Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 16 (Fin)

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Back at the start of this Haruhi spin-off, Nagato Yuki’s goal was clear: work up the courage to confess her feelings to Kyon. Well, it took a car accident and a case of temporary dysmnesia, but she achieved that goal, back in episode 13. I say she did so, even though she had a different personality at the time and doesn’t remember it afterward, because it was Nagato Yuki who said those words, and it was most definitely Kyon who heard them and didn’t forget them. Ever since then, the ball’s been in his court. And that would be the case even if Yuki remembered confessing.

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In his monologues, Kyon is constantly updating us as to where he stands on the Fujiyama of Summer: he’s somewhere around the middle; somewhere where he’s sure he’ll have plenty of time to talk to Yuki normally. As for the show, this is the last episode, so when so much time is spent on Haruhi-mandated Summer activities without progress and the Summer passes by, I got a little nervous.

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But since the episode is called “fireworks”, I knew we’d get some in one form or another, and when the night of fireworks festival showed up, and after more awkwardness Kyon asks Ryouko what he should do, she makes him realize he’s distancing himself from Yuki without telling her why, which is hurting her. That revelation, that he’s personally detracting from Yuki’s—this Yuki’s—happiness, motivates him to suck it up and take that wonderfully-yukata’d girl aside to talk.

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You see, Kyon uses the fireworks to mask his words, so while he’s technically saying them to Yuki and thus clearing the air in his mind, she doesn’t hear anything, and so isn’t upset. When he tells Yuki he could’ve seen himself falling for her, even though he never considered the possibility of being liked that way, he sees New Yuki, in her sailor fuku, smile in recognition; not the yukata’d Old Yuki not hearing anything he’s saying.

What he does let her hear is his apology for being distant, and his promise he’ll start treating her like he always has, which doesn’t preclude the occasional romantic moment. So in the end, Yuki confessed her feelings and Kyon knowing she’d forget, and Kyon confessed to Yuki knowing she couldn’t hear. Hmm…let’s call it a draw, shall we?

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But hold on…what are all these knowing, possibly heartbroken, near-tearful expressions on adorably hair-bunned Haruhi’s visage? Why, it’s her giving up on Kyon; accepting Yuki’s won with grace…right? But what if, that night, Haruhi decided she never wanted the Summer to end; never wanted to come to the point where she’d have to concede defeat? In another show, she had that power…

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Oh show….you had to go there, didn’t you? Post-credits, we get the second “Kyon-kun Denwa!” of the episode, and suddenly we’re back in “Endless Eight” territory (full disclosure, I loved that arc). It would seem, unconsciously or not, that Haruhi managed to reset time. Has Kyon been being distant and awkward with Yuki for 594 years??

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 15

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Yuki’s temporary “disappearance” felt like it would be a kind of catalyst to propel her and Kyon together, but in it’s aftermath, one would be forgiven for thinking they’re back to the way they were back in episode one, still trying to feel each other out. They’re both searching for a way to act normal, but since thing were so abnormal for a time there, it’s understandably tough; especially when Kyon isn’t sure this Yuki feels the same way as the ephemeral one who confessed to him.

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But what better way to get two people back on the same page than a beach trip? This episode actually made me pretty excited because I myself will be going on a beach trip tomorrow, along with the rest of the staff (resulting in an unfortunate but unavoidable hiatus in reviews for the day). The bright sun, the hot sand, the swimsuits…it’s a very fun, summer-y vibe.

And both Yuki and Kyon have friends who are ready, willing and able to do little things here and there to make their reconnection easier, like Kyouko kicking a ball to the other end of the beach, sending Yuki out to get it, and ordering Kyon to follow her and play ball.

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Kyon’s little sister comes along on the trip, and even manages to provide an unintentional assist by kicking his brother into a compromising position with Yuki that neither of them seem to mind; in fact, they’re kind of entranced until Kyon’s sister snaps them out of it.

But the fact of the matter is, both he and Yuki are thinking the same thoughts about acting normally, while meanwhile having fun spending time together one-on-one.

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Tsuruya provides another key assist by pairing Kyon not to Haruhi (who at this point is pretty much out of the running…amazing figure or no) but to Yuki for the “test of courage” at night, which turns out to be nothing more than a pleasant evening stroll to a lake known for its swarms of fireflies; a romantic spot if ever there was one.

When Kyon hears Asahina screaming in fright (she thinks they’re will-o-the-wisps for some reason; one of the weaker aspects of the story this week), he runs in that direction, but not before taking Yuki by the hand.

Yuki is clearly exhilarated by being swept along, and even when they reach their destination, neither of them let go, but just soak in the tranquil beauty of their surroundings. Looks like these kids are gonna be fine. Will they (re)confess to each other in the finale, and if so, who will do it first? We shall see.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 14

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Nagato Yuki-chan’s last episode was so awesome, it would have made a fine end to the series, and part of me kinda wished it was, as I’ve got a full Summer plate. This week didn’t reach the dizzying dramatic highs of last week, it did make me glad after all we got three more episodes.

It was worth it just to see Ryoko welcome Yuki home, with a blend of joy and sadness in her eyes even a dope like Yuki can pick up on. Indeed, she doesn’t remember anything about the time her other self took over, or even the dream in which her other self explains things to her.

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But Kyon remembers, and he hasn’t been able to help but act differently around Yuki ever since. He also stares at the call log entry, as if it’s the entry of someone deceased. In a way, it is; Kyon wants to be able to believe New and Old Yuki were separate people with separate sets of feelings, but he can’t. Like Ryouko, he’s found he likes both equally, and the more they think about it, the more confused they get.

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New Yuki’s words let something in Kyon out that he can’t put back in or compartmentalize behind his stoic surface. It’s plain to see, especially from the newly-returned Haruhi, whose return I thought would be a pain but turned into a wonderful change of perspective, a marvelous use of Haruhi’s character beyond mere comic relief, and a resumption of the love triangle. Haruhi, like Kyon, is dealing with feelings she has for someone who doesn’t remember the same things about him that she does.

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The day they hold Tanabata celebrations is the fourth anniversary of Haruhi meeting Kyon, helping her paint messages to aliens in the schoolyard, and telling he he has no reason not to believe aliens are out there somewhere. He came into her life at a time when she was starting to feel the “senselessness” of her earlier youth give way to more and more common sense, leading to despair.

And he saved her from that despair. She hasn’t forgotten, but he has. People don’t need random car accidents to forget moments that are important to the ones they love. All it takes is time. It’s kind of heartbreaking: even if Haruhi brought up that day to Kyon and he remembered, it wouldn’t change the fact that he forgot in the first place.

But here’s the thing: that past Kyon wasn’t in love with Haruhi. Both Yukis love/d Kyon, and Kyon loves/d both Yukis. They’ve got two episodes to figure out what to /do about it!

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 13

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As she sleeps and dreams in Bossun’s Concentration Mode, New Yuki seems to resign herself to the fact that as much as she doesn’t want her time in this world to be limited, it is, and there’s nothing she can do about it. As she sleeps, “Old Yuki”‘s memories come into greater focus and reorganize. Her dysmnesia resolving. Time, and neurology itself is against her.

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New Yuki may have the personality and mannerisms of a new person, but she was never meant to be one; not permanently. Her body belongs to another, one who was injured in the accident, and as her brain heals, the temporary nature of her existence, along with the dread of her impending “disappearance” suffuse every moment she spends “on the outside.”

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But what continues to amaze me is that despite New Yuki treating these final days as a kind of requiem for who she is, and an opportunity to disappear with no regrets, the show doesn’t rule out the possibility the very title of this show is a misnomer. Is New Yuki really disappearing, or is she merely changing…or to be more precise, being changed by external stimuli, i.e. her friends?

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New Yuki is, after all, pretty much identical to Old Yuki; their difference lies primarily on the ownership of memories: If New Yuki believed those memories were her own and not Old Yuki’s, she’d probably act a lot if not exactly like Old Yuki. Furthermore, while Kyouko picks up on the fact Yuki is treating these like her last days, she is the one who posits the theory that it’s Yuki’s exposure to her and Kyon that’s causing this change in her, and therefore not a bad thing.

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But this discussion about whether there’s erasure or change going on is moot: erasure IS change. Also, New Yuki isn’t going back to Old Yuki; not really. I’m not sure the coinidence is intentional, but this episode has a “III” in it; the Yuki that results from her memories and personality being restored will be a third, new Yuki. New Yuki or “Yuki II” may only end up as synaptic scars, but that’s still a difference.

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The final scene is exhilarating, because we know Yuki will be “back to normal” soon, but heartbreaking, because it’s in her state as New Yuki, on the precipice of oblivion, that she has the courage to say what Old Yuki never could: that she loves Kyon. These are words Kyon really had to hear directly from Yuki, and when he does, it’s over the phone, and he knows he has to hurry to her side to properly respond.

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It doesn’t work out. By the time he finds Yuki, she’s dozed off, and just as she told him, she’s slightly confused by her surroundings when she wakes up. She also would seem to have no recollection of having just confessed to Kyon over the phone, though we’ll have to wait until next week to confirm this.

But who’s to say Yuki’s decision to confess right then and there, triggered by the knowledge Kyon knows her so well and cares for her so much, triggered her own disappearance, and the restoration of her old personality? If that’s the case, then it’s as if the Yuki created by accident accomplished a very important feat for her more easily-flustered counterpart.

Will Kyon believe the Yuki that confessed her love for him is gone, or will he understand that the back-to-normal Yuki feels the same way; that the accident was the finally learning her feelings? Here’s hoping.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 12

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This week is another quiet, pensive exploration of “New Nagato Yuki”, as time passes and more aspects of “Old Nagato Yuki”‘s personality gradually begin to surface. With four more episodes left after this one, the show may as well take its time.

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As a result, we’re treated to a rare instance of observing a character more or less observe themselves, along with Kyon, constantly on edge about the possibility of fading into oblivion once Old Yuki fully returns.

It’s a slow, slow burn, and very…neostalgicNew Yuki is seemingly experiencing this library for the first time, but it is in fact the same library where Old Yuki met, and possibly fell for, Kyon.

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I continue to be fascinated with the two different sets of glasses Nagato Yuki owns. The New Yuki wears one set; the Old Yuki wore the other. And as if she were getting superstitious, or even validly worried about further stimuli progressing her disappearance, New Yuki chooses not to put the old glasses on.

When Kyon tries on a pair of sunglasses, Yuki is almost taken aback by how easily he can do so without having to worry about his personality drastically changing.

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But even though she eschews the old specs, there are other stimuli New Yuki cannot avoid, because she doesn’t know about them until it’s too late, such as when Kyon gets her a book she’s too short to reach. She’s blushing, getting nervous for “no reason”, and her heart is beating faster.

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Hell, she’s even smiling. New Yuki wants to think she’s in control; wants to think she has a decent chance at surviving, that this “change” is permanent…but there’s too much evidence to the contrary, and it’s all because of her continued proximity to Kyon.

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New Yuki is remembering Old Yuki through dreams that are really memories, but they feel like someone else’s, an interloper’s, if you will. I find it fascinating that the show isn’t automatically taking Old Yuki’s side here; New Yuki has every right to exist, even if it’s not for much longer, due to the fact she only exists at all due to some strange brain glitch as a result of an accident that will pass with time.

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But things may not be so black and white. There are at least three Yukis to consider: the one before she met Kyon, t one who is in love with Kyon, and her current self, who stands between them, with bits of both mixing with her.

It would seem as though her brain injury fractured these parts, and that their “natural state” is combined into one; the one that, thanks to the linear passage of time, loves Kyon.

Yet that doesnt’ make it any easier for New Yuki, who considers herself a separate entity within the same body—a body she doesn’t necessarily want to surrender.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 11

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“I couldn’t tell who I was.” so begins a stirring re-telling of the events of last week’s episode, only from Nagato Yuki’s perspective, or rather “Nagato-Yuki”, someone who carries Yuki’s memories but don’t feel like her own. As a result, in this portion of the episode everyone’s voice is muffled slightly, as if there’s too much wax in our ears.

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Those muffled voices combine with the darker and grainier imagery to really effectively express the discombobulation of Yuki’s condition. And yet, even though there were sinister undertones to Asakura’s “Who are you?” query that ended last week’s episode, it’s a testament to the writing that Yuki is bestowed with even more humanity, as Asakura decides she’ll make an effort not to “deny” the “current” Nagato Yuki.

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That doesn’t meant Asakura isn’t concerned about Yuki’s health: a personality change could be a precursor to a more life-threatening condition. So she convinces Yuki to go to the hospital, where the doctor believes Yuki is suffering from a type of memory impairment called “dysmnesia” brought on by the shock of the accident. The doc believe it to be temporary, but recommends a hospital stay. Asakura talks her down by promising to take care of Yuki, who has thus far still been able to function.

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When Asakura finally lets Kyon in on this, he’s not surprised, and even more readily believes what’s happened when Yuki confesses she left her video game at home, something the “old” Yuki would never do. But like Asakura, while worried, he’s still respectful of the “current” Yuki’s right to exist and doesn’t want her to feel alone. To that end, they resolve to treat her just like they always have. Continuity and normalcy will hopefullly hasten recovery.

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Sure enough, even though when she first encountered Kyon after he accident she said her current self couldn’t feel the feelings she knows the former Yuki had for him, she’s not incapable of emotion altogether. She even expresses some very Yuki-esque embarrassment at not wanting to ask for so much food, even though her stomach growls more than once as a result, betraying her true state of hunger.

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This development, which has been foreshadowed all along in the show’s title, has certainly provided a spark to the show. And while I decry overly assertive music that “tells me how to feel”, I’ll make a notable exception here: Kato Tatsuya’s surging score throughout this arc has been phenomenal. This arc is also reminding me of one of my all-time favorite animes, Serial Experiments: Lain; never a bad thing.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 10

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 09

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Even though it starts with an innocuous late night game of cards, it feels like a lot more happens in this episode than last week’s, thanks both to Ryouko’s vivid imagination and Tsuruya’s stargazing suggestion. It’s also a better episode...IF we forgive its deeply disconcerting final moments.

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At first Yuki loses, and as a penalty she has to get food and drinks for eveyrone. Naturally, Kyon comes along, for chivalrous purposes (it’s dark out and Yuki’s a klutz). Indeed. she trips and ends up in Kyon’s arms, and from Ryouko (and everyone else’s) POV they seem to even lean in to kiss.

But then, quite unexpectedly, it all turns out to have been a fantasy Ryouko made up in her head. In fact, the lovebirds never went out; she’s the one who ends up with the Old Maid.

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Thankfully, Yuki and Kyon do go out together when Ryouko and Haruhi conk out and Tsuruya suggests they go to a perfect spot for stargazing, which is quite a hike away. Kyon offers to hold Yuki’s hand, but she can’t quite do it, settling for his sleeve. They end up in a whimsical park full of huge dinosaur models.

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Turns out they’re being tailed by Ryouko and Haruhi here as well, and it’s here where Ryouko confesses to Haruhi she’s not worried about Yuki and Kyon alone together, she’s jealous, and lonely. But the ever-chipper Haruhi assures Ryouko her relationship with Yuki won’t change for fall by the wayside, whatever happens between Yuki and Kyon. They’re words Ryouko needed to hear and wants to believe.

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Everyone ends up reuniting at the stargazing spot, which is as awesome as advertised. When Yuki ends up off on her own, reaching out to starts that look close enough for her to touch, but can’t be, it’s Kyon who touches her hand, and takes it into his.

As their love theme—Debussy’s Clair de Lune—plays, Kyon leads Yuki back to the others, hand-in-hand. Yuki, who had been momentarily preoccupied by her insignificance in the vast universe above, is brought back down to earth, a place where she’s valued and loved not just by Kyon, but Ryouko as well.

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They get to sit next to each other on the train ride home, and just like that, the long, sprawling, eventful “training camp” is over, and Yuki is a little closer to reaching her goal. Cut to the rains that precede Summer, a time when Ryouko remarks Yuki will have to come up with excuses to see Kyon, and after they part ways, Yuki walks out into the street with the Walk sign, and it sure looks like she gets hit by a fucking car.

This…was upsetting. Not because I think it will be the death of Yuki—she appears alive and well in the preview—but because it’s so damned random. So far all of her nice romantic moments with Kyon have just kind of worked out, and now it’s as if the show wants Yuki to pay the piper or something for all of the good luck she’s had. It’s cruel.

Then again, the universe only needs one fraction of a second to everything away from you, and Yuki isn’t immune to that possibility. Also, disappearance is part of the title; I just sorely hope it isn’t her memory and love of Kyon that disappears. That would suck, frankly. I just want Yuki to be happy in her spin-off. Is that so much to ask?

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 08

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Nagato Yuki-chan took it easy this week. Like, really easy. Like, it just hung out in an onsen as the lit club simply relaxed. This was a very relaxed episode. Whether it was relaxing depends on your patience. I suppose it makes sense, though, as this rest marks the halfway point of the show’s rather unusual 16-episode run.

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One of the curiosities of this particular onsen is that its open-air bath is an omiai or matchmaking bath, with a small door that offers views between the men’s and women’s sides of the bath—that only the women can open (which is the way it should be!) This is different from the usual “guys try to sneak a look at the girls” angle.

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That being said, if you were itching to see Haruhi, Yuki, Asahina, Tsuruya and Mikuru in various states of tastefully covered-up nudity, you were in luck this week. From the tight closeups of the girls disrobing to Haruhi’s general (and very true-to-character) lack of modesty, the onsen fanservice was present and accounted for.

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Post-bath, pre-dinner activites? It had those too, from a table tennis tournament totally rigged by Haruhi, to a karaoke tournament she flakes out of when she suddenly gets bored, which happens the moment Kyon is about to sing. What’s mildly funny is that he’s so into it he doesn’t notice his friends have left him and he’s singing to some random woman cleaning the bath.

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Like previous episodes, this one was also not afraid to take long pauses of calm silence. Kyon successfully repels Haruhi and Koizumi and enjoys a good twenty seconds before deciding to go back to the baths, at the exact same time Yuki decides to do the same thing. Then Yuki opens the matchmaking window on a whim to find Kyon right there on the other side, perfectly framed in the heart-shaped hole in the frosted glass.

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She apologizes, he tells her she doesn’t have to, and invites her to open it again—it’s for conversation, not peeping, after all—but the sound of the others spooks her. Nevertheless, the two have a good relaxed laugh on their respective sides, and the requisite Yuki x Kyon Moment is achieved, though Yuki once again fails to confess her feelings.

If nothing else, this episode made me want to take a long, hot, possibly herb-infused bath, followed by a brief spell in the sauna, a cold fruit milk, and a multi-course Japanese meal. Sounds heavenly.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 07

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The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki? More like the Disappearance of Plot, best demonstrated in the first minute or so of the episode, carried out in silence but for the sounds of Kyon playing Othello with Koizumi, Yuki tapping away on her PSP, and Haruhi writing noisily on the whiteboard. Kudos to the foley artists who provided the sounds that really brought this slice of the lit club’s life…to life.

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As for the plot, it’s not all that important: Haruhi has organized a Hot Springs trip for the club, under the guise of a “training camp”, for which she has forged detailed trip journals legitimizing what will be far more of a freestyle vacation where the only goal is to have fun. Leave it to Haruhi to put so much effort and energy into something that is by design meant to be unproductive.

It also means Opportunity #468 for Yuki-chan to get closer to Kyon and vice-versa, and while I can certainly see some of the situations Asahina imagines Kyon and Yuki getting into, I can safely say the trip will not consist of the two “crossing any lines,” such is the product of Asahina’s overactive imagination.

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Instead, despite not drawing lots to sit right next to each other on the train, the two end up on either side of the aisle, which is almost as good in terms of snack-sharing. It’s a fine example of things maybe not going perfectly according to plan yet still working out just fine. And I’m sure, to Asahina’s relief, Kyon doesn’t try feeding Yuki again.

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The quiet first scene in the club room set the tone for the episode and the club trip in taking its time and enjoying the moment and the journey more than the destination. The character interactions, both as a whole group of seven or in pairs or trios, keep the episode going, as they kill time waiting for their courtesy van by sightseeing and eating…a lot.

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One such welcome pairing is Koizumi with Haruhi, who are always a reliable duo for comedy simply because as far as Koizumi is concerned, Haruhi is never wrong and he’ll never refuse her whims, no matter how unreasonable or odd. The spinoff even makes another callback to its predecessor when Haruhi mentions “power spots” at the temple that can bestow supernatural powers.

But we know by now it’s just teasing and winking, not really seriously suggesting the show will take any supernatural turns…because it won’t. And that’s fine by me, especially if I can still be subjected to silences as long and awkward as Haruhi and Koizumi’s in response to Kyon’s attempt at “vital point” humor.

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Also, it’s good to see that romance and Kyon aren’t the only things on Yuki’s mind—she’s also very enthusiastic about sampling the local food of the region!—She’s also just basking in the glow of her new circle of friends, including Asahina, and this lovely trip they’re on, making fond memories out of soba and smoke.

Lest we forget she was once the only member of the lit club, about to be shut down, but with its infusion of members and semi-members from within and without her school, the club has never been more vibrant. The wish she writes on her matchmaking amulet is directed at the whole group, but we’ll see next week if her attention turns to a more specific subject at the hot spring…and if any of Asahina’s rom-com scenarios come to pass.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 06

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This week’s Yuki-chan was a bit of a “sampler” with a lot of different loosely-connected stories taking place within the episode. Because Yuki is trying to be bolder, so she speaks up when the opportunity arises to hear the story of Kyon and Mikuru’s “horrendous encounter” from Tsuruya—after Tsuruya launches Mikuru at Kyon, causing a boob-face collision.

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In a classic example of the listener being at the mercy of the narrator’s own biases and motives, Tsuruya recounts a story of Kyon shamelessly setting up a situation in which he bumps into Mikuru and takes her by the hand. In reality, both events were pure accidents, which, is actually why Kyon and Mikuru are able to converse normally: what happened wasn’t that horrendous to them at all.

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The theme of misunderstanding and withheld facts continues in the second segment, in which Kyon, who won’t admit he’s not doing so great with his studies, asks Asakura if she’ll help tutor him. She gives him a high-and-mighty lecture, whereupon he decides to ask someone else, like Nagato.

At the mention of Yuki, Asakura grabs his hand and the two exchange what I’ll call “smiles of understanding.” But because of those smiles and the fact they’re holding hands, Yuki’s skewed, hyperrealistic manga/video game vision presents a much more intimate scene unfolding before her.

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This misunderstanding is cleared up, but when Asakura and Kyon hit the books, Haruhi and Koizumi burst in, with their prep school education that’s a full year ahead of the two. I love the shot of Kyon’s POV when Haruhi sticks her head into the frame. Kyon and Asakura mistake Haruhi’s factual statements as an attempt to mock their “lesser” school and by extension themselves, so Asakura challenges a “math-off”, only to get in over her head and start crying.

Asakura had warned Kyon not to involve Yuki in anything related to schoolwork, but has little choice, and wins the challenge with Yuki’s superior academic prowess. Hey, she lacks confidence…no one said she was a dummy! In another nice nod to the show in which she’s an alien, Yuki is so bad at explaining how she arrives at answers so quickly it sounds like she’s speaking an indecipherable alien language at seemingly superhuman speed.

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The last segment involves both misunderstandings and Yuki being bold. Kyon decides to eat lunch in the clubroom and finds Yuki there tapping away at her video game (which looks like a dating sim). He decides to tease her by snatching the game and making her jump up high to grab it, resulting in the two accidentally embracing. Asakura enters just in time to witness this embrace, and quickly withdraws with her apologies.

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She bursts in again to find Kyon feeding Yuki, and again apologizes and withdraws. Kyon worries she misunderstood everything…but did she? The hug may have been accidental, but both of them held that hug an awful long time…almost as if they enjoyed it. Also, it makes no sense why splitting Kyon’s lunch would be easier if he fed her. That’s just Yuki seeing if Kyon would actually feed her…and he does! Nice moments for this couple; I just wish they wouldn’t always dismiss them as misunderstandings.

The final scene has Haruhi, Koizumi, Tsuruya and Mikuru at the club’s door in preparation for Haruhi’s “Training Camp”, which she’s sure she told Yuki about, just as she told Yuki she got a faculty pass to come to their school for club. In both cases, Yuki forgot being told these things because she was so engrossed in her video games. But approving Haruhi’s requests has increased Kyon’s exposure to Haruhi, making Yuki’s job to woo him that much harder. So Yuki: When Haruhi’s around, put the game down and concentrate!

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 05

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Last week was a compelling turning point in the show, when the streak of everything going Nagato Yuki’s way ends with a bang, with that bang being her homemade chocolates hitting the ground. This week, Nagato Yuki disappears, and it’s up to Ryouko to pick up the pieces.

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To her surprise, Haruhi joins the search. Haruhi claims it was just a misunderstanding; that she was giving Kyon courtesy chocolate just like she gave to Koizumi. It isn’t her fault Yuki overreacted, or takes the ritual so seriously.

Ryouko is angry, first at Haruhi, then at herself for blaming others for what she deems her own failure. This is the angriest and most emotional we’ve seen Ryouko yet, and it’s the culmination of putting “Miss Nagato’s” hopes and dreams on her shoulders, while also possibly forcing ideals on the lilac-haired waif.

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When the two finally locate that waif, sulking on a stair, they learn they misunderstood her running away, as did we. Yuki wasn’t devastated by the sight of Haruhi and Kyon, nor is she giving up; she merely felt like she shouldn’t be there while someone else is giving chocolate to someone, because she wouldn’t want anyone watching while she was doing it. Yuki puts herself in the shoes of others, and treats them the way she’d want to be treated. She really is a good girl.

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But will she have the fortitude to hang in a fight with Haruhi for Kyon’s heart? Haruhi makes it clear she “doesn’t dislike” Kyon (i.e. she likes him) when Yuki asks her point blank (and good for her for doing so!) so it’s no longer a one-horse race. But Yuki is game for now, and Haruhi wishes her rival luck.

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Yuki finally, finally delivers the chocolates to Kyon, with trembling hands and a face so red he really should know how much this means to her. He opens them eats them, praises their taste and Yuki and thanks her. He does everything he should do considering what he was presented with, but it isn’t enough. Someone like Kyon needs a clear-as-crystal confession or it’s going to sail over him.

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With nothing else to do but watch from a secluded spot, Ryouko decries the fact it doesn’t seem to be going so smoothly, while Haruhi, nervously playing with her shoe thinks she understands at least part of how Yuki feels, and how giving something to someone, as a courtesy or not, is still an achievement to be proud of.

Haruhi looks particularly weary when Yuki seems to be going in for the confession, but a terribly-timed tackle by Tsuruya causes Yuki to fall to the ground and Kyon to land on her chest, ruining her chance once more. Haruhi seems more than a little relieved by the Tsuruya ex machina.

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While this week did resort to some standard rom-com stall tactics, I appreciated how it kept things tough for Yuki, and more importantly, brought Ryouko’s formerly flawless facilitating powers down to earth. In one of her better lines, told in her temporary rage, Ryouko tells Haruhi “you’re the kind of person who can act to make what you want happen”—referencing Haruhi’s supernatural powers in the original series—compared to Yuki, who has trouble making anything at all happen.

But after this week, Ryouko and Haruhi seem like something resembling friends, their bond forged in large part because of Yuki: Ryouko’s devotion to her, and Haruhi’s competition with her. And I think Haruhi understands Yuki all too well in one notable regard: for both of them, getting Kyon to properly notice their feelings looks to be a Herculean challenge.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 04

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Oh dear…I realize I may have been hasty about choosing Nagato Yuki-san as the Spring’s “feel good” anime. Her inflexible reliance on conventional courtship rituals like Christmas and Valentines left her vulnerable the battle for Kyon’s heart Four weeks in, he has no idea how deeply she feels for him.

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Haruhi arrived on the field of battle late, and even provided moral support for Yuki to advance at a quicker pace, which lessoned the threat she posed. At the same time, her strict non-adherence to societal norms, striking looks, and impish aggressiveness made for a formidable arsenal, with which she’s able to steal a march on Yuki.

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The most heartbreaking part (if you’re a Yuki shipper)? By going home to make chocolate rather than stay at the club to hang with Kyon, Yuki gave Haruhi the only opening she’d need. Mind you, Haruhi doesn’t have anything against Yuki, and she’s not some villainess hell bent on making her life miserable. On the contrary, I doubt she was planning to make the connection she made with Kyon, or vice versa. It was almost as if destiny itself was against Yuki.

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All Haruhi sees is a lonely Kyon waiting for her by the school gate, a potential free coffee, and later, an open ear to her philosophy of “good things will come to those who seek them,” not those who wait. Even when she tests him by asking if he thinks water imps exist, he doesn’t bore her with a scientific explanation for why they don’t. Instead, he ponders whether they do…and who can blame him, with Haruhi fording the February river in her bare feet at sundown; the very picture of impish beauty?

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Yuki means well, but her omission absence, and hesitation are no match for Haruhi. Yet she doesn’t even consider Haruhi to be a threat when she tries and fails to sleep that night, then goes to school with a lump in her throat. Her challenge, as she sees it, is to get that chocolate into Kyon’s hands. As long as she does that, everything will be fine. But putting so much importance into the ritual also means she’ll be that much more devastated if things don’t go as planned.

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Mikiru, Tsuruya and Asahina’s collective “attagirl” encouragement and Asahina’s plan in which she comes to Kyon rather than wait for him, are all designed to make the exchange as painless and idiotproof as possible. But at this point, I’m pretty certain she’s walking into an ambush. There will be no feel-good ending in that room.

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The scene she walks in on couldn’t have been worse if they were in flagrante delicto on the tabletop, because frankly, Yuki’s threshold for romantic defeat is about as low as humanly possible. There’s Kyon, to whom she was about to present the chocolates she put her goddamn heart into, his hand connected via the conduit of a store-bought chocolate bar—”Showa”, a play on Meiji—to Haruhi, the usurper Yuki herself allowed into the club. It’s a regular imperial coup.

The one slight glimmer of hope? The box Yuki drops on the floor doesn’t bust open and scatter the pieces all over the floor, so maybe that’s not quite the state of her heart. But this is going to sting, and her skight step back indicates she intends to retreat.

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