Gao, gao! indeed. In a series full of wild plot twists and whiplash mood swings, this episode more than any of the ones than came before it felt like it was straight out of left field. I don’t know whether the anime is veering off the source material towards an original ending or simply cramming a whole lot of LN material into the final episodes, but this week sure felt disconnected to me – both the mostly light and comic first half and the expositionally supercharged second.
As if things weren’t crazy enough, there’s pretty much no series than can’t by made crazier with the addition of Aoi Yuuki as an idol (just ask the gang at the Iori Model Shop). Ginyuuin Serica is a wildly over-the-top sendup of an idol character, which makes perfect sense given that everyone in the cast is pretty much the same as relates their trope. I love Aoi-san as fans of this blog know, but Serican honestly didn’t do all that much for me comedically, and she felt very shoehorned into the plot – yes, I know we needed a “Bard” in order for Souta’s prophecy to be complete, but she ended up being way more important than any buy-in to her character justified.
Indeed, the best thing about Serican’s character was the impact it had on Nanami, who it turns out is a major Serican otaku (and I’m guessing an idol otaku generally). It was pretty funny watching the fangirl do battle with the tsundere (and usually winning) as the gang prepared for Serica’s big concert (why this school in Hatagaya gets a concert from a famous idol at their culture festival I’m not sure) and the dance party afterwards – at which Souta is committed to dance with the tropes gallery in its entirety, all of whom have bought fancy gowns (including Meg, who just doesn’t get the whole concept of not wanting to be a trap).
During said concert, something very strange happens – a “light flag” appears on Serica’s head and connects to everyone in the audience, including him. Everyone but him freezes, and Souta sees binary code in addition to flags everywhere he looks. At this point Number Zero reappears, drops a few exposition bombs and then the big one – this entire world is nothing but a virtual one, created by the House of Seven Virtues, and it’s only one of thousands. Souta’s power is needed to defeat “Angelus Gemini”, and if he stays in this world his growing power won’t cause it to freeze next time – it’ll simply crash (and I assume take down all the virtual people inside).
Again, I’m not sure how canon all this is, but it sure is a big leap at this point in the story. There’s still stuff we don’t know, such as why Nanami is different from everyone else – it’s not just the lack of flags, but she remembers Souta when the others start to forget him. Is she, like he, a “real” person? Is there a difference? But on balance all this feels like an attempt to have a real ending come hell or high water, rather than something that was properly foreshadowed and grew organically out of the story. Gaworare has earned a good measure of trust from me by now and I have faith in Watanabe-sensei, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to need a lot of convincing in the next two episodes.