Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
by Lauren Orsini,
It's the end of Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation! Kudos to everyone who got this far. We've had our ups (a fascinating premise and a great but underutilized soundtrack), and our downs (a confusing sequence of events, tons of characters who were never properly introduced, and a plot that makes no sense). Is there anything salvageable here at the end, when the show finally shows itself out?
To be honest, I think the production values were higher for this final episode than they have been for the past several. It reminds me a lot of the first three or so episodes of the show, where scenes and plot elements from popular anime were mimicked and re-purposed as if to say, “This is what you guys want, right?” Unfortunately, copying and pasting without regard for context never turns out well. Take Tohru and Tohru's final showdown, for instance. There's really no reason for them to be fighting. They've truced twice now but Frontier Tohru is always the one to break it off. I liked it better when Other Tohru was a complex character whose opinions were clearly formed based off his own life experiences. I don't see where he acquired the mindset to spout lines like, “My evolution is a power that's only meant to kill!” or “You sought salvation, I only sought death.” Dude, listen to yourself: you even sound like a bad guy. I thought Other Tohru's whole raison d'etre was to save as many orphans as possible.
The fight itself is dramatically choreographed with lots of pauses for effect, slow-motion bullet paths, and mid-battle poses that would rival Jojo's. Everyone, including plenty of characters that I swear were never properly introduced, nonchalantly waits for the Tohrus to finish. There's a bit of self-awareness from the big guy who yells at the Tohrus, “Don't fight just because it feels like what you're supposed to do.” All these other characters, from both universes, don't seem to harbor any animosity toward one another. This fight is totally pointless, and it involved warping Other Tohru's personality in order to justify it. Finally, the Kyokas both get involved, arguing about what Tohru is really like. Duh, of course your Tohrus are different; they are doppelgangers who've had different experiences. There was a time I was hoping for Gunslinger Stratos to stretch and explore the doppelganger premise, but here they seem to get caught up in the particulars.
The battle does finally end, but only after our Tohru gives a cookie-cutter speech about how war is bad and destroys the giant Energy Cube that the defeated Timekeepers left behind. Everyone disappears from Japan 2015 while resolving all their little dramas. Jonathan and Matsurika, if you even remember who those underused characters are, promptly fall in love. Everyone fades away into dust, just like my memories of this show will.
However, now it's time for some praise. Gunslinger had a cool beginning, a confusing middle, and an ending that wrapped up everything succinctly. After fading away, Tohru meets Purple-haired Girl in a liminal space that looks like an airplane hangar full of glowing fortresses (?) and names her Miki in the most light-novel moment imaginable. “I don't remember my name; come up with a name for me, Tohru?”
After that, Tohru wakes up at home and goes to school with Kyoka. I like the way the show parallels exact scenes from the first episode. In this episode, you can even see a chalkboard inscribed with the quote about time travel that is used to preface the entire show. It's like nothing happened, like the middle of the show was all a bad dream, except Shidune is still gone and everyone remembers what Tohru has done. Kyoka is quite the mastermind when she proposes that Tohru become president of the world, something suggested back in episode one, and then recruits all their dangerous friends to help. As unbelievable as it sounds, Tohru does accomplish this goal (though I imagine Kyoka had a heavy hand in it), and the show ends with World President Grandpa Tohru hand in hand with his granddaughter, Miki. So the show WAS telegraphing something when it implied Tohru and Miki were related! Thank goodness.
I still have plenty of questions. How did destroying the Time Cube separate and preserve the Frontier history and our history? Why didn't Tohru use it to make a time machine to fix stuff, as Miki cleverly suggested? Why did the destruction of the Timekeepers themselves resolve the question of a doomed future? The absolute finality of the show's conclusion suggests that I'll have to figure out these questions for myself. The confusions of this show have faded away like so much Desert Sand Syndrome into a solid ending, and when it comes to Gunslinger Stratos, that's honestly the best I could have hoped for.
Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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