Did the writers of this episode recently watch Whisper of the Heart? Both center on a yearning young lady who worries about being good enough, both begin with that girl checking out all the same books as a guy, and both end on a hilltop at daybreak. But before I lay into those writers for shamelessly lifting from a classic, I must note that the similarities pretty much end there.
For one thing, Amasawa Seiji didn’t get nearly as much girl time as Kyoutarou this week. Seriously, Kyou’s all over the shop with the ladies, or rather they’re all over him. From getting squeezed between and fought over by Tamamo and Senri in bikinis on stage, to ending up with Tamamo’s bra, to rescuing Kana from the sea, the show wants to make it clear that yes, he will be giving up quite a lot if he becomes a shepherd.
Interestingly, the aftermath of Nagi’s kiss-and-run is set aside so that the show can focus on the stakes, one girl at a time, starting with Kana. As we know, Kana is the clown of the group, not counting Ikkei (because Ikkei barely exists). What we didn’t know is that Kana was the clown in her last group of friends…who are no longer friends.
Then, as now, she didn’t choose to be the clown; it was a role she was given and never challenged it. She put doing what she deemed it took to remain ‘wanted’ in a highly-structured group where everyone had a role to play. After her beach play was a failure, the brittle clown facade is crumbling. She compensates by “trying too hard”, which makes her inner struggle more evident to her new friends, who say “this isn’t like you at all!”, inadvertently goading her into trying even too-harder.
The club also works to get their client stage time, and, StuCo Veep Takigawa gives no ground in negotiations. They hold out hope they can change her mind (not knowing that she’s trying to destroy their cub!), but for that, they need Kana to write a new script. Only Kana isn’t coming to club.
One surprising sight was seeing Kyoutarou shadowing Nagi with her trainee shepherd work, with things back to normal; ‘normal’ meaning ‘intermittently awkward and lovey-dovey’. Yet again, Nagi dodges the question of why she wants to be a shepherd so badly, and uses the situation as another opportunity to dissuade Kyoutarou from becoming one. She does that by telling him where to find Kana so he can talk to her, thereby sharing yet another beautiful memory he won’t want to lose.
As payment for her intel, she chokes him with her legs and bites his nose.
Up on that hill, just before sunrise, he finds Kana, and the discussion turns to books. How Kyoutarou started reading books because he was looking for ways to get along with others, something he’s clearly succeeded out. And if you’ll remember, Kana checked out a lot of those same books, perhaps for the same reason.
I really enjoyed the creativity of the closing scene, whether it’s Kana telling her backstory using Madoka witch-style shadow-puppet visuals, or Kyoutarou turning their talk into a theatrical performance. The sun rising behind the embracing friends as catharsis is reached was also a simple but well-executed visual. Sendai Eri also does her best work of the season here and throughout the episode, demonstrating heretofore untapped range.
Kana returns to the club feeling much better about herself and her place in it, which she learns need not be in the role of the clown. She’s excited to write the hell out of a new script, and if it flops like the least one, who cares? It’s not the end of the world, and she had fun writing them.
Then Senri embraces Kana once more, imploring her to stop worrying so much about what others think and start worrying about what she wants…lest Senri take him first! Then, things immediately shift to Senri going AWOL on her music instructor. But that’s a story for next week!
Kyoutarou is sure play a role in her redemption as well, but lest we forget: without Nagi’s help, he wouldn’t have reached Kana at that crucial time and place. If he relies on Nagi again, it will further expose the limits to his ability to help others as long as he’s not a shepherd himself.