Golden Time – 22

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And yea, there was a reckoning. Man, what an emotional centrifuge of an episode. After being unceremoniously dumped by Koko, Banri is more listless than usual, but Nana comes to save the day. When she realizes how hurt Banri is, she even tones down the dark sardonicism she typically employs to distance herself from other humans, and cheers him up as well as one could suspect. If only Banri could have gone for Nana from the start, right?

It could potentially have been a less eccentric love triangle with Linda, since it’s made clear this week that Koko does not fuck around when it comes to breaking up (despite having never done so before). Even before Nana got to him, Koko sent her dad to pick him up and talk to him. Their chat, and his chat with Nana, leave him in a position of bouyant optimism that he can turn things around with Koko the morrow. So did we.

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The next morning at college, and Koko is back to normal. Like the fools that we and Banri are, we fall for the act hook line and sinker as evidence Banri overestimated the severity of yesterday’s tiff. Everything’s back to normal and the happy music plays. Then Koko takes our optimism and CRUSHES us with it, unilaterally broadcasting to him and all their friends that they are indeed broken up and back to being Just Good Friends.

Forget Banri’s existential crisis; it’s as if Koko has gone back to a previous version of herself, bending the conventional rules of socialization to her own whims, and more distressingly, saying things that are patently untrue, a marked departure from the fierce honesty she’d exhibited right up to her apology to Banri (before she crushed us, that is). Mitsuo knows something’s up, and tells Banri not to accept the crazy things coming out of her mouth.

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But…is Koko really all that crazy? Well…yes, but hear us out. She had to find out from the garbage that Banri is on medication for anxiety. She had to find out from the Okamera (the owner of which must still evoke resentment in Koko despite all the progress they’ve made) about the extent of Banri’s condition. She has to hear him begging Chinami not to tell Koko at all costs. Accounting for all of that, anyone, not just a weirdo like Koko, might be inclined to take a long hard look at their feelings.

It puts into perspective all the confident, optimistic things Koko’s said to Banri whenever things were less than peachy. She dumps Banri with that same conviction, but it sounds like she’s trying to convince herself more than the others. When Mitsuo tries to put an end to the nonsense she lashes out at everyone, threatening to avoid them all, then leaving in a huff, insisting she doesn’t care about any of them anyway. It would be easier if she truly meant the things she said, but we don’t believe she does.

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But Banri is so crushed by the dumping, he doesn’t fight back. When he tells Linda, casually resigned, she doesn’t let it pass…and why the hell would she? She had to accept that Banri was with Koko, only for them to break up like it’s nothing? No, sir! Banri brings her past rejection of him into it (partly fueled by what Nana said to him last night), a misunderstanding Linda can’t let fly anymore, and the two let fly at each other in a vicious, raw argument; with shades of the charged fights of Kokoro Connect. Everything that had been under a rock is exposed to the terrible light for all to behold.

Banri learns Linda did love him, but was just too late (and possibly hears about it too late). Linda shouts that he’ll believe in Banri even if he won’t. Mitsuo happens to pop in and Banri tells him everything (what the heck; it’s as good a time as any). Then Koko walks in, not for any interaction with the others, but to give the Festival club Prez her resignation. All Banri can do is rip it out of her hands and glare at her, and she just glares right back. Everything is shit right now: nerves are frayed, tempers are short, nobody is happy, and there’s no solution in sight. It’s GLORIOUS.


Rating: 10

Stray Observations:

  • While things aren’t good with Koko and Linda, it’s interesting to see that Banri’s never been closer or more warm with either Nana or Chinami. So not everything is shit.
  • “There seems to be something going on.” Master of Understatement, President Koshino.
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Golden Time – 21

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Well that’s great…that’s just fuckin’ great, man! Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We’re in some real pretty shit now man…Game over man, GAME OVER!  In the end, it’s not that Koko never sees the ring Banri has been trying to find the right time to give her: she outright rejects it and coldly says Sayonara. Holy shit. This is the same person who said she’d stick by him through thick and thin, who told him with her help he could conquer the world. What the hell happened?

Well, quite a lot, actually! After lying to her about nothing being wrong promising not to run away, and organizing a lavish kobe beef dinner in which to break the truth to Mitsuo, Chinami, and 2D-kun, stuff happens, and Banri indeed runs away. Koko leaves him an emotionless text—a devastating gesture in its own right—and after getting a boost of confidence from his male friends, the next time he sees her, it looks like she’s done with him.

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What can we say? While we don’t know the whole story yet, it looks pretty damn bad. It’s one thing to be pessimistic about a relationship, but another to watch it shatter before one’s eyes. It was heartbreaking, but sometimes you don’t know the last straw when you see it, and Banri running away again—and begging Chinami not to tell Koko—might’ve been just that. It’s an awful situation all around: Banri can’t control his sudden bursts of amnesia and panic, and just when he thinks he’s stronger, it beats him down at the worst possible times.

These new developments would be enough for a superior episode, but Golden Time piles on the goodness by finally having Chinami communicate what’s been eating her lately; once she found out Mitsuo loved someone she realized she loved him, but felt it was too late. She cut her hair, which she thought was a mistake, and lashed out at Banri. While her situation isn’t nearly as dire or existential as Banri’s, it’s still awful, and powerfully expressed. Kudos to Kido Ibuki toning down the Miss Ultrasonic and delivering a serious, vulnerable performance.

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Even though he didn’t get everyone together at once, or tell them exactly what he wanted, we feel that everyone kinda got the gist. It’s gratifying to see his mates enthusiastically rally behind him, but the poor lads haven’t a clue just how royally screwed Banri is; nor does he, since they cheer him up only for Koko can knock him back down when he sees her. Golden Time is decidedly not in the punch-pulling business.

In reference to the festival club getting ostracized for messing up, Koshino echo’s Linda’s assertion that “It’s too soon to give up. Let’s start by doing whatever we can!” Such words ring just as true for Mitsuo and Linda, or Chinami and Mitsuo. But Banri doing whatever he can might not be enough to save his relationship with Koko. His accident and the resulting difficulties may have torpedoed it, just as it put the Kibosh on him and Linda.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Oka is full of so much sad win in this episode, including wanting Banri to film her in her emotional state.
  • The camera did seem to get footage of Banri’s freakout. In-ter-es-ting.
  • We felt so bad when Nana slugged Banri. Her ideas about what should be done to people who’ve lost their senses. Well, she had to do something wrong eventually, and in her defense, she didn’t know what the hell was going on. Obviously, had she known about Banri’s past head trauma, she would have gone below the belt.
  • Curiously, in the preview Banri and Koko seem to be talking to and even smiling at each other, which begs the question: how the heck does it go from where we are now to that in one episode? This is why we hate previews.
  • It seems slight, but there’s a chance Koko is only pretending she doesn’t care about Banri, trying to preemptively make him disappear on her own terms. Dunno, we’ve gotta think about that…

Kimi no Iru Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Asuka calls Haruto a liar and storms off. In the middle of the night he tells Rin about his situation, and she offers herself as a third choice, not helping. Back in Tokyo, Haruto dumps Asuka, who is crestfallen. He meets with Yuzuki and gives her his answer: they both desire the same thing: to be together. After thanking Rin for helping him come to a decision, he tells Yuzuki he’s planning to move out of his sister’s place. He encounters Asuka, who can’t bring herself to hate him.

That’s right, folks, in this series, the archetypal “good guy” dies of an unspecified illness and the loyal, trusting, devoted “good girl” gets her heart broken. The two people who caused everyone else the most pain – and therefore earned the most disdain from us – end up with each other, putting their happiness first. Is this selfish? Sure. But it’s also understandable. Haruto always did love Yuzuki and never fell out of love for her. No matter how profound Asuka saw her relationship with Haruto or how much she loved him, he never loved her as much as he loved Yuzuki. Their breakup was inevitable, and it was better to do it quickly than to draw it out. That’s not to say that the breakup wasn’t tremendously brutal to watch – it was…and we felt even worse when she said she’d take him back if it didn’t work out with Yuzuki.

Everything that happened came down to which town everyone lived in and when, making the title fitting. Rin drove Yuzuki out of their town and into Haruto’s, which is how the two met. When Yuzuki left, the distance cause them to drift apart. When Haruto followed her, his timing was off. When she rejected him before and after Kyousuke’s death, he went to Asuka. Then Yuzuki’s love for Haruto resurfaced, and the two reconnected in the town where they first fell in love, dooming Asuka. Several hearts were shuffled throughout this series’ run, but it just wasn’t in the cards for her. Rin too, for that matter: no matter how much she bad-mouthed him, she wanted Haruto too, but lost out to her sister, which was kinda karmic justice for mistreating Yuzuki.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Aku no Hana – 11

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A month after being picked up by the cops on the hill, Kasuga has not spoken to either Saeki or Nakamura, keeps to himself, and talks little. Kinoshita makes him apologize to Saeki, and they formally break up. Going to be without eating and after vomiting, Kasuga dreams of taking a long walk into a field of flowers of evil. There he finds Nakamura, who tells him she’s disappointed in him for not breaking all of his walls. He wakes up, destroys his Baudelaire portrait, and begins to write a letter to Nakamura.

In a series full of tense “aftermath” episodes, this one was not the strongest, taking place a full month after last week’s events; a month in which not much at all seemed to have happened.  Instead of saying much of anything, this episode focused on painting the picture of Kasuga’s new bleak, hopeless, pointless existence. Saeki walks past him, classmates mutter around him, and Nakamura into trouble and invites ridicule, his mother cries and his father watches TV, but Kasuga has simply checked out. After he and Saeki officially break up, he is resigned to a lifetime of loneliness, “like a desert tree,” unable to escape the city he hates.

And then Kasuga has a dream. He’s content with living the rest of his life alone, but the dream asks the question: What about Nakamura…that crazy outcast girl who saw him take the gym uniform of a girl he worshiped? The girl who became his shadow, and the obsessed architect of his deviant renaissance? The girl who saw something in him, even if it was dark and sinister, that no one else did? Saeki might not ever have even approached Kasuga if he hadn’t defended Nakamura when she was being accused. Nakamura may well want to be alone, and not want pity or help from the likes of Kasuga. But he’s not going to leave her alone.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • And so ends the best run of high-rated episodes since the likes of Tempest, Sukitte Iinayo and New World. This episode wasn’t bad, but it was lacking compared to the previous seven.
  • The scene with Kasuga excusing himself from the dinner table as formally as possible was long and slow, but effective, perfectly encapsulating an excruciating ennui.
  • (Non-dream) Nakamura’s only line is to insult the whistleblowing swimming instructor. We have to say we missed her this week…like Kasuga!
  • With Saeki, you truly do get the feeling she jumped into a relationship too fast, learned a lesson, and will move on. But…will she?