What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? This light novel sleeper hit from last season has an incredibly unwieldy title, but was it worth watching in the end? This week in anime, Nicholas and Michelle finish what they started with their weekly discussions back in spring.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read ANN's weekly coverage of WorldEnd (Suka Suka) here!
So hey, Suka Suka finished up, huh?
It sure did! Now that WorldEnd has reached the End part of its title, I'm wondering who I'd recommend it to.
That's a good question. The show was arguably the most discussed non-sequel of last spring's season, after all.
I hesitate to call it good, but there are definitely things in there that explain some of its popularity to me. It makes total sense that the light novel series took off for the light novel-reader crowd. As far as those sorts of stories go, the writing's not awful.
I do see the appeal of certain aspects, though I can't say the show ever really hooked me personally. Basically from the beginning I was kind of on a different wavelength from what it was broadcasting. The first episode had a lovely atmosphere and some wonderful individual moments, but from that point forward, it was always a bit of a struggle to really get into the story at hand. There's not many other anime I can think of that start with a lengthy montage set to a cover of Scarborough Fair, after all.
To me the biggest running problem with the show (at least in its early run) was that it failed to get me all that emotionally invested in its characters. For a story that's all about the tragic end (wwww), that's really a problem.
Yeah, that was something I struggled with for a good long while. Ctholly and Willem are solid characters on paper, but the execution of their relationship always faltered. See: the weird orgasmic massage scene ="D
Yeah, there's some rather gross otaku
stuff that pops up from time to time, but I'll get to that in a bit. There's an early scene where Willem, our snarky badass (but tortured!) hero, explains to Chtholly how to fight without being self-sacrificial. On paper it's fine (don't be so dedicated to heroism that you forget to live), but to me it felt kind of smug or condescending? Which soured me on the relationship from the start. I think the show really improved over time w/r/t Willem and Chtholly's relationship, but the patronizing undertones never quite went away.
Yeah, that's a big hangup. The intention is that Willem's keeping her at a distance to avoid getting hurt, but the effect in the moment is that he's pretty dismissive of her throughout the early episodes. I'd also argue it's a structural issue, because the teaching moment happens before we know about Willem's past beyond vague flashbacks, so on its face he's coming in from nowhere and immediately teaching her how to do something she's been trained her whole life for.
In retrospect it's less off-putting, knowing Willem's full backstory, but the show did not put its best foot forward early in its run. Most of my problems with Suka Suka are with the first half or so. The last arc I found really neat in concept but undeserving of its payoff, since the show up to that point failed so hard to build up its characters.
The show's issues sort of flip flop after a while, don't they? The early episodes have a habit of rushing through emotional beats in ways that undercut themselves - Willem learning Ctholly's squadron has been defeated, only for them to appear moments later to be reunited is probably the most glaring example.
Amen to that one.
But later episodes have the opposite problem, where they kind of just let the story's beats drag out aimlessly to fill time. We spend an entire episode building to the twist about the enemy monsters' true nature when the answer is made obvious the moment the topic is broached.
I wonder if we find it obvious and dragged out because we've seen this kind of story too many times before? Humans are the real monsters, we've been killing our own all along, yadda yadda. To newer viewers that might hit harder. Like, if I were 14 and just discovering anime, I might not have minded the extremely on-the-nose writing. The scene where Troll Nurse laments that the fairies are sent to die so young comes to mind.
Of course, that doesn't absolve the structural issues with the early episodes. Fifteen minutes of faffing about followed by two minutes of buildup and immediate payoff - eugh, I'm not sure that works from any angle. You brought up the part where Willem finds out about the failed mission, but it happens all over the place - when Chtholly's in a coma and immediately wakes up; when she pulls Willem aside to confess to him and he has all the emotional response of a tree stump, etc.
I guess if the faffing about is to your taste it could work - there were certainly individual moments that worked for me, even if the surrounding narrative left me cold. One of my favorite parts of the early episodes was Willem and Ctholly tuning her weapon on the cliffside, just having a heart to heart about what they want out of life and Willem promising to support her.
SukaSuka definitely has its moments. I found that scene pretty sweet, as well as a lot of the domestic scenes where we get to see the kids being kids. If nothing else, the show has a knack for coming up with quirky worldbuilding details. Lizard cinema is A++
Personally I loved the blood & viscera decorations for Troll Christmas
Though other times the worldbuilding got really clunky. Remember the episode where Willem beat up some Furry Racists?
Furry Racism episode was probably the worst example of Suka Suka's writing, yeah. The series has a decent grasp of big personal emotions, but complicated political issues... :'D
What do you mean? He beat up the bad guys. Racism Fixed
I think it comes down to the writing being supremely hamfisted. Which is kind of expected for a thing aimed at teenagers, lbr
Fair. I'd also argue a lot of the early problems are symptoms of the story keeping too many cards close to its chest. Like, a lot of the cast are stuck as simple archetypes for a lot of its run, because the show is intentionally keeping aspects of them secret until the time comes for Shocking Revelations. Ilthea probably gets hit hardest on that end.
I was surprised by how much I wound up liking her! It's a real shame the early episodes pigeonholed her as the source of gross lolicon jokes. But once her real motivations were revealed, I felt a lot for her struggle to make the sacrifice to live her predecessor's life. Just, y'know, the lolicon jokes.
That's probably my biggest problem with the show. The characters develop over time into interesting people to follow, but until around episode 7 or 8, I felt like I was grasping at straws for reasons to care about them. And by that point, so much gravitas had been build up around these people that it felt like it was coming on too strong.
That problem could've been avoided if the show had given us any insight into the characters' motivations before the halfway point. If not that, then at least flesh 'em out and make 'em feel like real people, with unique personalities and senses of humor and relationships. It's not good when your most believable characters are all in the background. Tiat's lizard movie obsession was funny! Like, more of that kind of thing for the main cast would've helped if the Big Emotional Revelations HAD to be saved for later.
There were genuinely a lot of pieces that could have worked well for me. As the series progresses, Ctholly and Willem do start to build a real rapport, as she holds her own in conversations and teases him in a lot of the ways he did to her early on. That's solid material to work with for your main couple. Ultimately, I'd say that's the show's biggest strength - it could craft individual scenes that were really strong, where the direction and (honestly pretty lovely) music came together to sell me on what would have otherwise fallen flat.
Yeah, the Scarborough Fair scene in the finale really sticks out to me. Cutting out the diegetic sound in intense battle scenes is one of my favorite directional tricks, goddammit! It's terrible and violent and sad and I wish I cared more about the characters involved :'D
It's a really striking sequence. The show's direction could be stellar when it was firing on all cylinders, and using the music to bookend the start and end of Ctholly and Willem's relationship was a superb choice. But...yeah. In a way it left me feeling frustrated that I couldn't get more invested in it. Like, this is all really good shit on paper that I should be eating up but I'm not! And that feeling kinda sucks.
It really needed a little structural rejiggering to work the way it wanted to. The heavyhanded writing's a holdover from the source material and imo acceptable for a work with that target audience, but those structural problems really dug its grave. Also, shitty lolicon jokes.
At least Eboncandle is gr8. Why didn't we get more of him, dammit. Don't tell me I gotta read the books.
Save that skull fetish for Fall when Magus Bride lands.
That said, I do think there's merit to the series overall - as to the question of whether I'd recommend it, my best answer is to try the first two episodes, and if you find yourself hooked, you'll probably love the rest. If not, well, it probably isn't going to change your mind enough by the end to be worth it.