Let me re-state for the record, I haven’t read the Zetsuen no Tempest manga, so I have no idea how it chooses to wrap up the events in its story. It seems as if we’re headed for a roughly concurrent ending between the anime and manga, but I’m sure there are going to be some Okada-instilled changes in the details at the very least – and I don’t have a problem with that. My only worry is that the series has done such a phenomenal job creating an aura of grandiosity and scope that whatever it comes up with for the final two episodes is going to have to be pretty amazing not to feel like a bit of an anti-climax.
With that in mind, I could see where some might consider this episode a bit of a let-down, coming so close to the end and so close on the heels of the lights-out confrontation between Aika and Hakaze. I won’t deny it lacked something of the “wow” factor Zetsuen has displayed most every week for the last few months, but instead delivered a sobering sense of anticipation. This was a stage-setter episode, make no mistake – a chance to get all the cards on the table and give all the characters a chance to settle in (by no mean smoothly) to the roles they’ll have to play in the final battle to come. If the first 21 episodes were about setting up that battle, this was the closing argument – a summation of what’s come before and of the stakes inherent in what’s to come.
Zetsuen has been interesting in that the roles of the characters have been very fluid, with each of the central cast in ever-changing positions in the larger story. We’ve had several more or less take turns in the spotlight, but it seems fitting – and now very likely – that in the end Zetsuen no Tempest will turn to Yoshino and Mahiro to carry the final act. It might be Aika who’s been pulling the strings, but it’s those two who started us on this journey and it’s they who seem best suited to finish it. What that means for the cast is hard to say. It strikes me that after everything that’s happened, and though the details were certainly different than he expected, Samon has more or less been proven to have been right all along. He was the one who recognized the essential truth of the matter – it was the Tree of Genesis that was the greater threat, and Hakaze had the wrong of it in thinking otherwise. Chalk this up to his instincts or to general skeptical nature, and there’s no denying the actual story was different than he expected, but he was the smartest guy in the room when all is said and done – at least as far as the Kusaribe are concerned.
It seems very possible that Hakaze’s role in the story is largely played out, though given just how outlandish this series is I sure wouldn’t bet much on any one possibility. She started out as a sort of accessory to the story while on her island, but she’s been the primary driver of events since her return to civilization – both personal and strategic – since her return. But having been defeated by Aika and shared the truth with the others, the fact is that her magic seems to have no obvious place in the final battle. And for Yoshino, Aika’s ghost still plays a much more important role in his life than Hakaze does – even now, as he and Mahiro plan their strategy for the endgame, it’s still her memory that colors their actions. Hakaze is back, seemingly, to being an accessory – but it might perhaps be more accurate to call her a wild card. She remains the most powerful magician in the world (that we know of), and a woman in love to boot – it’s just that circumstances seem to have worked against her prominence in the final battle to come. But I suspect she’s going to find a way to impact events just the same.
As for the boys, I think it might be argued that their seeming non-reaction to Hakaze’s news was the second major anti-climax involving them in the last three episodes – but once again, I saw it as perfectly in character. Mahiro is many things, but he’s not stupid, and I think the veracity of Hakaze’s account was obvious to him. Given what she told him there was really no other way for him to react except as a balloon that’s just had the air let out of it. As for Yoshino, as we’ve already seen hiding his true feelings is something he’s astoundingly good at so I would have expected nothing different. Hanemura’s outburst was a bit over-the-top for me, the most false moment of the episode, but probably something both of them needed to spur them into the right mindset to fight the last fight. As for the flashback sequences with Aika and the boys in middle school, those struck home for me – I could see their first meeting playing out in exactly that sort of way. I especially loved Aika’s comment that as long as she was with the two of them, a tragedy would seem like a comedy – though if one chose to, they could interpret that as a rather ominous auger for what’s to come.
For me, though I’ve grown to quite like Aika, I rather hope she stays deceased. If there’s something in that flash drive in the envelope (or something else) that leads to her death being revealed as a ruse I’ll be disappointed and I think others will too once the euphoria wears off, because that will have cheapened the artfully crafted narrative that led up to her demise. Even if the logic she used in justifying her suicide was flawed, I quite like the idea that a 15 year-old girl thrust into the role of savior of the world is capable of serious errors in judgment in matters of great import. What we know for sure is that the matter of Hanemura’s girlfriend isn’t dead, only dormant, and it was surely introduced into the story for a reason. That remains the one great variable that we know about – most of the big mysteries have been laid bare and the players and stakes clearly-defined, setting the stage for the grand finale, but that factor quietly simmers on a back burner of the stove. It will surely demand our attention – and soon.