Zoku Owarimonogatari – 04 – A Disaster Visited Upon a Fragile World

Meeting the Heart-Under-Blade of this world is not what Araragi expected. Before he knows it, he feels compelled not only to bend the knee, but admonish himself in his thoughts whenever he says anything to her, culminating in him getting suicidal thoughts. Turns out that’s what happens with anyone (other than Ononoki) in her presence; her glory is just too great for any mortal to behold.

But in their short time together, Shinobu tells him a great many things he hadn’t considered, like the very real possibility he’s not the “victim” of this incident, as he has thusfar assumed, but a negative influence on her world, throwing it and everyone inhabiting it out of balance. Basically, he has to return to his world, and is on the right path, but he won’t be able to do it alone; he’ll need aid.

When Ononoki lists all of the qualifications required for said aid, a part of me hoped Senjougahara Hitagi’s name would come up—perhaps she’s a specialist in this world?—but the answer is the most obvious: Ononoki herself.

After his encounter with Shinobu, Koyomi immediately starts to notice the so-far subtle effect his presence in this world is having on those closest to him, particularly Sodachi. But while Tsukihi is giving him a compulsory face wash, he spots the other Koyomi in the reflection of the water in the sink.

After contemplating the possibility his own home might be the gate back to his world, Ononoki brings up an alternative plan: simply learn to live here and let the world change him, rather than the other way around. Perhaps his influence is only negative because he’s fighting the reality of this place; “giving up”, so to speak, could reverse the direction of influence.

Koyomi tables this idea, as he’s not sure it’s even achievable – even if he outwardly goes along with everything, there’s still his subconscious to consider, not to mention he has too much to do in that world to leave it now.

So instead it’s off to Kanbaru’s. Ononoki is supremely confident she can hold the Rainy Devil off indefinitely, and certainly as long as Koyomi needs to do. When simply looking in the reflection of the cypress bath nets no result, he strips and takes a bath.

That’s when Kanbaru’s mother Gaen Tooe enters and demands to know who he is before she ends him. No empty threat, but between the Rainy Devil and Tooe, Koyomi’s Araragi Charm will hopefully be more effective on the latter.

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Zoku Owarimonogatari – 03 – A Blurry Reflection

Having met nearly everyone in this “mirror world”, Koyomi takes stock of the different ways the people he knows have changed, and acknowledges that this is far from simply a matter of left becoming right, or even right becoming wrong.

Black Hanekawa is his Tsubasa’s alter ego. Rainy Devil’s hatred lurks within his Kanbaru. The happiness of her alternate dwells deep within his Sodachi. Kuchinawa is an inseparable part of Nadeko.

These seemingly different or opposite people are really much the people he knows as the people he knows, only in his world these are the sides hidden, suppressed, lurking beneath the everyday surface, for good and/or ill. As Mayoi has him consider where his alternate might be, he contemplates Oshino Ougi being in his world while he’s here.

But Mayoi also tells him to sleep on it, and take what opportunities might come. To Koyomi’s surprise, Sodachi is his bunkmate, and after lights-out offers some sleepy insight into mirrors—which typically only reflect about 80% of the light that hits them. The rest is absorbed, meaning the only way to truly see ourselves is to see a “blurry reflection”, something less than 100% the reverse of what you put into it.

That opportunity Mayoi mentioned might come comes in the form of Ononoki, but there’s something different about her, which is to say there’s something the same about the way she’s supposed to be. Her expressions and emotion and tone are all back to normal.

She reports that when she saw Koyomi’s reaction to her as she was (including not removing her “bottoms” as is supposedly his alternate’s dirty habit), she essentially rebooted and updated her personality—something among all the others she’s uniquely equipped to do.

Ononoki tells Koyomi she’s arranged to have the former Kiss-shot meet with him, and takes him on a journey to see her. I say journey when it’s more of a dazzling odyssey. As she lets the withering insults of her twisted personality fly freely, the surroundings of their trip to Shinobu fluctuate between dreamy hyper-realism to intricate 8-bit nostalgia.

Very few shows excel better at distracting you from long conversations with diverse dynamic visuals and eclectic music. This culminates in the most lavish setting yet: a classic Disney-style castle at the site where Koyomi expects the cram school to be; which he assumed might not have been destroyed by the Tiger like it was last Summer in his world.

As he and Ononoki let themselves into the magnificent edifice and walk through its vast moonlight-bathed halls, he contemplates what kind of person Shinobu might be. Did the other Koyomi never meet her bleeding to death in the subway, and never made a pact to save her life and made him a vampire? Is she Full-Power, Non-Former Kiss-shot and all the rest?

Well, once he enters her ethereal bedchamber, spots her silhouette, and hears her old-fashioned, polite salutations, it dawns on him: she’s not a vampire at all; she’s human. Judging from her castle, perhaps she still goes by the name Princess Rola?

Senryuu Shoujo – 03 – Bemusement Park

President Amane is all about trying to get Nanako and Eiji together, which includes eavesdropping on a truly bizarre game of charades in which Nanako somehow makes the upward wind you get on a roller coaster. I would have barged in too…where did that come from?

It’s a 4-koma kind of playful comedy that doesn’t always have to, say obey the laws of physics. Or something absurd, like when younger Nanako had temper tantrums, she still wrote senryuu to express herself. Amane’s challenging of Eiji asserting what a “manly man” he is was also amusing.

This all leads to the three making plans to go to an amusement park, but Amane bowing out at the last second in order to make it a date for Nanako and Eiji. The latter is your typical mostly-oblivious fella, who is almost appallingly late on the uptake despite the fact Nanako is flirting with him in writing.

I enjoyed the little white lies Nanako employed to try to get a little closer, whether with the shared soda cup or informing Eiji that her shoelaces broke, possibly implying that the only way for her to go home would be if he carried her.

Alas, Eiji notices she’s wearing shoes that don’t have laces. As with Nanako’s inexplicable wind-summoning, Amane can’t help but spring out from her hiding spot to protest Eiji’s denseness.

Senryuu Shoujo – 02 – Close Enough

The Lit Club begins an initiative aimed at improving Eiji’s bad-boy image with the rest of the school, though Nanako likes him the way he is, even when his eyes roll back in his head when he’s deep in thought! That’s when Eiji’s beautiful “big sis” Ootsuki Koto shows up to thank Nanako and Amane for taking care of him. Turns out she’s just his childhood friend two years his senior. Then, while having a meal together, Eiji notes how much Nanako eats—not with malice, mind you—and Nanako starts to fear she’s gaining weight.

When her little brother teases her for eating as much as a sumo wrestler, Nanako resolves to go on a diet, but Koto offers to train her instead, using her military self-defense skills to whip her into shape. Time passes, and an excited Nanako takes Eiji’s hand and places it on her stomach…which would be quite forward if we didn’t know her true intentions were honorable. Instead, Eiji has to mention how he’s never felt a girl’s stomach and thus has no basis for comparison for Nanako to realize her faux pas.

Still, one think Nanako shouldn’t be ashamed of is that she likes Eiji—a genuinely nice guy—just the way he is. If others get to know him, they’ll learn the same thing. Koto already knows this, but when Amane asks if she likes anyone (if she had to give her a name, it would be Eiji), she says she doesn’t; not the way Amane means, anyway. Koto is fine with her and Eiji just the way they are, even if it means him getting closer to Nanako.

As it is, SS is a school slice-of-life with romantic undertones that just happens to integrate haiku wherever it can. And like that show about women enjoying various alcoholic beverages after work, it succeeds at its limited domain just as much as it needs to—which is to say, it’s fine.

Goblin Slayer – 05 – When in Doubt, Go Clubbing

In a quieter low-key episode of GS, the Slayer wakes up after three days of rest at the farm and immediately sets back to work checking it for signs of goblins. Cow Girl asks him how he is, and he responds with his usual “fine/no problem.”

They go into town for guild business, and GS meets his eclectic team. He gives the Lizardman more of that sweet sweet cheese and tells the High Elf Archer he’ll “think about” joining them on another adventure soon, which makes her very happy.

Parallel to GS going about his business is a pair of Porcelain-ranked adventurers, one of whom lost his sword in the sewers fighting giant rats and bugs. They’re able to get away, but with no weapons or money, they’re at a loss of how to get the sword back.

The halting-speech mage gives them a candle that will indicate when they find the sword, while GS suggests they try using a club in lieu of a sword. It works, even if it’s a bit messy and requires the club wielder to mercilessly swing the thing at the heads of his foes, grossing out his partner. But he gets his sword back and they both return unharmed, so all’s well that ends well.

Finally, there’s more focus on the Guild Girl than in previous episodes, as she asks GS to serve as a subsitute observer at a promotion hearing. There, she accuses a Rhea of taking the whole contents of a treasure box to himself and selling the contents, resulting in his demotion and banning him from adventuring in the town.

The Rhea is furious, but when he senses what would happen if he attacked the Guild Girl (GS would smash his face in) he simply storms off. Guild Girl is glad to have GS by her side, and even has a bit of a crush on him, as she digs “straight-laced” adventurers, even if he may well be a bit too stoic.

GS surprises her by returning with a special quest that comes from none other than the Sword Maiden of the Church of the Superior God. Looks like GS is going to get his wish to slay goblins again, this time perhaps with another high-caliber partner by his side.

 

Goblin Slayer – 04 – He’s Always Like That

The High Elf Archerhad no idea what she was getting into when she teamed up with ‘Orcbolg’. At first, it was kinda fun, sitting ’round the campfire, getting a bit drink, nibbling on melted cheese, teasing him about his helmet. It was the start of an adventure she was hoping to have.

But upon entering the once-grand ruins taken over by goblins, and finding a nearly-dead elf much like herself hanging from chains, things suddenly aren’t fun or exciting anymore. They’re sobering and dark and cruel. GS brains the goblin behind the poor woman, who is carried off to safety by one of the Lizardman’s conjured dragonbone warriors.

The experience of suddenly encountering a fellow elf in such a state lingers; the High Elf Archer looks traumatized and weighed down. The GS doesn’t have time to comfort her or anyone else; if anyone can’t continue, they should go; otherwise, they should stay.

She decides to stay, not feeling at all right about abandoning the party (especially since she’s the best ranger and marksman among them). But then GS comes up with a plan to take on the far greater goblin numbers…and it isn’t exactly sporting. They basically cast Stupor and Silence on them, and kill them in their ‘sleep.’

At first, the Archer wants revenge for what the gobs did to the other elf, but after the sixth or seventh or seventeenth goblin she’s repeatedly stabbing and letting the blood splatter on her face, she’s kinda not feeling it anymore…or feeling anything for that matter. She looks numb, and hard, and wonders how GS could have done this alone for so long.

The next stage isn’t as easy as slaughtering sleeping gobs, however, as it turns out they’re being led by a massive ogre, capable of speech (and trash talk). The parties’ efforts don’t really seem able to put a dent in his thick and quickly regenerating skin, the Priestess runs out of miracles for the day protecting them from fireballs, and the GS gets slammed hard against a column and briefly stunned.

When he has a couple potions, he gets back up and carries out another “plan”, which is to use a gate scroll to “transport” water from the bottom of the sea into the same space the ogre’s body occupies. The high pressure water cuts him in pieces as a blade would.

After finishing the ogre off with a sword to the brain, the party exits the ruins and are met by a friendly group of elves eager to join the fray…but it’s already all over. The party members wordlessly board the wagon. What is there to say? As the High Elf Archer later tells the Priestess, whatever that was, that wasn’t adventuring.

It was savage, joyless drudgery. Even if the end result was one of her people was saved and many more made safe by eradicating the goblins and the ogre, the way it was done just left a bad taste in her mouth. But more than that, she doesn’t like how easily the GS abosorbs such experiences as if they were just business as usual.

It goes a long way to explaining how he ended up so taciturn, unemotional, and obsessed with doing only what is necessary. She wants to show him another way someday, if it’s not too late for him.

Goblin Slayer – 03 – A Fellowship Forms

A High Elf, a Dwarf, and a Lizardman walk into the guild, and then into the lives of the Priestess and Goblin Slayer. While they have far loftier goals in mind—defeating a horde of world-ending demons—the Slayer won’t give them the time of day until they propose he kill goblins, to which he asks how many, how strong, and where.

The trio of adventurers adds much needed new personalities to the show, and I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings-style banter, with the Elf and Dwarf going at it about any number of things while still tolerating their company, and the stoic Lizardman floating above the fray.

The Elf doesn’t think much of the GS at first, but the Dwarf can see much practicality in what he does and how he does it. We also learn why the GS never cleans his arms or armor: the goblins would be able to smell clean metal, putting him at a disadvantage.

The GS would probably be content rushing into a situation where there were so many goblins he’d end up getting killed, but he’d certainly take a lot of goblins with him. He’s not quite sure that’s what the Priestess wantshowever, and so prepares to leave her behind to “rest.” However, the Priestess doesn’t like how he’s making decisions without her input, and voices her desire to come with.

And so the group of five adventurers set off to their first goblin target. But before that, they make camp and have a meal, in which everyone introduces themselves and offers a gift to the others. The Lizardman provides the meat, the Elf some elven bread, the Dwarf some firewine (that gets the Elf tanked), and GS provides some cheese from the farm where he hangs his hat (so to speak), which the others love.

He even opens up, but only when the subject of conversation turns to, what else, goblins. Specifically, how they come from the desolate green moon, and live their lives envious of the riches of Earth. It’s a story his late sister told him, and it’s clear he treasures it. As for the priestess, her contribution to the evening is insight into the GS, whom the others find particularly inscrutable.

At dawn the five strike out, and the High Elf demonstrates her prowess with the bow by sending a single homing arrow through the heads of two goblins at once; very Legolas-esque. They move with accompaniment of a metal riff, indicating that the goblins within the lair they approach aren’t going to be much of a problem; the main question will be how cleverly and awesomely they can dispatch them.

Goblin Slayer – 02 – Not a Man’s Man, but Maybe a Goblin to Goblins

This week begins from the perspective of a rose-haired farm girl who is going off to the city. She gets into a fight with her childhood friend, a boy who can’t go with her. Jump forward to the present, and the farm girl is a very buxom farm woman who prefers to sleep in the nude.

She’s friends with the Goblin Slayer, who rents a place to stay at the farm. He has a routine of inspecting the entire area for signs of goblins, keeping her and her dad uncle safe for no charge. He never removes his mask—not even for breakfast—but it’s clear the farm girl knows who’s behind it.

When they go into town, she can see that while she admires the Goblin Slayer a great deal, neither he nor his singular task of goblin slaying are particularly well-regarded. His fellow Silver-rank adventurers look down on his shoddy arms and armor and his weak chosen opponent, while the Porcelains wonder if he’s really worthy of Silver.

And yet, while they’re all jockeying for position to get the highest-paying or most dangerous quests, he waits until the end, when all the goblin-slaying requests remain unclaimed. The priestess is there too, and will stay by his side even though he refuses to go to the aid of another party of rookies.

Turns out those rookies come back alive, well, and victorious; it’s often just the roll of the dice out there. As for Goblin Slayer and his new companion, together they bring down an entire mountain goblin fortress. The priestess uses a new miracle, “Protection”, but to trap the goblins to choke and burn in the flames.

The Priestess doesn’t much like using the Earth Mother’s miracles for such heartless slaughter, but as the guild admin opines, the Goblin Slayer is doing something that needs to be done. There has to be someone out there culling the herds of the weakest rung of foes, or else they won’t be so weak for long. That makes him, and anyone who aids him, a net good for society, methods be damned.

The farmer’s daughter niece knows this, and also is simply glad her childhood friend is still by her side, even if he never takes off his mask. Her father uncle warns her not to get too involved with the guy, whom he believes “lost it” ever since their village was raided by goblins, introducing the GS’s motivation.

While certainly unglamorous, the GS’s adventures are known by at least one bard in a city, who tells the tale of how even after he saved the fair maiden from the goblin king, he left her to keep wandering the wilds the rest of his days, slaying and slaying and slaying some more goblins.

A tough-looking she-elf approaches the bard after a performance to ask if it’s all true, and he answers in the affirmative, letting her and her party (an old dude and some kind of lizard-man, also tough-looking) know where they can find him. Do they seek a fight with our tortured, single-minded slayer…or a team-up?

Hanebado! – 06 – Not Just One More Match

Prelims are upon us this week, and it’s Izumi Riko’s turn to be angsty. It’s her last year and last prelims, and she wants to win. The only problem is, her first opponent is her childhood friend Nozomi, who also happens to be one of last year’s final four. Riko is not confident she can hang with the likes of Nozomi, and even though Nagisa tries her best to fire her up, Riko ends up frustrated and the two part ways for the evening on a bad note.

The day of the matches arrives, and Riko and Nozomi are cordial but cool, as imminent opponents must be. The team rocks their slick new one-piece uniforms, and Riko’s four cute siblings are in attendance, but she still manages to stink up the joint in the first half of the first set overwhelmed by her own lack of confidence as well as Nozomi’s unbeatable aura.

When the interval comes, Riko knows she has to do something…so she goes over the shots of the match so far, analyzes them, and finds that Nozomi is avoiding her backhand. Riko goes on the offensive and gets a point or two before Nozomi re-adjusts. It’s a beautifully-animated, fast-paced story told through the smooth, graceful, yet powerful motions of the players; a chess match of adjustments and counter-adjustments.

Riko still loses, but she makes Nozomi work for her win, going against her opponent’s strict coache’s insistence she conserve her stamina. It was just another match for Nozomi; a stepping stone to the next round. But for Riko, it was the match; the only match left in her high school career. And as her coach directed, she had fun out there.

Whither Ayano? Well, for most of the episode she seems to be putting up a strong front of Everything’s Okay, and may even believe she’s past worrying about her mother or Connie. But these prelims are uniquely equipped to not let Ayano escape her troubles so easily. Not only is she facing Serigaya Kaoruko in the next round, but her mother will be in attendance to watch their rematch. That should be interesting…

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 03 – Beige or Pink, It Doesn’t Matter

Hirotaka proves he’s a good man to have in a pinch when Narumi falls behind on her BL doujinshi for Comiket, perhaps due in part to the two dating. He helps her complete her work in time and helps man her table when the day of the event arrives. It’s never explicitly said, but it’s clear Hirotaka derives enjoyment from assisting the woman he likes with her creative passion, so it’s not even a question of feeling put out or overly relied on.

Hirotaka does have to run off for a smoke when he observes one too many of Narumi’s fans fawning over her work, and finds solace in Kabakura, who is in a similar situation with his girlfriend dressing up as a super-suave dude and being quickly surrounded by fangirls.

Still, when Narumi realizes there are still so many “gods” whose work she loves she has yet to visit, Hirotaka sends her off with his blessing, manning her table in her place, and quickly drawing the admiration of many a customer turned on by a tall, dark, and handsome guy peddling BL doujinshi, forcing Narumi to return and “save” him. But it’s all good; Hirotaka is having fun.

In the second half, Narumi and Hirotaka navigate the rough waters of transition from the platonic childhood friends that they were to something more…adult. When Hirotaka invites Narumi to his place for drinks, her first thought is of what color underwear she’s wearing, lest the night take that kind of turn.

To her combined relief (since she’s wearing beige) and mild disappointment, the only turning that seems to be in store is that of Wii-wheels as they play Mario Kart together. She’s initially terribly nervous about being alone in Hirotaka’s apartment, but quickly remembers who he is and eventually relaxes.

She’s hit with another surprise when Koyanagi and Kabakura join them for the “sleepover”, and while Hirotaka takes his shower, the girls search his room for his print stash, which Koyanagi is convinced all red-blooded Japanese otaku still cling to, even in this age of digitization.

Harumi is initially put off by the big-boobed figures out in the open, but then takes a trip down memory lane when she finds his true stash: that of magic cards and other collectibles. Hirotaka joins her in reminiscing, stating that the time he traded cute characters for powerful ones was the genesis of their friendship, something Narumi feels guilty about not remembering.

She wants their relationship to be “fair” and for  Hirotaka to be honest with her and not hesitate to “punch” her if he thinks she’s a terrible person, but c’mon…there’s no way Hirotaka thinks that. But if she insists on penance, he exacts it by leaning in for a kiss—a real one this time—reminding her that he is, in fact, a man. A man concerned neither her bust size nor the color of her undergarments.

Also, how cute are Koyanagi and Kabakura with their matching necklaces, extremely competitive video gameplay, and drifting off on the couch together? They’re a very different couple from Narumi and Hirotaka, but no less fun to watch.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 02 – Settling into a Nice if Familiar Rhythm

If the newness of WotaKoi masked it in the first episode, Hiraike Yoshimura’s style has become apparent in the second, as this week’s episode is more of a loosely-connected sequence of joke-dense vignettes with plenty of self-deprecating commentary (and some that references Eva, including Hirotaka-as-Ikari Gendo…Oigakkosan Cameo!)

Where WotaKoi distinguishes itself from Working!! and its various sequels is the speed with which the main couple comes together. Even when Hirotaka and Narumi are a little awkward at work, their friends Koyanagi and Kabakura point out the positive aspects of the other party, and that they’ve made the right choice.

But when Narumi somewhat carelessly admits Kabakura might be more “her type” in earshot of her boyfriend, she draws his ire, and the episode takes on the structure of a multiple-choice RPG, in which her avenue of escape is blocked until Kabakura and Koyanagi—former captains of their schools’ volleyball teams—start going at it, and she exploits the opening to flee.

Hirotaka chases after her, however, which results in the two adults working things out right then and there. She was scared of his reaction, while he was worried she didn’t like him anymore and wonders if it was a bad idea to confess to her.

In response to that, Narumi hugs him tightly, telling him not to say such things. She makes sure he knows she’s happy he confessed, and likes where they’re at. Some initial awkwardness is to be expected in a romance where the two parties work together.

Those initial hiccups in the relationship are all but forgotten in the next segment, in which the quartet decides to go out for drinks after Narumi finishes up some OT work. But because all four of them are otaku, they decide to head to a bookstore first.

Once there, the women split from the men. Narumi and Hirotaka may be dating, but their forms of otakuism differ, which means on occasion they’ll give each other a berth in which to pursue their individual interests.

That’s especially the case on a night when Narumi gets to browse and shot with Koyanagi. Narumi has always hidden her otakuism from her friends, and feels liberated for finally not having to. Koyanagi, for her part, wants Narumi as a cosplay partner.

The result of the group’s extended shopping trip to the bookstore is that everyone other than Hiyotaka bought so much stuff and they’re so eager to read it, they skip going out for drinks altogether, part ways for the night, and stay up way too late. The next day they’re all groggy at work, which might actually work in Hiyotaka’s favor with regards to his attempts to learn how to wink!

While I’m sure it will expand to more people before too long, this is a fun quartet of people so far, consisting of a definitely-together-yet-casual couple and a long-standing love-hate/will-they-won’t-they. Those two kinds of dynamics on display lend balance to the proceedings, and the volume of jokes is high enough that even if some might not land huge laughs, there’s always more to come.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 01 – Otakus Reunite (First Impressions)

From the director and series compositor of Working!! (and Momokuri) comes another workplace romantic comedy involving two otaku who knew each other in both elementary and middle school suddenly realizing they work at the same drab office. Momose Narumi is a fujoshi, while Nifuji Hirotaka is a game otaku.

They fall back into their old dynamic almost immediately, as reflections of each other that don’t have to put on airs. Narumi also seems able to hold her liquor, while Hirotaka smokes like a goddamn chimney. They may not be kids anymore, but they remain steadfast otaku, and seem to draw strength and validation from one another’s continued sustained to their mutual odd obsessions, even if, at least initially, Narumi has no intention of dating her childhood friend.

Narumi is a particularly lucky otaku salarywoman, because her office senpai Koyanagi just happens to be “in the fold”, having cosplayed as a man at many an event. Koyanagi also happens to be a great fan of Narumi’s fujoshi work. Narumi took a risk by being open about who she is and what her interests ares, and it paid off Koyanagi is even cooler than she initially imagined.

As for Hirotaka, he’s slightly better at his job than Narumi, but that may well be a factor of him being with the company longer. Narumi left her old company due in part to having dated and broken up with her old boyfriend who worked there once he found out she was an otaku. Hirotaka has no such qualms, as he is himself an unapologetic otaku, and is all too happy to wait for Narumi to finish her work so they can go out for drinks.

It’s also Hirotaka who proposes Harumi should just date him. She herself voiced frustration over always “making the wrong choice” when it comes to love, so she’s willing to defer to Hirotaka in this case. He offers her a blindingly logical argument for why she should choose him: he will accept her for who she is, and she can do the same. He can also accompany her to events like Summer Comiket. It’s a match made in otaku heaven, really.

WotaKoi is a brisk and breezy little show that doesn’t waste a lot of time getting its main couple together. Their exchanges are easy, casual, and comfortable, and their pairing up feels both inspired, inevitable, and thoroughly reasonable. They sport a great effortless chemistry, and I’m eager to see how their new “alliance” works out.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 05

I only realized at the end of last week’s episode, with the camera lingering on a sad and lonely-looking Megumi, that she might not be particularly pleased about Mari actually going through with her Antarctica trip; especially without her.

This week, in an emotional powerhouse of an episode, all of the resentment and negativity that had been festering within Megumi comes to the forefront; but while there are constant signs she’s Had It, Mari doesn’t realize until the very last moment: the morning she leaves for Australia.

Before that, the show strikes a scintillating balance between being excited for Mari and thinking she’s being an awful friend to Megumi. Case in point: while packing for three months (she’s only allowed 100kg, including her own weight), she finds the game she once borrowed from Megumi under her bed (another sign of the friendship she took for granted)

She invites herself to Megumi’s house to play the game, but Megumi couldn’t be any clearer about how few fucks she gives about the game. When Mari can’t take a hint, Megumi pulls the plug, pretending to have slipped, and that’s the end of it.

It’s really quite brilliant what goes on here, because I honestly can’t even blame Mari for being such an oblivious ditz, because that’s the friend Megumi cultivated all the years they’ve known each other. Compound that with her very understandable building excitement and anticipation for a life-changing adventure, and it’s all too devastatingly obvious why Mari can’t respond to or even sense Megumi’s growing miasma.

Meanwhile, there’s just such a grand sense of occasion to the quartet of new friends finishing up their packing. They may only be going abroad for three-odd months, but it feels like they’re packing for much more than that. It feels like they’re packing for a new chapter in their lives, in which they’ll see and experience things they never have before.

The episode proceeds to throw everything it possibly can towards the goal of pissing off Megumi as much as possible, as Mari and Shirase (whom Megumi continues to stubbornly, scornfully call “Antarctica”) suddenly become a big deal at school. And it IS a big deal for high schoolers to be going to Antarcitca, for crying out loud!

But for Megumi, it’s just a constant and unyielding reminder that Mari is “leaving the nest”, so to speak. Megumi fires back by bringing up rumors going around about Mari, Shirase, and the depths they sunk to to acquire the funds to go on the trip. Megumi is then almost immediately punished when Shirase herself shows up, along with Hinata.

When Shirase hears of the rumors, she wants blood immediately. Three Cheers for the wonderfully mature-when-it-matters Hinata experly talking her down by being the adult in the shrine. Yet even she seems to inadvertently take a dig at Megumi’s macchinations with her latest self-quote: “Sometimes, people are just mean. Don’t fight mean with mean. Hold your head high.” Almost a haiku!

The torture of being outnumbered by Mari’s new friends wasn’t enough, apparently, so poor Megumi has to be dragged along to karaoke, despite the fact she is in no mood to hang out with anyone, especially Mari, but especially her new friends. Still, here more than elsewhere she seems able to mask her contempt.

It must very much take Megumi aback, then, that despite Mari’s complete inability to pick up the signals, she is still able to speak surprisingly candidly and eloquently about how she sees this turning point in her life.

First, Mari assumes Megumi considered the fact they hadn’t been hanging out a lot lately a “relief.” Then, Mari talks of how she always wanted to go far away, how she hated being where she was, and how she hated herself.

Megumi’s long acceptance of Mari as someone who would always cling to her had the unintended side effect of driving Mari to become someone who wouldn’t have to cling. Someone with worth of their own.

After parting ways, Mari comes home to find her entire family cooking their butts off to celebrate her imminent departure. Mari’s reflex is to send Megumi a photo message and an invite…but Megumi never responds.

The morning of departure comes, and what a morning. First, we watch Mari get up, wash her face, brush her teeth, comb her hair, get dressed, and give herself a final check.

All very routine morning activities given monumental status by the fact they’re the last such activities she’ll be doing for some time. And to be perfectly candid, when Rin gave Mari a big hug, I had already started to tear up, just like Mari’s dad.

And that was before a dark, brooding Megumi confronts Mari, who is just SO freaking ready to tear the world a new one, and tells her she came not to say “see you later”, but to break up; to cease being friends.

At first, Mari has no idea what’s happening, but once Megumi starts to list all the things she and she alone has done—spread false rumors, told the bullies about Shirase’s cash; told Mari’s mother before Mari could told her herself—it all comes into focus. All Mari can say is “Why?”

All those things—and even going there in the morning to confront her—were all meant to return the pain she felt from the feeling that Mari was abandoning her, and that it wasn’t Mari who had been clinging to her for some time now, it was the opposite. Without Mari, Megumi considered herself nothing, and if she was to be nothing, she didn’t want Mari to have anything either.

Megumi thought, even hoped that at some point Mari would catch on and get mad, but she never did, nor did her new friends. She considers that not just evidence of what morons they are, but that she wasn’t even worth being figured out; that Mari had moved on so much from what Megumi thought of her. That could only make someone feel even more worthless.

Mari begs Megumi to come with her, but Megumi is ready to take her “first step into a world without” Mari. In a way, she’s trying to do the same thing as Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki: step into a world without any of the things they usually rely on; where they don’t know what lies around the corner; where they won’t know where they’ll be tomorrow.

Those sentiments are narrated by Mari as we watch scenes of the other three saying their goodbyes and taking those first steps. And then, before Mari joins her, she takes a few steps toward Megumi, hugs her from behind, and declares her breakup rejected.

Maybe Megumi wanted Mari to come to hate her that morning after all of the things she said and did without remorse. But sometimes people are just mean. Mari doesn’t fight mean with mean. She holds her head high. It’s an abrupt, almost brusque end to what had been an epic Friend Fight, and a clear instance of Mari having the last word.

But it’s also an acknowledgement that while Mari no longer sees Megumi as someone she must cling to at all costs or look to for guidance, that doesn’t automatically mean the end of a friendship. It just means that a change has taken place.

Now everything springs into action.