Saishuu Shiken Kujira

May 15, 2009

I’m still in the midst of trying to understand what is going in even after finishing watching the anime series Saishuu Shiken Kujira. Though this anime came out somewhere in the 3rd quarter of year 2007, my gut feeling told me to watch it in order to satisfy my curiosity on what it is about. Curiosity satisfied, check. Understanding what the whole series is about, still in progress.
 
This series is one of the few animes which is been classified as an ONA (Original Net Animation), which means it is being released on the internet rather than through the conventional TV station or DVD discs. Perhaps it is more practical to do so because each of the episodes in this series lasts only around 5 minutes on average! Yeah, a real short series and you can just watch the entire 12 episode series in one sitting which will cost you about an hour or so.
 
The one thing which attracted me to watch this series was the little mystery element it has. That’s right. In this city, there seems to be a mysterious whale floating eternally in the sky. Day and night. Rain and shine. You could say I was intrigued with the series synopsis taken from Anime News Network which goes something like this: "Like snow falling in summer, like a cicada lamenting the coming of winter. In a town watched over by a whale in the sky the extraordinary is made ordinary. Spectacles that could never be given form are instead given flesh and soul. And in their midst, the story of a miracle that comes to pass in this town of miracles incarnate. Welcome to the world of Final Examination Kujira". Sounds enigmatic and a little chanting, doesn’t it?
 
So of course anybody new in town would be bloody surprise to find a floating whale right up in the sky. Just like newcomer Mutsumi Kuonji. He can’t help staring at it in surprise. Then comes along a bespectacled girl, Kurumi Haibara, who taunts Mutsumi for being surprised at it because it’s like as though he’s never been out of his home or someone from the countryside. Kurumi continues to analyze Mutsumi to see whether he’s from the countryside or not and soon asks his school grade. I guess Mutsumi gets a little annoyed if some stranger comes up to him and asks him questions like that. We find out Mutsumi has just arrived yesterday and is going to be a transfer student at Haruna Academy. Yup, you’ve guessed it. Kurumi’s a student there too as she lively introduces herself to Mutsumi. Yoroshiku! That’s it. End of episode 1.
 
Are you still following the series? On to episode 2 as we see Mutsumi getting up from bed. He hears his little sister, Haruka Yumesaki knocking on his door and goes to open it. However she’s sort of sleepwalking so when Mutsumi opens the door, she falls onto him. By that time, Haruka has fully awakened and even though they’re both embarrassed about it, I’m not sure what’s going on in Mutsumi’s mind. Is he thinking about incest? I mean even if Haruka is his little sister, they don’t share the same surname. Get what I mean? Anyway he thinks how nice a girl shampoo smells like (huh?), and how light and fragile she is. Luckily he snaps out of it as they both regain their composure. We learn that Haruka has low blood pressure and is not a morning person and it’s her habit to wake him up ever since they’re young. Suddenly Haruka feels some sensation and she can’t hold it much longer. She pops out a little panda plushie with her palms. As Mutsumi mentions, she has a weird ability to pop out animal plushies on occasions. So have you understood what’s going on? It just gets weirder and weirder.
 
In episode 3, Mutsumi is taking a walk when he heard a little cry for help from a little girl but can’t determine where she is. Yeah, he even thinks he is hallucinating or that desperate for girls! Then he gets hit on the head by a boot and concludes that in such animes, a girl would usually come falling from the sky. Haha. As he looks up, he gets the shock of his life because the first thing he saw is her striped panties. So okay, that girl, Niina Mikage, Mutsumi’s petite senpai, somehow got stuck on a phone pole and can’t get down. You see Niina’s a little airhead because she’s worried that since she has lose 1 of her rain boots, she’s afraid that she’ll be blown away to another strange faraway country whereby she’ll be called an angel and soon be taken as a wife by an old greasy man. When Niina finally realizes that someone is down there, she thinks he is a pervert and continues to cry for help. Mutsumi tells her not to call him that. But Niina continues to say "The pervert scold me not to call him a pervert". Haha! You just got to love this girl. She continues her ranting till she recognizes his voice. Mutsumi is going to help her down but Niina requests that he don’t look while doing so. Since Mutsumi says that it is impossible, Niina continues with her frustrating cry. Want to help or not?
 
During recess in episode 4, Mutsumi is trying to find his classmate Sae Nagumo because everyone is worried where she has disappeared to but he hears ambiguous sounds coming from the back of the school building. "No need to rush…", "Get closer…", "Don’t come in here…", "Don’t lick there!". Enough to make any guy’s mind wander. To Mutsumi’s relief, Sae is just playing with a litter of kittens. Phew. Soon Sae knows of Mutsumi’s presence. We learn Sae was feeding a hungry kitten with milk and before she knows it, several of them show up. We can also see the difference in treatment the cats give to Mutsumi. Uh huh. They’re being nice to Sae but bare their fangs when Mutsumi comes close. Perhaps he’s still a stranger in their eyes. As the duo soon gets up and leave for class (haha, the cats ignored Mutsumi when he said goodbye but gave a cheerful reaction when Sae does the same), Sae wants Mutsumi to promise her to keep this place a secret, in which he agrees.
 
Episode 5 is a beach episode as the gang goes there under Kurumi’s suggestion. It’s kinda disturbing to see Mutsumi’s male pal, Seiichiro, wanting to put sun lotion on his back so as to make some memories together. Is he gay?! Even Kurumi couldn’t believe it and misinterpreted that the guys are into that! But I guess Kurumi doesn’t mind having yaoi because she thinks a good looking young man and girly looking guy isn’t bad either and should be good material for doujin. Yeah, she’s writing it down too! After Niina and Haruka show the guys their swimsuit, the gang is interrupted when a helicopter approaches. Somebody is bungee jumping down and crashing onto the sands below! Well I suppose they decide to cram in and introduce the rest of the remaining girls in this episode rather than dedicate one girl per episode. So this time we have the rich twin busty sisters, Mika and Yuka Motegi and their old butler Fujiwara (you can ignore this guy if you want to). Oh yes, if you happen to notice some weird girl dancing weirdly in the background, she is Yun Sakura, also their classmate. Anyway after dropping the twins, Fujiwara bungee jumps back up to the helicopter. Mika and Yuka continue to argue about kakigori (shaved ice) so they just ordered Fujiwara to bring them their favourite kakigori flavours. Yeah, this time the whole kakigori shop bungee down from the helicopter to the ground, causing everyone to get knocked off their feet again! Is this what rich people do?! I suppose they can turn this whole sandy beach into a resort in a second if they want to either.
 
The beach episode continues in episode 6 and as everyone has their share of kakigori, we learn that Yuka and Mika already has several helpings of them. Is it good for their health? How can they keep such a beautiful shape if this is their favourite dish? But that entire ruckus made another bustier, prettier and sexier lady come out of the shop. She is Kaguya Kagura and since the guys can’t help stare at her, she wonders if they lost their words because of her beauty. But Yun is another weird girl. She starts pointing at several body parts of Kaguya and is thinking of it as meat! Yeah, she’s thinking of food! Kaguya is obviously disturbed and tells her that she is no food ingredient. Cheeky Yun tells her to stick her tongue out in which suddenly everyone starts feeling hungry. I guess Kaguya starts to go psycho because Yun then says how she looks so nice and juicy. Soon everyone has grilled BBQ and the twins orders Fujiwara for more meat. Yeah, he’s thinking of killing 2 or 3 more cows. Haruka starts to panic when she pops out a beef meat plushie from her palms. They can’t eat that, right? Mutsumi asks Kaguya to come join them but she is seen sitting alone at a distance from the rest. Kaguya claims that 1 of them is trying to eat her when we see that evil sparkle in Yun’s eyes. Kaguya moves a little further away. Then when Niina starts talking about cooking methods too, Kaguya goes even further, not within visual range anymore. Probably at the beach’s end. Yeah, better get away from those cannibals!
 
Back to class in episode 7. Mutsumi spots Sae sketching a cute whale in her book. It’s no surprise she gets embarrassed and tries to hide it. In order not to make her feel so, Mutsumi then tries to draw a whale and shows it to her. Erm, looks lamer, doesn’t it? A whale spouting water from its top? Then it’s Kurumi’s turn to draw but can you call that a whale? It’s horrible by the way because it has thick lips and uneven sets of teeth?! Not to mention a nose?! It’s a blasphemy against whales! Seiichiro decides to draw next. I think it’s so horrible that even the producers censored it out! Finally it’s Yun’s turn and the gang knows she can’t draw well but to their surprise, she drew a real life-like whale! Obviously Yun wins hands down. Just like Yun’s cry of victory: "Judgement!".
 
It’s back to the beach in episode 8. I’m not sure if the guys have swimsuit-apron fetish because they seem to not take their eyes of Niina, who is cooking in that outfit. Unfortunately, Niina can’t cook well and her ingredients are out of this world (in a terrible sense). Yeah, very dangerous indeed. Then some prince-like alien (let’s call him Alien) appears and is enthralled by Niina’s cooking. Uh huh. Somehow Niina managed to turn all that horrible ingredients into some good tasty looking pudding. How’d she do that?! It’s a miracle! Alien wants Niina to come live with him in his palace but she declines because she doesn’t want to wear such funny clothes he is wearing. Alien then says how this clothes of his is multi-purpose and all that technical stuff. Niina then says how the clothes appearance is most important when Yun comes by say how she’d wear rags rather than those. Alien is obviously upset with her statement and tells her how this clothes cost enough to buy a dozen crappy planets like this one. Niina and Yun continue to lecture alien about the importance is not in its price but the hands that made them with love. Alien can’t stand this talk anymore and decides to finish Niina’s dish before it gets cold. Then Kurumi dares him to do so. Everyone watches in great anticipation as Alien takes a bite. His face soon turns into the most hideous thing ever! Enough to scare ghosts away! Alien collapses and Kurumi says how they have captured him and tells the gang to bury him under the sand with only his head sticking out. Are they wondering how much his clothes will sell? I don’t know how but Seiichiro too got buried next to Alien. After the gang takes a photo shot (Kaguya still suspicious and afraid of Yun), Niina seeing that her dish would go to waste, decides to feed it to poor Seiichiro. Oh oh. It’s that sneaky grin. WARGH! Be careful of this girl. She may seem like an airhead but she has a darker personality…
 
In episode 9, Niina is telling Mutsumi how she can fly endlessly with these clothes she is wearing and with that is able to fulfil her dream. She also feels like she is flying with him. Mutsumi then tells her how nobody has ever fly up to that whale in the sky and advices her not to go too far. After a few more words of encouragement, Niina powers up and feels some kind of power flowing through her body. She then sprout some wings and soars into the night sky. But not too long, Niina swoops back down and hugs him saying "It wasn’t very long. But I’m back". Urm… So what is the point of this episode anyway?
 
Suddenly the whole scenario turns serious and shocking in episode 10. What happened?! A man in a suit named Colonel threatens Mutsumi and Kurumi to save the world from collapsing as he points his gun at them. I’m not sure where they are but they seem to be on some pinkish-purple platform high up in the sky and the ground is slowly crumbling below. Colonel then points his gun at Kurumi and fires but the hooded girl jumps over and uses her body to protect Kurumi. It is revealed that the hooded girl is Yun. What’s going on?! Colonel is disappointed in her as Yun says it’s over while apologizing to Kurumi for deceiving her. Yun then says how she’s her first friend and that this world is going to collapse just as the whale girl mentioned. She also doesn’t know if the world will regenerate after that but she believes that the world will be rewoven back again. As Yun limps back to Colonel, she tells Mutsumi and Kurumi to be her friends again and hopes they’ll be happy in the new world. Yun then rushes towards Colonel and pushes him down the cliff along with herself! Oh dear! Kurumi wants to go save her but is restrained by Mutsumi. We see the world below engulfed in flames and it is bloody chaotic. Wow. What a sudden turn of unexpected events.
 
Episode 11 continues from the previous and this episode is by far the shortest one, lasting under 3 minutes. Mutsumi is discussing with Kurumi how ‘that guy’ is planning to use the whale girl’s power for something and that she let herself get captured for their sake to save them. Thus they decide to go rescue her and Mutsumi is thinking of borrowing a helicopter from the twins. But that cute little white whale soon transforms into some mecha and then a sophisticated aerial vehicle. Looks like it wants them to ride on it. Can everything be resolved in the next and final episode?
 
I don’t really know what happened between the previous episode and this episode 12 because Mutsumi is now face to face with the whale girl, which is Sae. The environment seems calming as they stood on the green grassy plains. So where the heck is the destruction? As Mustumi hands over a little white whale keychain from his palm, Sae feels happy and is glad that she has met him as she says "When the 3 keys come together, the door of truth opens. My wish came true because you came here". Mutsumi then hears Sae calling him from behind. Wait a minute. There are 2 Saes now? I’m bloody confused. When both Saes come together and their palms meet, they wish each other goodbye and welcome back. They both disappear and the floating whale disintegrates into snow. Mutsumi’s final narration "Here in the perpetual town of summer, snow falls around me. I can hear cicadas in the snowy scene. Snow in summer. Cicadas in winter. A surreal, absurd scene". The white little whale keychain starts to slowly disintegrate as Mutsumi continues "I have grown to accept this world as normal, where a whale floated in the air. To end this absurd world, we chose a dramatic destruction over a dull, eternally-lasting world. That’s what she wanted. And what I wanted". Everything than fades to pure white. WTF?! What on Earth has happened. Did Mutsumi and Sae just destroyed the world?! And they did it by just wishing it?! And what are those 3 keys anyway?! Huh?! Huh?! WHAT?! Oh great. The world has just ended. I’m so darn confused now.
 
However there is a 1 episode OVA lasting 30 minutes! Wow, from 5 minutes up to half an hour of screen time. There must be something to tell, isn’t it? I was a little disappointed after watching it because it doesn’t really answer what happened at the end of the ONA. This OVA starts off with Mustumi narrating how this town has people with filthy minds and all that filth comes down onto the surface as snow. I was wondering the time line of this episode but I soon realized as the episode progress that Mutsumi is remembering his younger days with Sae. That’s right. It’s a flashback. Young Mutsumi is at the park overlooking the city when a young girl appears before him. She is Sae and it seems he doesn’t recognize her. Well, she does recognize him after taking a closer look. But you know, shy Mutsumi runs away to school. Later in the evening, he goes back to the park to ask her name and he remembers her after she introduces herself. It seems Sae was away in a hospital as she is suffering from a disease. Mutsumi doesn’t remember her because she’s quite energetic. Their conversation is cut short when Sae’s nurse-cum-guardian, Mieko, comes pick her up to return to the hospital. Looks like cheeky Mieko too takes a little liking for him. Before she leaves, Sae wonders if he will come here tomorrow, in which Mutsumi affirms.
 
But the next morning he’s running late so Sae isn’t at her usual spot. As he rushes to school, he bumps into Sae in town. After she goes over her diary, Sae then takes the opportunity to ask him out on a date. I guess her pestering made reluctant Mutsumi agree even if he has school. "Come on, don’t ruin this chance!". We see Mutsumi the shy boy while Sae the bold one as they share a parfait. Indirect kiss? Later at the park, Sae gives Mutsumi a peck on a cheek as a spell so that he won’t forget her. Mieko then comes to pick her up once more. Mutsumi returns to the same spot the next day but finds Sae crying in her happiness because he came. Then Mutsumi notices how she’s always carrying her diary but she tells him it’s too embarrassing for him to read. He apologizes for making her feel so and suggests that they meet at a bookstore tomorrow. The next day as usual, Mutsumi is running late (he’s got to ditch this bad habit) but manages to meet up with Sae. Mieko is there too but she won’t get in the way of their innocent date. They had fun throughout the day and at the end, Sae says how she wants him to be with her all day tomorrow when she suddenly collapsed. Good thing Mieko was nearby as she takes out Sae’s handphone to call for an ambulance. The next day, Mutsumi rushes to the park but only finds Mieko there, who is here to tell him Sae won’t be coming today but couldn’t tell him why. Though she tells him not to worry because Sae is a strong girl.
 
Mutsumi and Sae continue their outing at an aquarium another day. After watching the dolphin show, Mutsumi buys a little white whale keychain for Sae. But the next day as the duo meet at the park, Sae reveals to him that she has some memory problem and doesn’t remember much. She’s been using her diary as a reference for 6 years and reads the notes every night. Holy crap! Does she have the same kind of memory illness like Chihiro from ef ~A Tale Of Memories~?! No wonder she’s always looking at him and asking whether if he is Mutsumi or not. Sae tells him that they won’t see each other again because she’s moving to a bigger hospital. Mutsumi is upset that she is hiding that fact from him but she too tells him that he’s a liar and is hiding something from her. It seems Mutsumi will be leaving this town soon. Sae then says how she’s always waited for him to come. Mutsumi then wants to read her diary to get to know her better but she disagrees. As they both struggled, not only her diary has been ripped but Sae collapses. Mutsumi panics as he takes out Sae’s handphone to call for Mieko. She arrives and lectures him and tells him to come to the hospital tomorrow if he has the guts.
 
That night, Mutsumi is thinking over what Mieko has said and we see part of the torn pages of Sae’s diary contain nothing but written lines of "I love Mutsumi". The next day, Mieko shows Mutsumi Sae’s hospital room and to his surprise finds colourful doodles on the walls and floor. Mieko tells of Sae’s worsening memory conditions about how she used those times to look for him at the park. Mutsumi read Sae’s touching words on how she’ll give up on him if doesn’t turn up at the park. Mutsumi gets upset when Mieko tells him how Sae has been moved to a bigger hospital as some people are interested in conducting tests on her. WTF?! As Mutsumi has flashbacks of how he first met Sae when they were much younger and became friends, Mieko receives a phone call saying how Sae has escaped. Mutsumi is determined to save her as he rushes out of hospital to look for her. Sae communicates with him through SMS and her messages were like farewells. Mutsumi then arrives at the park but finds that she isn’t there. He falls to his knees as he starts to go crazy. At the same time, it started snowing even though it’s summer. He then frantically searches through the snow for the little white whale keychain and yells from the top of his voice to give Sae back. His final narration, "If the reason snow is white is because it’s reflecting the colour of our soul, then God is too cruel. It’s so unreasonable". The end.
 
I just don’t get it, the OVA. In the end, so what does it mean if Sae was taken away? I mean just like in the beginning of the ONA, Mutsumi returns to this town, right? So they’re separated, right? But in the ONA it seems there has been no trouble of Mutsumi and Sae reconciling as though they were just normal friends like the rest when he returned. Plus, the OVA seems to have grown up Mutsumi narrating gloomy lines and at one point we see him standing in the grassy plains, so I’m thinking this OVA is the aftermath of episode 12 of the ONA series. Maybe he’s just thinking of the good old days with Sae and how’d it turned out like that. So how is this related to the end of the world in the ONA? Perhaps reminiscing the good times one last time before destroying it, huh? So how did Sae became the whale girl? And how did the floating whale in the sky came to be since the OVA does not show it. So I assume that it wasn’t there yet at that time. All so confusing…
 
Besides Mutsumi (who I guess is the only character who appear in every episode) and Sae, the rest of the other side characters didn’t really have an impact. I mean, they’re just there because they’re just there and didn’t appear in the OVA. I was hoping maybe some of them could play certain roles in answering several questions but it didn’t turn out that way. What happened to Kurumi who was on her way to save the whale girl with Mutsumi? Did she died? What about Yun’s role during that tense cliff-hanger? I wanted to know more about Niina’s weird personality too and the reason behind her ability to sprout wings and fly. What about Mika, Yuka and Kaguya? They’re just characters for the beach episode, huh? Right. Just like Seiichiro, a side character so that Mutsumi won’t be seen as the only guy here. And Haruka… That little sister didn’t do much too, eh? I guess that’s what Mutsumi meant when he said this world being absurd.
 
The drawing and art seems a little light and thus ‘bleached’. But I guess for an ONA production, the quality is still there so I won’t complain so much about it. Just the storyline… Since they’re developed by Circus, the same company who created the Da Capo series, I was really expecting a little more. Besides, there is no opening theme and only an ending theme called Tooi Natsuzora by eufonius. The song has a mysterious feel just like the show itself. Plus, the animation shows the ever mysterious floating whale and Sae.
 
So why the heck is this anime called Final Examination anyway? We don’t see the characters sitting in some final school test. Perhaps the ‘test’ here refers to the world being destroyed. After seeing all the madness which don’t make sense, the result is that the world must end. That’s what I concluded. Yup, there’s definitely an air of mystery here. But you know, there are some things which are better left unknown. Now, if this real world could be destroyed just based on a single wish and restarted on a clean slate, that would be sweet, wouldn’t it? All sins, bloodshed and conflicts erased! But what are the chances of we humans making the same mistake again…
 

Saishuu Shiken Kujira