A few days ago, I finished watching Kannagi. And I think I’m going to be the minority here and defend the relatively serious concluding episodes.
Kannagi was similar to Toradora in that it took me somewhat by surprise in how amusing it was. The premise is, again, not particularly original, and in this show’s case the plot situations a lot more typical for anime romance than the friendship-oriented stories of Toradora. Kannagi was much more focused on the humor side of the equation than Toradora was, however, with few “character moments” of note.
That’s why I understand the critique many had, that the serious parts were boring and didn’t work. I agree up to a point; it easily could have been one of the many examples of anime being almost pure comedy and then suddenly veering into seriousness at the end in a really unearned and unreasonable manner. And yes, the sadness and rain aspects were played up a bit much; the director certainly wasn’t being subtle. Jin was being overly “emo” like the typical anime hero. However, the ending plotline raised questions that really do need answering and will be, presumably, in future seasons (which I’m sure are coming): who exactly is Nagi? What kind of powers does she really have? Why doesn’t she remember everything? Kudos to Jin for actually raising some questions and demanding answers, which isn’t typical for a harem hero.
In fact, since we are talking about gods and goddesses here, the issues are downright theological, though not in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic sense. (As Zenge says, it’s unfair to judge Japanese deities by Western theological categories.) Nagi and Zenge are both goddesses whose power depends on that of others’ devotion and belief, and it is when in says that he “believes” in her that she is able to be restored. That makes Nagi pretty human actually, and it makes even more sense when we consider the other way we understand what it means to “believe” in someone–to trust and to love someone.* That’s what she is looking for, and what Jin is beginning to realize that he can give her more than anyone else can. And no, the scenes of her crying didn’t make me melt at the moe. :)
I actually also liked the story the grandmother told about Nagi rescuing her and others from hanging themselves, though; not only was it a quiet answer to the questions surrounding Nagi’s identity, it was probably the most genuinely emotional moment in the ending arc, particularly when her ghost/spirit comes to testify to Nagi’s goodness. Certainly I felt this was more effective than the Jin emo, which I agree was overdone though not ruinous. I think that my starting fandom with Evangelion has given me a certain inoculation to high amounts of it, so I could be letting it go a bit too easily.
The episode ends on a rather cliche note, the sitcom “reset” where the status quo gets restored: obviously paving the way for future seasons. Since this show, with all of its meta-referencing to Lucky Star and otaku jokes, is meant primarily to be otaku comfort food–it’s an appropriate way to close for now. The “School Days” eyes that flashed in Tsugumi for a moment really had me going there for a second, too–I had to laugh.
I think relatively serious moments like the final arc help solidify one’s attachment to the characters. Humor works really well when you introduce characters, because it tends to make them more sympathetic; and for the sake of variety, at least, a little bit of seriousness can introduce necessary conflict and forward movement that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Which is, in my view, what happens in the Kannagi ending.
Or, it could simply be that I love seriousness in general and I’m a sucker for sadness. Which would explain the high reviews I’ve given for lots of otherwise dubious shows. Bias strikes again!