R-15 is the little series that could. Could what? All sorts of wonderful things, but mostly achieve the impossible. It’s a show that’s straddled the line between ecchi and serious romance in a way no other show I’ve seen has done, but it really topped itself with a fantastic ending that took all the themes of the previous 11 episodes and gave them a glorious send-off that was fully consistent with what the show has been all along. Bravo.
I’m going to assume this is an anime-original ending as the novels and manga are still ongoing, and even if the indoctrination competition and chorale contest were part of the novels, I’d be fascinated to know how they played out on paper. AIC played out the competition scenario to glorious success in the anime, incorporating Taketo’s lyrics and some rather attractive music and creating a highly dramatic conclusion that satisfied on pretty much every level. It was the logical extension of what Taketo has been doing for the entire series – using his combination of hilariously absurd porn and naïve but sweet romanticism to melt the hearts of the girls on Inspiration Academy and help them understand themselves. Only this time it was the girl that Taketo loves, and the unveiling happened in front of the entire school (and her father) so it had to be big. It had to be grand. And boy, was it ever.
But all that was made possible, however, by the noble sacrifice of one of the best third wheels ever, Utae. Treated with more respect and care than almost any other loser in a romance triangle, it was Utae who in the end made it possible not only for Taketo to declare his love for Fukune in front of the assembled masses, but for his class to defeat hers in the competition as well. But that’s Utae – she’s a beautiful spirit and she doesn’t seem to have it in her to take the low road. It’s not often you see so much respect given to a “loser” in a romance series, but Utae was developed as much if not more than the winner, and always painted in a sympathetic light. It was just her misfortune that Fukune happened to be the one that Taketo loved.
For Fukune, her world was crumbling around her – her father was on-hand to take her away, her dreams were crushed, along with her confidence. It was Taketo’s task to both declare his love for her and to make her rediscover her love of the clarinet and of herself – and he pulled it off. Even at that, Fukune was hilariously innocent right to the end – even lyrics such as “In and out, Soft and round, Slick and Wet” were too subtle for her – but she got the gist of it, because most of the song wasn’t about that anyway. The other part of Taketo’s mission was to let Fukune know what sort of writer he is, and I guess her naiveté means he’ll still need to explain that later. But when he stepped to the podium and blocked out the terrifying image of her father, the symbolism was clear – he’d always be there to protect her, and when she thinks of the clarinet and her love of music, she’ll think of Taketo.
Even Ritsu’s crush on Taketo was treated quite respectfully in the finale, as was Ran’s on Fukune. One of the things I appreciated about R-15 is how it didn’t often fall back on tired, mean-spirited cliché either to entertain or to make a point. Taketo’s song was the vehicle for everyone’s feelings to come to the surface, and damned if they didn’t make the lyrics quite romantic and beautiful once the initial porn was out of the way. In addition to Taketo’s view of sex being absurdly naïve, so too is his view of romance – but in that, the young actually have it pretty good. Taketo’s lyrics point towards the place where love and sex come together without being weighted down by all the complicated baggage life piles on them – a simple vision where two people are young and healthy and normal and full of desire for each other, and that’s enough to make them happy. It doesn’t work that way, Taketo, but if it worked the way you thought it did you wouldn’t be selling all those porn novels anyway…
So there you have it – Class 1-3 wins a trip to Vienna (on the AIC jet), Fukune stays in school, and Taketo has declared himself – even if she was too innocent to quite grasp what that meant. It was a happy ending for pretty much everyone except Utae, and even she has a smile on her face because she knows she did the only thing she could do to be true to herself – she helped Taketo and Fukune out. And she’s going to Vienna for a concert anyway, so you never know… All of that was a real pleasure to watch, and genuinely moving at times. A fittingly paradoxical ending for a series that confounds expectations at every turn, and proves that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Banzai, Peace!