Well, we’re here. Episode twelve. The final one. This is the review where I give my final score at the end. With this said, I will notify you that the entire show hangs in the balance with this one episode, and spoilers will be abundant, including the ending. With this out of the way – let us begin.
The moon is full as Hanakaze confronts Sawa. Hanakaze, who has just given birth, tells Sawa not to go to Kuzuharu. Sawa acknowledges the fact that she could die. But then says that she has put something into practice – the envisioning of a desirable future. Where Asahi and the baby are free. Hanakaze tells Sawa that her baby’s daddy will pick them up, and she will take Asahi with them for safekeeping. Sawa thanks her before they both say that they hate each other. While Sawa walks the streets towards her midnight appointment with Kuzuharu, we overhear the crowd – that the ryumayaku is being stockpiled as it is running out.
We then get a scene we didn’t see coming. Sawa shows up at the Shogun’s palace. She tells the guards who she is – Sawa Karasumori. And that she has what the Shogun wants. Meanwhile, Asahi realises that Sawa has left and runs to go after her…only for Hanakaze to hold her back. Knowing it would be certain death for both of them (Remember, there’s a city-wide curfew going on). Asahi turns to Hanakaze and begins to cry. Sawa is still negotiating with Tokugawa’s guards while at gunpoint. Until – – the large crow-man that killed Makoto swoops in like a tornado of black feathers and carries her off. The Crow-man is Kuzuharu, who got this way by taking Janome’s experimental drugs. He also reveals that he gave Tokugawa a placebo. Why is Kuzuharu doing this? Simple: He wants to eliminate all distractions. Sawa says she would have killed Tokugawa, but Kuzuharu reveals that Tokugawa is no longer sane. With Kuzuharu being deliberately in Sawa’s way, she decides to kill him. With this, Kuzuharu transforms into Not-Eric Draven while Sawa brings out the Sorceress Of Castle Grayskull. They have a one-sided battle, where Sawa is on the attack while Kuzuharu defends. She gets her frustrations out – as it is clear she is sore about Kuzuharu murdering Makoto. Demanding to know why Kuzuharu is doing this – he tells her that she has a home to return to and doesn’t have to kill anybody else. He wants to do the dirty work for her. He then slices himself with her sword…and starts to give her answers.
Kuzuharu won’t kill Sawa because of a promise he made to her mother, Towa. A woman he loved but didn’t pursue. He promised to protect Sawa. And while he was probably doing it for himself, he insists it was his desire to take the burden. He then transforms into full crow-form again. Tells Sawa that she needs to live to see a new era. Then flies away.
A group of protestors gather outside Tokugawa’s castle. Where Kuzuharu shows up to kill all of the guards and then enter Tokugawa’s chamber. He slices the blinds…We see The Shogun in person for the first time. The all-powerful Yoshinobu Tokugawa. A man so terrifying and mysterious that he went unseen by nearly everyone…is just a senile old man who evidently took Janome’s drugs at one point. Kuzuharu has a one-sided conversation. About how difficult it is to accept reality, and that he finally realised there was someone he cared about more than himself…which is why he’s there. To be the man Tokugawa created him to be – the man who takes out the trash. With this, he slays Tokugawa. The resistance breaks into the palace and brings Bastille Day to Tokyo as the castle burns. Sawa arrives in town to witness the fire – screaming ‘Idiot!’ at Kuzuharu, who sees his last full moon before being consumed by the flames.
That morning, Sawa, along with Nana the Albino Crow, stare out at the ocean. Sawa looks at the feather Kuzuharu gave her. A feather belonging to her mother, or at least her Crow. It then starts to snow. No – it’s actually ash. Meanwhile, a car outside Mountain Dew Used Books drives off – suggesting Hanakaze and Asahi have declared Sawa dead. While walking the path, Sawa then picks up a dark blue flower while civilians walk the streets. Trampling over Tokugawa’s flag. Indicating the end of his time. While walking the streets with the flowers, Sawa focuses on a mother and daughter. With the daughter looking a little like Asahi in the distance. It is then that a hooded figure approaches Sawa from behind. It is Rinko. She’s alive – Something happens. Enough to cause Sawa to drop her flowers before Rinko disappears back into the crowd. Sawa picks up her flowers and walks on.
We then find out that in the car is Hanakaze, her baby, and her baby’s daddy. But no Asahi. As it turns out, Asahi stayed behind at the book shop to wait for Sawa. Meanwhile, Hanakaze utters Sawa’s name under her breath – to which the Baby-daddy thinks would be a good name for the baby.
Sawa arrives home, where Asahi gives her a big hug. Meanwhile, the news is that there is a new government being formed. We then find out that the flowers Sawa picked are called Dayflowers – which are blue when they bloom. Asahi joins Sawa in the garden. Sawa says she will probably keep her hair down from here on – a symbol of letting go. She mentions that summer is coming soon and that they should start to do some flower pressing. Sawa reveals that Asahi was named after a summer flower. Sawa then gradually enters a slumber, leaning on Asahi as the credits roll.
After the credits, we receive one final scene, which takes place about ten years later. We find out that Sawa had actually passed away during that scene. Rinko had stabbed her in the back while in the streets. Here we see a seventeen-year-old Asahi who looks remarkably like Sawa, only with a fringe. We find out that what saved Asahi was a blue-blood transfusion that turned her, effectively, into a Karasumori. With her is a young blonde girl, who is obviously Hanakaze’s daughter. But we don’t see Hanakaze anywhere. Suggesting she may have passed on as well. The journal Sawa had left for Asahi was used to ‘talk’ to Sawa. Something that Sawa didn’t do when she had it. Nana then lands on Asahi’s shoulder, as her eyes go from brown to glowing blue. The cycle of revenge continues.
Would I recommend Joran The Princess Of Snow And Blood? I would…if it was done in the theatre. With actors, clever lighting and effects, make-up, costume, music, dance and drama. It would have been the perfect medium for this story. As an anime – it’s good. Not fantastic, but good.
The aesthetic direction was strong. In particular when it came to creating visually memorable main characters and beautiful scenery. The animation was consistently good, with pockets of brilliance in places.
The voice acting was great as well, with Suzuko Mimori (the wife of Japanese professional wrestler Kazuchika Okada) delivering a good performance, ranging from stoic to breaking down in tears.
The characters and story, as I said, I think they work better in theatre than anime. A Story of revenge. With twists that you would find in a soap opera that will not hold your hand. Many characters shared a handful of good scenes. But like the characters when they are around each other – they almost remain unknown to us. Even after all of the backstory and development to show why they are bad people doing good things or the other way around. In truth, I feel like I was watching the second half of a longer anime. I am aware of mise en scene. But I feel like we could have stayed in the status quo a while longer to make any deaths that happen hit harder. I wanted more stand-alone episodes where Nue just did their jobs, kind of like Public Security Section 9 in Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. But unfortunately, we do not get that kind of development. Some could call it razor-sharp in this sense, but I do feel like more could have been told to make us laugh and cry. I will also acknowledge the quality dip in the middle when episodes four and five were poor and confusing. But the rest of the show adds up the stars. As for the themes, you have revenge, power, trust, family, love, life, death and rebirth. All good and standard in this kind of story.
The music is a traditional Japanese score with a hint of middle eastern wonder and the instruments to boot. The exception to this is the opening and closing theme songs – “Exist” and “Embrace The Light” by RAISE A SIULEN. Very appropriate names for songs in this case. The score, in general, is good with four in particular, called 処刑人の涙 (Executioner’s tears), 鵺のアジト (Nue’s hideout), 夕闇のしじま (Silence Of Dusk) and 露草古書店の日常 (Everyday life of a secondhand bookstore) being the standouts.
A good anime. Far from the best. Also – who is Joran?
Art Style: ****
Voice Acting: **** (the VA in episode eight was especially good!)