“I don’t think it’s possible to have a sense of tragedy without having a sense of humor.” –Christopher Hitchens
After Yuri and the SSS arrive at the school festival, she announces her intention to destroy this world and its god, feeling that the idyllic life here must be a ruse. To this end, Yuri tasks her force with capturing mascots from the other storylines to force the god’s appearance. Later, Yuri tries to hijack the buses taking the others to a summer trip, but when Yuzuru develops trauma from being within a tunnel, the SSS’ ploy fails, leading them to be buried in the beach as punishment. Back at school, Yuri next tries to put on a concert, confident that god will show up if they create some noise. Over time, the SSS begin settling into life with the other characters, and Yuri herself becomes excited about the student council president elections, feeling she can become god-like in the role. When the nail-biting election campaign begins, countless candidates join, and Yuri decides to sabotage the votes in her favour. For her actions, Yuri is thrown into solitary confinement, and meets Ayu, who’s confined for having stolen taiyaki. On the day of the election, it turns out that votes were evenly distributed, and when Ayu arrives, the other students pursue her so she can vote and break the tie. After elections end, the characters reflect on how being together has helped them to gain a better understanding of one another. The show thus draws to a close, and while Ushio is sad to see things end, planetarium attendant Yumemi reassures her that the show will continue so long as she remembers it. Nagisa and Tomoya arrive and pick up Ushio, while the Junker thanks Yumemi for another excellent performance before the pair set about preparing the planetarium for the next showing of Kaginado. With this, Kaginado‘s second half draws to a close, and with it, a wonderful parody of the worlds within Key’s impressive compendium is done. Kaginado was a part of the twenty-first anniversary project, and as a crossover, this series of shorts wound up being a very gentle and entertaining way of celebrating Key’s most iconic characters in a respectful, but cheerful manner: Key’s visual novels have a reputation for bringing tears to the player’s eyes, and anime adaptations have been similarly touted for their emotional impact, so being able to see the characters bounce off one another and parody their own past experiences shows that, while Key may excel at poignant stories, their writers also have a sense of humour.
The highlight of Kaginado‘s second half lies with the introductio of characters from Angel Beats!. After Kaede, Yuri, Yuzuru and the SSS join the party, Kaginado becomes even livelier as Yuri and the SSS do their utmost to cause a disturbance such that Yuri may draw out the world’s god so she can have a throwdown with them. To this end, the SSS embark on the same activities they had originally carried out within Angel Beats!, and while Yuri is certainly trying to take her work seriously, the fact that Kagonado is a parody with no regard for emotional tenour means that unexpected events thwart her every attempt. Kaginado shows how Yuri’s original plan within Angel Beats!, despite being motivated by rightous feelings of resentment and a desire for vengence, was ultimately one that couldn’t succeed. Angel Beats! would ultimately have Yuzuru approaching things with heart rather than bullets, leading the characters to make peace with their pasts, and here in Kaginado, Yuri similarly fails as those around her begin accepting the outlandish would that is Kaginado. That Angel Beats! premise works with both a dramatic and comedic environment speaks to how there are cases where how a story unfolds is dependent on the author’s intentions. Since Angel Beats! had been meant to pull at the viewer’s heartstrings and create a story of making a sincere effort to make peace with one’s past, things were more serious as Yuruzu strove to understand the world he found himself in. On the other hand, Kaginado is simply meant to parody these stories and give them a humourous twist. Yuri’s plans seem out-of-place, ill-conceived and unnecessary. However, despite the gap on intentions, the outcomes end up being the same after Yuri realises that within the other worlds, there were other characters who share her feelings. By hanging out with Kyou, Nayuki, Komari and Kotori, Yuri realises there is worth in this world, and ultimately decides to live life to the fullest, while at the same time, choosing a path most consistent with her desires. Because of the implications that Kaginado brings to the table, the parody series also reflects on the strength of the writing in Angel Beats!, a series that, after over a decade, still remains immensely enjoyable to watch.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The last time I wrote about Kaginado was near the end of August, and back then, my original plan had been to watch the second half shortly after: Kaginado‘s second half had begun airing during the spring of 2022, shortly after my move, and I had been settling in then, leaving little time for my other pursuits. Once things had settled down during the summer, I began watching Kaginado, but my usual propensity for procrastination meant that once I’d finished the first half, I found little time to continue as the fall season began, and Yama no Susume: Next Summit kicked off.
- However, within moments of starting Kaginado‘s second half, it immediately returned to me as to why I found the first half so enjoyable. The characters in Kaginado are largely faithful to their portrayals in their respective series, but additionally possess a modicum of awareness about how they were treated. This drives some of the humour; watching Ryou hand Botan to Ooyama, seemingly in order to spite Kyou, only for Ryou to betray Ooyama and alert Kyou to Botan’s position, was hilarious.
- Classic elements from Angel Beats! make a return in Kaginado, with details like Yusa’s role as Yuri’s intelligence officer being faithfully brought over. Yusa’s story in Angel Beats! is that of a tragedy, but owing to Angel Beats! runtime, most of the characters’ backgrounds actually aren’t explored, and it is not lost on me that two twenty-five episode seasons would probably be required. In place of this, Angel Beats! ended up receiving a visual novel, but after the first volume was released, no more news of the project was heard.
- Yuri’s plan to cause disruption in this world mirrors her old actions, and right out of the gates, I was reminded of the original Angel Beats! – as the story goes, I decided to pick the series up eleven years earlier because one of my friends had sent me Lia’s My Soul, Your Beats, and curiosity led me to watch Angel Beats!. After finishing Angel Beats!, I was greatly moved and proceeded to give CLANNAD, Kanon and Air a go. Each of these series were characterised by the balance of comedy and drama, as well as an overwhelming feeling of yearning.
- In Kaginado, the drama and tragedy is entirely discarded, leaving the entire focus on the comedy. Much of the humour is dependent on a familiarity with Key’s other works, and as such, folks who’ve not seen a handful of Key’s shows or played through the visual novels will find some of the moments in Kaginado difficult to follow. For instance, when Kaede shows up in the SSS headquarters, this is outrageous because originally, Yuri had gone to great lengths to keep Kaede at a distance, including setting traps. Here in Kaginado, Kaede is able to saunter freely into headquarters without any resistance, and playing on her love of the Sichuan dish, mapo tofu, she’s always seen with a bowl in hand.
- Although short, every episode of Kaginado is packed to the brim with hilarious moments; when Yuri’s initial plans fail, she decides to pull something during the big class trip to the beach. Her efforts end up failing, since her SSS are not equipped to deal with people possessing extraordinary combat prowess. The unexpected moments that occur in Kaginado means there is never a dull episode, and the series utilises its new additions from Angel Beats! to great effect.
- Kaginado‘s irreverent and whimsical presentation of elements from Angel Beats! serves to put things in perspective – although Angel Beats! had its share of comedy, a consequence of Yuzuru’s initial attempts to adjust to life in the Afterlife world, once Yuzuru began empathising with Kaede and began making efforts to make amends, the series became increasingly poignant as it became clear that every last person in the Afterlife had come in because of their own regrets, and this world had become a place for everyone to overcome said feelings of longing.
- Moments like Yuzuru’s sacrifice in Angel Beats! are brought back in irreverent but hilarious ways, ones which do require a priori knowledge of Angel Beats!. After the bus enters a tunnel, he develops a panic attack – his original story was that in life, he’d been a bit of loser, but ended up turning his life around and aspired become a medical doctor as a promise to his sister. En route to the entrance exams, a rock slide trapped his train, and Yuzuru ended up organising a survival effort, but died from dehydration and exhaustion moments before rescuers came through. In the absence of this background, Yuzuru’s outburst would not make much sense.
- Kaginado‘s first half had a swimsuit episode, so for kicks, the second half has a beach episode, and for good measure, both the idea of rendering the girls with a higher level of detail, and the battle between two pairs of siblings, make a return. Here in the second half, meta-humour remains present, although it is the SSS that drive most of the comedy – as punishment for their antics, they’re buried in the sand and forgotten wholly.
- While Mai and Sayuri enjoy the beef bowl at a beach house, today’s the first day of the Chinese New Year, and yesterday evening, I sat down to a wonderful New Year’s Eve dinner with family. It’s the first time I’ve had family over at the new place, and we ended up picking up a poon choi (盆菜, a Cantonese dish with whole prawns, fish balls, pork knuckle, braised pork, cabbage, scallops, abalone, chicken and a bunch of other flavourful ingredients I can’t remember), white-cut chicken (貴妃雞), stir-fried prawns (炒蝦 ) and shiitake on a bed of lettuce (冬菇菜). Dinner extended well into the evening, but it was great to host our first-ever dinner and relax with extended family.
- The Chinese New Year always creates an interest in horoscopes, although here, I note that people take an interest in horoscopes because they are way of comforting those who are facing uncertainty in their lives. Where tried-and-true methods fail, people look for patterns and hope in anything they can find, and astrology offers this. For instance, my own horoscope for the Year of the Rabbit is that, if I work hard and manage my finances well, I’ll have a good year. At first glance, this does sound like my financial fortunes will improve, but it is, in fact, contingent on my putting in an effort to improve things. My horoscope is therefore fully accurate, provided I take the initiative to make it so.
- Similarly, if I receive word of incoming bad luck, it’s simply just a caution to not overdo things – receiving poor fortunes simply means that one should be more observant of their surroundings, and more mindful of themselves. Back in Kaginado, things switch over to a concert that Yuri organises; she hopes things will be noisy enough for the gods to appear. Unfortunately for Yuri, while the concert is a success, and Masami disappears after performing the ballad she always wanted to perform, the gods don’t appear, and instead, attendees are treated to Lia’s Aozora, one of her most iconic songs that was used as Air‘s ending theme.
- Later, for no apparent reason, the characters across the different Key universes are pitted in a one-on-one against one another, and the characters in the show I watch end up winning against their opponents. Mai’s sword technique destroys her foe, while Kanna overwhelms her foe when she flies into the skies and loses all of the clothing in the process. On the other hand, when Matsushita squares off against Kotomi, I had expected Matsushita to win owing to his martial arts skill, but Kotomi cheats by breaking out her violin, which returns as a weapon of mass destruction.
- As a callback to the first half of Kaginado, Kyou had already foreseen this happening – here she sits, with a smug little smile on her face and her pockets full of cash, ready to enjoy the show. Little details like these weren’t necessary for Kaginado, but their inclusion serves to accentuate the humour. The resulting pandemonium is befitting of a show like Kaginado, and once Kotomi’s done her beatdown on Matsushita and everyone in the stadium, judge Kaede break out her “Harmonics” guard skill in retaliation, lamenting how her mapo tofu is destroyed.
- Later, while a pair of sleepovers are happening, the secondary characters who were shafted by their respective stories commiserate together in what is visibly a miserable time. It’s easy to laugh at them, but of everyone, I feel most pathos for Nayuki and Kyou – I’ve experienced precisely what the pair have gone through before, and it deals one’s confidence a crushing blow. One thing that I would’ve liked to see, even though this is strictly unnecessary from a storytelling perspective, was seeing how Kyou and Nayuki found their footing after losing their respective love interests.
- On the other hand, the heroines’ get-together is set in a neatly-organised room, and the lights are on. Conversation is spirited, but once it turns out Riki isn’t a heroine (despite being voiced by the legendary Yui Horie), the others pull him aside for “research” purposes. This was one of those moments that I don’t have any background in, and as such, the moment flew over my head. However, it also suggested that perhaps now is the time to get into Little Busters.
- Towards Kaginado‘s end, Yuri ends up deciding that she wants to take on the role of a student council president, having seen how much power the role entails. Originally, Yuri had sought the power to help those around her after losing her siblings and her own life during an armed robbery that went bad – she most regretted being unable to protect them, and since then, had sought vengeance against the god of a cruel world. Angel Beats! had left the existence of a god ambiguous and suggested that any higher powers in their world did not intervene in the world of humans, but was benevolent enough to give people a second chance.
- Admittedly, seeing Yuri’s determination in Kaginado was adorable because of all the characters, she feels the most unable (or unwilling) to accept Kaginado‘s world – she retains all of her old resolve to destroy this world, and this comes across as being immensely out of place, leading to humour. With CLANNAD and the other characters, their comedy comes from being placed into ridiculous situations or what’s known as meta-humour, in which the characters critique or challenge the writing that created their circumstances.
- However, even Yuri begins showing signs of desiring a normal life: after her latest tantrum, Yukine passes her a cup of tea, and Yuri loosens up a little. Here, I remark that discussions on Kaginado have been limited despite the series’ entertainment value, and this time around, I do have a guess as to why this is the case – CLANNAD, Kanon, Air and Angel Beats! are older than a decade, and the constant stream of anime means that older titles can be forgotten. Interest in Kaginado is understandably diminished, although it’s worth reiterating that folks who have previously seen Key’s works will find Kaginado worthwhile.
- To Yūichi, Tomoya, Yuzuru and the others, seeing their worlds collide in a hilarious way leaves them without words – as the student council president race heats up, smaller groups form as the campaign for different things, and this creates a multi-way race. Seeing this leads Yuri to employ under-handed techniques to win the election, and while Angel Beats! may have accommodated this because of the Afterlife’s unique setting, the other characters eventually intervene and chuck Yuri into solitary confinement for some self-reflection.
- Seeing Ayu and Yuri together is something that was only possible in a crossover like Kaginado – Ayu’s here for stealing taiyaki repeatedly, and is apparently a repeat offender. This room was seen in Angel Beats!, used to confine students engaged in misconduct. It speaks volumes to how memorable Angel Beats! had been; even eleven years later, I still recall smaller details within the anime. While I’ve watched many series since then, the fact that Key adaptations still stand out speak to their staying power.
- Although the so-called losers end up bemoaning their fate and even coughs up blood, the four of them pull their act together and try to encourage Yuri to simply do her best. Things turn around after the SSS appear, having rounded up the traitors within their ranks. Seeing this returns Yuri to her old self, and she resolves to campaign with all of her heart.
- Going through Kaginado is a far cry from my usual anime experiences: since episodes are only four minutes each, it was possible to watch the whole of Kaginado in a single sitting, and this in turn made the series very easy to go through. Normally, I watch one or two episodes of a given series in a day, and it takes an average of two weeks for me to complete an anime if it has fully aired. While some people prefer watching their shows all at once, I’ve found that this can be an exhausting process. I personally enjoy going through things more slowly so I have time to take in something and give some thought to what I watched.
- There is no right or wrong way of watching anime, and different people will find different processes better suited for their schedules. Back in Kaginado, after the campaigning comes to an end, and the results are in, it turns out Ayu was absent from the vote, making her Key to a tiebreaker. The entire school ends up pursuing her across Japan to secure her vote, and in the end, it looks like the new student council president’s identity is a mystery. However, with the elections over, everyday school life returns to normal for the students, who welcome the routine and enjoyment of an ordinary life.
- Throughout all of Key’s works, it does feel that the ordinary as something to cherish is another common theme. In keeping with tradition, Kaginado also presents this, albeit in a more roundabout way as the series parodies every aspect of the works the characters featured in. Overall, because of its presentation, I count Kaginado to be an enjoyable experience that is worthwhile for anyone who is a fan of Key’s works. Since Key series tend to be emotionally charged, it is nice to see everyone interact in an environment where there is no tragedy.
- Kaginado features six of Key’s works, and here, I’ve featured stills from the four series I’ve previously watched. At present, I feel that my next Key adaptation is going to be Little Busters; this anime is actually quite lengthy, running as long as CLANNAD did. With my schedule, assuming I start next month, I could be done by the time summer arrives. On the other hand, I’ll probably look at Rewrite at a later date; I’m still on the fence about this one owing to the more dramatic portrayal of the supernatural, but again, Kaginado has shown me there may be merit yet in keeping an open mind and giving this one a go.
- Once Kaginado comes to a close, Ushio expresses a desire to see more of the world, and Yumemi explains that while the show’s done, it will continue living on so long as she remembers it. Kaginado was one of the projects done to celebrate Key’s twenty-first anniversary, and over the years, this developer studio had accrued a reputation for creating works of emotional impact. With their extensive history, Key continues to produce visual novels and kinetic novels (essentially digital picture books), and their company also produces their own music through Key Sounds Label.
- With both halves of Kaginado in the books, and the appearance of Planetarian‘s Yumemi, I am reminded of the fact that while I have watched Planetarian in full some six years earlier, I never got around to watching the Planetarian movie despite having promised one of my readers I’d do so. Because it’s been so long, I don’t think said reader is around, but there probably is merit in my going through the Planetarian movie at some point in the future so I can finish things off.
- We’re now a shade over two thirds of the way through January, and with Bofuri and Mō Ippon!‘s third episodes past, I plan on writing about them. Both series have impressed me enough to warrant a discussion. In addition, word has reached my ears that Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san‘s live-action Netflix adaptation has become available. Titled The Makanai: Cooking For the Maiko House, this series will present Kiyo and Sumire’s experiences from a different perspective and looks promising. I look forwards to writing about this along with, Lycoris Recoil and a revisit of Kokoro Connect come February.
Having now completed Kaginado, I am reminded of the fact that amongst Key’s works, I’ve yet to take a look at Little Busters! and Rewrite. The Key adaptations I’ve seen so far (Air, Kanon, CLANNAD and Angel Beats!) have been remarkable experiences, masterpieces, because of their ability to strike a balance between comedy and drama, using moments of levity to build a connection to the characters such that when tragedy struck, the impact was felt ten-fold. However, Key works have also accrued a bit of an unfair reputation amongst some viewers, who feel them to be inconsistent and incomplete. These sentiments come from the storytelling approach Key works tend to take; because Key stories are rooted in themes of longing and regret, their resolution is reached when the protagonist is able to overcome their past regrets and make peace with what’s happened. Because different protagonists have different backgrounds and regrets, it can be a little tricky to definitively tell when a resolution does occur, and this in turn creates a situation where a given story’s ending can come across as open-ended or inconclusive. However, this mode of storytelling is consistent with the idea of transience, and folks who approach Key’s works aware of this have typically found moving stories. With this in mind, Kaginado acts as encouragement for me to give Little Busters! and Rewrite their fair chance: these series have initially not drawn my interest, but seeing all of the characters here in Kaginado, having a ball of a time with folks from Air, CLANNAD, Kanon and Angel Beats! has piqued my curiosity. As such, I do see merit in taking the plunge and giving the remainder of Key’s animated adaptations their fair chance. In the meantime, today is the Chinese New Year, and I’d like to wish all readers a Happy Year of the Rabbit!