Oddly, the final episode reminded me somewhat of first season Veronica Mars. The stories are somewhat similar: One person's quest to find out the truth about someone's death shows how that death has effected everyone else. Asuka appears a lot in this episode, and after studying her life as intently as we had in the series to date, I greeted her re-appearance almost with a feeling of seeing an old friend. (Also, very reminiscent of Lily in Veronica Mars. She is one of my favorite characters, for all that she spent the entire series dead.)
As Tomomi told the story of what really happened with Aizawa Askua I felt more and more what a loss it was that this person was gone from that world. Up until that point I hadn't really felt the story to be one speaking out against suicide. And yet there it was, firm and strong. Showing, not really telling, for all of Asuka's explanation of why she wouldn't commit suicide. Made all the more ironic by Asuka's death, in the end, not being suicide. That she died saving someone who, at that point in time, did not want to live. The contrast between Asuka, who had so little and yet found things to live for despite that, and Tomomi, who had so much and yet emotionally felt so impoverished. In the end we see that in many regards Asuka's unintentional sacrifice was for nothing. Tomomi, while still among the living, in most ways was killed by Asuka's death. "You to me, and me to you" ended up being more true than anyone would have imagined at first.
"Can I change the world?" The answers the students give to this question run such a wide range. And yet all of them are true, each from a different perspective. Much to think about here. Did Asuka change the world? Her being there caused change, no doubt about it. Perhaps in the end that is the final answer.
"We keep living, in memories and in dreams."
Asuka's final words are... Well, what I watch Japanese dramas for, really. The purity of human experience, stated calmly, born from pain and irony and pathos, stating clearly that what one is experience now is nothing -- and everything. That in the end "you just go on."
This is a series I will be keeping. I'm glad that I watched it, it was well worth the journey. There is more to be said on it -- but in the end, like most Japanese literature, is meant to be experienced, not discussed. Or, rather, my words are always going to be inadequate to encompass it.
So, yeah, like everyone I know I started watching it for Igarashi, and to some extent Mizushima Hiiro. (That last bit didn't last for very long, since I didn't much care for his character, and the geeky floppy hair really didn't work for me.) So, his character... To me Otoya didn't seem so much a character as a force of nature. A representation of something fey and feral and outside the realm of human understanding, there, cutting through all the constraints and customs that people build for themselves to hide from what they don't want to face. Justice incarnate, slightly mad, implacable and impossible to move from his aims. While not a comfortable person to be around, I almost have to respect him for being firm to his beliefs and willing to act on the regardless of the consequences. He saw a serious problem and acted to address it, never wavering. And while his means are outside the realm of acceptable, he achieved his goals. The bullying stopped. He achieved his ends.
Oddly, I think he and Asuka are somewhat similar in their willingness to sacrifice themselves for others. Even Kaji, for all his talk of being willing to die for his students wavered on his course of action multiple times, which made his sacrifice in the end seem lessened somehow.
I love the sequence where Otoya singles out all the teachers in turn, calling them on their hypocrisies. Or, rather, speaking their truths for them. It sometimes takes someone as far out of society as Otoya is (and with as little to lose as Otoya has) to cut through all the crap that everyone shoves out there to distract from the realities. And this situation is one that required someone coming in and cutting through the crap so that everyone could let go, understand, accept, and move on.
(As scary as it is to admit, I think some of what I like about Otoya is that he will call people on their truths, even though it isn't acceptable. I've had times in my life where I've been that person. It's not a comfortable nor an easy place to be. And yet sometimes it is needed, and the times I've done it it has turned things around for the better -- for all that I tihnk it makes everyone, myself included, uncomfortable.)
Starting from about episode seven or so I had the feeling that Otoya would prove to be the key to unraveling the whole story. At first I was a little disappointed that he really didn't end up being that important. Tomomi ended up coming forward with her story all on her own. It wasn't until the end credits were rolling and we saw the scene again when Otoya made his comment that the person at fault for Asuka's death should be punished that I realized that, no, he was the one who in the end brought about the resolution. His comment there prompted Tomomi to come forward.
I think I'm going to have to re-watch this series a few more times to catch all the subtleties that went flying past without me realizing it. I'd be tempted to translate it if I wasn't already so tied down with other stuff. (And I think someone else already did...?) There's a lot to this series, and it would be worth digging into it to the level that translating requires.
To some extent I was disappointed that there wasn't more back story on what made Otoya the way he is. And yet... It's almost unnecessary. His character almost isn't something to be understood. He's just something that is. Similarly I almost don't care that what happened to him afterward was never addressed. Undoubtedly he is sent back to prison/rehab and left to while his days away alone, comforted by the knowledge that his actions made a difference -- made things better. Ironically, he may be the only person in the entire series who can sleep soundly at night with that knowledge. He lives in a world of absolutes, black and white, while everyone else is doomed to live in the grey shadows.
Igarashi himself was lovely in this. I was a little dubious at first, given how little he appeared even once he did finally show up. Then we started seeing more of Otoya, and... wow. The bit part he did in HanaDan ep. 1 seemed too much like Mirai, and there just wasn't a lot of him in Kuuneru Tokoro Sumu Tokoro, so I wasn't sure he could pull off any part that wasn't fundamentally chipper, upbeat Mirai. Otoya certainly convinced me otherwise. He was positively creepy any time he appeared. He'd show up and I'd simultaneously do the fangirl flail -- while putting as much furniture between me and the TV as possible. Oddly enough I think I like him doing creepy, psychotic better. At any rate, I will certainly be following whatever else he does in the future. (Wasn't a lot of doubt about that anyway, but there's even less now.)