The Ending Of Record Of Ragnarok Explained

"Record of Ragnarok" is a new anime series that joined Netflix's strong anime collection on June 17, 2021. On the surface, the show has a deceptively straightforward premise. Humanity has lived for 7 million years, growing exponentially. Every 1,000 years, the gods from the various pantheons gather for a Valhalla Council to decide whether to allow humans to continue living. When the show begins, the gods have decided at the latest Council that humanity doesn't deserve to live on Earth because of the crimes we've committed against it. But then, the Valkyrie Brunhild intervenes and convinces the gods to give humans one last chance: an epic fighting tournament between 13 gods and 13 of humanity's greatest fighters.

That may sound like "Record of Ragnarok" is a mindless beat-em-up that amounts to "Mortal Kombat," but with gods. Yet each episode spends considerable time exploring its human characters and what motivates them. In the first two fights, humans Lu Bu and Adam lose to the gods Thor and Zeus, respectively. But in the season 3 finale, the human champion Kojiro defeats Poseidon, finally giving humanity a win.

More importantly, Kojiro's win shows humanity how they might possibly prevail against the gods: by embracing what makes them human.

Humans aren't quite the underdogs they seem

Each fight in the "Record of Ragnarok" tournament seems like it's going to be a lopsided affair. Brunhild chooses the 13 fighters with some of the best skills in human history. But they're still going up against superhuman deities, who mostly came into existence as powerful beings from the start. 

Kojiro Sasaki is the human chosen for the third fight, against Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. Kojiro was a legendary Japanese sword fighter in the 16th and 17th centuries, and he's best known for losing an epic swordfight against his rival, Miyamoto Musashi. When he's introduced in episode 10, he's described as History's Greatest Loser, but it's actually a term of respect. The moniker doesn't refer to his loss against Musashi, but rather the way Kojiro responded to each of his losses (via TV Tropes).

Leading up to his match with Poseidon, "Record of Ragnarok" spends time showing how Kojiro became one of humanity's greatest sword fighters. While he was born with innate talent, he didn't become a master until he found the drive to be great. Kojiro was described as "grateful" for every fight in his life, because they were all opportunities to improve.

Kojiro wins because he knows how to lose

It isn't Kojiro's innate abilities that allow him to defeat Poseidon. It's his ability to improve those abilities. Through years of losing fights — and persevering — Kojiro has developed something called a "Thousand Images Defense." Basically, his mind is a supercomputer that can calculate thousands of an opponent's potential moves instantaneously. But Kojiro only acquired this ability by years of practice, honing it after each defeat. 

However, at the start of the fight, even this ability isn't enough against a literal god. But like he has so many times before, Kojiro perseveres and improves his ability until it's powerful enough to give him an edge. Kojiro's improved "Thousand Images" capability proves to be the decisive factor. 

Poseidon, meanwhile, has always existed in an idealized form. He may have superhuman abilities, but he's never had to work for them — and most crucially, he's never had to learn how to respond to adversity. So when Poseidon faces adversity in the fight, he doesn't know how to respond, and Kojiro defeats him.