Re:CREATORS Episode 21
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Looks like my supposition last episode was correct: this is the story's dramatic climax and the final episode will just be wrap-up. But that's totally fine; some series need more wrap-up than others, and this is definitely one of them. Besides, it's not like the climax got short-changed for want of time. Everything that needed to happen for the story to get a proper dramatic resolution happened, carried out with a satisfying and impressive degree of delicacy, even if that's accomplished by largely dodging one of the big underlying issues of the scenario.
Delicacy is definitely required for a climax that revolves around a girl having committed suicide. The script doesn't use this opportunity to comment on Setsuna's decision to end her life either in specific or in regard to greater societal implications, but it does see Setsuna explain how she felt about the world candidly, along with her regret that unloading those feelings into Altair may have twisted a creation she clearly loved into something that she never intended. This Setsuna seems to understand that just because she hated and cursed the world doesn't mean that she understood the bigger picture, and she lays that sentiment out for Altair in more carefully chosen words. Altair's inability to understand this was what led her to become a villain, although Setsuna also tells Altair that the labels of hero and villain don't mean anything in this complicated emotional situation.
What impressed me most about the episode-long conversation between the two is that it doesn't rely on cheap angles. Setsuna isn't so much trying to talk Altair out of destroying the world; that would immediately register as insincere. Instead, this is a pure heart-to-heart talk, where Setsuna claims original creation authority but doesn't hold it over Altair, as she fully concedes that Altair has been shaped by the hopes and desires of others who have contributed to the powers she possesses. (It's much the same sentiment as parents admitting that their child has grown beyond their influence.) She uses this to impress on Altair that it's proof she is broadly loved as a character despite being this story's villain, doubling down on what Hikayu said at the end of last episode in a much more positive way. Implicit in this is that Altair is destroying her secondary creators by destroying the world, which is a point made stronger by not stating outright. Setsuna instead impresses on her that garnering all those powers from many contributors actually makes her “the king of the weak,” which may be the single most devastating blow to Altair's mindset. Setsuna's ultimate message is that Altair needs to embrace what helped create her, and by doing so step beyond what Setsuna was able to do. I suspect those words are coming from the heart for Rei Hiroe.
The handling of this scene offered plenty of opportunities for missteps, but the writing nimbly avoids them all before capping the scene off with a serious gut-punch. Since this is a recreation of the moment where Setsuna committed suicide, the fateful train is still coming. The conflict where Altair tries to destroy the oncoming train and it steadfastly refuses to stay destroyed is neat conceptually, as is the notion that Altair can fight fate at all because of the support of audience sentiment, but this is the one place where the episode slightly overplays its hand, stretching out that brief moment where Setsuna jumps in front of the train without actually freezing the scene. Still, the result of that scene is a satisfying resolution: Altair uses the Holopsicon to create a new world for her and Altair, where Altair creates the substance while Setsuna creates her story. And it's the same setting that we see in the second opener!
The episode isn't done though, because the final scene, though it mostly features Altair and Setsuna in their new world, is actually about Setsuna and Sota. One detail that I had initially missed last episode was that this Setsuna wasn't wearing the red-framed glasses she was wearing in the original version of the train station scene at the beginning of the series; she's wearing the glasses she borrowed from Sota in the flashback in episode 11. The meaningful potency of that subtle little detail finally becomes obvious in this episode's emotional penultimate scene, where Setsuna unloads one of the series' biggest reveals: Setsuna specifically created Altair to show Sota. In Sota's tear-stained response, he recounts his original admissions of jealousy, how he didn't think he was fit to walk beside a great talent like Setsuna and wonders if, by creating her to resolve this story, he finally caught up to her. I think it's safe to say that he did.
How much of the Setsuna we see was Sota's creation, though? We are dealing with reality-altering powers after all, so did Sota actually create her, or did his designs combined with Magane's power instead allow a brief window for the spirit of the actual Setsuna to manifest? The series hasn't dealt with ghosts before, and Nakanogane frankly claims that bringing back the dead isn't possible, but I wonder, since this Setsuna definitely seemed to know the mind and feelings of the original better than Sota could have. I don't expect we'll see a clear answer on that in the final episode, and I would be a little surprised if Ei Aoki or Rei Hiroe ever explain one way or the other. I hope they don't, as this would be a fun point to endlessly speculate about. And what did that flash at the end mean, which looked so much like what was on Sota's tablet back in episode 1?
I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the musical accompaniment for this episode. While it's always been pretty good throughout the series' run, it was a home run in this episode. It plays a major role in this episode's emotional impact, both setting the tone beautifully and segueing perfectly into the closer.
I have sometimes criticized this series for being too talky, but this is not one of those cases. Re:Creators set itself up for a powerful climax and it fully delivers.
Re:CREATORS is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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