Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting Fuuka to be reunited with Kukuru this soon – I had envisioned spending an episode or two with her back in Tokyo before her return. Still, having her back this soon, but with her and Kukuru’s workplace roles flipped, is interesting. Fuuka and Kukuru are now competent young women, but as this episode shows, they clearly need each other’s support to grow in their careers.
There’s a sense of renewed momentum that begins with the OP and carries through the episode, signaling the start of a new phase in Kukuru’s life. She’s not yet who she needs to be, but she feels a lot more fully-formed than the young woman we encountered initially in the first cour.
Kageki Shojo!! episode 13 is beautiful way to say goodbye, though it definitely leaves room to say hello once again. It’s got all the elements that make a solid episode: drama, character growth, and female friendship, and it all SLAPS, right up to the credits. Hats off to all the people who worked on this: the localization is gold, and leaves me hungry for the dub, whenever that drops.
Episode 12 is very much so the end of a cour. It’s a finale episode, marking the end of Gama Gama Aquarium and the end of childhood, in a way. There’s no more halcyon days for Kukuru, at least not within Gama Gama’s four walls. Her time there will, like so many things, become memories, potentially to propel her to work for Aquarium Tingaara, or even elsewhere in Okinawa, if she allows her the opportunity. Things are similarly up in the air for the rest of the younger cast: true, they have their aspirations, but… nothing is concrete by the time this episode finishes. Nothing is sure, and sometimes… that’s just how life really, truly is.
Despite Gama Gama’s sad fate, this episode doesn’t forget to sprinkle in a bit of comedy. There’s a really good scene where Kukuru consults fortune-telling in order to divine Gama Gama’s future. There’s also an entirely unfunny scene of Kai’s sister saying that he should get with Fuuka (because she’s a classic beauty), but then again, comedy is always subjective.
In the end, both of these episodes are strong reminders of why Kageki Shojo!! continues to be a fantastic series. It not only successfully portrays the intense, heightened drama that already latently exists in high school, but centers that between young women (by this, I mean anyone who is socialized female, and definitely mean maginalized genders), most of whom experience some level of queer, non-romantic sapphicism in their friendships.
Chiyu represents everything that Gama Gama is not: she’s from a stylish, slick new aquarium that sits in the city center, and turns her nose up at the thought of going to a “failing” aquarium. Chiyu and Kukuru’s tenuous work relationship is a showcase of this episode, but what I really want to focus on with this review is Chiyu herself, because so far, our viewpoint characters have mostly been kids—okay, teenagers, but kids nonetheless.
And yet Sarasa has to be Sarasa, and ultimately, that’s the message this week: be yourself. More precisely: who you are is why you’re the only one who can do what you do, which is… cheesy, admittedly, but it’s true! It’s so true, and it’s a reminder that Sarasa needed, especially since she’s been off her game since three weeks prior. I initially thought the central theme of this episode is bullying, but Hijiri’s bad attitude really isn’t the heart of what’s happening. Her bad attitude factors into Sarasa’s slump, surely, but this is ultimately about Sarasa realizing that she’s okay as she is, and that it’s what makes her worthy of being at Kouka.
There’s this tension between the twins, which is something I kind of picked up on in episode 6, waaaaaay back before summer vacation. It only gets worse when Chika is mistaken for Chiaki, and when we get the backstory on the tension between Chika and Chiaki concerning their previous attempts to both get into Kouka. This tension is, of course, broken by Sarasa stepping in, but it isn’t resolved, which is really what stayed at the forefront of my mind this episode.
It feels like there’s a different momentum in episode 8, which is nice: there’s still no sign of magical realism, but I’m starting to be okay with putting that aside until it kicks in hard. I know I’ve continually asked for more of it in past reviews, but I think I’ve finally come to terms with just letting aquatope do its thing. If that means the Kijimuna (the little fish-eating god, for reference) factors in more later down the line, then so be it. If not, it wouldn’t change the fact that The aquatope on white sand is still a really good show to me. So much of this show’s heart is in Fuuka and Kukuru and Kai and Kuuya and their entire community: that’s what’s keeping me coming back week to week, in the end.