main character insisted that feelings weren't something to be forgotten or suppressed, but that people needed to accept them and learn to deal with them. Her resolve not only to save not only her friends but their alter egos without violence was admirable. Unfortunately, the final episode either retracts or undermines all of what I've talked about above involving Yuu, STRength and Mato. Friendship has been a major theme throughout the series, but instead of continuing the somewhat subtle nature that Yuu and STRength's story had the show decided to over-exaggerate the bonds between the girls in the same way that it over-exaggerated Yomi's and Kagari's inability to cope whenever something didn't go their way. In the space of a scene transition, Mato goes from wanting to save everyone and reconcile their feelings without violence to blowing her alternate self to oblivion with a gun created by her friend's powers combined. Why bother establishing that earlier motivation when it's going to be thrown out in the end anyway? Yuu and STRength's story continued to be good though with a genuinely emotional death scene, but that was undone as well, as right after the credits we find out that she never died at all, making her sacrifice moot.
The final episode undid what I was enjoying about this series, so in the end I can't help feeling disappointed despite that I came into this show with very little expectations. I think that part of the problem is that I don't think anyone watched this show for what is was trying to be about--the teenage drama. It did try to tackle some important themes surrounding growing up and friendship, but when it wasn't exaggerating a character's emotional state it was glossing over something that needed to be addressed. This final episode had the feeling that it had convinced itself that it was a sweeping epic, yet I couldn't share in that feeling because I didn't care about the majority of the characters. But while I'm disappointed by the ending, I don't hate the show. I did become much more attached to Mato and Yuu (especially Yuu) than I was in the OVA. The animation for the alternate world is an interesting piece of eye candy and does show how far CG in anime has come over the last couple of years. The fight scenes were well-choreographed and never boring (macaron gun!). It was a fun ride, and if you're a BRS fan, it's still a must see just to make an opinion on it for yourself. At the very least, I'm sure that this will make Good Smile a lot of money.
Images from Nico Nico Douga.