I have no idea how much of that was anime-original and how much was from the manga, but it was certainly entertaining in a FUBAR kind of way.
It’s been clear for a while that Zetman was headed for a crescendo of despair. Heck, most of the series has been pretty despair-filled anyway – but each of the characters seemed to be headed on their own runaway train to soul-crushing existential misery, and the brakes were shot. It’s also been clear that a massive amount of sheer plot was being crammed into a space much too small to reasonably contain it, and that it would be virtually impossible to tie it together and wrap a pretty bow around it in the time allotted. In short, part of the fascination with Zetman was a sort of grim curiosity about just WTF was going to happen when the clock struck midnight.
But not for the first time, this series ha surprised me in its ability to somehow present this massive information dump in a way that was not only engaging, but somewhat decipherable. I have a real respect for director Nabeshima Osamu and writer Tomioka Atsuhiro, not because they’ve created a masterpiece – they haven’t, though it’s a very good show – but because they’ve been handed the seemingly impossible task of turning a massive manga into a one-cour anime with its own ending, and seemingly pulled it off. It was a wise decision by TMS to use very experienced people here, and for Tomioka-san to not just handle adaptation but personally script every episode (which is very rare, as it involves a massive amount of work for one writer). Kudos for a job well-done, though that doesn’t stop me from wishing these guys had been given a few cours to play with.
It’s hard to even know where to begin with this penultimate ep, as so much stuff happened even by Zetman standards. I think the best part about it was the way all those tracks converged in one place here. Generally when that happens it’s somewhat contrived, but here the way it was brought off felt almost elegant. Kanako and Konoha together, both Kouga’s parents, Kouga with his limiters turned off, Jin and Haitani, even Inspector Sayama was on hand (with Konoha in tow). The way everyone descended on that press conference was quite natural and believable, and of course the on-screen conductor of this symphony was Haitani. In classic dark superhero fashion, he orchestrated events to try and force Jin to accept the red stone and embrace his true form – and in doing so, to become The Charisma at long last, ushering in a new age of Players.
“If I become evil, you have to kill me.” Has there ever been a more iconic dark superhero phrase than that? Given that the man on the listening end had just shot his parents (one of the accidentally, true) I’m not sure Jin was barking up the right three, though. Alphas arc was following the path Jirou had planned for it, even after his death – and who knows what damage his body (and sanity) were taking by turning Alphas up to 11 like that for so long. The real headliner for despair, though, was poor Hanako. Damn – she was the Sand Monster all along? I didn’t see that coming – but it does explain the headaches, I guess. If that weren’t bad enough it’s Jin who’s the instrument of her transformation, his true form having the effect of turning any latent Players into their true form – permanently, if Haitani is to be believed. I can’t see this romance having a real future, but at least Jin and Hanako tasted the forbidden fruits before the tree was chopped down.
The notion that there may be countless Players out there who didn’t even realize they were Players is an interesting and game-changing one, though I don’t quite know if we’re supposed to infer it from events here. The question really is, just how much of what Haitani says can really be trusted? I certainly don’t believe what he says about Kanzaki only wanting Jin to see how duplicitous and cruel humans are – that’s total BS for sure. Haitani has a clear goal – to see humanity wiped out – and Jin is his instrument for making that happen. I have to assume everything he says – true or false – and does is specifically tailored towards making that happen.
We have two main themes that will surely drive the finale next week. There’s the larger issue of Haitani’s plan and what it means for the world, and I’ll be very interested to see how the Bartender/EVOL leader and the Sweeper factor into that (we’ve had no follow-up to that brief conversation with Jin, have we?). And then there’s the matter of both Jin and Kouga trying to retain their true self without going over to the dark side, which is the spiritual heart of the story. I have no reason to believe Haitani when he says that by accepting the red stone Jin is no longer himself – if nothing else he’s likely underestimating Jin’s sense of identity. Will he and Kouga provide the support the other needs in order to stay sane – or will one of them lose the battle, and become the other’s enemy?