Sora no Method – 09

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At this point, if Nonoka was extremely frustrated with Shione’s sudden about-face, I totally wouldn’t blame her, because I’m frustrated too. Not just because I didn’t feel like it was adequately explained why Shione did that about face, but because we come no closer to learning anything.

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We have the festival this week, which is nice and all, especially the way other classmates (who exist!) help out when crunch time comes around, but there’s zero progress and even some regression as Shinoe drifts further and further away, which makes this episode smack of stalling.

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All I can work on is my own theory on what Shione’s new problem is, and that is this: one new fact we learn is that calling a UFO was originally Shione’s idea, with Nonoka and the others going along with it.

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Then, it worked; the saucer came, and with it, Noel. Noel says she is the saucer, I imagine Shione is worried Noel will disappear if the group’s wish is fulfilled. Therefore, taking responsibility for Noel, Shione isolates herself from the others so the wish won’t be fulfilled and so Noel won’t vanish.

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That’s all we get, and despite some moments where Shione seems happy Nonoka is working so hard to figure out what her issue is, Shione doesn’t give her anything to work with other than “I hate you”, and “I don’t want anything else to do with you.” It’s almost as if Shione is trying to burn her bridges, making Nonoka and the others not want to be friends with her, as if that would make leaving them any easier.

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By the end, Shione never goes to the planetarium (which is awesome) with the others. But even if she’s working to stop their wish from coming true, Noel goes after Nonoka on her own and ends up passing out, either from being too far from the saucer or some other reason.

So despite Shinoe’s efforts, Noel may not be long for this world anyway. She was there to help deliver a wish to the group of friends; if they’re not a group of friends anymore, she has no more reason to keep existing in the world. If something else entirely is going on with Shione, we don’t learn about it this week…and frankly, I’m a little weary of being strung along.

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Sora no Method – 08

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With the rest of the group back in one anothers’ good graces, the one remaining nut to crack is Shione, and she proves far tougher than the others, requiring the cooperation of all to get her (force her, really) to participate in their Hokubi Festival activity: building a planetarium. Yes, Waremete beat Sora no Method to a planetarium, but I’ll allow two because planetariums are cool.

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After Yuzuki acquires the school funding suspiciously quickly, the five go shopping that evening, then start building a prototype, which blows up in their faces. Through it all, Shione is present, if not the most involved, and I think it’s because she truly does want to be there with everyone else. It’s an effort, at least.

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Eventually, however, Nonoka involuntarily reminds her of why they’re no longer friends: her Big Lie about seeing the meteor shower. After Nonoka and Shione made that promise to see it, Shione returned to the same bridge to find only Noel, who relayed the message that Nonoka went far away but “will be back soon” to see the shower with her.

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Shione trusted the word of Nonoka-via-Noel, and waited for Nonoka to return, at the same bench, for six years. Every year, her trust in Nonoka eroded a bit, until by the seventh, it was all but gone, just when Nonoka finally returned.

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Visiting Noel in the abandoned observatory, Noel makes up for her poor phrasing seven years ago and through hugs, manages to engender the courage Shione needs to open back up and trust Nonoka again. After all, Nonoka did come back.

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On a lark, Shione goes to school that night, where she finds not only Nonoka, but a room dramatically, magically lit by the stars of the properly-functioning planetarium device. There, Nonoka speaks first, telling her how awful she was for forgetting everyone, as well as her promise. Shione suddenly gathers her in a big hug and tells her she’s to blame for not trusting her. They agree to be friends again and part ways.

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So ‘Yay’, right, Shione and Nonoka are friends again! The group is back together, just in time for that meteor shower. But wait…uh-oh? We should have known it would get more complicated with Shione involved. After considering what Noel said (about her “being the saucer”), the next morning a stern Shione tells Nonoka they can no longer be together. What’s all this about? Is Shione worried Noel will disappear?

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Sora no Method – 07

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As Nonoka, Yuzuki and Koharu near the gravesite of Nonoka’s mother, the day turns cold, cloudy, and grey. I just so happened to myself watching it on a cold, cloudy grey day. While it was just a coincidence for me, for Nonoka the weather reflects her mood; she hasn’t visited her mother’s grave in some time, because she’s been afraid.

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And not because her mother was a mean-spirited, fearful woman — precisely the opposite: she was as kind and loving a soul as one could ever hope to meet, and a wonderful mother to boot. But then she got sick, and didn’t get better, and they moved to Tokyo where she could get care, but she died anyway, leaving a massive hole in Nonoka’s heart.

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Nonoka patched that hole, which was causing so much grief and pain, by essentially letting go of her life before her mother died, and moving forward as if none of it ever happened. In the process, she forgot about a great many other things, like her promise to her friends; something Shione still hasn’t forgiven her for, though Koharu and Yuzuki surely have, and now probably feel a bit silly for ever being angry at Nonoka for moving, something she had to do suddenly for her mother’s sake.

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In the B-plot, Noel, who can’t accompany Nonoka because the cemetery is out of saucer range, sticks with Souta, who is again stuck minding Koharu’s family’s store. Noel breaks the monster photo board thingy, and breaks it again while trying to fix it. After some little-kid negotiations, Souta convinces Noel to assist him in fixing the monster. As with Nonoka’s psyche, the repairs are quick and imperfect, but unlike Nonoka, it doesn’t matter; just as the monster was originally built by Souta, Koharu and Yuzuki as a labor of love, repairing it was a similarly rewarding experience between Souta and Noel, and when Yuzuki and Koharu see their handiwork, they approve.

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As for Shione, she’s in an unenviable situation where she’s held Nonoka to task for so long over lying and breaking her promises that now, even if Nonoka or the others were to explain the very understandable circumstances surrounding what Nonoka did, Shione still seems too proud — or too scared, or both — to lose face by softening her stance or letting Nonoka back into her life. After all, intentional or not Nonoka hurt her deeply.

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It was Nonoka’s mother who allowed Nonoka to become friends with Shione in the first place, by reminding her to smile when meeting new people, especially shy ones like Shione. And yes, it was Nonoka’s mother who indirectly drove the two apart by being the reason Nonoka had to move away and abandon Shione. But when a snowflake melts in Shione’s hand at the cemetery, and when she arrives at places just before or just after Nonoka was there — they’re signs that Shione is ever-so-gradually warming to the idea of reconciliation. She just won’t be rushed.

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Sora no Method – 06

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If last week ended with a peace summit, this week we see the fruits of the peace that was forged between Nonoka and Yuzuki, with the help of Koharu and Souta.

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I MUCH prefer the more mature, non-saucer obsessed Yuzuki

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It’s pretty clear this is going to be an onsen episode, but it sure takes its merry time getting there. Yuzuki wants Nonoka to come, but needs Koharu to invite her for her. Meanwhile, Souta is a bit of a tsundere this week, both wanting and not wanting to go; though as the only guy in the group, he’d be bathing and sleeping alone.

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Oh C’MON now!

Shione wins tickets to the same place by coincidence, and invites a very game Noel to come with her. This is kind of a big deal for Shione, who is in a “no new friends” mode since being burned by Nonoka, and as such has spent much of her time alone with her camera. Yet Yuzuki/Nonoka/Koharu and Shione/Noel never cross paths strains credulity, but I’m not sure what would have been accomplished had they crossed paths anyway.

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No, the whole purpose of the onsen trip, which was built up quite a bit, was so Yuzuki could have a venue in which to formally ask Nonoka to hit her back, as punishment for slapping Nonoka a couple weeks back.

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Like Nonoka, it’s really much ado about nothing. Nonoka refuses to slap Yuzuki, instead gently touching Yuzuki’s cheek as a token gesture that yes, indeed, she is forgiven and to stop worrying about little stuff like that. Also, apparently Nonoka punches above her weight class, so it’s best that she didn’t break out the guns.

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With Nonoka and Yuzuki having made up thanks to Koharu, the other one who helped has to work at Koharu’s shop to cover her shift. While he puts up a hard front in front of his sister, because he’s leaving soon, he wants to hang out with them at least a little, so this felt like a lost opportunity for him to do so.

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But like I said, the episode wasn’t interested in doing too much or having everyone get together at the bath just yet. In a way, Noel was kind of a dry run (albeit a warm, wet dry run) for Shione’s future interactions with other people. Even so, she rejects Noel’s claim that they’re really friends, but what with the fun they had and the saucer pillow Noel gives her, it’s hard to dispute Noel’s assertion

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Sora no Method – 05

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With help from Koharu and Noel, Nonoka starts to implement her plan to bring everyone back together and apologize for breaking her promise, by making a new promise to Yuzuki: that they’ll launch fireworks from the lake in a week’s time.

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Yuzuki is dubious and quick to run away from Nonoka, Koharu, and Souta, an action that’s grown somewhat repetitive these last two episodes, to the point that if you took a shot every time she ran away in a huff, you’d be pretty boiled. But Nonoka and Koharu’s concerted efforts to make the fireworks happen ultimately manage to draw out what’s been eating Yuzuki all along.

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Even Shione agrees to come in a week…if Nonoka can make the fireworks happen, which she doubts, meaning she thinks Nonoka is lying again, because she’s a liar. Shione has been feeling lied to an abandoned for so long, it’s formed a cold, hard, cynical crust. But we learn her and Yuzuki are not angry for the same reasons at all.

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Yuzuki has really been angry at herself, ever since she ran away from home with fireworks and Souta rode off, desperately looking for her. In the process, he crashes his bike and badly hurts his leg, ending up in the hospital. Yet when their parents ask what he was doing, he protects Yuzuki and shoulders the blame himself.

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Even before that, when the five friends were to meet at the pier for fireworks, nobody was able to make it. Yuzuki and Souta got separated at the festival, while Shione and Koharu stayed home. The only one who actually got to the pier was Nonoka, who was at the waterfront with her mom. When Yuzuki sees the dated photo proving she was there, she’s compelled to apologize to her too.

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I for one am glad Yuzuki figured stuff out and there was finally a cathartic reunion. Even more significant, the four friends together (minus Shione, who’s still loitering around nearby, ever at a distance) actually get to see fireworks courtesy of Noel, who projects them off the saucer. This time, Nonoka was able to keep her promise. She’s made up with Yuzuki; but is that enough to move Shione?

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Sora no Method – 04

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Having everyone back together in the spot where they once played doesn’t have quite the effect Noel was expecting, and Nonoka suddenly remembering calling the saucer with everyone and leaving without saying goodbye doesn’t suddenly make Shione or Yuzuki. In fact, Yuzuki is so pissed off, she slaps Nonoka in the face and storms off.

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But this episode isn’t primarily about Nonoka, our ostensible protagonist. It’s mostly about Yuzuki, with a hearty helping of Koharu, whom hasn’t had much to do until now. The truth that Nonoka is that Nonoka sends her into a bitter rage, suggesting her problem with the Saucer is about far more than fireworks. It’s about something more painful…something in a hospital.

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We don’t know the details, nor does Nonoka. But whatever the saucer did to Yuzuki, it’s haunted her incessantly ever since. She’s worked tirelessly to try to dissuade tourists from visiting the saucer — and in vain. And since every other business has banned her, her last outpost of Quixotic anti-saucer protest is Koharu’s family’s store. When customers complain, Koharu has no choice to shut her friend down.

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Meanwhile, mindful that she’ll need to learn more before approaching Yuzuki again, Nonoka meets with her very different twin brother Souta, to try to get some perspective. If he knows what’s really eating away at Yuzuki, he doesn’t let on, but he tells Nonoka not to worry about her; it’ll only cause her trouble.

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He said practically the same exact thing to Koharu, who tried for a long time to stand beside Yuzuki and support her as she tilted at windmills. Yuzuki was in earshot when Koharu couldn’t say with certainty that she didn’t think Yuzuki’s efforts were pointless. Since then, Yuzuki has harbored that non-answer as evidence Koharu may only be on her side to be nice and avoid confrontation.

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After Yuzuki happens to spot Nonoka talking with Souta, she races back to the tourist area and physically blocks a road full of buses, and Koharu is again forced to choose between her friend and the reality of the situation. Yuzuki brings up Koharu’s talk with Souta, and Koharu finally admits to her face that her actions serve no purpose. Yuzuki declares her hate and storms off again. It’s rough.

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Yuzuki hates Nonoka Koharu, and Souta; while Shione hates Nonoka and she and Souta would rather not be wrangled back into this hot mess; they’ve moved on with life. That leaves the two subjects of the others’ hate: Nonoka and Koharu. Neither of them want things to stay the way they are, but neither is strong enough to change anything alone. Maybe working together they can make something happen.

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Sora no Method – 03

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Loved this long-distance relay conversation between the scattered group members.

Everyone in this circle of past friends is missing a piece of the puzzle, which informs how they treat Nonoka. When they’re all brought together again for a sprawling orienteering trip, those pieces start to match and fall into place, resulting in a different kind of re-orienting: that of their immediate attitudes towards the transfer student. At the same time, Man, was this a gorgeous episode, packed camerawork that really accentuates the scale grandeur of the surroundings.

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Our first perspective comes from Togawa Shione, who’d been glaring in the background till now. Komatsu Mikako is one of the best in the business when it comes to coldness and barely restrained contempt in an otherwise sweet and innocent voice, and she’s perfect as the bitter Shione, who is convinced Nonoka is trying to play her and the others for fools.

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“Here’s a ‘promise’ for ya!”

So convinced is she that Nonoka is being glib and coy, it doesn’t take much interaction with her at all to make her slap her in the face. Shione is upset because seven years ago, it was Nonoka’s idea to “call for the saucer,” and yet after they called it, she split for Tokyo without a word, abandoning her friends and the responsibility for the Saucer they all shared. Shione’s missing piece? Nonoka genuinely doesn’t remember those days…be that only makes Shione feel even more devalued.

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Next up is Yuzuki, who we learn is twins with her bro Souta, as he was also in the group (the guy is notably not the focus in a group of mostly girls). She hates the saucer, in part, because it’s the constant reminder of Nonoka’s betrayal. She’s just as angry at Nonoka as Shione, but is nice to Present Nonoka because of her missing piece: she didn’t know this was the same Nonoka, a position also shared by Koharu and Souta, until Nonoka gets separated from them and Shione educates them.

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This is, again, the first time we see the friends talking about seven years ago, so none of them have failed to remember, but have dealt with it in different ways. There’s a interesting bit of intrigue in this scene devoid of Nonoka, who is the one who is bringing everyone back together…some without knowing it, some against their will!

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Even if Yuzuki isn’t entirely convinced yet, now that she’s aware of the possibility, it’s going to change her interactions with Nonoka. That’s made even more abundant in Nonoka’s ultimately very fruitful lone journey to a decaying and abandoned Kindergarten, most likely the very one the circle of friends attended. It’s a quiet, sadly beautiful, wordless scene where Nonoka simply sits by herself and starts to hum, and is joined by Noel.

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Here, in this place, her missing piece comes back to her: her friendships with the others and the wish they made seven years ago. This happens sooner than I thought it would, which is a good thing, but it’s only the beginning. The flashback shows how similar or different the friends are now, and underlines just how blindsided they all were by her moving away. But she just…couldn’t find the time or place to tell them.

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Up to this point, Nonoka had the most missing pieces, not even knowing how the Saucer got up there, let alone the fact her present peers were not only already her friends in the past, but didn’t appreciate her sudden departure.

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But that’s all changed now: Nonoka remembers now, and she still has what she had ever since she returned to town: Noel, who tells her she’s not just from the Saucer or of the Saucer; she IS the Saucer. Without knowing it, Nonoka got what she wanted seven years ago. So…what now?

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Sora no Method – 02

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“We’re continuing this?”Nonoka to Yuzuki

The town seems to have gotten used to the fact there’s a giant shimmering saucer floating above it, as have most of the girls who presumably put it up there in the first place seven years ago. At least, outwardly they seem to have moved beyond it as something outside of their control. Even Nonoka, who only remembers bits and pieces of her past there, doesn’t seem that unnerved by its presence. There’s one girl who thinks differently: Mizusaka Yuzuki.

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—”Why are we running?”
—”Because we didn’t do anything wrong!”
– Nonoka and Yuzuki

Yuzuki, voiced with equal measures fiery, impulsive gusto and delicate vulnerability by the lovely Toyosaki Aki, wants the Saucer gone, period. As Nonoka is a new student at school (which starts far sooner than she thought), Yuzuki immediately tries to recruit her to her cause, and comes on a bit strong. She’s passionate in her distrust of it. While it’s played up as something akin to a UFO nut, and Nonoka reacts appropriately, with polite bemusement and a whiff of “Why me?”

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“You can’t call for the leaders at  a reception desk.” – Nonoka

After Yuzuki tells off her brother Souta, she rushes off with a backpack full of fireworks to take a boat to the island over which the Saucer floats (and is now off-limits to the public). This is dangerous and illegal, and the former underlined when Yuzuki loses her balance and falls into the drink, taking Nonoka with her. As they dry off Nonoka learns why getting rid of the saucer is so important.

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That reason has less to do with Yuzuki’s assertion that there are still many things in the town that won’t truly go back to the way they were until the Saucer is gone, like being able to go to the island to launch fireworks. It has more to do with the fact that after being led around and participating in anti-saucer activities, Nonoka has had a lot of fun with a new friend, and she wants to support that friend so she won’t feel sad and alone, something she can relate to.

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She says as much to Noel, and that she has nothing in particular against the Saucer herself. Despite the fact Noel’s presence is directly related to the Saucer’s, Noel seems receptive to helping Nonoka, as Nonoka wants to help Yuzuki. Ultimately, getting rid of the saucer may be a matter of all the former friends from seven years ago coming back together…though the cynical Souta and cold, perpetually headphoned Togawa Shione will pose a challenge.

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A shout-out to Franklin for passing this on to me: not only is this a pleasant, charming show, but it’s also getting more intriguing as long-separated friends re-forge their bonds. It looks great, too…even if the character designs border on the over-cutesy. And the dialogue is peppered fun, witty little lines like the ones that dot this review.

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Sora No Method – 01

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Sora no Method is a precious little tale about a young girl returning home after an abrupt move and the consequences of leaving everyone hanging. It’s quiet, composed, attractive, and because an unexplained and barely mentioned flying saucer that looks like it’s full of star dust is always directly over head… quite mysterious and magical.

Also one of the people our protagonist left behind is a fairy or a snow spirit or… something?

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Nonaka unpacking her boxes, totally unaware of Noel, a not especially stealthy girl who’s been in her room all morning

We open with Nonaka’s return and remarkably delayed re-meeting of Noel, a girl she promised…something to before she left years ago. Unfortunately, Nonaka was like three or four then, and has no memory of this (though she does feel like she knows Noel, a little).

Undisturbed, Noel continues on with their friendship like nothing has really happened and, until Nonaka thinks Noel has broken a picture of Nonaka’s clearly-dead-now mother, things go slow but pretty good.

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for a GIGANTIC (and beautiful… thing) people really don’t talk much about the saucer

Later, while in town, Nonaka stumbles past other people she left behind but only one of them realizes this and she doesn’t clue Nonaka in. As with all of the show, the encounters are quiet, leisurely, and quaint.

If I needed a single word, I’d call it pleasant.

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Eventually, we see snippets of the friends making some sort of snow-god-blood-pact…or something? Then Nonaka remembers a little bit and runs back to find Noel at an observatory made of wood.

Everything’s going to be okay now. Noel will fulfill her wishes. At least, until something tragic happens.

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Sadly, for all it’s wonder, there’s no way I’m going to follow this show. It IS way better than Glasslip, Tamayura: More Aggressive, and other shows I’ve lifted my nose at but I can not imagine Zane or Preston not reviewing it. Can you?

For Goodness sakes! It even has car cameos!

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