And so we’ve finally arrived at the final episode of this crazy and sorta brilliant series about bears, lesbians, and whatever the hell else enters Ikuhura’s wonderfully twisted mind! It’s all been leading to this final episode where everything has to wrap up into a satisfying conclusion to make it all worth wild. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one episode, but it’s the corner they painted themselves into when they made something this enigmatic and complex. Does it all end with a satisfying bang, or will it all fall apart as we realize they had no idea what the heck they were doing!? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins by reminding us what happened last time. If you forgot already, prepare to feel the Feels!!
While Ginko is mourning the loss of her best friend Lulu, Oki is readying her rifle to take out the final bear, and probably Kureha as well for good measure. We cut to sometime later and… hold on, what the hell is going on?
Well THAT was an awkward transition! So we go from the night of Lulu’s death with Ginko staring down the barrel of a rifle to her walking off the plank!? Why the hell is everyone going through all these bells and whistles to kill a bear (when they had NO problem killing bears without all this pomp and circumstance in the past) and more importantly, why the hell did Ginko go along with this!? Sure, I suppose a loss of all hope and a willingness to throw oneself into the arms of death is a POSSIBLE reaction to the loss of a loved one, but considering how much Ginko had overcome that night, I would never have guessed that she would be okay with the Exclusion Group killing her and then Kureha. Hell, I can’t imagine her giving herself up if for no other reason than the fact that she wants to protect Kureha! Whatever Ginko’s reasons for not fighting back, that reason led us to this (presumably) final exclusion ceremony where all the students are on the rooftop and voting who they should exclude now (in other words, who to kill). The vote is overwhelming (though we don’t see who it is) and the group starts charging up their silly bear cannon. Kureha tries to protest against killing Ginko, but Oki reveals that it was in fact Kureha who was chosen and that Ginko’s death is her punishment!! Okay…
Yeah, Oki gives a nonsense speech about being invisible and why everyone who’s different is evil and blah blah blah. I got it the first dozen times they explained it. Ginko tries one last desperate move by claiming that she never was Kureha’s friend and only planned to eat her, thereby distancing Kureha from bears. Except that her mother was a bear enthusiast, and that Kureha was being excluded LONG before she became friends with a bear because she was a lesbian. Wait, is that how it went? Has the show actually confirmed that being gay is a bad thing in the minds of the Exclusion Group? So yeah, Ginko’s speech here is hardly going to convince anyone, but Kureha decides to stand up (I thought she was tied down?) and let everyone know that Ginko is full of crap.
Then something odd happens. I know; what surprise!! Ginko turns into a bear right in front of the group (which already KNEW she was a bear), so Oki commands her team to point their guns at Ginko and fire on her command… instead of using the giant laser that they were going to use on her anyway. It’s at this point where even more memories start flooding back to Kureha, and we get the MOTHER OF ALL BEAR SHOCKS!!!
That’s right! It turns out that KUREHA was the one to wish for Ginko to become human. Not Ginko herself!! Wait, we ALREADY saw that Ginko at the Yuri trial and wished to become a human girl! She was aware THE ENTIRE TIME as to what was going on, so how does it make sense for Kureha to be the one to make the wish!? On the one hand, it DOES help explain how KUREHA’S memories were erased because she was the one who made the deal. That said, if this really IS what happened, then someone’s memories had to of been altered ANYWAY, only this time it’s Ginko who didn’t simply forget but had false memories inserted!! What the hell is the point of this!? Were on the finale! This is the WRAP-UP episode, yet were introducing new elements like this at the eleventh hour!? Why don’t we have Sumika and Kureha’s mother show up as reincarnated bears or something!? Also, there’s this little gem.
We see the trial in its entirety which basically involves the officials making fun of Kureha for being arrogant (how do you KNOW Ginko will be happier as a human?) but end up granting her wish anyway on the condition that she gives up her memories of Ginko and everything that happened. Wait a minute, if she’s now remembering all this, does this make the contract null and void like when Lulu revealed information about the court in episode 10? I guess we’ll find out because, Kureha now finds herself before the court again and admits to her crime of pride. However, she informs the court that she did indeed find what she was looking for, only with someone else. Yes, we are once again reminded of the patron saint of this series known as Sumika who has very few character traits, but makes up for it by dying to save Kureha from… whatever the hell it was. Being excluded I guess? Yeah, great job there Sumika! Glad you threw your life away to keep THAT from happening. The Severance Court gives her Yuri approval (I guess) and in doing so somehow breaks the handcuffs that the Exclusion Group had put on her. Kureha continues to approach Ginko who’s STILL shouting at the other girls to shoot her and that she’s evil and all that.
Kureha is still not deterred and her show of bravery in the face of danger seems to get the attention of the Exclusion Group. Enough so that most of them lower their weapons and the Giant Laser thingy starts to lose power. Kureha finally reaches Ginko, and this is where things get weird. Like, End of Evangelion weird. Seriously. Okay, so first thing is that some sort of spotlight from the heavens falls upon Kureha, and she takes this opportunity to make demands of the bear sky god.
Okay, now if you recall the first thing we learn in this series is that the planet/asteroid/goddess/whatever known as Kumaria (actually it was Kumalia until recently but they decided to change the name in the subtitles for some reason) exploded one day and rained down on Earth. This is what caused the bears to rise up and start eating humans. Trust me; you need that backstory for ANY of this to make sense. I THINK that what’s happening is that the pieces of Kumaria are coming together at Kureha’s location due to her making a wish.
Oh, and the Officials of the Severance Court shoot themselves into space. Presumably, they are ALSO a part of Kumaria and are heading to that location as well, despite the fact that they were around LONG before Kumaria broke up and landed on Earth.
Oh, you think flying space bears is as weird as it gets? You ain’t seen NOTHING yet. The pieces converge on the roof of the school and Lady Kumaria appears to be reborn. Now we can finally know who the enigmatic sky goddess who’s been kinda sorta controlling the fates of all our characters in one way or another.
They actually had Sumika reincarnate as a bear god!? I WAS JOKING ABOUT THAT!! No, seriously! I WAS KIDDING!!! I guess she really IS our martyred savior who for some reason took the form of a teenage girl. You know, kind of like that movie Dogma where God spends their weekends playing skeeball as an old man. That, or I guess this is ALL supposed to be symbolic. Sure. Why not. That theory might actually hold a bit of credence because Kureha doesn’t bat an eye at this revelation. Instead, we watch as Kureha destroys her mirror image (like in the storybook and like how Ginko did in the last episode after rejecting Mitsuko’s influence) and makes a wish of Lady Kumaria.
And thus, Lady Sumikamaria grants our hero her wish and turns her into a bear. She finally reaches Ginko and gives her the promise kiss that has been a long time coming. Maybe. I’m still not sure whether this relationship should actually work out.
The moment seems to get to a couple of the students (particularly robo-Konomi and the laser gun operator) but Oki starts to shout at them not lose their nerve and to eliminate the evil before them.
Sure enough, the class shoots the bears to death (I think) while the scene fades to white. We cut to sometime later where Oki is leading an assembly and now has the ENTIRE school doing exclusion ceremonies instead of just the one class.
The laser gun operator (I have no idea what her name is) isn’t all that interested and flashes back to what had happened on the roof. In the midst of the gunfire, she sees Ginko and Kureha ascending that staircase thingy from the book which means… something. I have no idea what the hell happened and it’s PRETTY annoying.
After the flashback, the laser gun operator leaves the assembly and goes to the garden (which hasn’t been destroyed despite it containing a direct link to the outside world). She finds Konomi who has been discarded by the Exclusion Group after what had happened on the roof. Apparently they’re not going to need a giant bear powered laser any time soon. The laser gun operator picks her up and they have a tender moment. Clearly the tale of Ginko and Kureha has gotten through to them and has inspired them to be different from the rest. There is still hope in this world that people can change.
After that, we get a few epilogue moments while the opening theme plays. Lulu and her brother Milne are reading Kureha’s mother’s book in Bear Heaven (presumably) and Lulu finally accepts her brother’s promise kiss.
We also see Kureha and Ginko are… doing something. I really don’t know if they’re supposed to be dead or Goddesses or Space bears or whatever the hell the writers are trying to say here.
And thus the series ends with the two space/ghost bears sharing a promise kiss and cutting to this final closing card, now showing three bears instead of the two.
So now that we’ve reached end, what can we take away from this series? What was it trying to tell us the entire time? Honestly, not as much as I had hoped. On an emotional level, it certainly worked; Kureha’s decision to become a bear, the change that seems to slowly creep throughout the school, and the bittersweet final moments with Lulu were all very well executed and deliver the kind of gut punches you want from the finale of a series like this. The problems I have though are more about the story decisions when we we try to examine what they’re saying with the way the story ends. First of all, I’m not a fan of how vaguely Kureha and Ginko’s fate is shown here. This whole “taking a journey beyond severance guided by the star of love” thing doesn’t have much context and just sounds like a cop out. Were they shot in the head and this is just a less awful way of expressing that they’re dead? Did they literally fly away into the sky? There’s a real lack of closure here that seems to be intentional, but it lacks any impact and reduces these characters into what I always feared they’d ultimately become; caricatures intended to represent some metaphor or idea, rather than characters in their own right. We’re not supposed to care if these two can work out their differences or can sustain a healthy relationship; they matter as far as what they can represent for the other people in the school and the audience. Worse yet, the message the show ultimately tries to convey with these two is that “LOVE CONQUORS ALL!!” which is way triter than I would have expected from this show. Considering how dark and brutally honest it could be with its examination of relationships, the fact that one couple coming together was enough for their God to resurrect and sanctify this relationship, and then immediately get killed off (or something to that effect) right after the inception of the relationship REALLY undercuts any themes of “hey, let’s be realistic here! Everything isn’t like how it appears in the movies!” Will Kureha have a hard time adjusting to being a bear? It doesn’t matter; they’re in love. Does Kureha ultimately forgive Ginko for her role in Sumika’s death? It doesn’t matter; they’re in love. You don’t HAVE to answer these questions, but they should have at least been ACKNOWLEDGED. This needed an ending like The Graduate, where things do work out in the end, but the prospect of the future is heavy on their minds in that iconic final shot. We needed that level of sobriety in a show that’s trying so hard to show the pitfalls in how these relationships tend to be portrayed in media. Instead, we get some mystical nonsense with these two so that they can live hapilly ever after; and sure, they had to struggle to get THIS far, but that’s still just the beginning. Where would life had taken them if they didn’t turn into magic space gods? That’s a WAY more interesting concept to leave us contemplating than trying to figure out what the hell happened at the end there!
So the finale somewhat fails to stick the landing. It still has its great moments (I choked up a bit when Konomi was taken in by the laser gun operator) and it does wrap things up for everyone else in a satisfying way, so as a series I still highly recommend it. I don’t think it’s as clever as it hopes to be, but the moments where it works truly shine and are moments that other anime should aspire to achieve. If nothing else, this series is thought provoking in ways that we rarely see done well and while its reach far exceeds its grasp, you’ve never seen anything quite like it. If you haven’t watched it already and have just been reading these recaps, then I definitely think you should seek it out. Reading these alone won’t convey everything this series does so well and we all deserve more excellent and through provoking entertainment in our lives. And so our journey comes to an end! It was a long and often confusing road, but it was well worth it and I hope enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!
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