It's now winter in Kamakura. When Satsuki tells her friends that she'd seen Manatsu, Ichika at first doesn't believe it. But on the day before her 15th birthday, Manatsu's mirror fragment inside Ichika's desk drawer mysteriously disappears. That evening, a young girl calling herself "Mafuyu, Manatsu's identical twin" appears before Ichika with a mischievous smirk on her face.
The Uta-Kata special -- sometimes known as episode 13, other times referred to as the special or OVA depending on what site you're looking at -- picks up some months after the Uta-Kata series left off. With the Uta-Kata series having painted a sometimes light and airy, sometimes dark and depressing view of the world and characters' lives, it leaves off with some loose ends, making you wonder what happened and what the state of things is. This little special manages to smooth out some of those rough edges, making me wonder why they didn't include it in the series itself. Though short, it rounds
off the Uta-Kata series, not flawlessly, though quite well -- and does so in an enjoyable little storyline.
The story is short (because it's essentially only one episode) and picks up a few months after the series left off. Ichika is in school with her friends, her family situation is as left at the end of the series, and Ichika's birthday as well as Christmas, is approaching. Michiru mentions she thought she had seen Manatsu and the story picks up from there (as to not spoil things). Some main issues from the series are addressed with the subplots from the original series somewhat ignored, there are certain things that are just entirely left up to speculation. This, however does tie up many loose ends which I felt took a lot away from the series. Therefore, in light of this, I felt the little story deserved a 9 for accomplishing what really needed to be done but wasn't at the end of the series.
The art is just as wonderful as in the series. Though the style of the character's pupils is unique compared to all other anime I've seen, it's a style I got used to over the course of the series and didn't seem very out of the ordinary by the time I saw this special. Animation is smoothly done, and the visual quality of characters is better than other series I've seen. The colors and tones used in the characters are continued well from the series with no visible changes. Another thing worth noting is that certain aspects of animation and art in this series are just amazing -- one example is the fireworks in the series itself. Remnants of this high-quality art trickle through to the special in the way the snow and frost on a window is shown -- which I found to be particularly good in comparison to other animes I've seen.
The sound continues its trend from the series. The starting song (after a little introduction music) is the same as in the series. The song at the end of the episode reminded me of music heard during the series Maria-sama ga Miteru. This is a familiarity which can be seen in music during the original series as well. I found the music/sound pleasing, appropriate, and unintrusive so I gave that a 9.
It's very hard to write about the characters without revealing a spoiler (and having someone spoil a storyline for you just downright sucks) so I'm deliberately not going to mention names. I will say, however, that there is a certain character depicted a bit differently than in the series and that the character's way of relating to others changed a bit. Though this may be able to be explained if you go into various analyses of the series and characters, I intuitively felt like it didn't fit and that it felt somewhat unnatural. I took off some points because of this shift. Otherwise, all characters followed very well from how they were presented in the series, leading me to give this an 8.
After the series leaving me quite unsatisfied between the dark, sometimes depressing nature and the abundance of loose ends, this little special really helped to turn some of that around. Though it doesn't explain every nuance or sub-blot to one's satisfaction, it does resolve some of the larger issues left hanging out in the open from the series. That actually made me enjoy the series as a whole much better, leading me to give this a much-deserved 9 for enjoyment.
Overall, this isn't perfect. Ideally, the series could use (at least) a full 12-episode sequel addressing and expanding upon some of the sub-plots and details revealed in the series left otherwise underdeveloped -- including some of the character histories and relationships. This special doesn't accomplish that, however, it does tie up a few big details from the series and it does so with art consistent with that from the series (which is of very good quality), it has an enjoyable little plot, appropriate and enjoyable music, and I found it really added something to the series as a whole leading me to give this a 9 overall.
I hope this review is detailed enough to help you decide whether to watch this or not! :)