StoPani has been both excruciating and entertaining. The ending wasn’t too surprising, given all the hints sprinkled in the run up to the final episode. I’m also relieved that most of the loose ends were nicely tied up, even though the final episode was entitled "Beginning" – unlike certain egregious recent SUNRISE series Which Shall Not Be Named. It also continues to affirm my belief that OPs can give a good indication of a series’ plot direction.
Firstly, hair or more specifically the tying and untying of hair was a pretty motif of this episode. I was thinking that if Shizuma cut her hair, it would really mean that she had really given up on Nagisa. We’ve seen this with Sei Satou at the conclusion of MariMite’s Forest of Thorns arc. Even in the romantic relationship-less Azumanga, Chiyo hesitates to ask Tomo about her new, shorter hairdo after the summer holiday and has to check with Yomi first.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Hikari gets Yaya to give her away by tying her hair with the Spica colours. As she finishes the task and lets go of Hikari’s locks, the scene transitions into the appearance of the groom.
To the Miator green, Tamao adds her Ribbon of Protection Against Shizuma +3. Unfortunately the last time she tried this trick, it was that very ribbon which was the trigger for Shizuma’s Hit On Nagisa no Jutsu to roll a critical hit of 20 with Pool Plunge and Firsto Kissu.
After running through a season’s worth of recycled Shizuma x Nagisa Happy Times footage (which was *shock horror* less annoying than Evangelion or GSD footage recycling), Shizuma raids the wedding to steal the bride. Well, one of them anyway. Tamao wins the admiration of Underdog Sympathisers everywhere by untying her Ribbon of Protection and releasing Nagisa to her One True Love.
Before discussing the conclusion and the series as a whole, a bit on one of the loose ends. As predicted in the OP, Yaya and Tsubomi get each other as Consolation Prize and sort of get together. Which I think is much more interesting than either of them pairing up with the too good to be true “Blandie” (as Mentar derisively calls Hikari LOL). Tsubomi finally reveals her dere dere side after lots of entertaining tsun tsun. I half-suspect that her constant interfering with Yaya’s attempts to sidle up to Hikari was a cutely confused mix of jealousy (keep away from Hikari, you shrew!) and wanting attention (pay attention to me, Yaya-senpai!). In any case, it looks like Yaya’s quickly gotten the upper hand in her relationship with Tsubomi.
Conclusion. And they live happily ever after. Well, at least until next March when Shizuma graduates. No mention of a loveless rich families arranged marriage like Miyuki though.
There’s been a general consensus that StoPani is a trashy series but as Erica has pointed out, the manga is even worse (though I must confess to enjoying the sheer OTTness of some of the characters e.g. Yaya is really evil, Shizuma is a shameless playgirl, Chikaru is even more eccentric with a propensity to plot against Spica and Miator and so on). Given that expectations of this series were never high, I dare say no one was terribly disappointed with it.
In many ways, it’s a MariMite parody gone berserk. I wonder if this is the first 26 episode anime that is unabashedly about girls loving girls – that isn’t on a planet other than Earth, I hasten to add, before the fans scream: “SIMOUN!!!” The “plot” of the second half was about Nagisa finding out that Shizuma still loves her dead lover and the story moves towards how both Shizuma and Nagisa overcome their own pain to act on their feelings for each other and get together. Which could also fit within the framework of a guy meets gal story.
Earlier series like Kannazuki no Miko, Yamibou and even MariMite / MariMite Haru have strong yuri elements but the romance still gets stuck in the rut of yuri as forbidden love – even if they were also vast improvements over a character’s lesbian orientation as a standing joke e.g. Maya Ibuki in Evangelion, Kaorin in Azumanga, Koyuki in Keroro Gunsou or Shinobu in 2×2=Shinobuden etc.
Any of those characters travelling from those series to the StoPani universe would probably be as disorientated as William Mandella from Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War when he returns from his time-dilated inter-stellar tours of duty to find that homosexuality is now the norm on Earth. Except, unlike Mandella, our heroines Chikane, Hazuki and Sei will either be jumping for joy or moping that their love lives have suddenly lost the tragic element that made them dramatically interesting.
I liked how the story ends on the note that, after everything, that Tamao and Nagisa are still friends – as predicated by Chiyo. It’s so easy to forget the underdog and just devote the remaining narrative time to how happy Nagisa and Shizuma are. Thus the moral of the story for underdogs:
If faced with overwhelming odds and the threat of total annihilation, make a graceful tactical retreat, live to fight another day, accumulate good will and then harry the occupying forces with guerilla tactics (which is more like the manga Tamao)! After all, Shizuma x Nagisa get together also can break up what. Also that damned white haired witch is going to graduate soon and Nagisa-chan will still be my bestest friend and roommate! Hope and horniness springs eternal. Mwahahaha!