Fena: Ending Explained (or How To RUIN an Anime In One Episode)by Michael Basile,
For every incredible final episode that pushes an already good anime to greater heights, there are just as many terrible ones that completely ruin what came before, and 2021 has already had its fair share of stinker finales. The most recent example of this would be Fena: Pirate Princess, whose last episode completely upends any chance of this once solid story having any chance of a redeemable finish. Join us as we take a deep dive into what happened in this anime's final episode to lead it so far astray, as well as what it looked like it was trying to do in the first place. This is Fena: Pirate Princess -- Ending Explained.
Before we get to the catastrophe that is episode 12, we need to break down what Fena is at its core and the ideas it relies on for its first 11 episodes. Fena: Pirate Princess is an action/adventure anime about a young woman, Fena, who gets swept up in a mysterious quest surrounding a stone left behind by her late father that supposedly will lead them to a destination known as Eden. Fena travels to the far reaches of the globe as she's guided to potential treasure by a band of pirates descended from a legendary group of assassins. It's a thrilling high seas adventure that feels a bit like Yona of the Dawn by way of Pirates of the Caribbean, and while the latter certainly is enticing, it's the former that really got me invested in an otherwise fairly standard story.
Right from her first scene, Fena is introduced as a strong-willed and rambunctious young girl whose dream is to claim her own independence and be free from her life as a piece of property, and once she escapes, she does all within her power to stay on the course that she chooses for her life. That's not to say she starts off totally independent and deftly taking on every challenge in her way. Again, this is much more Yona of the Dawn than Snow White with the Red Hair. Fena certainly has the right mindset for it, but she's still starting off at the bottom, and so it appears as though the series will show her gradually working her way up towards being fully independent, with the smaller details of her character effectively working toward this concept.
Her general attitude towards the journey as a whole portrays her in a fairly empowering light. When being given the quest to uncover the mysteries of the stone, Fena is never once told that she has to go on this journey. Rather, she accepts it willingly as part of her quest to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants to lead. While on her voyage, she continuously tries to find more ways to be helpful to those who are supporting her, though often with hilariously bad results. Even Yukimaru, her childhood friend that she's in love with, tells her on multiple occasions that he will be there to support her whether she chooses to continue their journey or ditch it entirely. Yes, there are people who suggests that one option is better than the other, but Fena is still the one who ultimately chooses whether she wants to pursue the legacy left to her by her father, making her decision to do so much more empowering that simply saying “here's the quest that you have to go on,” further strengthening not only her own character, but also how she relates to the characters around her.
The anime's main antagonist, Abel, also plays into the idea of Fena's identity and independence. Abel is a chivalrous and noble British soldier chasing after our lead heroine, as he too wishes to find Eden. However, his reasons for doing so skew much more personal and more obsessive. Abel was in love with Fena's mother, Helena, who was burned at the stake for her role in this mysterious plot, and so he believes that by going to Eden, he will be able to see Helena again to find out if she loved him in return, and his desire for this turns into a mad obsession for which he destroys everything in his path. When Abel sees Fena, all he can see is Helena, and so he in turn uses Fena as a tool for his own ends just as many other men do throughout this story. He may present himself as more chivalrous, but at his core he is no different in how he treats her, and so he ultimately meets an untimely end as he's struck down by Yukimaru, who respects Fena as her own person. A man obsessed with love projecting his desires onto Fena regardless of her own identity is a perfect villain for a story about a girl slowly gaining more autonomy and personal agency.
There are a few notable hiccups though in terms of Fena's image as a strong, independent character. The most obvious moments are whenever Fena interacts directly with any clue towards her destination. When it comes to knowing the right direction or how to unlock certain passageways, it seems as though Fena is being guided by some force other than herself. In these instances, it doesn't really seem like Fena is the one making her own decisions, and thus her agency is put into question. It isn't directly stated that this is the case so you could still make the argument that it's her own intuition, but it becomes much harder to argue this point as we get deeper into the story and it's much more obvious that something other than her own thoughts are guiding her decisions. It becomes a bit of a double-edged sword whose final interpretation can only be decided once the story is complete.
All that said, despite all of the times Fena has to be saved by someone else or is prompted toward a decision by something other than her own desires, it still felt like she was making the choices most of the time. She doesn't have the physical power to defend herself, but it's through the relationships she forged with those around her and her drive to push forward into her own future that she's able to arrive at the end of this journey to see what awaits her. All this anime needed to do for its grand finale was present us with an emotionally significant prize to make the journey worthwhile, and, more importantly, give Fena one final obstacle to overcome and have her conquer it with her own hands. Something to cement the idea that this story really was about Fena becoming an independent person who is strong enough to choose on her own what direction her life should go in.
Ok, so that was definitely a lot of setup, but it's kinda necessary to explain just how insulting the final episode is, so here we go. At the end of episode 11, after Abel is defeated, Cody arrives and reveals himself to be an omniscient being known as the Observer, which makes sense in hindsight since Cody was constantly referring to Fena as “Alba Regina,” which is Latin for “white queen.” The Observer also reveals that he can take on different forms, with one of these forms being Fena's father, which plays into the major plot twist that's about to be revealed.
It's here that all the buildup from the past 11 episodes completely unravels as he explains that Fena's entire journey, nay, her entire life, was predetermined by fate, constructed by him in order to lead her to Eden for his own purpose. Not only that, but the Observer also reveals that he has been doing this for generations of women in Fena's family, including her mother Helena and even Joan of Arc, who it turns out is one of Fena's ancestors and was the one influencing Fena whenever she was solving the cryptic puzzles that she encountered on her journey, and that they were just as controlled by this fate as Fena is.
All of Fena's choices up until now lose all significance as we learn that she was never in control of her actions. The part of her that was motivated to seek out her father's legacy was simply a spiritual vestige implanted in her by an outside force. This is also where the ambiguity of certain actions she takes comes back as that double-edged sword I mentioned. Now that we know for certain that this was all planned in advance, any gray area of her decision making automatically falls back on her actions being driven by fate, with no room left to argue that she was the one in control of her own thoughts. So what, then, was the point of all of this? Why did the Observer send Fena on this journey in the first place and guide her all the way to Eden?
To judge all of humanity of course!
Apparently, Fena's sole purpose in life was to come to Eden so that she could decide whether humanity should be wiped out and restarted, or spared so that it can continue on in its ways. The Observer even pulls on scenes of humanity's cruelty as evidence that they will eventually wipe themselves out anyway, and so, according to him, resetting with a small batch of pure souls would be more ideal. He then tempts her with the idea that all her friends will be killed if the world continues as is, and even promises that she would get to keep Yukimaru around as her “mate,” though the rest of the crew's survival isn't guaranteed.
Not only is this unbearably clichéd for an anime ending, but it also has absolutely nothing to do with anything else from this story. There's no subplot or lingering thematic idea about the weight of humanity's sins presented at any point prior to this moment. Fena doesn't care about the moral pitfalls of humanity or whether the human race will eventually destroy itself. She just wants to explore the world with her friends. It's an absolute nonsense concept that completely derails the story and has nothing to do with Fena's journey.
Moreover, those scenes of humanity's cruelty that the Observer uses as evidence are events that were directly caused by the Observer's influence over Fena's family. If Helena and Joan of Arc truly were under the Observer's influence, then their actions that led to them being burned at the stake were directly the fault of the Observer. Obviously humans shouldn't be burned alive for supposed witchcraft, but the Observer knew that this would happen, and so setting them up for such a painful death makes him complicit in humanity's suffering by preying on mob mentality. He's creating his own evidence to retroactively back up his thesis.
As atrocious as this concept is, I still think that this ending could have been saved simply by Fena making her own final decision, which in this instance would be to completely reject the divine plan laid out for her. Have Fena acknowledge that she was the one who made all the choices in her life that led her here and rebuke the idea that her fate was preordained. Have her deny the Observer of any choice at all and tell him to do it himself, return to Yukimaru and the others with the satisfaction that she chose to live her life as she wanted to, and then sail off into the sunset. Even this late in the game, this story could have been saved. And yet, once again, this episode continues to make the absolute worst choices by forcing Fena to pick from this binary that she has no investment in.
ON TOP OF THAT, the Observer reveals that upon making her decision, Fena will have her memory wiped because the maiden shouldn't have to live with the burden of this choice, which is one of the most contrived and dissatisfying reasons for a memory wipe I've ever seen. It forces a complete reset on Fena because of a decision she had no choice in, but must bear all the consequences for. And yet, this episode continues to frame this as a good thing via images of her friends telling her how much she's grown along the way and encouraging her to settle on a final choice. This finale feels like it's kicking me in the ribs while still wearing a big dumb smile on its face, asking me why I'm not seeing this as bittersweet when in reality it's just downright depressing.
Fena goes with the totally obvious choice of letting everyone live, because why on Earth would she choose to kill off everyone except Yukimaru? The two share a tearful goodbye, Eden disappears, and Yukimaru finds Fena on the beach, with Fena having lost her memories, symbolized by her silver hair turning black. The episode then attempts to end on a happier note by having Yukimaru and friends retrace Fena's journey in the hopes of reviving her lost memories. Right before the last cut to black, Yukimaru finally confesses his love to Fena, to which Fena responds that she's been waiting for those words, possibly indicating that this confession might have finally restored her memories. Not that it makes this ending any better though since all of this memory search was condensed into a 2-minute montage with no emotional weight to it, nor does it do anything to remedy that awful theological mess that caused said memory loss. This ending is completely and utterly broken in almost every way.
To quote Arkada of Glass Reflection: “the ending is paramount.” An ending has the power to completely change your entire view on a story because it has the final word on what the story meant in the end, and with Fena, it meant throwing away an endearing heroine's search for independence and purpose via a “God did it” word vomit finale, sapping every ounce of thrill and excitement from what had once been a fun pirate romp.
My disappointment is immeasurable, and this anime is ruined.
Thanks to all of you for watching. If you enjoyed this video, be sure to like and subscribe and follow Anime New Network on Twitter for more great anime content, and if you wanna see more from me you can check me out at Ember Reviews on YouTube and Twitter.
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