Lord Uroko calls all of the adults to a secret meeting, sending the kids to the surface until further notice. Hikari and the others decide to do the Ofunehiki on their own. They set to work repairing the Ojoushi-sama and procure a boat from Tsumugu’s Grandpa. Manaka cooks dinner, but when Chisaki and Kaname return to town early and Hikari ducks out, she returns home too, to find the adults waiting for her. When Hikari comes to class to find the others absent, he races home to find heavy saltflake snow falling. Manaka tells him the adults have banned further visits the surface. When his father comes to get him, he grabs Manaka and runs off to their old school, where they have an awkward, confused exchange.
“Poor Hikari”…early in the season we’d never thought we’d ever be telling ourselves that, but here we are. After some ups and downs he’s become a genuinely likable, sympathetic character, and at the moment nothing seems to be going his way. For one thing, every attempt to resurrect the Ofunehiki is met with unwelcome intervention, either by vandals, then elders, or fate. Shioshihio isn’t doing too hot either; it occurs to us that the only kids of their age left in the village are our four friends. That’s a pretty dire situation, and Uroko-sama has decided that to have any hope of preserving the village, surface visits must end. It seems like far too little too late; the town bleak, dreary, foreboding ghost of its former lush, inviting self. The visuals of Hikari’s return reminded us of the ruined towns in Nausicaa; hauntingly beautiful stuff.
Also beautifully heartbreaking is every exchange Hikari has with Manaka this week. Like Chisaki, he’s tried to “be an adult” and put Manaka’s wants before his own, but this week it seems like he just can’t do it anymore. He loves Manaka too much to just be a friend, but just can’t say that to her. Tsumugu sees Chisaki’s actions as retreat, while Manaka’s reaction to Hikari’s hug is a complicated thing, motivated by her confused feelings for both Tsumugu and Hikari, as well as her knowledge of Chisaki’s feelings for Hikari. The rapid deterioration of their home mirrors that of their relationships. The once-warm, harmonious quartet of friends now find themselves listless and full of doubt, their very worlds upheaved and on the brink of destruction. But it’s always darkest before the dawn…right? Please?!
Rating: 8 (Great)