by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
The Reflection ?
In many ways, The Reflection's final episode works pretty well as a season (and probably series) finale. It resolves the major conflict of the fight against Wraith nice and tidy with a bombastic superhero throwdown, nearly every cast member gets a moment to shine, and perhaps most importantly, those darn Japanese students finally get something to do. These magical girl pop-idols go by Ninth Wonder, though Ian ends up giving them the name of their real-world counterparts, 9Nine instead. (They sing the show's ending theme song.) It may be a little cheap, but 9Nine's debut does end up being satisfying, a perfectly silly way to give the rest of our team some backup as they take on the Dark Reflected and try to stop Wraith's evil plan from tearing the world apart and plunging it into literal Darkness.
On the other hand, this finale also highlights and exacerbates The Reflection's greatest weaknesses, namely its wonky animation and its shoddy plotting. I've long since come to terms with this show's unique aesthetic, and I'd even say I enjoyed it overall this season, but I won't lie; the action on display here wasn't very good. There were even several moments, such as when Metal Ruler diverted the Light to 9Nine to restore their powers, that looked downright amateurish. The action beats that didn't look outright sloppy managed to be exciting only in concept rather than execution, with the one truly effective moment being I-Guy's outright obliteration of the evil cyborg bat that killed his friends. I was able to get through the episode without being put off, but many will understandably dismiss this final episode for the same reasons I dismissed the show's premiere. For a superhero show, The Reflection is remarkably clumsy when it comes to action spectacle.
The finale also reminds us that while we might finally understand the gist of what Wraith was going for, there were many more story beats that either went unexplained, are being kept for a hypothetical second season, or just plain don't make sense. The final confrontation against Wraith is about as typically anime as you can get, with Ghost Eleanor and her friends defeating Wraith by owning their metaphorical Darkness and rejecting its influence with the power of positivity and friendship. None of this explains the actual workings of Dark Reflection and Light Reflection, nor does it address how and why specific people were touched by one or the other. The episode tries to toss out some halfhearted explanation involving how the Light Reflected escaped the Darkness by coming to terms with their own inner demons, but it fails to satisfy on either a narrative or emotional level. I was glad to see Eleanor come back to the real world, but I ultimately felt unsatisfied by the show's big picture storytelling.
Even the episode's big final moment is a mess; another Reflection? Really? What does that even mean? Will there be more Dark and Light Reflected? Will our current characters be affected, or does it just mean the potential introduction of new ones? The show never once bothered to explain how The Reflection works, so what should be a tense and climactic moment ends up falling flat.
That honestly wasn't all that surprising, since The Reflection has always worked best in small individual moments rather than as a contiguous narrative. For all of this show's faults, it managed to earn my investment with affecting character beats and a chemistry between its cast that worked in spite of the show's struggling writing. I was glad to see 9Nine finally get some time in the spotlight, and I was honestly touched by Eleanor and X-On's friendship. Ian's revenge worked as the conclusion to his own personal story, even if his relationship to the larger plot was always tangential at best. The Reflection is the very definition of a mixed bag, and for every person that finds something to love about it, another will have just as valid a reason to pass it by completely. It was an ambitious failed experiment on the part of Hiroshi Nagahama and his team, but I'll take an ambitious failure over a mediocre bore any day. Will it get the second season it foreshadows in those final moments of this episode? Honestly, I would be flabbergasted if it did; Nagahama and POW! Entertainment have given the world a uniquely divisive viewing experience, and I doubt we'll see anything like it again any time soon. For that reason alone, I'm glad to have watched The Reflection, even if its reach exceeded its grasp more often than not.
The Reflection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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