Gosick – 23

Wow. That was really something else.

It’s pretty damn rare to see a series step up in weight class so close to the end, but BONES has done something special here. All of the lame mysteries and pacing errors of earlier on have faded into distant memory – with this episode, Gosick has established itself as a force to be reckoned with. That was as good an ep as any I’ve seen this year from a show not written by Mari Okada (edit: Kaoru Chujo informs me this ep was written by Mari. Sigh…). If indeed we’re headed for an anime-original ending, they surely seem to be on track for a good one.

What’s clearly established is that we’re looking at an alternative history timeline here. Though it’s but 1925, Germany is already acting in Poland and gearing up for a major war in Europe (a practical impossibility in our timeline, but that’s not really the point). Where many of the earlier mysteries struggled at smoothly weaving the pieces of cloth, they were but the prelude – this last one has fit them together like a master builder. All of the developments surrounding the core cast have led us inexorably to this moment, and none of them were wasted. Nice work, BONES. Hard to believe this is the same director (Hitoshi Nanba) as the thoroughly average Heroman.

The details of Albert de Blois’ plan have become clear, and it plays out as it’s been building up. He has the memento box to discredit Jupiter Roget, who appears to have King Rupert’s ear as head of the Science Ministry. He’s pushing for peace, but de Blois has other plans. In the Spring of 1925 he plays his first trump card – just as the King is proclaiming Saubere’s commitment to peace, Blois exposes Roget, who flees in disgrace. Blois has a different idea for Saubere – ally itself with Germany and go to war for glory and riches. Not only that, but he has the other trump card his Monstre Charmant unearthed for him – when Rupert wavers at sending thousands of his own citizens to die, Blois blackmails him by revealing that he knows the truth of Blue Rose (the fake one, anyway) and her death. Not only does Rupert accede to Blois’ war plans, he agrees to appoint him Prime Minister – a success Blois intends to celebrate with an ostentatious ceremony featuring none other than his Monstre Charmant.

Blois has been vile from the beginning, but he’s really stamping himself as one of the evilest villains of the anime year. He raped and imprisoned Cordelia, then stole her baby and abandoned her. His treatment of Victorique is well known to viewers, but his sadism towards her is only now becoming clear – the biting scene being one of the most uncomfortable of the season. Against this backdrop is the plight of the man I expected all along to be the fulcrum of events at the very end, Grevil. With no pretense to be anything but a tool of the Occult Ministry, he carries out his father’s orders as a dutiful subordinate and heir. But inside, he’s obviously dismayed by the way Victorique is being treated. He’ll be tested severely in the end, this one – and I suspect how he fares will have a major impact on the way things end up.

Meanwhile, poor Kujo has been stashed by Blois in the army, in the North. A risky move, as he’s presumably a better hostage for Victorique’s cooperation alive than dead – though she would have no obvious way to tell – and it’s unclear to me whether he’s in Saubere’s army or back in Japan. As Victorique grimly holds onto his pendant as a symbol of hope, Kujo endures bad haircuts, terrible beatings and bitter cold by grasping Victorique’s ring with all his might. He’s 15 and in the army of a nation preparing for war – possibly that of a nation not even his own. It’s hard to say whose position is actually worse, his or Victorique’s.

The shocking wild card of the episode comes as the Brians and Cordelia spring into action. Blois appears to have it all – his rival vanquished, his King hopelessly under his thumb, a nation full of Monstre Charmant otaku acting as his “homonculi”. One Brian manages to sneak Cordelia into the Ministry where she switches places with Victorique, who escapes with the other (he calls him “my other half” but I’ll assume they’re twins until told otherwise). As Cordelia disrupts Blois’ ceremony and reveals her identity, Brian #2 unleashes a rain of fire and systematically guns down the homonculi in the audience as Cordelia and Albert have their final battle. Brian is stabbed by one of Blois’ killer nuns, Coredelia stabs Albert but is stabbed by a nun, and on a distant road Brian #1 prepared to kill Victorique – whom he passionately hates for giving Cordelia such a heavy heart that she would sacrifice herself…

Oh, my – what a blockbuster that was. Can the finale possibly live up to it? Well, we have two huge stories playing out against each other here – the march to war and the personal drama of Victorique and Kujo. Is it too late to stop the machinery of death – even if Blois is in fact dead, which I doubt? As huge as that is, of course the main question is whether or not Victorique and Kujo will find each other – and stay together. The storm the old wolf predicted has certainly come, and confounded our guesses by doing so 14 years early. Without a doubt this has been the best romance of 2011 in anime – I’ve already waxed poetic on why and I won’t bore you by doing it again. I sincerely hope these two do end up together, because they deserve it. Gosick has pretty much come down to a straight up good and evil story in the end – will good prevail, both on the global stage and on the personal?

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

– Rick Blaine, “Casablanca”


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