Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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