The last three episodes of lazy onsen antics would seem to have been a concerted effort to lull us into a sense of complacency and security before Yuki got hit by a car and…simply changed. Honestly, she undergoes the most radical character change I’ve seen since Golden Time. It’s sobering; it’s unsettling; it’s downright intense. And it’s also kind of amazing.
That’s because the previously most dramatic moment of this series was when Yuki walked in on Haruhi giving Kyon chocolate. That seems so petty and insignificant now. Also, while I had worried Haruhi would take over the show, here she doesn’t appear at all, not for one second. Nor, ironically, does the sun. It’s all dark clouds and rain, matching the gloom and uncertainty of the situation.
Also, it takes a little while, but I realized how Yuki was talking and acting: like she did in the Haruhi series: distant, unemotional, nigh impossible to read. In other words, completely different from the Yuki of the first nine episodes. That it feels so very wrong for her to talk and act like this is a testament to how well the show has sold to me the idea of “New Yuki”.
And neither Asakura and Kyon seem to know what to do with her now that she’s seemingly regressed to who we know of as the “Old Yuki” of the other shows, who acts this way because she’s not human, but rather an alien interface. It’s impossible for a veteran of the franchise to not make the connection, which I’m sure is the producers’ intent.
For the record, I don’t believe there’s any alien influence or other supernatural powers at work here. To that end, the explanation that makes the most sense is that Nagato Yuki suffered some kind of personality-altering brain trauma as a result of the accident (The somewhat spoilery preview shows brain scans that would seem to back this up).
But man, this episode was packed with uncomfortable scenes in which a normally flustered, flattered, or bashful Yuki simply…didn’t have any reactions at all. It’s smart of the show to jettison the others for an episode and keep her with the two people who know her the best, which underlines just how much she’s changed since that encounter with the car.
I will say I thought the soundtrack was a little over-assertive throughout most of this, except for the very end, when we started hearing stuff we’ve never heard on the show before, stuff that doesn’t jibe with Yuki’s romantic narrative, but something else entirely. Asakura’s look of resignation, followed by her final question to Yuki before the credits roll; essentially, “Who the heck are you?” heightens the tension that accompanies the already ample discomfort and gloom.
I have no idea where the final six episodes will take us, but I can say for sure that my hopes for a “feel-good”, low-effort romance are as broken as Yuki’s primary glasses. But I will also say that the show has my full attention. It’s taken a huge bold step I honestly never saw coming, but probably should have, because of that dang “disappearance” in the title.