Okay. That final match between Asuka and Saki and positively AWESOME. What a great way to end the series! And even though most everyone knew what was coming many viewers (myself included) were floored by the final episode and loved the way the story was finally wrapped up – once again proving that so much of the success or failure of an anime series is not reliant on the use or avoidance of “tropes” (that abysmally over-wrought and crudely abused word nowadays) in and of themselves, but rather on the skill, care and effectiveness in resenting the story as a whole. Tropes are present and have been used for centuries (perhaps even millenia) for a good reason – in the hands of a skilled artisan they work.
Yessiree – more than anything else this episode proved … well, it proved many things, but leaving that aside for the moment … yes, more than anything the episode proved that Asuka is an inhumanly talented and gifted athlete, and especially one for the sport of Flying Circus. Seriously … the speed at which she grows reflex wise, raw talent wise and that intuition for the game is just … awe-inspiring. And it shows here in this match. Everyone present of totally blown away at the difference between Asuka in the summer tournament and in her matches up to this point as well.
Effectively there were two parts to the match. The first part was with no extra equipment tweakings, but just “normal Flying Circus”, and lets face it – Asuka dominated Saki and totally outplayed her in most every single way. And if you stop and think about what Saki did to Shindou (the best player in Japan, no less) only a few months ago Asuka’s performance is quite something – both on offense, defense, speed, aerial combat, agility, you name it; Asuka outplayed Saki and frustrated Irina to no end (my nasty side was giggling with Irina being finally served a slice of humble pie).
But then Irina, seeing Saki getting her head handed to her, decided to up the ante, and instructed Saki to completely turn off the “balancers” on her grav shoes and go after Asuka in that mode. Turning off the balancers effectively equals no safety settings to compensate for any possible errors or sloppiness on the part of the wearer of the shoes, but it also means the shoes give full potential output – this results in a huge potential boost in speed and aerial agility, and Saki, as we saw in the previous episodes, has been deliberately undergoing painful training for a long, long, long time for how to master the grav shoes in that mode.
Unsurprisingly Asuka is taken by surprise and Irina instructs Saki to go into “greensleeves” mode, which is effectively tying the score and then going into hyper speed mode of repeatedly smashing the opponent for the rest of the match until the time runs out with a tie score, forcing the game into overtime. It’s like getting a beat down by a superhero with super speed (like the Flash) so quickly that one has no time to respond – one can only be repeatedly, helplessly struck and humiliated until things end. As Asuka was – ruthlessly.
Needless to say, while I was gritting my teeth and in the anime the viewers were silent Asuka was overawed once again and inspired (!) and even overjoyed by the raising of the level of the game. So what does she do? She decides to also turn off the safety settings on her grav shoes. She had done this ever so briefly once before, but this time she does so in a match, and … umm … yeah … she 95% masters it. O.O Now if that is not a beast I do not know what it is. Just … crazy. And unsurprisingly both Saki and eSPECially Irina (not to mention everyone else present at the match) is utterly shocked.
It is then that something once again “clicks” in Saki, just as it began to stir in her semi-final match against Misaki. Asuka’s sheer love for the game, enthusiasm and happiness at being pushed further and further fully infects Saki and the two of them go at it full boar, taking off the gloves and bare-knuckling it at levels of skill and speed never before seen in the game’s history – it was rightly said that this match would redefine the game, with the new heights those training would strive for being that with the safety balancers on the grav shoes completely turned off.
The match in hyper mode was exhilarating – seriously. The two of them increased their speed and pursuit and evasion of their opponent to such a degree that the contrails from their shoes seemed to meld together into a single orb, like a miniature sun shining at mid-day, and in the midst of that incredible combat … as all knew was coming but on viewing it all held their breath … Asuka pulls off an utterly brilliant move, combining a millisecond barrel-roll and a flying fish style turn and scoring a point to win the match.
Needless to say – the viewers (in the anime and “outside” of it) were blown away, and interestingly Irina sees that in the hyper speed match the now joy-infected Saki was beaming with happiness for the first time in a match she could remember. Something inside Irina changes, and thankfully she shows herself to be receptive to considering that she may have gone about things with the wrong disposition, and admits it to both Masaya and Kagami-sensei, the latter of whom seems to have been the object of Irina and Saki’s striving – like all “hero worshippers” they only wished for approval from the person they adored and admired. And as events turned out, they DID receive such approval, but not through the means they expected nor for the reasons they thought. What a fabulous way to end the series! Huzzah!
For me this series has been a success from beginning to end, and in every way. I loved the manner of the adaptation, the way the characters were developed, the visuals, the world building, etc. The audio aspects were only “pretty good” for me, but it was still a plus in my book. I will likely go into all this in more detail in the upcoming review I give to the series, but I can say that this series will not only be archived, but I can already tell that it will have a high degree of re-watchability. It was, perhaps one of the most important aspects to any series, one of the weekly anime I most anticipated every week, and that anticipation stayed consistent and strong throughout the season. That’s proof that the studio and the writers were doing something right!
See you all in the final review of the series! ^^
Tags: Ao no Kanata, Ao no Kanata anime, Ao no Kanata anime review, Ao no Kanata Blog, Ao no Kanata Blog Review, Ao no Kanata Episode 12, Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm, Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm Anime Blog, Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm Blog, Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm Episode 12, Ao no Kanata Review
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