Note: this was a double episode, and is alternately referred to as Ep 11 as well as Ep 11 and 12.

So this is it – the last hour of SHARK Season 2. Right at the end of the previous episode and going into the beginning of this one, we get the ridiculous setup for the climactic battle between BtS and Cloud5 – that the two bands will face-off in front of fans again, and if Cloud5 loses, they’ll have to disband.

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Now, even the most gullible viewer would have to scratch their heads at this. How can a record company force a band to disband? Even if the band is under contract, nothing in that contract could ever allow the company to compel the members to disassociate. At the most extreme (and I can’t think of a case of this) the group might have to change its name, but it’s relatively common for bands to switch labels. There are some peculiar situations – like Johnny’s – where everything is vertically integrated, but that’s not how it works when a label signs an independent rock group. The group retains certain rights – like the right to exist and to freely assemble.

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Apparently, Matsuyuki wants to produce just one new group, and the company is willing to lose the potential profits from Cloud5 on his whim. First of all, what a lazy bum, not to mention a liar. But in any case the situation then should be that Cloud5 simply gets dropped from the company roster and becomes an independent band. I wonder if any other record company might want to take a chance on a popular young group that was just dumped by a label because their producer was an asshole?

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And at what point do the members of Cloud5 all walk into Matsuyuki’s office and tell him to shove it? If, after having been manipulated as they have been, they are just going to be thrilled to be under Matsuyuki’s umbrella again, what sympathy do they deserve?

Why do they look so calm and even happy? Why aren’t they outraged by this ultimatum and storming up to see Matsuyuki? Even if they’re confident that they’ll win, isn’t it tiresome to be repeatedly pitted against BtS, which is a very different group with a totally different style? Both the writing and the acting was completely lacking in the passion necessary to pull off a finale.

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And in the middle of this . . .

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. . . we get another Makoto scene. They discover a CD with the first song Saku (Shigeoka Daiki) recorded back in high school – one that got Kota (Yasui Kentaro) excited. So . . . this is still all about Kota, eh? And will this song be the one he decides to perform in the competition?

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Oh, and Makoto finally realizes that they should have told Kota that the little fish had died instead of lying to Kota. No real explanation how she suddenly saw the light. Here’s my theory: Kota actually knew they had lied to him about the fish the whole time, and that’s really why he’s been so pissed with them.

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In the next scene, we see that Saku can’t seem to write a song, and right at that moment Ichika (Yamashita Rio) enters with a song that Matsuyuki wrote. At this rate, maybe the band should call it quits, after all.

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In the Matsuyuki office, Samantha (IVAN) notes that Matsuyuki wrote that song for top group, and wondered whether it was all right to give it to Cloud5.

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Matsuyuki says that since Cloud5 will be defunct soon, this is his way to compensate them. Samantha then reveals that it was his plan from the start to use Cloud5 to promote BtS, which is once again not how businesses are run. Using rivalries as a promotion tool is fine and quite common, but that doesn’t require one group to be trodden on and then dumped. Even in the case of a weak group like Cloud5, there’s no harm in keeping them around and to continue to take a huge cut of their meager sales.

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As with so much dialogue in this series, none of what Matsuyuki says makes any sense. He should just stick to talking about drama.

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Back with the group members, even Ichika says they should just use Matsuyuki’s song. Well, since they don’t have any alternatives (both of their singles were redone by Matsuyuki and Saku hasn’t mentioned that old song he found), what else is she supposed to say? If they have to rely on Saku’s ability to write a new song, it’s hopeless.

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On the other hand, maybe Ichika wants Cloud5 to fail so Kai (Hamada Takahiro) can go back to SHARK.

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Maybe Aruto (Abe Aran) can save this situation?

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I don’t have a clue why Kai is talking about becoming adults. Strange inability to write coherent dialogue again. I think the writers just pulled lines from a box of common Japanese drama platitudes and randomly stuck them into the script. Maybe as a dare.

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So Cloud5 decides that they should go ahead with Matsuyuki’s song, but we know this is all just stalling because this song won’t work and Saku has to use one of his own songs – probably that old one – to win the day. Can you get any more predictable than this?

Cue the random encounter with Kota, who happens to know that Saku can’t compose a song. Was he listening with his ear pressed to the door or something? Anyway, more Kota sniping here. I got tired of this three or four episodes ago.

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Kai deserves some sniping, too, so Asahi (Iwahashi Genki) stops by to tell him how horrible he is. Maybe Cloud5 just needs to find a new location to practice and write music – this environment is clearly too negative.

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Cloud5 continues to delude themselves, repeating over and over again that they’re doing the right thing by using Matsuyuki’s song to convince themselves even though they all know that the writers want Saku to use one of his own songs, which is the writers wanted from episode one and what Saku did (to the annoyance of Aruto all the way back there). Do you suppose Saku will change which song he’s going to do and not tell Aruto this time, too?

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And that’s the thing – we’re back to episode one again, aren’t we?

Haruya (Hagiya Keigo) says a friend asked “since when did Cloud5 become TV personalities?” and somehow ends up wondering whether Cloud5 was just being used to create buzz – not a conclusion that could actually be derived from what his friend said. Haruya has no basis to make this comment, but the writers felt it convenient to give him the thought anyway, so they did. Why would a popular group ever be surprised that they were create buzz, getting on the cover of magazines, and being covered on TV?

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Another Makoto scene. She says the same sorts of things she always says. In fact, it’s a lot like what she said in episode one, except with more melodrama and shouting.

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Oh, we’re going to get a BtS scene? That’s nice.

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Unfortunately, they’re doing the same thing we’ve seen in all their scenes so far, too. It’s Kota and Azuma (Jinguji Yuta) getting in each other’s face again. Doesn’t go any further, either.

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At this point, there’s really nothing more to the story except the final battle and whether Saku gets his act together, so the writers try to fill the time with meaningless stuff. Unfortunately, this next bit is worse than meaningless – can you believe the guy at the guitar store says that music doesn’t convey anything!?

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Well, I guess that’s why he just sells guitars instead of being in a band. For those with any knowledge of music, it’s pretty clear that it can convey all sorts of meaning. Jimi Hendrix playing the U.S. national anthem at Woodstock comes to mind. The shopkeeper says that you can’t order a glass of water at a restaurant by playing your guitar, but that’s just a failure of imagination rather than a limitation of music. If the performance of the music was all that mattered, then would people prefer some classical composers over others? Wouldn’t it just be a matter of the orchestra which performed the piece?

Oh, no. Not more of this.

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Saku says what we all already knew – that it was all his fault. This was just a way to further their romantic connection, though.

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More filler.

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More Makoto.

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And finally we get to the main event. So, will Saku really accept the guitar shop guy’s advice that the only the performance matters (which is really horrible and counter to the professed philosophy of the series so far) or will he pull out that song mentioned in the beginning? It’s really hard for him to change what the band is going to do now, but then again we’re only halfway through this finale.

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We actually start out watching a holdover from the first season – the rival to SHARK in exactly the parallel situation. If this is a competition between bands, shouldn’t this first band be in the running, too?

Anyway, BtS is up first between the two main acts, and if we learned anything from the previous episodes, it’s to always go last in these things. For some reason, Asahi seems nervous even though we haven’t seen any indication of that in his character before.

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Why does Matsuyuki seem so grim in this episode? It’s like he was told at the start of this episode that he was actually the bad guy.

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I can’t say much about the rest of the episode without getting spoilerish, but I will point out that the voting on this competition was off the scale – they were getting more votes on this than we see on Kouhaku, for heaven’s sake. Even if people were allowed to vote multiple times with a simple click, it’s tough to credit it.

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Oh, and why did they make it seem like the group would only be able to do one song when they were free to do a whole set? It was just their last song that they were stressing over.

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Don’t get me started with the way they randomly dumped flashbacks in the middle of the set – in sharp contrast to the artful and poignant way the flashbacks were worked into the last episode of the first season.

Finally, at the very end of the show, we get something interesting:

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Now, that should have been part of the show, and SHARK should have started competing with the other two groups. Oh, well.

This season was horrible, and not worth the title of “SHARK”. Whatever the faults of the first season of SHARK – and they were few – it had a coherent plot, a compelling main character, clear progression, and a spectacular finale. This season was a pale imitation produced by people who can’t write.

The plot didn’t progress – the last episode seemed to be dealing with the same issues as the first. Without plot progress, the pace was technically nonexistent. The dialogue was often incoherent or otherwise written purely for the convenience of the writers instead of having logical flow. Lots of stock lines and not much meaning.

The most interesting plot element – BtS – was underdeveloped to the extreme. Asahi was the character with the most developed backstory and the most intriguing motivation, but while that was fleshed out, nothing came of it. Kai never explained himself properly to Asahi, Asahi never met Mizuki or the rest of SHARK, the Asahi-Kota-Azuma dynamic was just thrown in there without any thought.

Psychology was totally out the window in this season. The characterizations were completely unbelievable – except maybe for Aruto and Asahi, all the characters were ridiculously inconsistent. These should have been idealistic young men pursuing their dreams (like SHARK), but instead they were whiny, directionless, and had a strange propensity to lie. It is impossible to think how Cloud5 could ever have become a group given the apparent psychology of its members, and the writers didn’t even try to depict their backstory – only brief Saku-Kota flashbacks that showed them the complete opposite of the way they are in the present.

The acting eventually became very easy to assess for everyone except Shigeoka-kun and Hamada-kun, who were given lamentable lines. In the acting lead was clearly Abe Aran-kun, and he’s been rewarded with the lead role in the next drama in this time slot as well as plenty of additional attention. Once he got some lines, Hagiya-kun did an excellent job, especially since this character seemed very different from his normal personality. I hope we get to see him in a stronger role eventually, though. Yasui Kentaro-kun did a great job being hateful, but was handicapped by repetitive lines – he seemed to be saying the same thing episode after episode. Iwahashi Genki-kun got one episode where he showed that he could show two very different sides to the same character, but otherwise didn’t get nearly the time or the lines that he should have. The rest of BtS didn’t get enough time to be assessed. Yamashita Rio-san was unimpeachable, with her more mature presentation of this character. Kaede-san . . . I don’t think the horrible lines sufficiently explained my strong aversion to her scenes.

It was a mess. But there are interesting messes – this was not one of those. This was a mess that just sat there. We never cared what happened to Cloud5, and I was often tempted to root against them. In the end of the series, Saku was essentially struggling with the exact same issue he faced in episode one. What was this series about?