To preface this I want to point out one of the popular arguments defending Juuni Taisen and the complaint it addresses. Many people are annoyed that Juuni Taisen broadcast when each warrior would die because the robs the death game premise of the show of any surprises. The counter-argument (henceforth the reverse zodiac argument) is that this sign posting is prevalent throughout various aspects of the show so it’s clearly being done on purpose – ergo the previous criticism is a dumb one. Admittedly this counter-argument has a major flaw to me, but what the hell, it did help make the case that perhaps Juuni Taisen would go somewhere interesting and I was all for that. As it happens Juuni Taisen went to one of the most boring places imaginable, there will be spoilers.
It’s actually kind of amazing how big of a letdown the final episode of Juuni Taisen was. I mean my favorite character had already died so it wasn’t like I was planning on being super impressed but given that source material comes NisioisiN, a man who I am a big fan of, I was sort of looking forward to see where we would end up. The conclusion is this, Nezumi wins the tournament as the reverse zodiac argument predicts and spends the entire final episode deciding on the wish he’ll be granted. Keeping in mind that the Juuni Taisen committee appears to have god level powers, like clearing out a huge city in a day, you might also ponder what exactly you would wish for. Nezumi takes his sweet time and for a while it is interesting, not because of Nezumi but because of what it reveals about the rest of the 12 Zodiac warriors, he ultimately reaches the lamest conclusion imaginable – he has his memories of the whole event stripped away and goes on living his normal, boring life.
It’s a wish that sort of makes sense in the context of Nezumi as a character but all it really does is confirm that Nezumi is the most boring motherfucker in the entire show. I did kind of like how he had 99 wishes and then formed counter-arguments against all of them but ultimately what he settles on is nothing short of the biggest metaphorical blue-ball of an ending I’ve ever seen. The only really interesting things about Nezumi in this episode are how well his crippling indecision matches his power and ironically it seems like the wish he really needed was a wish one of the other warriors already wanted, specifically Chicken’s desire for self confidence.
When it comes to Nezumi’s power I’m a little confused. It’s mostly portrayed as if he can see 100 different outcomes in advance based on what decisions he takes but the fact that other fighters remember him in a deja vu sense means he probably, to quote the comments, “pulled a Subaru.” My best guess is that it’s a bit of both because that’s the only way this disparity between how it was shown in episode 11 and how people remember him throughout the show. In any case it makes sense as to why he’s constantly second guessing his own wishes and desires, because it seems like he can’t use his power to see how that would go. Even if he can, he did spell out that he can come across events which even a hundred solutions isn’t enough for. Or maybe it’s because he can act on any desire no matter how base, misanthropic or good – in opposition to how everyone else might have similar desires and never act on then because they know they are wrong – that maybe Nezumi doesn’t really have a grasp on right or wrong. In retrospect trying to dig into the problems of Nezumi’s head is a actually a lot of fun, it’s just a shame his own solution is so boring.
And that truly is the tragedy of Juuni Taisen in a nutshell. It does a superb job on the character front and then the story of the contest falls into shambles. Tora, with her transformation from a righteous teen to a drunken monster, followed by an attempt at redemption, was my personal favorite but I was quit interested in all of the character stories on display, be it the cruel nihilism of the Dragon and Snake Twins, Sheep’s past glories contrasted against his desires to protect the future of his grandkid, even Boar’s story of destroying her own family from within – all of these were fascinating. And the end did a good job bring some extra flair to some of the less explored characters – Dotsuku in particular was made way more interesting when he revealed that he was raising a girl had been sold off to presumably be a sex slave and that he worked at a preschool. And I loved Boar’s “I want a harem of 3.5 billion men” which is I guess, assuming this takes place on Earth and the population is roughly 7 billion, is Boar’s way of saying ‘I want all men to adore me’. Maybe this whole farce of a death game is NisioisN’s roundabout way of saying the journey matters more than the destination but even so I’d really rather this had gone down another path.
Because what I meant by my weird ass title was not, ‘this show is a master class in making the worst show ever made and I’ll prove it to you,’ but rather this show was really, genuinely great and I loved it, right up until the final moment. I guess what I’m saying is that Juuni Taisen was Mass Effect and the finale was Mass Effect 3’s ending. I was mad enough at the ending that I started writing this within a minute of finishing the episode, and now that I’m just shy of a thousand words talking about it my anger is replaced by disappointment. The problem is that the story of the events of Juuni Taisen, the contest happening in the present was botched. It was the stories of the character’s pasts and what was in their heads that was truly interesting, and it’s a shame to see such technical skill in executing that being bolted to a death game that doesn’t even really matter. And the result? Boredom. What could and by all rights should have been a gripping death game was rendered boring and meaningless. I know NisioisiN is an oddball but I think he really could have capitalized on more straightforward storytelling to make this great. Nobody gives a rat’s ass that the people die in the reverse order of the Zodiac animals, cut that shit out make and the tournament more interesting. Because credit where it’s due the characters are interesting, and that’s almost all you need to make a tournament great. But that almost is so crucial and Juuni Taisen drops the ball on it so spectacularly that it drags the entire show down into a failure which sparks nothing but an odd mix of conflicting feelings about the show overshadowed by a clinically detached boredom coloring the whole experience. Ugh, fuck it I’m done, I hope you enjoyed this confused, rambling review. See you in the next one.