The Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song
How would you rate episode 14 of
Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song (TV 2) ?
What is this?
In the wake of Jiro's defection from the Superhuman Bureau, Japan's restrictions on superhuman activities have only tightened. Now Kikko, Emi, and the other members of the bureau work directly with the military, developing new weapons of control while disrupting student protests. Detective Raito Shiba has joined the bureau as well, but his own desire to enforce the law is being thoroughly tested by the demands of an oppressive age. Jiro still lurks in the shadows, with his true goals unclear as the pursuit of justice becomes ever more clouded. The world seems about to break as a new season dawns. Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song is an original anime work and can be found streaming on Funimation, Fridays at 9 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
Jacob Hope Chapman
Concrete Revolutio's return kicks off with a wonderful scene, beautiful in its canny simplicity. Detective Raito Shiba needs to charge himself, but Jiro is using all the outlets in their hovel, the power hog. Yes it's dumb, but Concrete Revolutio could use a healthy spoonful of dumb now and again to remind its fans that this endless technicolor diatribe does in fact possess a heart under all its proselytizing. For a series that's been so notoriously rocky and unfocused, this second season premiere packs in a lot of laudable forward motion by spending time with one of its most compelling cast members: the poor beleaguered stuffed-shirt android Raito.
Raito isn't just more compelling because of his buffoonish personality and a backstory that immediately prompts conflict no matter what he does, but also because, in a world often broken up by murky motivations from characters that crisscross over too-many-timelines, Raito is pretty refreshingly constant. So it's a little weird at first to see him bunking with sworn enemy Jiro after our protagonist has firmly defected from the bureau, but this episode does an impeccable job setting up Raito's own turn to the vigilante side by pitting his inflexible ideals against a now firmly compromised Superhuman Bureau. It's not Concrete Revolutio at its absolute best, but it's pretty darn close, giving us an encouraging start to what will probably be the series' final season.
Unfortunately, Concrete Revolutio's most deadly problems are also back in full force. New fantasy and sci fi concepts enter and exit the stage with alarming speed, giving us little time to react to their place in an already overstuffed universe. Even with a focus on Raito, the episode jumps back and forth between so many characters to get their take on the situation, only to betray that about half the cast is still devastatingly two-dimensional (especially the female characters) or a too-obvious mouthpiece for Shou Aikawa and little else (poor Jaguar). And of course, there's Revolutio's achilles heel: some of the most embarrassing, on-the-nose, "old man yells at cloud," bad dialogue you may ever hear (read?) in an anime.
For me, most of Concrete Revolutio's appeal comes from an active desire to peer into its creator's mind. Shou Aikawa has a lot of genuinely fascinating and well-reasoned takes on themes both topical and universal, but that doesn't mean he's especially good at creating an engaging world and characters. (In fact, Concrete Revolutio at its worst seems like nothing short of a colorful sermon.) Still, Raito Shiba is one of the brightest shining stars in Revolutio's story, so starting off with an episode about his tortured soul (and an OP with dubstep breakdancing!) is a good way to wake me up and get me ready for more of Grandpa Aikawa's Very Strong Feelings.
It almost feels like this Concrete Revolutio premiere was designed specifically for me. Raito Shiba was always one of my favorite characters in the show - his stalwart belief in justice, and the ways he had to betray his own feelings to support the rule of law, made him a compelling and tragic figure all throughout the first season, and a perfect foil for the rule-breaking but similarly honorable Jiro. But defending the law itself as the most reliable manifestation of justice became less and less tenable as the atrocities committed by the government piled up, and at the beginning of this second season, we see a Detective Shiba who is visibly shaken by the strain of holding to his difficult beliefs.
This first episode quickly reintroduces most of the major variables from the first season, but the focus character is clearly Shiba, and it's heartbreaking to see the stress of this world playing out through his actions. Right at the start, we learn that the difficulty of squaring the United States’ military experiments with his own belief in justice has led to Shiba volunteering his own body as a battery for the superhuman weapons, a choice that's literally breaking him down without truly solving the fundamental contradiction. And the show quickly introduces a space android on the hunt for the S Planetarian from the first season, a robotic character whose own binary belief in the evil of crime and goodness of law acts as an alternately mocking and inspiring reminder of the certainty Shiba once possessed.
In the end, Shiba's values are tested by a trial that embodies the most unjust pole of the things he's chosen to defend - because a suspect's body is that of a criminal, they must be put to death, even though they themselves have committed no crimes. And Shiba cracks under the pressure, betraying his job and saving an outlaw only to commit actual murder in order to regain the certainty he had lost. Shiba falls from the law, but retains his pure justice, through an act that essentially lobotomizes the complex, unsolvable humanity he had found.
It's a rich and gripping start for The Last Song, and even outside of that standout Shiba narrative, there's plenty of great stuff going on here. Emi feels more menacing than ever in her possessive behavior towards Jiro, and the last battle between Jiro, Shiba, and the space android features some great single shots and strong action cuts. The diverse political goals and personal beliefs of Concrete Revolutio's many factions are already sparking understandable friction, and I'm sure things will only get more tense from here. And there are even some cute character moments here and there, like when Jiro and Shiba end up bickering about outlet usage when Jiro crashes his apartment. Concrete Revolutio's first season was angry, poignant, and whip-smart, and this new premiere demonstrates all those qualities in spades. I'm eager to see where it goes from here.
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