Episode 13 – Sengoku Youko

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Sengoku Youko ?

Community score: 4.2

Now that’s how you do a season finale.

Last week, I decided to focus on the dramatic resolution we got from Shinsuke since that was the one bit of story that got something approaching closure. There were plenty of other threads that I skipped, like those mysterious robed beings who conveniently interrupted Jinka’s fight, and our hero performing metaphysical brain surgery on himself to power up. It just felt like those threads were being set out for later, and with so much crammed into a given episode of this show, sometimes I have to pick my battles. Turns out that was a good call, as both Organization XIII-lookin dudes and Jinka’s unhinged shortcuts to power come back for this finale to pick up the status quo and chuck it far beyond the horizon.

I wasn’t expecting this to be the end – we’ve known this series was set for 30-something episodes since before it aired – but I certainly didn’t see this level of narrative upheaval coming. While the episode does have Jinka and Tama facing their counterparts, the ensuing battle is one of constant escalation, twisting from a one-on-one battle with our tricky antagonist into a mini-apocalypse that sees our remaining cast scattered to the winds, irrevocably changed either physically or spiritually, and an impending perspective shift that has me deathly curious about what Part 2 will have to offer.

It’s a blast, delivered with all the tireless hustle of previous episodes, but dedicated to a singular confrontation, letting things spiral out into chaos and tragedy with perfect timing. Where other shows might have spread this confrontation out across multiple episodes, we get the whole roller coaster ride in one shot and are better off for it. The battle between Jinka and Yazen is great, portraying our big bad as a formidable enemy and a clever schemer who’s always looking for an angle on his opponent. The animation hits its peak, delivering a wickedly cool fight where both Jinka’s increasing ferocity and Yazen’s unscrupulous treachery drive each other up and up and up. Even Shinsuke gets a defining moment towards the end, thwarting Yazen’s last-ditch plan and getting a good shot in on the old geezer. Whatever faults earlier episodes might have had with speeding through fights, that all works in the finale’s favor, giving us a fantastic set piece that had me shouting at my TV screen by the end of it. That’s just good battle shonen fundamentals, right there.

Of course, the real cap to it all is the tragic irony of Jinka’s fate. This whole show, he insisted he wanted to become a Katawara, and while he insisted it was because he loathed humans that much, it eventually became clear that he wanted to live alongside Tama for as long as possible. Yet to fight for her and the ideals she so fervently pursued, he twisted his own spirit and dream until he lost all control over it. He’s gotten what he wanted, to throw aside his humanity, and in doing so becomes a raging disaster that threatens not just the people he loves, but every scrap of life eking out an existence in the world around him. His final, lung-tearing scream is both terrifying and heartbreaking, signaling that Jinka – or at least the part of him that can still reason – realizes just how much he’s lost and hurt in his pursuit of power. The cruelest irony is that he wasn’t trying to attain that power for its own sake or to lord it over others, unlike the enemies he faced. He merely wanted to reform the world so his beloved companion could be happy, but the world is not so forgiving as to change without severe cost.

It’s a bleak note to leave but also the perfect lead-in to whatever the second part of this story is set to be. If we weren’t assured that we’re getting more relatively soon, this could feel like a hollowing cliffhanger. Thankfully, we’re set to return in just one season’s time, and the promise of not just a new antagonist, but a new hero, is an intriguing one. We’re left with tantalizing questions after a solid, snappy, and well-characterized adventure for now.

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Sengoku Youko is currently streaming on
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