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The last four episodes of Ginban Kaleidoscope overall maintained the same formula the first eight episodes established. In the end I found the series to be an enjoyable watch, and the ending especially has left me with a variety of feelings. It was certainly an atypical conclusion, though perhaps it should have been expected when considering the premise.

Not Your Typical Sports Ending…

…or Romcom Ending, for that matter! For the vast majority of stories involving sports in fiction, it’s about an underdog or team of underdogs that ultimately go on to win, right? And for most romcoms, the lead girl and boy always end up together, right? Now imagine telling your friends that Ginban Kaleidoscope is about an Olympic figure skater who doesn’t win a medal (let alone the championship). But at least she falls in love with someone!… who dies. (Or rather, disappears, since he is dead to being with.) Not sure how many DVDs would sell with that as the synopsis. XD

And yet, the series works, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t exactly call Ginban Kaleidoscope a tragedy (it is far too goofy and camp for that), but there is a sense of realism to this anime that you don’t get in–well, your average sports or romcom anime. I mean, it’s great to have a big dream of winning the championship in some pastime that you love–but at the end of the day does it actually matter? It’s more important that you’re enjoying said pastime you love, and that you’re having a life that means something outside of said pastime. And on the romance side of things… well, it seems that we really need to cherish the time we have with our loved ones. There will one day be a time of parting, and we need to make the most out of the days we have. Then once that time has past, we can treasure those good memories we’ve created, and continue to press forward. Not exactly a revolutionary theme, but I felt it was handled well for this series.

A Cast of Two

(PICTURED: Not the two I’m referring to.) Ginban Kaleidoscope pretty much focuses on only two characters: Tazuna and Pete. And even then, the only character who really grows is Tazuna. Perhaps this is all less of a problem in the original light novels, but in the anime there is very little time devoted to the vast majority of the cast. I won’t automatically label that as a bad thing–after all, a twelve-episode series needs to choose what it’s going to focus on, and in this show’s case it makes sense to devote most its time to the development of Tazuna’s character. (Certainly a better choice than anime where nothing interesting is ever done with the protagonist! [SEE: the last anime we watched for this club].)

That said, the majority of the characters end up feeling like backdrops that are there for the sake of the plot. Coach, the ornery manager, the little sister, the school friend, the freelance reporter, etc–they all have a role to play, and they stick with it. Even amongst the other figure skaters, we pretty much just have the rival and the top contender, and we don’t really have much of anything happen with either of them. As a result they’re not very interesting, but perhaps it is best to look at Ginban Kaleidoscope’s sports-based conflicts as primarily between Tazusa and herself (ie her insecurities and pressures). Again, this goes along with essentially all the focus of the series resting on our main character.

A great deal of the anime (if not a majority of it) is spent in discussion between Tazusa and Pete. This relationship of course is the driving force behind the entire series, and in general I thought it was quite sweet and fun. However, I do wish we had learned more about Pete. I mean, we know of his love for stunt planes, but what got him into that (at such a young age!) in the first place? What was his family like? Where in Canada did he live, exactly? (And how did he like his time in Japan, for that matter?) Does he have any thoughts at all on the afterlife, or passing on in general? It seems odd that we didn’t get to see Tazusa discuss too much about Pete. I mean, I’d have a lot of questions to ask if a Canadian boy was possessing my body. Perhaps there is a lot more delved into for the books, but I would have liked at least a little more of this in the anime (maybe in exchange for some of the extraneous media conflict).

Subverting Several Genres at Once?

Regarding romance and comedy: I was a bit worried when we had an episode titled “Love Triangle,” but to my pleasant surprise the show went for a comic route making everything a misunderstanding. The bishie freelance reporter was actually *not* interested in Tazusa (in that way)–but was crushing on her rival. And then Coach, it turns out, is *not* into his sixteen-year-old athlete (thank heavens)–but is engaged with some woman that I don’t think we ever saw before (or ever saw again). I thought that was pretty hilarious. =P At least, it was better than the tired running gag of Tazusa yelling at Pete, and other characters thinking she’s yelling at them.

Regarding fantasy: We never got an explanation for why Pete was forced to remain on earth as a spirit for one hundred days, did we? Or, for that matter, why he ended up possessing Tazusa. Was it just happenstance, or was it destiny? I suppose there’s no way to know (outside of reading the books, perhaps). The supernatural element of our story was certainly vital, but I wonder if it would have helped to have seen the concept explored a bit further. I think it’s all right that it acted as a plot device, and I suppose the mysteriousness of it all kept many of us from expecting a solution to be found in order to keep Pete around. In most stories, the characters would probably try to find a way to keep Tazusa from losing Pete–but in this case Pete had accepted the inevitability of his demise. Perhaps then the conclusion of the series shouldn’t surprise anyone. When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go?

Regarding sports: Again, you’d expect the protagonist to give her all, triumph, and win the gold. In Ginban Kaleidoscope, our protagonist gives her all–and for that reason she triumphs, you could say. And hey, she does have a full skating career ahead of her still, so it’s still possible for her to find victory. What’s more important is that she finds the act of participating in figure skating worthwhile in the first place.

What Really Matters

More important than the Olympics for Tazusa, of course, is the bond she has formed with Pete over the course of this series. A relationship between a living person and someone who has already died is something difficult to pull off, but I feel Ginban Kaleidoscope went about it in an interesting way. Their time spent together led to Tazusa realizing her feelings for this kind-hearted boy, but in the end the only way she could actually act on it was to give her all in the figure skating competition–to give Pete one last flight, as it were. They couldn’t do more than talk to each other, otherwise. Even their “kiss” I believe is to be interpreted as more of a mental visualization than anything literal. Their parting is bittersweet and somber, and both parties were well aware of their feelings for one another at that point–even if the actual words hadn’t been communicated by words. Against all odds and in the unlikeliest of circumstances, these two souls soared… together.

I hope there were at least a few people who gave this show a try! It’s certainly a lesser-known anime, and while I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, I feel it did well what it set out to do. It’s a good anime worth watching, at the very least. Feel free to share your own thoughts here!