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[REVIEW] Quintessential Quintuplets the Movie

If you’ve somehow managed to remain unspoiled about the ending of The Quintessential Quintuplets, then this movie will finally resolve your burning questions. It does an impressive job with the leadup, dangling the five options in a way that makes them all seem plausible without cheapening the eventual resolution. But like with most shipping-heavy anime, your feelings about the ending will probably depend on how attached you are to the winner. A series this smooth at juggling multiple girls is bound to leave some broken hearts at the end.

I do want to give props to this series for actually making a decision and sticking by it, because it gives the film a sense of urgency and dramatic tension that wouldn’t exist if it split the ending into multiple “routes” so that everybody wins. The film plays with that narrative structure briefly by retelling the school festival arc multiple times through the perspectives of different girls, but it works well primarily because the stories belong to the same continuity instead of hitting the reset button every time. A film in which all five girls get a “what-if” romance ending would have been very tedious to sit through from a dramatic perspective.

As it is, the school festival is the most interesting part of the film because you only get the full picture by piecing together everyone’s stories. For example, in one route we learn that one of the sisters has abruptly gone to hospital, but neither the identity of the sister nor the circumstances behind the hospitalization are explained until later. This part of the film also jumps around time quite a lot, although each vignette manages to tell a satisfying story in itself. A chronological presentation probably would have weakened the impact significantly, as it would have come across as if Futaro was constantly jumping in and out of people’s stories.

When decision time eventually comes, the film peaks in terms of its use of cinematic language, effectively cutting between scenes of empty classrooms and stark perspective shots. It’s not hard to think that this is also the apex of the narrative; once the central mystery is answered, there’s no real reason for the plot to keep going. The rest of the film is mainly concerned with tying up the loose ends in character subplots and an extended epilogue, which are fine in themselves, but take up a longer chunk of the runtime than one would expect. The film ends up feeling bloated, as if it has tried to pack in an entire season’s worth of material instead of managing its scope.

Length-wise, it probably doesn’t help that, even though the climax is about choosing a “winner” for the romance plot, the film really wants to impress upon the viewer that every quintuplet is the main character. Even after the dust settles, the focus is still firmly on the sisters and their relationships with each other. A common complaint about the ending is that the romance ends up being too “wishy-washy,” but I personally think that it got just the right amount of focus in the end. The only problem, really, is that an ending focused on five characters ends up taking too much time. When Futaro individually highlights what he appreciates about each girl, the pacing slows to a crawl. It’s also frustrating because we know all of this already; instead of presenting new insights on the characters, the series decides to take the preachy route in order to tie a neat bow on things.

Still, all things said and done, this was a reasonable end to one of the most compelling harem anime of the past half-decade. The core strengths of the manga always shone through even the anime’s generally poor production efforts. What started as a gimmick (“They’re all siblings!”) turned into the series’ biggest strength, as the complex family dynamics pushed the character writing head and shoulders above the competition. Each love interest eventually felt like a fully-realized human in her own right, with distinct hopes and dreams, strengths and foibles. I loved all the girls more or less equally, and I’m glad they got a proper sendoff in animated form.

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