by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
For the first 3/4 of “The Twelfth Moment”, I was shocked at how much I was enjoying Kokkoku's strangely melancholy finale. After the bizarre turn that last episode took, I had no idea what to expect for the show's last outing, especially with the series' antagonist inexplicably being turned into a baby in Juri's care. The development made little sense for Sagawa, and I was wary of how Kokkoku would handle suddenly having Juri's character arc become about her sudden case of motherhood in a world where time is permanently frozen.
Much to my surprise, this episode handles things almost expertly for most of its running time. I was admittedly disappointed to see every member of the cast except for Grandfather expelled from Stasis with so little fanfare (bye Shoko, we hardly knew ye), but it didn't take long for me to realize that paring down the story to focus purely on Grandfather and Juri makes perfect sense. They have always been Kokkoku's most consistently compelling characters, and there was real heartbreaking pathos to be found in their attempt to raise baby Sagawa all by themselves in the world of Stasis. Much of Juri's character development has been about her coming to terms with her looming solitude, and her final moments with her Grandfather before she forced him back into the normal world were some of the strongest of the series.
Her scenes raising Sagawa by herself were equally powerful, with days turning into weeks that turned into months of the two of them just trying to get by as the sole inhabitants of Stasis. It was kind of silly how the group handwaved baby Sagawa's potential connection to the former cult leader's villainous intent, and I still find Sagawa's entire character arc to be nonsensical, but I appreciated seeing Juri settle into her role as a mother all the same. It compounded the melancholy of her solitude, seeing her try her best to raise the baby even though she's well aware that he will eventually need to live in the unfrozen world.
After ejecting him from Stasis as well, Juri is finally alone, which is where the episode becomes its most powerful. Juri's solitary life in Stasis is essentially its own impactful short film. The show's aesthetics remain regretfully cheap, but the stilted animation and lack of music do kind of work with the quiet stillness that Stasis is supposed to evoke. We see Juri's optimism slip away as the year goes on, since no amount of alcohol or positive thinking can free her from a prison of frozen time. As her mind began to break and Juri slipped into the despair that consumed the other Heralds, I was genuinely curious to see if Kokkoku would go all out with its tragic ending or have Juri figure out a way to save herself.
Unfortunately, this is where the other quarter of the episode started, bringing with it a host of problems. In short, Juri's personal crisis is not resolved in either tragic or triumphant fashion; rather, Kokkoku goes for a true-blue deus ex machina and just pulls a magical solution out of thin air. You might remember the first scene from the first episode, where an unnamed blonde woman is visited by a Herald from Stasis before never being mentioned or seen again. Well, this is where that scene comes into play; the Herald is Juri, and the blonde woman that she summons into Stasis is an ageless person who was born with a Specter inside of her. It turns out that she married the man who made the Master Stone nearly two centuries before, and she just happens to have complete control over Stasis. After a brief conversation with a healed Juri, she sends our heroine back with a wave of her hand.
This is a shockingly cheap development, completely devoid of any decent setup or foreshadowing. I have no idea if it was done this way in the source material or not, but to have Juri just stumble upon the magical solution to all of her problems is a horrendously lazy conclusion that undermines much of what made this finale so effective. I will admit that I enjoyed the final scenes, where Juri makes her way home and we see a montage of the better life the Yukawas are living in their post-Stasis world. I have come to like these characters in spite of Kokkoku's shortcomings, and I'm glad to see them live out their happy ending; I just wish that the show had actually earned that conclusion instead of relying on the cheapest of shortcuts to get there.
At the end of everything, Kokkoku stands as a very flawed show that took a solid premise and a strong cast of characters and proceeded to waste much of its time with them. The first half of the series was decidedly its strongest; it's just a shame that Kokkoku couldn't deliver a payoff that lived up to the weeks it devoted to setup. I wouldn't call Kokkoku a complete waste of time, but it isn't a show I can easily recommend to any but the most forgiving of potential viewers. Unlike those who live in the world of Stasis, anime fans only have so much time in their day, and there are much better series than Kokkoku to spend it with.
KOKKOKU is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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