Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 12 (Fin)

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With the overarching objective of saving Kaori successfully and satisfyingly (if tragically in terms of the cost of Yui) achieved, I had no idea where the show would go in its final act. I’d argue in its post-main-plot-resolution state it was just as successful and satisfying.

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The odd feelings of deja vu and of some kind of ‘absence’ in the astronomy club and in its members’ lives don’t simply go away. On the contrary, the feelings get even stronger for Sou, who is constantly reminded every time he sees something or somewhere that Yui had once been in another timeline. Also, there are lots of coincidences like everyone who had Uchihama Syndrome suddenly waking up…at once.

That makes sense (in the science of the show), because she came back a lot, and because the human brain is a quantum turing machine (again, in the show), it is capable of retaining information it recorded in other timelines. But still, for now, that ‘temporal residue’ manifests faint echoes or mirages. Enough to get Sou thinking, but not about anything concrete.

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For her part, Kaori seems to be alright after Sou rejected her the previous day. She comes right out and says she feels like she can move forward now, which obviously wasn’t the case when buses kept killing her. Sou’s recollection of the rejection, particularly the reason, are hazy to him (he did hit his head, after all).

Kaori insists he said he only sees them as childhood friends, which suggests that he didn’t say he couldn’t love her because he already loved Yui…because Yui didn’t exist anymore. And yet…he keeps being reminded that someone existed at some point; most strongly when he finds an old mannequin where he had found a naked Yui so many times ‘before.’

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Surprisingly, we head back to the future where an old, worn Sou and a weary Airi continue to look over a comatose Kaori. Here, they’re resolved to the fact that Yui may have failed in her final attempt, though even if she succeeded, the universe they live in wouldn’t necessarily vanish, but continue along in parallel to the one she created by saving Kaori.

When Airi wonders out loud whether Sou only ever saw Yui as a tool, and sent her to the past knowing she would disappear if she succeeded, you can feel her own bitterness and impatience with Sou, as she’s the living, breathing, non-artificial woman right in front of him with whom he could have found happiness had he only let go of the past and let himself.

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The day of the festival arrives, and their planetarium cafe finally goes off without a hitch. But yet again, being there gazing at the stars and hearing the same things he said about them to Yui both in the past and future, Sou starts to get deja vu again and cries, but about exactly what he still isn’t sure.

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He even gets a flash of the night he and Yui gazed at the stars alone, only there’s nothing but a dark cloud where she sat. Compare that to Kaori becoming the most visible person at the school and named Miss Uchihama, and it’s as if the fates of Yui and Kaori were reversed.

Then the school pop idol Karin comes by the club room to regale them of her experience on stage, when for one moment she saw the friend she thought she had but no one else had remembered. Karin, like the club members, had clearly formed a deep enough bond that her brain retained memories and even imagery of Yui even after she vanished.

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That same ability to retain is echoed in a car ride (MAZDA FD RX-7 FTW!!!) in the future with Airi and Sou, who tells her that even if Kaori was saved and Yui never needed to be created by Sou, the memories and emotions still within past Sou’s head will ultimately lead him to create Yui anyway, but for a different reason; one that really capitalizes on the whole ‘chicken or egg’ nature of the show.

Sou won’t be able to stop picking at that mental scab, and when the time comes, he’ll create Yui because he wants to see her again.

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Then, after a worrisome delay, the effects of Yui’s actions reveal themselves in future Sou’s timeline, and Kaori finally wakes up, her mind no longer trapped behind a causality roadblock.

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The resulting passionate reunion and hug is a real showstopper, and yet I noted Sou’s words well: “You came way too late, dummy!” I wouldn’t be shocked if at this point, even this Sou’s love for Yui outstrips whatever romantic feelings he had for Kaori.

That’s not to discount his elation at Kaori waking up, but he isn’t elated because the love of his life woke up; she isn’t that anymore, nor was she ever. He’s elated because his beloved childhood friend woke up, without whom he had been just as lost as she was.

His true love, meanwhile, has yet to be born. It’s a little weird to think that Sou was the creator of his own true love, because that’s a kind of situation ripe for the assignment of sinister undertones in a lot of fiction, be it literary or visual. But if ever there was a case of ‘good playing God’, this is it.

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Let’s not forget that Yui couldn’t have been made without some of the information from Kaori’s brain. It’s as if Sou would have been able to fall for the person Kaori is, if only she were someone else. Yui was that someone else.

As the box beside the computer in the club room glows once more, I have more questions, like ‘if Yui is coming back, how did that happen without a comatose Kaori?’…but the time for questions has ended, and I’m satisfied with the answers I did get, plus the ones to questions I didn’t even ask. This show was a nice bit of light sci-fi romance that I don’t regret sticking with.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 11

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Yui is in a predicament. She was sent to the past to save Kaori’s life, but it wasn’t as simple as keeping her away from the runaway bus. Now she’s finally cracked it, and Sou simply won’t leave her alone.

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And then there’s the slightly more pressing matter of…her existence. I’m not sure Future Sou and Airi told Yui, but if she’s successful in saving Kaori, Sou will have never had to create her, so she will cease to exist. That’s not really ideal, because after all this time she’s fallen for Sou and can’t deny part of her wants to be with him.

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Whether or not Sou and the others recall even a faint glimmer of having known Yui before she entered their lives (from the previous times she went back and ended up naked in his arms), on this, perhaps the last time she can come back, Yui finally stumbles on the answer to saving Kaori: by having Sou give her a straight answer.

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With no other ideas, Yui decides to facilitate that course of events. She can no longer afford to be subtle or clever (and in any case that never worked before) so she just comes out and tells Sou that Kaori will confess to him tomorrow, and that he has to give her an answer. The thing is, after how Yui has acted the last few days, Sou takes this in a much different way than Yui intended. It’s almost a case of unintended reverse psychology.

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Kaori reacts the same way when Yui is equally upfront in insisting she harbors no romantic feelings whatsoever for Sou. Kaori isn’t buying what Yui is selling, even if Yui didn’t have possess fragments of Kaori’s memories and personality that come through in her behavior and demeanor.

Kaori can tell Yui’s lying…because she is lying. But Kaori will still confess. No matter what happens, she can’t move forward the way things are. This is also literally true, as every time Sou hasn’t answered Kaori, she’s ended up dead shortly thereafter.

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Things go almost like clockwork on the fateful day, but only in where people are, and when. In terms of what’s said to who, things go far differently than Yui imagined. Despite her feelings for Sou, she never imagined his straight answer to Kaori would be a rejection. After all, they grew up together. Kaori has had so much more time with him! Surely he must return those feelings! Well, he doesn’t…and ironically, it’s thanks to Yui.

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This time Kaori stays at school while Sou chases once more after Yui, who had done her best to say her goodbyes, both to her friends and to the town. But so flags her down just as the bus arrives. It crashes as before, but Yui and Sou avoid it and survive. The loop has been broken.

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It’s here where Sou tells Yui he rejected Kaori…because he really loves her. Yui returns his confession with her own, plus a kiss (get out of the street, lovebirds!), but she knows this is the end for her. Her mission is complete, so she was never created, and she disappears. Put simply, this is time-trippy romantic tragedy done right.

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It’s not the somewhat silly kind of ‘vanishing in his arms’ disappearance either, though she does go a bit translucent. Rather, time continues as if she had never been there. Well, almost. The astronomy club finds Sou at the crash site, and everyone thinks very hard about whether everyone is really accounted for. Furthermore, Sou puts his hands to his lips, where a Yui that never was just kissed him.

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In every physical form, Yui is gone, or rather never existed…even in the group photo, BTTF-style. But somewhere in the hearts and minds of the others, particularly Sou, a part of her still seems to linger. An absence is felt, even if they know not why. Was Sou’s rejection of Kaori negated? Is Yui well and truly gone? Have we really seen the last of her?

I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in next week’s finale. I kinda like that!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 10

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Who is Furukawa Yui?

Sure, she’s an artificially-created body sent back in time to save Kaori. But that mission has made her far more than that. With each failed attempt that resets the timeline, she amasses more memories and feelings, becoming a more and more integral participant in the mission, rather than a simple observe-and-protect role.

Again and again the universe finds a way to kill Kaori, and Yui feels close to a solution that’s an intricate balance of intricate planning and limited intervention. But working alone without the ability to ask for help from anyone else (for obvious reason) put her at an instant disadvantage against the universe, and it doesn’t play down to its opponent.

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Yui even has time against her. While she’s been able to go back a great number of times (dozens? thousands?), going back has very real consequences. More and more of her afterimages appear, stirring up rumors of ghosts, while anyone who comes in contact with them falls into a coma and never wakes up, a “syndrome” that is probably their consciousness being sucked into a different timeline. Yikes!

After seeing how hard the rest of the Astronomy Club and a haunted Sou in particular worked to make Yui’s mission possible last week, this week did everything from her perspective, and really made a case for just how difficult juggling the cumulative variables has become for her, including one variable that has nothing to do with temporarl oscillations or runaway buses.

That variable is love. Her love for Sou, in particular. Remember that Yui was originally a prototype for a body that would hold Kaori’s consciousness, freeing her from the body the accident had destroyed. I maintain that some if not most of Kaori either transferred or copied to Yui unbeknownst to Sou or the others.

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If that’s the case, the love triangle of Yui, Kaori, and Sou is really a triangle of two different Kaoris and Sou; one more complication in what’s looking like a mission that was doomed from the start.

At the same time, Yui can’t be passed off as a mere copy or knockoff of Kaori any more than she can be dismissed (or dismiss herself) as a tool; not after everything she’s been through. All of those trips, all of those wonderful memories she has with Sou and the others before Kaori dies, keep building up, and each time she touches The Box they all come surging back.

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Sou may only be joking when he says Yui is like “an old woman” for sitting out in the sun, but perhaps she is very old indeed, in terms of her life experience and the amount of cumulative time and happiness she’s spent with Sou (none of which he could possibly know about).

Right now, with time running out, Yui believes the only way to Kaori is if Sou loves her. Each time we’ve seen her die was before he could properly respond to her, so there’s something to that. But Yui may be overlooking something, because to her this is a Mission and she’s an expendable element. 

Maybe the only real way to save Kaori is for Yui to let herself love Sou. If there’s a part Kaori in her consciousness, the clashing of that part with the Kaori in the past could be what’s triggering the latter Kaori’s death, as if time and the universe were correcting the paradox of two girls with identical love for Sou.

I’ll admit I may be a bit free-wheeling (and way off!) in my theories and analysis here,  but I love how this show really gets the ol’ noggin churning, which can’t be a bad thing!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 09

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I find stories involving time travel, particularly stories in which the motivation to use time is to save a doomed loved one, compelling by nature. The simple human concept of there being one person for everyone makes the hard-edged sci-fi elements go down more easily for us humans. And if it wasn’t clear by now, Sou believes Kaori is the only one for him.

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However, balancing the technobabble with the ease of emotional connection is not an easy task, and the formula is very precise. This episode is a classic case of having to breathlessly compress so much science and plot into one episode, there is virtually no room left for emotional rests. It doesn’t help that a lot of what goes on is narrated to us by Sou.

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I’ll elaborate on that. Unlike any previous WareMete episode, this one spans many years, documenting the events immediately after Kaori’s accident, which doesn’t result in her death, but rather a coma from which she simply won’t wake up. Those early scenes of Sou sitting wordlessly in her hospital room are the most effective, emotionally speaking.

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But this an ambitious episode that intends to cover a lot of ground, both because Sou has to become that grizzled fellow Yui remembered a couple episodes back, and because the kind of sophisticated, barely even theoretically possible work that needs to be done, requires years to do.

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But precisely because so much time passes in so little running time, covering so much plot, the characters are badly neglected, and feel like they’re standing still. Perhaps that’s the intention: that this is a timeline in which the personal lives of the remaining astronomy club members (sans Kenny, but honestly who cares about Kenny) are essentially sacrificed to finding a way to revive Kaori.

I buy that Sou has no other life, but not the others. This episode’s goal, perhaps, was to get the presentation of this morose “post-bad ending” timeline over with as quickly as possible, as it’s not the timeline that would have happened had Yui successfully saved Kaori. Perhaps a “good ending” really is still in reach.

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But still, an endiing is what one makes of it. After Kaori’s accident, Sou put everything he had into saving her. Just as the episode neglected characters in order to orient everyone to the point when Yui (who we learn may possess a speck of Kaori’s personality) is sent back to the past, Sou neglects Airi throughout the timeline. She’s always by his side helping and supporting, but his gaze never meets her; it’s perpetually pointed backward.

I won’t say this episode was a total waste, because there were facts we needed to learn, yet I can’t deny its essential nature as a more-redundant-than-no plot-dump that did the characters no favors. I could complain that it felt too rushed, but a part of me is glad the show only spend one episode on this timeline, ending with Past Sou finding Yui, completing the time paradox and creating the possibility that things could go differently this time. Whether they’ll go differently enough to save Kaori is anyone’s guess.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 08

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Whoa…Déjà vu…sorta but not quite! After much foreshadowing and foreboding, we’ve returned (arrived?) at the day before Kaori’s tragic death-by-runaway bus, which is when the first episode started. The most noticable difference between this timeline and that one is, obviously, the presence of Yui. Everything seemingly reset when she showed up in Sou’s arms. Now we’ll see if her actions of the last six episodes paid off and if Kaori was saved this time.

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For the record, I must confess that I loved Suzumiya Haruhi’s infamous “Endless Eight” arc, partially because I love anything that involves time travel. Unlike E8, a lot of time has passed since the first time we saw these events, so while the settings and conversations and general timing of the days are familar, they’re not fresh in our mind, and in any case all the details are different; even little details like what Sou buys for lunch.

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A bigger difference is the influence Yui has had. While her primary mission seems to be protecting Kaori, that’s made more difficult by Kaori considering her competition. As the episodes have progressed, Yui has grown closer and closer to Sou, and Kaori doesn’t like it.

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But she couldn’t do anything about it until the day they see the stars, because that’s when she confessed to Sou in the last go-round. Unfortunately, something Yui can’t control is how the Sou of this time responds to Kaori’s confession, which stays exactly the same: he doesn’t give her a straight answer and Kaori gives him time.

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Even though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, the fact she doesn’t have an answer from Sou keeps things awkward, and keeps it difficult for either Yui or Sou to stay close and keep an eye on her.

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It hardly helps matters when Kaori spots Yui talking animatedly with a blushing Sou while gazing into his eyes in the hall. Sure, they’re talking about Sou and her, but she can’t hear from that distance, and in any case she knows what she sees in Yui, because she sees it in the mirror everyday: love. Yui can’t hide it, and that plays heavily into the failure of her mission.

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Pissed off at the world, Kaori rebels a little, flaking out on Yui and going off to sing karaoke with classmates. Her conscience makes her eventually turn around and head back, but by then, Yui has gone after her. Then Kaori heads to the site of her previous death, and while again, the details are slightly different, things end the same way: very, very badly.

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When this happened in the first week, it was a bold play that elevated the show. So dark and morose and terrible was that hospital scene, that it’s no surprise it effected us just as much as it did last time, if not moreso. We were hoping, hoping Kaori’s mother wouldn’t collapse to the floor in grief this time. When she did, our hearts sank all over again.

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With that, we cut back to the lab where Yui floats in a glowing blue tube, and hear the voice of Sou call her name before the credits roll, and the questions come rushing up: was this the first time? The last time? Why Yui? How and when did she originally meet Sou? Will things reset again, or will we see more of this timeline? Can the future even be changed, or will the universe keep finding ways for Kaori to die on that day, having never gotten an answer from Sou?

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 07

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First off, kudos to WareMete, for having the Astronomy Club, despite having only one astronomy-obsessed member and a primary mission that has nothing to do with astronomy, actually putting in the work that’s necessary for the upcoming festival. They also want to do things the right way, without shortcuts, meaning baking all the goodies and building the intricate planetarium device themselves.

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Sou and Kenny demonstrating a well-practiced pose for sudden door-openings

Granted, they don’t quite get the personnel distribution quite right the first time, as Kenny is more interested in Sou’s booby mag than working on the device, while Yui seems only marginally interested in baking with the experienced Kaori and the eager newbie Airi.

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After a test batch, Yui takes Kaori aside and asks her point-blank: “Do you have feelings for Akiyama?”; Kaori’s reaction is a sufficiently clear answer, though she lies and maintains they’re just old friends, then starts creating opportunities for Yui to be alone with Sou – putting Yui’s assumed feelings for Sou above her own.

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While showing off the fruits of their labor, Sou points out a basic scientific fact that I for one only rarely consider while looking up at the night sky: that every time you look up at the stars, you’re travelling back in time…and not just to your parents’ high school prom, mind you—but to an ancient time before human civilization…or even humans period.

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Seeing the stars jogs a distant memory of Yui’s, and I think we learn that for her, living in this world is for her what looking up at the stars is for everyone else, though not on quite the same epochal scale: she’s traveled back in time. I say this because the man in the white coat admiring the Summer night sky in Yui’s memory looks suspiciously like an aged, grizzled Sou. And as Kaori suspected was the case with the present Sou, Yui has the feeling this future person means (or will mean?) a great deal to her. Kaori hears that bit on the other side of the door and is further dejected.

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The importance Sou has for her is further exhibited when he gently wakes her up and, with a dream of that other time still fresh in her mind, she puts her hand on his face before snapping out of it. It’s something one would do if you suddenly found yourself before a loved one in the prime of their youth, before that face was weathered by the burdens of life and tragedy; in other words, when their skin was almost as silky as Jennifer’s.

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If the stars of Sou’s planetarium or other stimuli continue to jog her memories, and more details from that future come to light, Yui (and our) understanding of those feelings will grow, as will the amount of information she’s presently concealing, though Sou got a little bit out of her. In any case, judging from her hospital-like attire, it’s reasonable to conclude (*gulp*) that Yui is the girl in the tube, and Sou sent her back to save Kaori…even though Yui loves him too.

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The titular Lost Future, therefore, could be the future with Kaori Sou lost when she was hit by a bus (or some other misfortune), or the future Yui lost by traveling back in time, leaving Old Sou behind. There’s a nice symmetry between Yui helping Sou save Kaori in the future and Kaori yielding Sou to Yui in the present.

Temporal Love Triangle FTW, Baby.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 06

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This episode went down a totally different route than the one I expected, but that’s okay; as Commodus said, “I rather enjoy surprises” — the good kind, anyway! Rather then delve back into last week’s mysteries, the show shifts its gaze to Hanamiya Nagisa-senpai, who’s been a bit of a mystery all her own, having been relegated to a supporting role in the ensemble thus far. This week she gets top-billing alongside Sou, and it isn’t wasted.

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As the club members are talking about their futures after school — something that doesn’t particularly interest Sou — we learn that while Nagisa’s family is fine with her going to college, they’ve still arranged for her to marry the heir to another powerful conglomerate, Reito Hikaru. In a show about lost futures, Nagisa never really had one of her own making to begin with; she was bred to grow up quickly and realize her responsibility as a family bargaining chip; a key resource. This is something no one else in the club has to worry about.

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An an effort to assert her own will, Nagisa decides to blow off an arranged meetup with Reito-san, instead hanging out with Sou and learning that they’re alike: like her, he’s so content with the time he’s living on now, he’s loath to even think about his future, let alone set it in stone. When Reito tracks them down by chance, Nagisa pretends she and Sou are dating.

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This is a common trope in anime but its particularly effective here, and not just because Nagisa isn’t a tiresome tsundere. “Cornered” by Reito, the ever-shrewd and quick-thinking Nagisa uses Sou as a shield. But she doesn’t mistreat him, and in any case, Sou, who is so flustered when Nagisa says she loves the club and again when she praises him, is just fine hanging out with Nagisa a little more today.

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Before he knows it, Sou is in one light, cordial pissing contest after the next with Reito, and while Reito seems to be into the “competition” just as much, he’s a total gentleman throughout, especially where Nagisa is concerned. That’s just as refreshing as Nagisa being so awesomely un-cliche in the way she carries herself and acts towards her two suitors.

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Of course, Reito eventually tells Sou he knows he’s not really dating his fiancee. He knows because he’s in the same position as Nagisa: a bird in a cage, raised specifically to forge bonds with other powerful groups. As such, he’s well aware that such birds must assert their own wills from time to time, even if they’re bred to always fall back in line in the end. He is willing to give his life for the good of his family, and he’s confident that Nagisa feels the same way.

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Sou is not so sure, though on the rooftop in private, Nagisa says she’s used to it, that there’s nothing to be done. This is bigger than her and Reito, and their futures are fixed so that their respective businesses will thrive long into the future. Sou doesn’t like the resignation one bit, and asks Nagisa to please keep being the freewheeling person he knows and loves, because he and the gang will be there to help her if things don’t work out. Also, after she made him blush all day, finally Sou gets her to blush a little herself, having told her exactly what she wanted and needed to hear.

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Then Reito drives Sou and Nagisa home in his E65 BMW (Not a Toyota Century? Not Old Money!), Sou, returns to his dutiful “fiancee” Kaori, like a salaryman having returned home from a long day with a tough client at the office. Only the office was an arcade and his “client” was a friend who needed his support.

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We learn the episode’s cold open, in which Nagisa bathes with Yui, actually took place after the long, surprisingly emotional day we just witnessed. Nagisa confides in Yui that today she learned that the future isn’t quite as locked into place as she’d thought; no doubt a point Yui would agree with!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 05

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What’s almost as annoying as a TV show or movie employing the “humans only use 10% of their brain” trope? A TV show or movie mentioning the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment as if it was the first to do so. Regardless of their scientific efficacy, both concepts are simply played out in entertainment, bordering on buzz terms.

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Don’t get me wrong; Schrödinger’s Cat is a very cool thought experiment, and it’s not like it turned me off the episode, which tossed a lot of other concepts for us to chew on, like the brane-world, strings, eleven dimensions, gravitons, cause and effect, etc. Clearly, the writers had spent an hour in the science section of the library (or wikisurfing). It was also an episode that started with the effect and then preceded to lay out the cause, as well as creep ever closer towards the Big Central Mystery that still endures. The precise temporal flow of the show remains unfixed and elusive. This is not a bad thing.

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When the Gardening Club chases the Survival Club for damaging flowers with paintballs, they cause a collision between Airi (minding her own business) and the student council, causing the destruction of three computers. Nagisa then secures the Computer Club’s machines by outwitting their experimental AI system.  It shows how random and intricate a set of events can get to lead to an Astronomy Club “job”, which only four members participate in, leaving Kaori alone with Yui in the clubroom so Kaori can ask Yui about Sou as well as why she’s keeping such a protective eye on her.

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Kaori doesn’t get much in the way of straight answers, except that Yui sees Sou as a “father.” What could that possibly mean? The episode also cuts ever so enticingly briefly to the dark lab where a girl is suspended in stasis while a scientist is hunched over a terminal bearing notes of the same concepts the teacher mentioned at school. Where, or when is this place, and who’s in that damned tube? I want to know these things.

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Kaori…the only character who’s been shown as both dead and alive … like Schrödinger’s Cat! And the episode closes with another example of causality, in which an already uneasy Kaori gets a call from her mother that she won’t be home that night, which means Kaori and Sou are alone for the night, and Kaori pays a visit to Sou’s room with her pillow.

Her first assertion of her feelings for him came under different circumstances; this has the makings of another attempt. If that’s what it is, could confessing lead to her death by other means, as well? Is this a cycle Yui is there to try to break? This is an average-looking show at best, but all these enticing mysteries are keeping me engaged.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 04

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WareMete gets all adventurous and sentimental as the “search for lost future” turns into a trip down memory lane for Kaori and Sou. It all starts with a beautiful day, a new old camera, and the desire of the astronomy club not to waste it. So they play hooky!

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I loved the tension and excitement of their escape scene, trying to do it as calmly and casually as possible until they’re off school grounds, then making a run for it. In a nice bit of continuity, Yui is among the athletic members of the group, and the only one who can’t quite match pace is Kaori, which Sou realizes and lends her a supporting, encouraging, and much appreciated hand.

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Their prison break becomes a bit of an odyssey when they miss their stop and end up at the end of the line, which turns out to be a ravine Kaori and Sou visited as kids with her mom. It’s also some very gorgeous scenery: verdant, tranquil; exactly the kind of place you’d want to be on such a nice day.

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On that trip years ago, Kaori lost her teddy to the river and tries to go after it, but Sou springs into action to help her. They both end up in the drink with her ankle sprained, but he carries her back. It’s a memory she treasures, and she’s annoyed Sou doesn’t seem to remember it, but he later brings it up, making it clear that he remembers too, to her relief. In somewhat uncertain terms, she expresses her gladness that he not only carried her back then, but held her hand during the jailbreak.

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When she loses a loafer to the same river that took her bear, history is poised to repeat itself…then the rest of the club arrives, including Yui. Now, Yui may well know Kaori died in another timeline, but for now, all we know is that she gets concerned when others do potentially risky things. With that in mind, she goes after the shoe, and Sou is there to catch her when the rock beneath her hand gives way. Kaori’s a little disappointed in this turn of events, but Yui didn’t do what she did to step on Kaori’s toes, but to protect her from threats only she seems to fathom.

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Like all good impromptu day-long trips, this one ends with everyone wiped out on the bus ride home, a great quiet, cozy scene where, Kaori gets a little more Sou Time. Those shots of Sou and Yui flash by in Kaori’s head, and while she allows that Yui’s a “good girl,” I still detected a hint of yearning. Just as Sou has no idea how his non-digital shots will turn out, we have no idea how Kaori’s future will turn out. It looks like Yui’s looking after her, but how will her presence affect her and Sou this time?

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 03

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The show’s called “In Search of Lost Future”, so I expected a bit of time-shifting hijinx. This episode continues that theme by continually mixing the present as we know it with tinges of the past. To that end, we start with Airi dreaming about the first time she met Sou, which comes up later in the episode in a tender moment between the two (even though Airi doesn’t have, nor will she ever have, any shot at Sou; that’s just how these shows work).

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Airi also remembers how she came to befriend her future rival Kaori, in a relay race in which Kaori fell far behind and Airi had to give it her all to win. She suspects new girl Furukawa Yui to be just as athletically inept…

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Then spots Yui blasting through hurdles like a bat outta hell, disproving that theory in its infancy. Still, the primary matter at hand in the present is the investigation of the ghost sightings…that is, until another brush fire springs up that the Student Council asks Astronomy to put out: that between the Judo and Karate clubs…again?

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Yui, apparently possessing some memories (something only Nagisa knows), tries her darndest to keep Kaori out of the fray, lest she get injured and…well, we don’t quite know what Yui is worried about. Yui also laments that trying to act only makes events grow more “unpredictable”, suggesting maybe doing nothing would be better.

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The source of the “ghost” everyone at school’s been on about turns out to be a “horror workshop” stunt by the film club, who are chastened and rebuked…but just because their ghost was a ruse doesn’t mean there isn’t another ghost lurking up there on the school roof….which of course there is. Yui sees it clearly at the end, glowing blue and ominous.

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So, you may ask: Just what the heck is going on? Well…I’ll have to get back to you on that once I’ve watched more, because even I’m not totally sure. Time is whimsical in this show, resulting in some inevitable confusion. Confusion aside, I still find myself invested enough in the members of the Astronomy club — particularly Sou, Airi and Kaori — to stay the course. Something very interesting is afoot, and so far we’ve only seen the seeds.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 02

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The timeline in which Kaori ended up killed by a runaway bus right after confessing to Sou falls by the wayside, as the arrival of the naked, silver-haired amnesiac Furukawa Yui seems like the herald of a new and different timeline. The Astronomy Club takes care of her, and it isn’t long before she enrolls at school as a transfer student,

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While she knows her own name and seems to know Kou’s, the rest of Furukawa remains a stubborn mystery, aside from the fact she’s a bit clumsy. Meanwhile, the school brass wants the club to continue its role as mediator and defuser of conflicts, and also to investigate ghost sightings, though I’m pretty sure Furukawa is the ghost in question.

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All that, while organizing their planetarium exhibition, complete with maid costumes. Throughout both the investigation and the preparation, the club is its usual rowdy, ebullient self, which Furukawa seems to enjoy in her own sedate way. The romantic complexities of said group are largely put on hold this week, but once Furukawa accidentally touche’s Nagisa’s mysterious magical box, she suddenly remembers why she’s there.

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…She just didn’t deign to share that with us this week, so we’ll have to wait for the next. I must admit, this episode was not nearly as strong as the first, and was a largely workaday affair, introducing a new element without shaking anything else up too much. That element, Furukawa, is presently straddling the line between mysterious and…dull.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 01

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I like how the Astronomy Club of Uchihama Academy is the de facto “mediator” of interclub scuffles; as they’re always up in the stars, they’re literally “above the fray.” Of course, in both mediation cases we witness, the Astronomy Club ends up resolving things by beating up both sides, suggesting they’re capable of being in any number of clubs that make better use of their prowess; they just choose not to be.

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That is a good thing from my perspective, as the club is made up of likable if flawed members with nice chemistry and an easy rapport. We’ve got the sarcastic, dense Akiyama Sou, his childhood friend Sasaki Kaori (who also lives with him and is in love withhim), the lovely combat specialist Hasekura Airi (who also likes Sou), the mischievous, conniving senpai Hanamiya Nagisa, and the American exchange student Kenny (who is not killed here, you bastards!).

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It’s a good group, and they all exude distinct personalities and motivations, and their interactions are fun to watch, helped by a tight and efficient script. The characters appear to be CGI in design, but far subtler and smoother than, say, those of Ars Nova or Sidonia, and every scene is carefully, beautifully established and shot. In this regard, the show is already calling to mind the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise; not a bad start.

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What I also liked about this first episode was how close it held its cards. It painstakingly builds this placid, if somewhat wistful, portrait of a club of quirky but warm characters, and an unfortunate love triangle. Then Airi defers to Kaori, who finally, nervously confesses (a fantastic job by her seiyu Takada Hatsumi) to Sou, then proceeds to head home without getting a straight answer and gets squashed horribly by a runaway bus.

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The brute force of that event, followed by the hospital scene shot in near darkness that follows, is straightforward but powerfully staged stuff that gave me a sinking feeling in the stomach. Still, I kinda new the weirdness wouldn’t end there, so wasn’t too shocked when time rewinds to the day the club decides to build a planetarium for Nagisa’s last festival, there’s a boom that shakes the school, and Kou finds a wet, naked, silver-haired girl upstairs.

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That, and the very first shot (which doesn’t make much sense at the time) of the episode shows us that very girl, apparently the subject of a failed experiment. Suffice it to say, strange things are going on at initially normal Uchihama Academy, which is generally what we expected of a show whose title is based upon a 4,000-page Proust novel.

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