Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
The penultimate episode of Stella no Mahou is trying to bring a bit of excitement to the mix: an unforeseen event creates a hurdle that our protagonists need to jump without tripping if they want to have their game ready for the coming Summer Comiket. Will they make it to the event in the anime’s final episode?
Japanese Title: お困りですかお嬢さん
— TVアニメ「ステラのまほう」公式 (@magicofstella_a) December 14, 2016
The anime is close to fulfilling its promised 12-episode cour with the girls attending the event they’ve been trying to attend from the very first episode, Summer Comiket. But what kind of anime would just let its heroines go into the final episode unscathed? The opening scenes introduced the episode’s twist: Minaha’s sister is Iino-san, Honda’s classmate.
It is a common trope for both anime and series to portray incredibly rich Japanese families that live in the country as strict and traditional. The Iino family, for as long as we are concerned, consists of an austere grandma that we never see, a firm when it comes to holding the traditions but understanding to the wishes of her little sister Iino, and a fan-girly but serious about her art Minaha.
With the Iino family and their mansion as the main stage, the episode took a linear path that left no room for surprises. Minaha joins a sleep-over only to be abruptly returned to her household by her sister who acts on behalf of their grandmother. Of course, being filthy rich, she returns in a black limo, which was used to make some kind of joke about raids. I am guessing Yakuza, but I am not really sure. The grandmother prohibits Minaha from taking part in school clubs because her school grades suffered from the day she joined SNS. The girls find this unacceptable so Seki and Honda go to Iino household to retrieve their comrade. At first I thought that they would confront the grandma, but the person they actually have to convince is Minaha’s sister.
In a Scottish shower of art comments and comedic counters, Seki represents the romantic artist who believes that art is life while Iino plays the realist parent who insists that art is a hobby and not a vocation. Seki wins the argument (if there ever was one, since Iino-san quite abruptly gives in and agrees to help them) by reading a very heart-warming passage from her past. Art, according to Seki, is ‘not about creating to change something or for someone’s sake. It’s because it’s fun. Because we are alive.’
Creating art is as natural as eating and breathing
From that point the episode shifts the focus to the two main themes of the episode: having fun while creating art, and maintaining a balance between study and art. Honda has another moment of self-doubt in which she feels unable to draw. Nothing works out. With the help of her guardian-angel Teru (who seems to have the unnatural superpower to appear whenever Honda is in trouble) she realizes that the reason behind her artistic gloominess is very simple: She is not having fun with her art.
You can’t get into it because you are not having fun
Less than two keeps before the deadline, Minaha is allowed to spend time in Honda’s house (quite suddenly and without any realistic explanation) and Honda finds her lost passion for middle-aged manga drawings. Will they make it to Comiket?
— silverlink (@silverlink2007) December 13, 2016
Iino Mansion: That house is huge. Like enormous. More like HUMONGOUS. If I had a place like that I wouldn’t ever have to leave it. I would bring my friends and my family, make a cinema and a game room, and spend our days in the garden learning archery and feeding the koi fish under the small bridge, watching the sakura trees change throughout the seasons. If you live in such a house, leave a message in the comments. I want to become your best friend and convince your parents to adopt me.
Energy Drinks: A moment of familiarity goes a long way in comedy. I think we first saw Shiina’s mother opening the fridge full of energy drinks and ready meals, the true sign of a professional freelancer. In an almost identical scene (Honda speaks of déjà vu) Iino’s maid opens a similar fridge. But the real charm was the moment when Teru invades Honda’s room from the window but informs them that she hadn’t planned so far ahead as to have a fridge full of energy drinks and ready meals with her.
Art: Art was more than a theme for the episode. It was a theme for the series. In between the comedic anecdotes there is a deep appreciation for music, writing, drawing, and even programming. The Japanese society has a deep teamwork mentality that is found in Stella no Mahou. The series focuses that art is important, but truly wonderful things can only be created by combining our strengths.
For a change, Stella no Mahou had a narrative flow that was easy to follow and that remained relatively interesting to watch. My favorite scene was by far the confrontation at Iino’s house, if not for the art references, then for the witty dialogue between the girls and Iino-san.
— TVアニメ「ステラのまほう」公式 (@magicofstella_a) December 16, 2016
Stella no Mahou is going to end on a positive note, that’s a given. I mentioned this in my previous reviews, but I can’t wait to see the final video game that was inspired by Seki’s story. I’m not a fan of visual novels, but I am a fan of people working together to produce something as exciting as a videogame.
Did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check the rest of our Fall 2016 anime episodic reviews.
NEXT TIME, Final Episode: Back at the Start Point (もう一度スタート地点)