Review/discussion about: Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou — The Last Song
For the first season of Concrete Revolutio, I talked about Superman and how lame of a hero he is. I even went so far as to say that the (and I quote myself) “kryptonite will not be taking down Concrete anytime soon.”
Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou – The Last Song proved me wrong – and not about Superman.
Last Song resumes roughly where the first season left off. “Roughly” because the ordering of events is still purposely jumbled. Regardless, Jiro, Kikko, and the Superhuman Bureau are doing their best to fight for justice – in whatever way they know how.
When looking back on the first season, it impressed with its setup. The complex themes on morality, race, and control. The different arcs for each of its characters. This premise in general. It stood as a very strong, very interesting anime, proving that the “super” in “superhuman” applied to itself, too.
Unfortunately, Last Song forgets about that prefix.
Before getting into why this second season goes loses, it’s worth pointing out what it does right.
Once again, its main theme on justice – and its ties to those more nuanced ideas like morals and racism and control – are in full force. One episode focuses on how, despite all the justice and good and sacrifices of centuries past, the current wars and fighting made it worthless. Another episode focuses on losing a loved one and what that drives people to do. A different one focuses on a superhuman soldier with PTSD who does not (cannot) ever get the justice he deserves.
The different callbacks are also nice. Seeing Campe emerge from her chrysalis to resolve Human-man’s conflict or watching as the immortal family sneak away are tiny references to earlier material. But their inclusion can give added weight or tie-ins to the events at hand – sometimes both.
And some cool moments exist throughout its run. Learning that Jiro actually killed Rainbow Knight (by accident) and that a possible parallel world (this world) exists give the narrative some legs to run with.
So, what goes wrong?
The best way to understand second season’s missteps is by comparing it to its prequel. The first season had the benefit of being, well, a first season. All it realistically had to do was set everything up so that, when it passed the story baton, it did so with gusto and grace. Which it did.
More than this, though, the first season had a goal. It may not have seemed that way, what with the nonchronological plotline and the episodic material, but it clearly wanted to get somewhere: Jiro’s defection from the Superhuman Bureau.
The second season does not have the luxury of setting up; it must carry that baton to the finish line. Meaning, what’s left is its goal which it must reach. And that’s the problem: It has no goal.
Another way to put it is that Last Song is aimless. The show never makes it clear what it wants to do, and, as a result, this season feels like it either isn’t going anywhere or is going nowhere.
For instance, the show once again chooses an episodic format to showcase its ideas. In the first three episodes, it features (separately) a space cowboy, an ex-band-member-turned-giant, and a forest goddess. Some pretty interesting material. But, already, the anime isn’t making it clear where it wants to go.
Yet, for some reason, the anime carries this mindset for the next four episodes. So, for the first seven episodes of this eleven-episode season, it’s just one singular set of events after another. Sure, there are minute consequences that exist between them (mostly due to the jumbled ordering), but that end goal is nowhere in sight.
These episodes themselves also introduce a new problem. One of the driving forces is how split everybody is. The Superhuman Bureau versus the ad people versus the police versus Jiro. Sadly, a lot of the conflicts boil down to let’s-not-help-Jiro-but-actually-let’s-help-him scenarios. Not so much cat and mouse but guy-with-a-pet-mouse-that-misbehaves and mouse. It leads to repetition and a huge waste of potential as these separate sides never seem to fully clash.
With only four episodes left, Last Song realizes it needs that to happen, and so it finally has a goal to run to. But it’s already too late. For while the pacing in the first two-thirds is rather slow, the pacing in this last one-third is way too fast, leading to a heap of writing troubles.
Jiro’s all-important past is revealed by a magic helmet through a dream sequence.
Master Ultima’s death comes out of nowhere after he hasn’t been around for ages.
The reveal of the main nemesis being like Jiro in origin comes off as quite convenient.
Smaller details also add up. Jaguar saying out loud Jiro’s own words about Fuurouta reminding him of justice came off as sloppy. Fuurouta revealing to Kikko the secret about her contained demon powers, meant as more of a joke, ends up as a convenient and inconsequential remark.
Even something like the show toning down the nonchronological format hurts it. The jumbled contents made it more interesting due to the back-and-forth nature. This format also supported its convoluted themes. In this sequel, it understandably must (more or less) stay in the near-present. But that inherently reduces its intrigue levels.
The show’s final note (relevant word here) reveals why the sequel is named so. Like a song sung and heard everywhere, passed on from generation to generation, superhumans will live on. Heeding the call of those who need help. While the song metaphor feels a bit tacked on, it’s a nice message that ties to salvage what was left of this sprained story.
Not too much else to say differently about Last Song’s art and animation this time around. A small step down but nothing obtuse.
The character designs don’t flip-flop as often since the past isn’t depicted to the same extent as before, but what is given is still strong. Kikko’s longer hair and bigger bust make it easy to spot how much she has grown up. Koma’s cloak, multi-color eyes, and cat ears prove that the show still knows how to come up with an interesting (and cute) look. And Jaguar’s later new getup retains his original self while outwardly declaring his “betrayal.”
Despite reducing the comic-book braille flourish, artistic techniques persist. A wide color palette, shadowing, and the comedic reactions help to spice up the visuals once more.
As for actual animation, it does seem to falter somewhat. It’s not too noticeable throughout the run, but some scenes are subpar, like the ski jump. Plus, there are not as many major fights, and everyone likes to do a bit more talking and standing around than usual.
Still, the anime can argue otherwise: Raito gets an impressive scene again, Kikko uses her magic all the time, and the final battle has its fair share of fire, explosions, and duels.
Last Song commits its biggest blunder with its cast.
It’s such a surprising statement to make because the show set them all up so well. Kikko’s unrequited love and the maturity she would need to gain. Emi’s mysterious background. Fuurouta’s role as mediator for everyone. Jaguar’s time-travel and time-stopping abilities. Magotake and his relationship with his son Jiro. Raito’s descent from police detective to superhuman enforcer.
Except for Jiro, however, the anime mishandles that baton even more.
Kikko is the oddest. She essentially becomes a non-character, showing up to each scene and saying little more than “Meteortail!” A lot. Where she once had a purpose – as Jiro’s potential love interest and as a meaningful character to the story at large – the anime treats her as little more than an extra.
The anime does try, though. Ullr (her tiny companion) mentions in an offhand remark that Kikko no longer has a claim as queen due to her feelings and loss of her powers. But it’s literally a one-time bit of information, so its impact is minimal.
The best it could do was a small moment in episode five. Kikko chats with Jiro. About her thoughts on the different feuding factions and their own conflict. While she understands all that, she outright says she stays in the Superhuman Bureau just so she can see Jiro more. Which is great. It’s a warped mindset, but her devout feelings make her more interesting.
Unfortunately, thanks to Jiro’s promise to stay away from her, and the anime refusing to nurture her relationships with the others more, Last Song wastes this moment completely.
Emi goes through something similar. The anime (from last season) already refrained from revealing much about her. In this season, it does so again. Big mistake. It makes her pleas near the end, her “romantic” connection to Jiro, both moot and missing emotion.
The audience gets a little bit in the form of some flashbacks, but it is so miniscule that it may as well have never existed to begin with.
Fuurouta, later on, runs the bar that welcomes all superhumans. But, for most of the second season, he does not contribute much beyond changing into his different animals and forms when needed.
Magotake, like Kikko, barely interacts with Jiro, leaving the link between “father” and “son” missing many a chain.
Even Jaguar has troubles. Last Song makes him relevant only right at the end when he messes with time. Before the last episode (and realistically the last ten minutes), he does almost nothing important or interesting. Again, that’s the show’s fault. His time-controlling pocket-watch was stolen from him at some point, so his relevance, like Kikko’s, goes down the drain.
Raito, at the very least, has his fall depicted. Yet he, too, barely impacts the show, challenging neither Jiro nor the others to any noticeable extent.
All these characters follow a similar trend: not receiving attention. Last Song, rather than expounding on its cast, chose instead to focus on the mini-arc dealings and the characters therein. In other words, the show is plot driven (again). But, since that failed, its characters fail even harder.
Arguably, the only character that can even be considered worthwhile is Jiro. As he tries to uphold his ideals on justice, helping superhumans here and there regardless of them being “good” or “bad,” he slowly figures out that his methods are not helping as much as he would like.
Throughout each episode, he either pushes back against the Superhuman Bureau or does his best to aid those in need. While he tends to be a broken record like Kikko and the others, his words are at least meaningful. Questioning his own sense of justice, declaring the ambiguity of “right” and “wrong,” and trying to understand their messed-up world gives him strength as a character since he actually receives attention from the show in the form of thematic exploration.
Simultaneously, the audience comes to know more about Jiro’s past. How he came to tame the beast within and his origin story of sorts. It’s not a lot, but, compared to everyone else this season, it’s a welcome sight.
His “betrayal” at the end is a cool idea due to its full-circle feeling in relation to Rainbow Knight. Furthermore, his proclamation that he is superhuman, and not a beast, reflects how much he has grown through his experiences.
Granted, the whole “superhumans have an evil being paired with them” idea is odd since it never felt like the main focus of the show. Still, its implication – that his statement applies to people as well – gives it more ground. At the minimum, his death, which instills hope for those in the future, ends his character on a poetic (albeit unsatisfactory) note.
Altogether, Jiro is the only one who even tried to complete the race.
Like with the art and the animation, not too much else can be said that hasn’t already about the sound that Last Song employs.
Especially in regards to the original soundtrack and the voice-acting performances. Once again, they perform their job without doing anything exceptional. The OST’s guitar and techno choices fit with the melancholic and chaotic events, and the VA’s do not have any stand-out moments as they reprise their roles.
Except perhaps Kaito Ishikawa as Jiro. Again, nothing noteworthy, but his emotional voice, screams, and cries did not go unnoticed.
That leaves the opening track and the ending track.
The OP starts off fevered, then glides into a more reserved state. Then it lets loose, the vocalist and the beat picking up intensity with the dubstep quick to follow. The speed and the catchiness in the second half further support the piece. It takes a couple of listens, but, afterwards, it stands as a solid track.
The ED is not just the best part of the music but also the best part of all of Last Song. The guitar and the drums jam well together, but it’s the vocalist’s syllabic singing and the foot-tapping beat that make it a cool track. Plus, that sense of structure fits well with the theme of control that permeates the show.
I rated the first season of this series rather highly because it set itself up for greatness. If nothing else, it created something thoughtful and interesting.
The second season doesn’t have that. The characters were already not that memorable, but, coupled with them hardly receiving any focus this time around, it makes them a wash. The narrative devolves into a too-episodic chore that isn’t enthralling no matter how many giant robots are included. The romance angle ends up unused and lame.
To me, the most interesting episode was episode four: “Devila and Devilo.” More specifically, the final sequence was one that made me think.
Devilo is known for using mundane wording to persuade his audience. So, when he starts to ramble about life and beauty and the universe, it made me question whether his words were true or if they just rang hollow. Not just through some clever meta game the show was playing but for myself as well.
Other than that, though, the anime didn’t give me much else – besides disappointment.
Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou – The Last Song concludes in a less-than-ideal state. The aimless story, the lack of character exploration, and the slight downgrade in visuals suppress the anime’s larger idea on justice and the rocking ED. Simply put, this season becomes the series’ own kryptonite.
Story: Fine, strong themes once more on justice, morality, and race, but the episodic format and the awkward writing choices leave it lagging
Animation: Good, nice character designs, varied artistic direction, and okay actual animation
Characters: Bad, all except Jiro receive very little attention, leading to their low impact and even lower worthwhileness
Sound: Fine, okay OP, good ED, okay OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, a disappointing second half to say the least
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3
Interesting way of looking at things. Personally, it’s my favorite anime of last year, and I enjoyed both seasons a ton. I always thought the main cast was the weakest part of the series, and the second season did lack a strong emphasis on them (I especially wished they had done more with Kikko, since I felt she became a bit more defined by Jiro, though I did enjoy seeing her and Fuurota start to take action in the penultimate episode).
But I felt like the second season delivered on the stuff I loved from the first season in an even stronger fashion. I felt as if the episodic characters and their different beliefs, the concept of what defines a superhuman, idealism versus cynicism, et cetera were all incredibly done and I found it all really resonating with me personally. My personal favorite was the episode involving Koma, and how it touched upon the concept of “simpler times” never really existing. How becoming too infatuated with the past is ultimately unhelpful if you don’t pursue the here and now. Koma, now in this world she’s unfamiliar with, instead of taking the easy way out by choosing the past, chooses the present. It’s a story that really touched me personally, since I have always been someone who gets too lost in nostalgia a lot of the times, so much so that I can forget that how I’m capable of making my own present better. There were some other really fantastic episodes as well, but that one especially was incredibly useful to me. As someone who is somewhat interested in Japanese history, the connections made in both seasons deeply fascinated me.
I really liked the role Imperial Ads played in this season, because it seemed very fitting for the show ConRevo is. They aren’t like Claude where they make these massive appearances (not to say Claude didn’t work as a character, but rather he was a different type of “antagonist”), but instead operate from the shadows, always present and playing an important role, yet not showing all their cards at first hand. Felt very reminiscent of the emphasis on government conspiracies within the team’s previous work, Un-Go.
Satomi also really worked as the foil to Jiro, since Satomi’s ultimate wishes were to get people to face reality, and to do that, he decides to make superhumans into something mundane. Whereas Jiro ultimately chooses fantasy, and as such, becomes a symbol for people to believe in, rather than what he initially wanted to do, which was become “the villain”. Fitting well with the concept of “nihilism versus idealism” that I had brought up earlier. Not to mention Jiro’s final choice is one I also find to be solid, since I have always never been too fond of the idea that a hero needs to ultimately die a villain in people’s eyes for the greater good. To see that idea openly criticized was a breath of fresh air.
I think that in terms of animation, this season was actually a bit stronger than the first, and I much preferred how the aesthetic was utilized with a lot more sakuga and the background design being less minimalistic than its first season counterpart while still retaining the comic book aesthetic. A few odd looking faces and one weird scene, but otherwise, a really strong looking show (especially since Bones had three different shows that season, and I believe ConRevo to look the best out of all of them).
I especially like the note the series ended off on, since Shou Aikawa actually did try committing to a similar ending in an older show he created, Ghost Slayers Ayashi (which I am also rather fond of, though not nearly as much as Revolutio). But unfortunately, in that show it felt a lot more haphazardly thrown in without enough connection or foreshadowing (this was mostly in part to the show getting cut in half from 50 episodes to 25, with 5 OVAs being made afterwards to conclude the series). Whereas I felt in ConRevo there was a stronger presence of there being more to Jiro’s past all along that differentiates himself from what other characters in the show have gone through.
With all of this being said, it was a solid read overall, and I am aware it seems to be consensus that season 1 is stronger than season 2, but I always seem to find myself personally resonating with season 2 a bit more, simply because I think the episodic character arcs personally touch me a lot more (though the Earth-chan episode in season 1 comes pretty close to that). I have a tendency to gravitate most towards thematically driven shows, and Concrete Revolutio delivered that in spades, so it was a win in my book.
Keep up the good work, though. I know I haven’t really commented too much on The Chuuni Corner, but I do enjoy reading your stuff and I definitely want to comment more often.
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