by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 23 of
Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song (TV 2) ?
This was one heck of an episode for Concrete Revolutio. I feel like every other episode of this show sets up some strange new ideas, and I'm always waiting for the following one to let the other shoe drop. Well, we had an entire Foot Locker's worth of shoes dropping this week. Concrete Revolutio has done a better job of tying together the series' many loose ends in its second half, retroactively justifying its large world and cast. In "Beast and Maiden," it stepped up to the next level with revelations for just about every character in the cast—but especially Jiro.
If you thought we couldn't possibly explore Jiro's origin story any further, think again. His viewing of Satomi and the Imperial Ads group's movie, The Great Prophecy of Japan, helped him to realize his origin as part-kaiju in the wake of the failed atomic bomb blast. But it turns out that this is only half the story of how Jiro gained his powers. Jiro is actually the link to another parallel universe, where the atomic bomb did detonate, and Jiro took on some of its destructive powers.
Obviously, this is not the first time that our-universe-as-parallel-to-a-fantasy-version has been a plot point in an anime written by Shou Aikawa and directed by Seiji Mizushima. Both Fullmetal Alchemist and Concrete Revolutio use it to illuminate specific issues about the real-world time periods they parallel, exploring what would change in a more magical other world. With Concrete Revolutio, the reveal hinges on its specific divergence point: the A-bomb dropping on Hiroshima in 1945. When explaining the twist, Hitoyoshi suggested that the other world would manage to turn nuclear power into a source of energy, eliminating the need for fossil fuels and thereby achieving world peace. Assuming this is our world, this is obviously an inaccurate speculation, but it seems like kind of a specious theory anyway. People fight wars for oil, but they also fight them over religion, territory, and lots of other issues. For now, let's just roll with it. This version of 1960s-70s Japan seems to get enmeshed in many more conflicts than the real one did, so maybe there's something to his vision of our world as more peaceful. Someone in our world's future who had the power to affect other worlds still wanted to save us from that fate, because the cause was too horrific. So they made a wish that the bomb's destructive power be contained in a child, and Jiro was that child.
This reveal leads to enormous revelations about the whole Superhuman Bureau. It turns out that their real mission was just to protect one superhuman, not all of them: Jiro. He was always the real target of their various adversaries, from Satomi and Imperial Ads to the Americans. Jiro is just too potentially powerful as a connection point to another world; Satomi even wondered if killing him could unlock a portal there, which opens all kinds of possibilities for the finale. The Superhuman Bureau's other activities were always a mask for their true mission. This also explains why all of the Bureau's members were so obsessed with Jiro, since it was literally their job and likely played a role in why each person was recruited to the group. They successfully kept the authorities off their scent for a while, but with Jiro leaving the group and its members continuing to track him anyway, they became increasingly suspicious. The movie was the result of all the conclusions they drew, so now the entire world knows that the Superhuman Bureau is not working for the "benefit" of all humanity.
Speaking of Jiro leaving, Kikko also gets her own revelation here. She lost her connection to the Devil Kingdom and status as a queen candidate because of Emi's actions after Kikko's transformation at the end of the last season. Since her feelings for Jiro triggered Kikko, Emi took away Kikko's powers and made Jiro promise to stay away from her. This also played a role in him leaving the group, along with everything else in the first-cour finale. When Kikko learns about all this after trying and failing to call on her Devil Kingdom powers in battle, she's clearly horrified and betrayed. It would be cool to see the show explore this, but with one episode left, I'm not holding my breath.
That brings us to the other major subplot in "Beast and Maiden." Remember that whole thing about how nukes lead to our world abandoning fossil fuels? Well, they've got to find another way to fix their energy crisis in this world. Enter Master Ultima, whose Ultimapolis floating city promises a new form of energy: superhumans. Ultima uses the Bio Destroyer that we saw in the episode about the immortal family to create energy out of superhumans, in a bid to improve humanity's image of them. Because superhumans are built from the same genetic material as the immortal family, they can regenerate and be used continually to fuel the city. Sounds like a win-win, right? The world's energy crisis and the superhumans' image problem are both fixed. Two birds, one stone.
Unfortunately, this is only true for some superhumans. The yokai and kaiju are too inhuman and come from different genetic sources, so they just turn into pure fuel and don't regenerate. These are the "superhumans" that Master Ultima has been rounding up, and neither he nor the characters who later take over this project (like Satomi) will give up this "fresh source of fuel" without a fight. It helps that since the movie demonized the Bureau for harboring kaiju, he can use that to play into more anti-kaiju and anti-yokai sentiment. As the yokai's princess, Emi plans to take the city and create a new nation for her people, away from the human world's machinations. Jiro joins her side when he destroys an S Planetarian, declaring war on the "humanoid" superhumans. Now that he's fully accepted his origin as a kaiju, Jiro knows there is no going back. He is the monster that Satomi will pit the world against, so he may as well use his status for good. We get many reminders this episode about "justice," but Emi also suggests that fighting for friends, family, and love might be an even worthier cause, making people stronger. Jiro seems to choose both when he takes her side to fight for the beasts and monsters.
In the middle of all this, we lose two important characters: Raito, who sacrifices himself for Jiro's cause as the security forces close in, and Earth-chan, seemingly depowered from a lack of calls for help, but actually another security force target. Earth-chan could possibly get better, but Raito is done for, using his tragic dying breath to beg Jiro to go on fighting for justice. I felt like his death could have had more impact, especially since he was one of the show's most human characters (despite, you know, being a robot). I can't tell if his send-off actually lacked emotional punch or if this episode is just so jam-packed with emotional highs and lows that it only felt that way by comparison.
The final episode is next week, and it could be the ultimate test of why Jiro is truly fighting. As Satomi and company set up for an epic battle, the remaining superhumans find themselves in opposition to Jiro, Emi, and their group of "monsters." After all, it's the goal of superhumans to destroy monsters for the betterment of humanity and children's dreams, and that's the part the powers-that-be have cast Jiro and Emi into. It'll be interesting to see how this all turns out, and what the show will conclude about the ideas it has presented.
Luckily, "Beast and Maiden" set up well for an action-packed grand finale. By taking care of most of the series' lingering questions, themes, and other "big ideas," it put Concrete Revolutio in the perfect position for a final episode full of beautifully animated battles. I hope it doesn't drop discussion of its bigger ideas completely, though—because even when they're a little half-baked, that's still the most interesting thing about this show. Concrete Revolutio has a lot to say, and I'm glad that this second half has figured out better how to say it.
Concrete Revolutio is currently streaming on Funimation.
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