(The Final Chapter)
by Mason Proulx
Very few anime movies can make me tear up like this one. Just play the movie and watch manly ol' me try to hold back the waterworks. I don't act like this with even the most sentimental of anime, so why this particular movie?
True, Urusei Yatsura's final chapter is not particularly sad or profound. Rather because it holds so much personal meaning for me that it chokes me up. Every time I watch, I'm saying goodbye to characters I've grown to feel deeply for over the course of several years. I'm saying goodbye just as I'm watching them begin a new chapter in their lives. A chapter that I won't be able to witness because they're going somewhere I can no longer follow. Sure I can go back and revisit their old adventures anytime, but it's not the same.
It's like the last day of high school. A time in one's life when everything is exciting and joyous, yet you feel a strong sense of melancholy. On one hand, you're glad to be moving on and getting away from that restrictive institution. Yet at the same time it's sad to say goodbye to so many people you've known over the years. Whether they're friends, enemies or ambivalent to your existence, the fact remains that most of them are going away, and you won't see them again. Urusei Yatsura Kanketsu-hen is my "last day of high school" movie. Watching it I laugh and feel happy, yet nearing the end I start to feel pretty sentimental.
As a fan of Rumiko Takahashi, I love this movie because it is is the most faithful movie that her works have ever inspired. This is the only Urusei Yatsura movie based upon one of Takahashi's stories, namely the final 11 chapters of her manga series. As a purist, I could ask for no better sendoff than the one the creator herself wrote.
This movie is beautifully paced, with the right amounts of drama and humor. Kanketsuhen owes all all of its perfect storytelling to Takahashi as the animators didn't change too much. A descision which I really admire. It even kept in the old Takahashi slapstick. I like that because I was often disappointed when the TV show would often tone down or alter her physical comedy techniques. It's just not the same without subspace hammers.
The animation itself is very attractive and well above average, but I'll admit it could be somewhat better. The animation moves nicely and the visuals are attractive. But the motion could be slightly more dynamic and the colours and lighting seem a bit flat when you compare them to the richness of the earlier films. But it is unfair to compare it to those movies. It's a well animated movie on its own, but nothing too innovative for the time it was made.
The character designs may not have the same twisted flair that the earlier animated versions may have had, but it's well in keeping with Takahashi's art style and as such you feel as if you're watching one of her manga come to life. One of the most noticeable consequences of using her style is that the characters look much more mature than they once did during the TV show. It's a perfect design since this is around the time when the cast starts coming of age and finally learning what it means to be adults.
Although many tend to complain about the ending, I thought it was pretty good. I know full well the reasons why Takahashi made the descision to give it such an inconclusive ending and therefore I appreciate it. But still some fans don't share my understanding and just wanted to see everyone get married (an unimaginative cliché ending if I ever heard one). No, this ending suited the series much more. The characters are still teenagers, with their whole lives ahead of them. Why get hitched now? Takahashi wanted the characters to go on enjoying that time in their life. So she left it open, and let the readers decide for themselves how things turn out in several years. I think she made the right choice.
This movie is emotionally poignant without trying to overcompensate. Sasuga Takahashi-sensei! The characters and performances all hit the right notes, thanks to a well-written story by Takahashi.
Overall it's a fabulous movie. I wouldn't give it as high praise as movie 2 only because the direction is and animation is not as imaginative. Even if it isn't an animated masterpiece, it is still highly enjoyable to fans of the show.
If you are set on watching this movie, it would be best if you've watched a good amount of the anime or manga before viewing Kanketsuhen. This is the conclusion to the series after all.