Two months after the disappearance of Kikko and Phantom Sword Claude, the Superhuman Bureau is strained to the breaking point. Student protests against the treatment of superhumans and the actions of both the Japanese and US governments swell. On the eve of an historic vote for new laws to regulate superhumans, agitators from the Imperial Ad Agency and elsewhere push the protesters into conflict with the police and the Bureau. In the midst of this, Jiro confronts Claude and Emi attempts to release Kikko from her demonic form. Robots and ideals clash in the name of freedom, peace and justice.
Boy, oh boy, folks… this freaking show. Concrete Revolutio has probably set some new record for story density, and it’s only half finished. A ton of plotlines and story beats come together in Episode 13, with many being resolved and just as many set up to continue into the second season when it premiers next Spring. All things considered, I found this to be a powerful end to the first half that still left me wanting more – a fair success, as such things go.
We open shortly after Phantom Sword Claude has taken Kikko and killed Bureau Chief Akita. Jiro’s growing distrust of his comrades becomes more apparent as the team focuses on tracking down Claude and their missing partner. Two months later, students from across Tokyo march alongside superhumans who use their powers to attack the police and government forces sent in to contain them. When Claude and Kikko finally reappear, Claude berates Jiro for his idealism and reveals more of his past. In order to stop Claude and prevent the protests from becoming even more violent, Jiro unleashes his power, and we learn even more about his origins and the forces surrounding the struggle over superhumans.
Episode 13 gives us a clearer picture of everything that has been building up to this point. Beyond the social, legal and military abuses against superhumans, illegal experimentation by several governments helps spark the biggest protest against the government in general and the Superhuman Bureau in particular. Normal students, growing up in the wake of Revolutio‘s alternate World War II, are infuriated at this betrayal by their own leaders, and side with many superhumans seeking justice for these atrocities.
What I liked most about this final clash and the series of events leading up to it is how understandable the whole groundswell of activism and conflict is. Superhumans, both heroic and villainous, are a massively disruptive force, and their rise in the wake of a destructive war leads inevitably towards the conflict we see here. Early on, the Superhuman Bureau was dealing with dramatic but isolated incidents, such as alien encounters and attacks by vengeful bug-people. Over time, these incidents led to further restrictions against those with superpowers, which in turn led to a huge backlash from both superhumans and the youth that had grown up idolizing them. While there are upstanding and ruthless people on both sides, the arguments for and against the management of people with such extraordinary powers all make sense, and it’s clear why no one would want to back down from their position, even after the horrors of illegal experimentation and abuse come to light.
This conflict is personified in Jiro, who grew up adoring superheroes and fights against his own disillusionment and the growing split between superhumans and mundane humans. His internal struggle comes full circle in this episode as he confronts Claude, who is effectively a direct reflection of Jiro if he took a firm stand on the side of superhumans. Claude’s past circumstances have led him to detest the government and fight against it, while Jiro has never fully embraced either side, instead fighting for a middle ground that seems increasingly hard to find.
The fight between Jiro and Claude is the highlight of this episode, and it showcases their similarities and differences excellently. While their battle takes center stage, we also see clashes between the slew of superhumans we’ve met up to this point. Detective Shiba, Earth-chan, the Boys of Light and others all get a moment to take a side and demonstrate their feelings and attempt to justify their choices. While I greatly enjoyed the asides given to these characters, I also saw clearly just how unmanageable the cast had become. I could recall the names of maybe half the supporting characters outside of the Bureau, and that took me out of the experience somewhat. Still, I could clearly understand their positions, so I’d call that a win considering the sheer volume of characters the show has thrown at us.
One small strike against the show in this episode before the break is that the animation and fight choreography don’t quite sell this as the big struggle that leads to the turning point of the show. It doesn’t look bad by any stretch, but compared to some of the sequences earlier in the show (Detective Shiba’s fight in Episode 3 comes to mind), it just doesn’t have as much oomph. For a show that is as vibrant and lively as this, it would have been nice to see the creators really pull out all the stops, but with a second season on the way, there’s hope we’ll get to see more of that in the future.
Between the protests and battles that take up the bulk of Episode 13, Concrete Revolutio‘s first season ends as dramatically and boldly as it began. Once the dust has settled, we find ourselves at the long-awaited moment where Jiro leaves the Superhuman Bureau and sets out on his own. However, his quest for justice for superhumans is not quite at the point where we first saw it in Episode 1. There is clearly more to be done once the second season starts, but we can see the circle closing from here.
I’m glad that the show will be continuing, though I’m also grateful for the Winter hiatus. Concrete Revolutio is a bold show with big themes and ideas, and it delivers on them in a great way. However, it is also fast-paced and tricky to follow, giving you very little time to breathe in between superpowered punch-ups and dramatic speeches. It’s a twisting roller coaster through a socio-political fireworks show of modern Japanese history and pop culture, and if you can keep your brain wrapped around it all, it’s one heck of a ride.
Please look forward to another series of final thoughts on the show from me and the rest of the Con Artists in the near future. Thanks as always for reading, and please leave your own thoughts on the show in the comments.