In real life, our stories rarely reach satisfying, coordinated conclusions. That even extends to our relationships with ongoing online RPG systems: You don’t really complete a full lifetime of adventure so much as just kind of stop playing one day. And given how undercut all its other efforts have been, that’s about the best Full Dive can hope for at the end here. It reaches a decently-satisfying stopping point, even laying out some interesting ideas for Hiro to have learned as life lessons. But while I’ll admit that there’s a halfway-cohesive character arc at the heart of this thing after all it laid out, it still feels like it was all way more exhaustingly overt than it needed to be. This final episode fits as a microcosm of that, an absolute cacophony of conceptually contradictory sound and fury, very specifically in service of signifying nothing.
Going in, the obvious question driving Hiro’s last stand is how he’s actually going to beat Tesla. For a story so strongly constructed about subverting and deflating story structures its audience is used to, it oddly opts to go the most expected routes possible for 99% of what goes down here. More disappointing for me, of course, is the death of Alicia. Not necessarily because this girl dying to motivate our main man is itself a tired old trope, but purely because I enjoyed her as a character, so taking her out in such a way really smarts! Granted, she’s a marketable lady character in a light-novel series so I couldn’t see her being gone permanently (and indeed, the path for her return is teased by how the show ends), but there’s just that twinge of mission drift from the series itself when we see it lay this out as an opportunity for Hiro to have a dramatic goodbye in the middle of a fight in a way that directly leads to him powering up for said battle. I’m starting to think this outlandish fantasy send-up only enforces its ‘realism’ gimmick when it’s narratively convenient!
That’s my main issue with Full Dive‘s deployment of the Big Finish here, as for most of it, it’s your fairly stock fantasy final battle. It’s not like Hiro exploits the ‘realism’ of the game world in any sort of way, or has to work around that element in his efforts. It’s simply revealed that the ‘trick’ to being good at Kiwame Quest is getting rushes of heightened abilities at times of feeling strong emotions, “Just like in the real world”, meaning this whole thing operates on full-on anime logic after all! An aside point of contention is the implication that Kamui, the supposedly amazing player who wrote the GameFAQ that Hiro’s been following all this time, himself mostly owes his success to getting a handle on this one weird trick that lets Hiro access things like his super-speed or a dead-best-friend powered spiritual ghost sword. If all the repeated, exhausting enforcing of ‘realism’ as a gimmick was just going to be a gag that was thrown to the wind at the climax in favor of the most basic fantasy-anime boosts you would expect from the kinds of shows Full Dive was lampooning up until now, then was there even a point in coming all that way?
To its credit, Full Dive at least has enough clarity of concept to not let things actually work out that easily. Indeed, it sets up some notes of its driving subversion early, with stuff like Hiro’s sword initially breaking right off against Tesla’s armor, before the battle wraps with a cut to him getting backstabbed by the Queen, in-flashback, because he was so distracted by his protagonist-fantasy battle spectacle. That’s the kind of anticlimax I’d at least expected from this show, but it also leaves us with the question of what all this was even for. I agreed with Hiro’s musings in the moment that seeing everything he went through erased was oddly demotivating, but more in the sense of wondering what the show was all about save for a few wrung-out laughs. Again though, there is a level of overall commitment from Full Dive to its more broad, driving ideas. Yes it’s awfully convenient that Hiro learns from Kamui’s wiki page that there is in fact a secret way to reset his progress and try to beat Tesla again- “For a realistic game, there sure are a lot of tricks and secret techniques” is a funny observation, but doesn’t necessarily distract me from the obvious narrative contrivance. But it’s through this opportunity that the story shows Hiro making an effort to progress in his life, getting back into training and exercising a degree of backbone under the guise of preparing to try playing the game again. It almost lends the series the sense of one of those more classic transported-to-another-world stories where the protagonist made a point of returning to their original, ordinary life, having gained new strength and insight from their adventures after all. Which makes it feel just a bit wishy-washy that Full Dive still insists on the point that Hiro’s efforts continue to be in service of getting back into Kiwame Quest, presumably because the author felt there were still more light novel chapters to write.
That’s all something, at least, and does help the series to not feel like as much of a shaggy dog story as it ultimately could have. But it still comes off like the bare minimum of a conceptual arc for a series that spent so much time jerking us around with a pointedly un-fun gimmick. That’s the point, I suppose, the moral of this story being less about succeeding or not, and simply about finding the resolve to persevere through exhausting adversity. I can appreciate the efforts at making that message tangible, even as I feel that it really didn’t need to go through all that extraneous bullshit to get there.
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Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.