This last episode reaaaallllyyyy better wrap things up in terms of motives, character backgrounds etc. Either that or well-placed ambiguity. Because if I'm left with a really sour ending I'm not sure how I will feel about the series. These last 5-6 episodes have been quite good. Beyond that though, there was little to no plot movement for 30 episodes and tons of repetition.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the symbolism, music, and dark storytelling of the actual storyline, its just been covered up!! I need more of that and less repetition.
What in the hell was that ending!? This has got to be Utena's best cliffhanger yet but more on that in a minute. It's amazing to me how this is one of the tensest and most exciting 23 minutes of anime I've ever seen but not much really happens. Utena and Himemiya finally go to claim eternity and revolutionize the world. Akio shows up to take his place as the big bad. And the rest of the episode is just Utena and him fighting as they shout at each other about all that has happened. But it's incredible, aided by the fact that this is hands down the best duel in the whole series. Some of them particularly in the Black Rose Arc were samey, though I hesitate to say disappointing or boring. However the last arc has really pulled out all the stops especially in Jury and Touga's fight.
But this one takes the cake, the back and forth is brutal and savagely choreographed. The conflict between Utena and Akio feels singularly important, more than any we've ever seen. The outcome of this battle is important to anyone who has come to care about Utena and Anthy including the audience. And it doesn't help it's been such a long time coming. We've known about Akio being the End of the World, since about Episode 21, and as the full extent of his chaotic evil has been revealed the audience is forced to wait with bated breath until Utena discovers his true nature and finally does something about it. It's been so long coming the audience is practically screaming for it when they finally do fight and it's glorious.
It's a testament to Utena that this is not pure good vs. pure evil. Akio has little redeeming qualities despite his apparently righteous path in his youth. But I love how Akio points out that Utena is not innocent in all this either. She was seduced by his charms, but she still accepted his advances despite knowing he was engaged. This moral grayness, combined with the perfectly ominous final setting for the showdown, and the as always sublime and cacophonous soundtrack make it a positively apocalyptic final showdown.
I also liked some quick scenes we get with the supporting cast.The shadow players clinking martini glasses in the hot tub celebrating a great run (meta as always) brought a smile to my face. I loved the scene with the student council huddled around the flaming trash cans too. Nanami ended up being my favorite, as she had the most drastic arc and her huddling beneath them whimpering about how she just wants the whole thing to be over was real as fuck. I would be too, you've all been through a lot.
The ending almost completely upends the entire episode. Anthy seems to have reached a point of despair in her relationship with Akio, after attempting to commit suicide last episode. So what appears to be the ending, Utena without Dios standing strong as the prince and overpowering Akio felt natural. Which makes Anthy's abrupt betrayal all the more devastating. I don't know how tragic this finale is going to be, but it can't be happy after that certainly. At least there was a bit of levity in that fourth wall breaking preview. Mocking the ridiculousness of most anime endings made me laugh.