Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Sub. DVD 3 - Bittersweet Decisions
Hazumu, Yasuna and Tomari are getting along much better now that rivals Yasuna and Tomari have begun to understand each other. When they catch a glimpse of how the necessity of choosing is torturing Hazumu, Yasuna proposes a pact to maintain the "just friends" status quo. That kind of romantic strain doesn't just go away however, and it isn't long before it becomes obvious that the status quo is tearing them apart inside, hitting Yasuna particularly hard since Hazumu and Tomari are all she has in the world. Hazumu is faced with the dire necessity of making the most important decision of her indecisive life, but can she really break the heart of either one of the two people closest to her?
This third volume marks the end of the debut title in Media Blasters' new "Yuri Fan" label and the time when it is customary for romance series to break out the emotional fireworks and put the squeeze on their audience's feelings. Kashimashi doesn't disappoint; it isn't so gentle that it's above making an unabashed appeal to the emotions, and its climax is as devastating as it is warming.
As before, the series draws you in gently, seducing with its warm palette and beautiful soundtrack, its characters only growing cuter as we grow more attached to them. It builds sympathies and emotions unobtrusively with carefully animated, subtly shifting expressions, expressive eyes, and meaningful glances. By this time it is difficult not to love the characters beyond all reason, and the town that provides all of those evocative backgrounds has become reassuringly familiar. And then everything is placed on the rack and stretched until it breaks in a series of wrenching emotional confrontations that are made all the more so by our attachment, incubated in the series' warmth. Many series build a comfortable dynamic and then upset it for dramatic effect, but very few of them have ever executed both stages as flawlessly as this. The foundation for the emotional crash is carefully laid by those same damnable expressions, eyes, and glances; watching Hazumu, Yasuna and Tomari as their bonds unravel aches; and the consequences of that unraveling are heartbreaking.
If the success rate is any indicator, love triangles are one of the most impossibly difficult things to bring to a satisfying conclusion. Build your triangle well and conclude it definitively, breaking one character's heart, and you risk pissing half your audience off. Try to end the triangle with everyone happy, and you risk a cheap and dramatically impotent conclusion. Of the two the first is definitely preferable (and features the best chance of success—the only series in memory that successfully pulled off the latter was the Fruits Basket manga), and if Kashimashi had ended when the television series did, then it would have fallen solidly into that category. But unfortunately there's one episode to go, an OAV released after the television series completed its run. There are many ways that that episode could have been used—as a coda to explore unresolved relationship issues, as a side-story, or just as an excuse to play around with the characters a bit before they're laid to rest. Instead the writers make an ill-advised attempt to remove the "bitter" from "bittersweet" by tacking on some decidedly unconvincing plot developments, making the deadly mistake of trying to end with everyone happy and smiling, and in the process sadly cheapening the emotions and decisions leading up that point. It isn't as awful as it could have been—the episode has its own strengths (seeing a more active Yasuna is a joy) and there isn't any polygamy or plot resetting—but the let-down is still tangible.
The volume's sole extras are another pair of voice actor interviews, this time featuring Ryoko Shintani (Jun Puu), Yui Horie (Yasuna), Yukari Tamura (Tomari), and Kana Ueda (Hazumu). They are fairly conversational in nature and together run some thirty minutes.
After a second volume during which having fun with the characters took precedence, the third volume of Kashimashi gets right down to the business of turning your heart to strawberry jelly. It focuses its considerable skills—beauty that is neither glossy nor artificial, a huggable cast, simple music that cuts like a scalpel—to that one end, creating a deeply satisfying conclusion with all of the vicarious emotional thrills you could possibly want. If you must watch the last episode, just pretend that the series ended with episode twelve afterward. I know I intend to.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Everything in the first three episodes.
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