[warning]Spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to directly read about the ending of this series, then don’t read after the jump!! Hence why I starred out the name in the beginning thoughts, though I am sure you could probably guess who I mean, but still, I did not write it out in consideration of those who don’t want the ending immediately ruined.[/warning]
Goodbye Asuko March! Fare thee well. Come back with a second season in a year or two!!! I seriously wonder if this manga had a conclusion, if things would have turned out differently? But who’s to say that the manga would have the ending I really want anyways? I always do kind of hate it when series are made before a manga has concluded so you have a more open-ended less-than-satisfying ending. Although, there are mangas that conclude like that as well. Pooh. Oh, well.
Now, this is not to say that Asuko had a disappointing ending. It was a positive ending, a bittersweet ending, a happy ending, and a promising ending. All these wrapped in to one. Thanks to the more open-endedness of the series finale, it could stand a second season or SP. I wonder if it will end up getting either one? In a way, I really, really want at least a special after graduation, after ***** comes back and confesses his feelings for Nao to her face. Sigh. Now, on to the nitty gritty. Like always, don’t read below if you want the ending spoiled.
The final episode starts with Nao running. It’s been six months and there was a lot of times she has had to run like that. There was also many times that she has fallen just like that. Really, the girl is such a klutz and has to fall or hurt herself somehow once an episode. Since she has entered Asuko, she has always been running for other people – the help them. We then get a warning that things at Asuko are about to change and that good friends will be going separate ways. And it’s not even graduation yet!
We then rewind a few days to find out just what is going on. Before school, Nao goes to Tamaki’s home to tell him her decision (which we never truly get a definitive answer as to what it is, though everyone can guess). Before Nao can tell Tamaki she has finally come to a conclusion, he tells her that his father will be reopening their screw factory thanks to the help of an old friend. This makes Nao happy for Tamaki, but she is also sad that she didn’t get a chance to answer his confession. Also, Tamaki tells Nao that with his dad restarting the factory, he will also have to transfer to a night school so he can help his father out. Say it ain’t so! There goes Nao’s best friend.
While Nao worries at the back gate for not being able to tell Tamaki her decision, she looks up and there sits Aruto in his usual tree. Nao asks what he is reading and he tells her it’s a script. He is thinking of taking up acting once again. He then reveals that he has made it through the final selection process for the drama and jumps out of the tree. He then reveals to Nao that if he gets the part, he will be able to pay off all of his mom’s medical expenses and move her to a great hospital in Tokyo. Nao is happy that he will be able to help his mom, but can’t help but be sad at the prospect of her first love leaving her (and right after Tamaki confesses he will probably be leaving Asuko soon!). Aruto, noticing Nao’s expression, asks if she is sad. Nao puts on a smile and says she’ll be okay. Liar.
The depressed Nao returns home to find her grandfather playing a game. Yoshino introduces him as the head of the neighborhood association Kajihara. Yoshino then introduces Kajihara to Nao and the man comments on how the two look alike – not really, but they do actually have a lot of the same mannerisms. Yoshino then tells Kajihara about how Nao is going to a technical school because she wants to be just like her grandfather. Nao immediately refutes this (that really is not the reason she ended up at Asuko). Kajihara is pleased to hear that Nao is attending his alma mater and he asks if the Asuko March is still being held. Nao has no idea what he is talking about and Yoshino comments that he thinks it has been discontinued.
The next day at school, Nao hands in her future course of study plans to Omukai who is surprised that Nao is taking up mechanical arts. He had hoped that she would be in his electrical arts courses. Without Nao, Omukai feels less inspired to teach – should he swap subjects? Nao tells him, like she always does, “No!” Nao goes back to her seat and Hirose says they will be studying together next year as well because he chose mechanical arts as well. Nao comments it’s because he wants to pursue making music boxes to which Hirose immediately shouts loudly for her not to broadcast that. Great job, Hirose! You broadcasted the news just fine by yourself! Wajima, Murai and Kishi wander over surprised by Hirose’s announcement. They then say that they are going to be in public works – which they are all excited about. Hearing this news, however, depresses Nao as it means they won’t be together anymore.
Now that is what you call a classic case of irony. Nao fought against Asuko for so long, but finally came to love it. And just as she has decided to stay and pursue industrial arts with her new friends, they will be splitting up and going their separate ways. Sad. But it is an unavoidable step in growing up. Doesn’t make it any less depressing, though.
Of course, Omukai is unhappy that most of his students are choosing other courses of studies instead of his area. Murai asks if he should switch majors, but is denied. LOL. Poor Murai, so clueless and always getting rejected by Tamaki. Now he is even getting rejected by Omukai. Nao then catches up to Takeuchi and asks if he is going in to automotive arts. Takeuchi then reveals that he won’t be studying in Asuko any more either!!! Say what! Not Takeuchi-kun, too! Sigh. It seems a little too dramatic to have Nao’s three closest friends departing. Sure Hirose will still be there and there is the idiotic trio, but Takeuchi, Tamaki, and Aruto are Nao’s bestest friends. Apparently, Takeuchi’s older brother has finally left seclusion and has found a good automotive program in the U.S. and he wants Takeuchi to come with him. Yay for his brother finally coming back into the real world. Yay for them getting to bond and be together! Pooh on Takeuchi for leaving as well.
The depressed Nao goes to visit Sugisaki who is busy molding scented candles. Sugisaki has fnially discovered her creative side. The more she works on the candles, the more she is soothed. Nao says that she wishes to be soothed as well. Her class is splitting up to study different things and pursue their future goals, plus some of them are even leaving…like Takeuchi-kun, Aruto-kun, Tamaki-kun…Aruto-kun. Wait! Nao just said Aruto twice. Nao is so out of it, she doesn’t realize it. Sugisaki gets up and says that Autumn is the season of goodbye. Nao replies that it is spring, but things are different in Asuko. The boys there need to decided to continue on with school or quit and find work. Thus, a lot of partings happen in autumn. Nao understands, but is depressed. Sugisaki tells Nao that there is nothing she can do, but send the boys with a smile and not let them see how much it hurts her.
After school, Nao and company go with Tamaki to visit his house. Tamaki talks nonstop about being able to restart the factory. When the crew gets to the factory, the machinery is all in place. The kids are all happy until Tamaki’s father comes out complaining to the delivery men that the machines are too old and some won’t even work properly. It’s not the guys’ fault, Tamaki-kun’s dad will have to take it up with their boss. Tamaki is not happy to hear this and goes to fight the guys, but his father stops him. This doesn’t bode well for the factory restarting.
On her way home, Nao sees Seiichi outside a factory talking to his acquaintance. The man accuses Seiichi of not reading the contract carefully and being so gullible. No wonder Seiichi’s factory has failed multiple times. He is just too softhearted and trusting. Seiichi bows before his “friend” and pleads for better equipment, but to no avail. Nao then gets down on her knees and begs, too, shocking Seiichi. Nao pleads with the man to please give them the proper equipment so Tamaki doesn’t regret leaving Asuko to help his father with the factory. The main doesn’t listen and just leaves. The two stay outside the factory and it, of course, starts to poor. Nao doesn’t want to leave, but Seiichi convinces her to finally get up and go home because in the real world, people won’t listen to you like they will at school. Too true. Too True. The real world can really suck at times.
The upset Nao is at home and her grandfather won’t stop bothering her. He has no idea what happened, but he knows something is wrong. He keeps mentioning the Asuko March and finally Nao gets up to tell him to bugger off, but when she opens the door, there stands her grandfather in drag! He is playing the part of Nao’s grandmother and also doing his best to cheer her up. He tells Nao that there are times when you can’t do anything and dwelling on the unhappy matters won’t make things any better. Yoshino then encourages his granddaughter to read up on the Asuko March as it could be the last thing for her and her friends to do together, plus it will take her mind off all the unhappiness that is going on.
The next day at school Nao has handouts about Asuko March and she works up the courage to try and get the boys to go along with her idea yet again. Poor Tamaki and the boys are talking about what happened at the factory the day before when Nao finally gets up and calls for their attention. She passes out the handouts and explains the purpose of the march. The boys don’t sound thrilled at all and are even a little peeved that Nao would consider doing something so pointless like that when Tamaki’s family is in big trouble. Nao says that since there is nothing she or any of the boys can do, then this is the best remedy for that, plus it will allow them to build finale memories before splitting apart. Nao believes that Tamaki will support this, but is shocked when he says he just isn’t in the mood. To be expected, but still a bummer.
After school, Nao shows up to the junk pile in her work clothes and like expected, no one is there. Nao then sets about collecting junk for the project. Aruto comes and says that he will help her out. He believes that the march project is a great idea. Plus, he doesn’t want to see Nao disappointed. The two then begin digging through the junk and putting pieces in boxes to use for their creation. When Nao reaches up to get a pipe, she is too short and Aruto comes and grabs it for her. This brings the two pretty close together. Can we say awkward! Tension fills the air and Aruto goes in for a kiss! Not for the first time, but this time it looks like he’s finally going for the lips. Aiyo. True, he kicked Kyoko to the curb, but in a way I just kind of find it a tad selfish. But then again, Aruto does deserve happiness in his crappy life as well.
Of course just as Aruto is about to kiss Nao, Kyoko shows up and the girl is angry. She says that it is all Nao’s fault that Aruto left her. Nao seduced him away. It’s so funny hearing all these other girls accusing Nao of scheming and seducing when she is really clueless about love and relationships in general. Sigh. Nao denies seduction and Aruto says that the reason he broke things off with Kyoko is because she has only ever been obsessed with him because of his days as a child actor. The truth is, he is not the person that Kyoko seems to think he is. This throws the crazy woman for a leap and she runs off, followed by Aruto and Nao. The two catch up with Kyoko just as she almost gets hit by a van. Nao squinches her eyes clothes, but Aruto launches himself at Kyoko and manages to save her. The two roll down the hill a ways and Aruto hurts his leg! Oh no! Just when Aruto was starting to get his life back on track.
At the hospital, Sachko rushes in and demands to know how Aruto is doing. Nao tells his mother that Aruto’s leg is hurt, but not broken. He will have to rest in the hospital for a few days, but then he’ll be good as new. This relieves Sachiko, but depresses her as well. Why? Aruto’s final audition for the drama was today. Typical. Nao goes in to see Aruto who is pretty depressed himself. He complains about how he had finally caught a glimpse of the sky at long last, but just as he was trying to fly, he crashed. Now he can’t move to Tokyo with his mother. Aruto knocks over a flower and the vase shatters. Nao tries to cheer him up, but stops when she sees the script in the trash. She hopes that Aruto will be able to rejoin the march, but the poor boy seems to be pretty bad off. He even cried. Wow. Matsuzaka Tori could teach Takei Emi a thing or two about emotional crying scenes. Where Nao’s outright crying (not her silent tears crying) seems so fake, Matsuzaka’s is so real. It’s actually very touching and you feel bad for the poor abused boy. Nothing goes right for him.
Nao comes to a decision and like with Tamaki’s situation, she is going to do her best to help Aruto. She takes off running through the halls of the hospital. I take it that this is where we catch up to the beginning of this episode. She makes it to the TV station, only to be escorted out as she tries to get into the audition area. Nao sees a box of old props being thrown out and dresses up as a robot to sneak in. She manages to catch up with the selection committee just as they are leaving. She pleads for them to give Aruto a chance since he had an accident and an untimely injury that prevented him from attending. The producer asks Nao who she is and Nao replies that she is Aruto’s friend. When the producer asks Nao to describe Aruto’s acting – she can’t. Thus the producer won’t listen and give Aruto another chance as he can’t just accept the word of a friend. Makes sense. But still sucks.
The next day finds Nao back at the garbage heap. Takeuchi comes and asks if she plans to do this alone. Nao will do it alone if she has to. Takeuchi asks what her design ideas are for the project and all Nao can say is an image of them all heading towards a bright future. Takeuchi complains about the vagueness of such an idea and leaves. But you can tell the gears in his head are working since he asked Nao about a design. Takeuchi is a good designer. Momo sees this exchange from afar and you know Nao’s idea touches her. One last march. One last project. One last time for everyone to be together and create happy memories.
Then we see the typical Nao working hard. This time she is working hard collecting the junk and lugging it to the workshop. We then cut to see Kishi, Hirose, and Murai coming to Seiichi’s factory. Tamaki asks what they are doing there and Hirose presents an envelope to Seiichi. The three have collected money from their part time jobs to help defray the expenses of the factory. It isn’t much, but the boys really want to help. Seiichi thanks them for trying, but he will not take their hard earned money. Things will work out okay in the end. Seiichi then comments on how Nao bowed in the pouring rain to help as well. This surprises the boys who were unaware that Nao had, indeed, actually tried to help the factory situation. Makes them feel guilty of accusing her of not caring and then refusing to help out with the march. Meanwhile, Nao keeps working late into the night.
The next day Aruto is released from the hospital and his mom delivers the good news that his audition has been rescheduled. This shocks him, but pleases him. How did it happen? Sachiko says that a girl talked to the producer to give him another chance. Aruto asks if it was Yoshino, but Sachiko says it seemed like it was another girl. So, yes, it was crazy Kyoko. But she was acting under Nao’s orders. Nao confronted the girl, saying it was Kyoko’s fault that Aruto got hurt and missed his audition (though she said that in a slightly politer way than I would have). So, since Kyoko is obsessed with his acting, Nao had her give the producer the tape of Aruto’s famous childhood role, thus garnering him another try at the audition. Whew. Nao can really make things move.
Nao goes back to get another box of junk only to drop it and scrape her hands. Then up comes her boys. They are finally there to help. They complain about how slow Nao is and how she wouldn’t be able to move all the junk before nightfall. Takeuchi then presents her with an awesome design. Then the boys set to work collecting junk and taking it to the workshop. Momo then shows up and presents Nao with gloves. She teases Nao about conniving to get attention from boys once more and then talks about opening up. Maybe, just maybe, they can move forward as friends. Looks like all the depressing things are washing away. As the boys and Momo all head towards the workshop, the happy Nao almost passes out due to exhaustion. She is caught by Aruto who asks if she is the last package that needs carrying. Kawaii! So cheesy, though, too. Nao smiles happy to see him show up and says that she is okay. She is set down and they continue on up the hill.
When the gang gets to the workshop, the rest of the class are hard at work. Soon everyone joins in and is working hard. Aruto comes up to the working Nao and says that he looks great in her work uniform. She is s strangely fascinating. Nao laughs this off, but you can tell she is pleased by Aruto’s praise. Tamaki sees this and knows he has lost out. Phooey. I wanted Tamaki to get the girl. Curses that Aruto managed to attract her first. Murai sees this and goes up to Tamaki and confesses!!!!!!!!! No way! I really do wonder about that boy. Of course, he does this after recalling the beauty that is Tamaki in drag. Murai gives Tamaki the same speech that Tamaki gave Nao – Can’t it be me instead? Murai even adds in a butt grope. LMAO!!! Tamaki tells him to stop and if he doesn’t, then Tamaki will screen. Poor Murai rejected once more.
Nao’s grandfather and Fujihara watch on. Fujio is proud to see how far Nao has come. He new she was bad at coming to decisions, so he forced Asuko on her. He is sad that it was so hard on her at first, and he is proud at how far she’s come.
The work is finally done! Nao is given the honor of revealing the complete sculpture. She has the entire group countdown from five and the sheet is dropped. I have to admit that it is pretty awesome. Sugisaki and Okano watch on. Sugisaki says that the wings are uplifting. Okano asks what they mean and Sugisaki tells him rising about and kind of like granting a wish. Okano wishes for his arranged date to go well, so he goes to wish on the sculpture. Silly. Omukai then congratulates them on their hard work. He is really proud of them. Now the last thing left to do is destroy it. Okay. Now that totally irritated me. While I understand what he was getting at, it’s still depressing as it is their last memory and last project as a class. This saddens the group and Omukai is proud of that sadness. They know the joy of creation and the sadness of destruction. But things don’t last forever. Nao asks for some more time before they tear it apart and asks a favor of Sugisaki.
The gang take Sugisaki’s uncarved candles and make their own to include on the sculpture. Nao goes over and gets a light from Takeuchi. She tells him to take care of himself in America. Takeuchi then tries to tell Nao something, but he is interrupted by Hirose calling out for a light. Momo then comes out and asks if Takeuchi was going to confess to Nao. Takeuchi says he wasn’t as there is blonde beauties awaiting in America. He then goes away and Momo comments on his cuteness. I think Momo might have a little crush on Takeuchi…or maybe he was just her first real friend despite the fact they got off to a rather evil start. Now, Takeuchi liking Nao? I kind of had a hunch by the way he was always looking at her and looking out for her. Now it’s confirmed. Now I feel bad. Too bad you can’t slice Nao up three ways. One part for Aruto, one for Tamaki, and one for Takeuchi. LOL.
Nao then goes over to Tamaki and gives him a light. She asks if he will be okay and Takami tells her not to worry. Despite everything that has happened, the Tamaki factory is always rebuilt and comes back stronger than ever. Tamaki then says it seems like “he” will be okay as well. Who? Aruto. Tamaki tells Nao that he doesn’t need to hear her answer to his confession as he already knows what it will be. Nao doesn’t deny this as we all know Tamaki is referring to a rejection. Tamaki then breaks the news that Asuko has night school as well so he will still be around for Nao, so she can hang out with him whenever she wants. Yay! Nao’s best friend is staying at least.
Nao goes up to place her candle on the sculpture and is followed by Aruto. He tells her about how he admires her and how she does such wonderful things. Nao tries to wave this off, but Aruto insists that Nao’s persistence and determination and all she does is admirable. That is why he fell in love with her in the first place. Of course he says this in an aside manner that the distracted Nao didn’t really catch. She demands to know what he says, but Aruto smiles and says that he is telling her to listen better. True to an extent. He then basically says he will come back when he is ready to confess. This is why an SP is needed!!! The two then step back to admire the beautiful sculpture all alight with candles. Nao smiles at its beauty and then says it’s time to break it apart. Sad day.
And like that, this chapter comes to a close. The group go their separate ways and start down the paths to their individual futures. They jump to the next year with a new incoming class coming to view the pracitical workshop. Among the rowdy boys is one lone girl. While the boys start to fight, Nao goes and saves the girl from falling like she did on her first day. Nao tells her everything will be all right and that she will come to love Asuko as well. Nao then trips and falls and gets tools and oil dumped on her head again. What away to end the series as it began. Then again, it wouldn’t be Nao if she wasn’t doing something klutzy.
Sad to say it is over. Sad to say there is no solid conclusion. I really hope that Nao and Aruto get to be together now since Tamaki has basically given up. Although, a small part of me really still wants her to get together with Tamaki-kun. And another part wants her to be with Takeuchi-kun. Sigh. I want a reunion special to see what happens to them all in the future. I guess kind of like the very end of the Gokusen movie.