It’s summer festival time, and both Nanako and Amane are resplendent in their yukata; the proverbial garden peonies while standing, tree peonies while sitting, and lilies while walking. Eiji looks pretty good too!
But Amane soon detects a problem: she’s definitely a third wheel, even if Eiji’s the kid of dude who spends entire days catching bugs like a five-year-old (he makes Takumi in Ao-chan look like Gene Simmons).
Even so, sometimes he’ll surprise you, like when he tenderly slips a glow ring he won on Nanako’s dainty finger. It’s like he’s already proposing! When Amane and Eiji go to the bathroom, Nanako stays behind and gets snatched up by three classmates who saved a spot for the fireworks.
The thing is, Nanako’s one wish on this night was to see the firworks alone with Eiji. Eiji knows this, so when the two are separated and fireworks time draws near, he starts searching for her.
While doing so, he leaves Amane and the bulky “Famistation” she won behind, but fortunately she runs into Eiji’s family and thus isn’t alone. Eiji manages to find Nanako thanks to the glow ring, and takes her hand just as she’s tearing up from having to watch the fireworks without him.
It’s a very well-orchestrated, powerful moment when the two lovebirds finally reunite at just the right time. I’ve maybe witnessed dozens of this kind of scene before, but it gets me every time when executed well, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer pair of kids here.
When Amane catches Eiji showing Nanako a beetle, she knows she’s gotta do something to get these two into a more age-appropriate relationship. Nanako still suggests they check out some fireflies at a pond, but Amane can work with that, and arranges another club field trip, using the nighttime setting to make it a test of courage that brings the two lovebirds closer together.
It works like an absolute charm—which is incidentally what Eiji and Nanako are full of—as Nanako naturally clings to Eiji when she gets scared, and he brings her even closer when he senses she’s in danger.
Unfortunately for Tao, she wasn’t let in on the plan for Koto to impersonate a ghost and grab her in the dark tunnel, but her real fear made it more likely Eiji and Nanako would run off together, which they do. When they get to the pond, there don’t seem to be any fireflies, so Nanako makes one with her phone, fooling Eiji with a giggle.
Then the fireflies do indeed appear, and the two get to share in another lovely experience together. When Eiji suggests they write senryuu to mark the occasion, she almost tells him how glad she is he’s there with her, but decides to be coy instead. Some things are better left unsaid…particularly when Eiji likely wouldn’t understand exactly what she meant!
Nanako’s dad, eager to assess his daughter’s “Yankee” friend (and threatened by expressions she makes when he brings him up), tells her she should invite Eiji to the house during summer vacation. When Eiji sees her text, his phone slips out of his hand and into his ramen.
While waiting for repairs at the store, he ends up having chance encounters with Koto (handing out tissues), Amane (trying/failing to look sophisticated at a cafe), Tao (dressing down for the summer) and Kino (carefully observing a mailbox but drawing a gorilla detective).
He observes that he’s managed to run into everyone today…except the one person he wants to see most. Turns out he saves his best chance encounter for last; the wind blowing her straw hat onto his head. Eiji admits he was thinking about her, missed her, and wanted to see her; Nanako admits she felt the same way about him.
With that, it’s off to Nanako’s house, where her dad is dressed in a traditional kimono and is poised to bare his chest and pounce on Eiji should he put a toe out of line. Ultimately, when he asks Nanako if she’s okay with Eiji’s affirmative answer to the question “are you just friends”, and sees her expression, all the energy drains out of him and Nanako and her brother have to help him to bed to lie down.
That’s when Nanako’s much more accepting mom has a one-on-one chat with Eiji. She explains her husband’s protectiveness as a result of how seclusive and melancholy she used to be, since she was bullied for communicating via senryuu.
That is, until one day, she came home cheerful and beaming, having met someone else who loved senryuu; the first person not in her family “she’d want by her side.” Eiji knows she’s talking about him, and Nanako is listening in the hall, but he doesn’t admit it’s him, and instead rushes off to grab his repaired phone.
It’s Summer, which means Summer Vacation, which means swimsuits. Amane wants to attract a man, and asks Tao to use her crystal ball to help her pick one out for that purpose. For her part, Nanako doesn’t even own one, as she hasn’t been in a pool since she was little.
Amane takes Tao, Nanako and Kino to the store where they are faced with far too large a selection. All the while, Tao’s ball suggests a slingshot bikini for Amane that is “just strings,” while Eiji is ambushed in his room by Koto in a stunning black bikini. If he’s going to have eyes for another girl, she’s clearly making sure he knows what he’s missing.
Nanako, by nature a modest person, starts out with a swimsuit indistinguishable from a dress, then a sarong, but eventually settles on a white bikini that catches the attention of everyone at the pool. It happens to be the same pool where Eiji is taking his little sister, which means he’s present for Nanako’s “grand unveiling” (Amane’s term, not mine!)
She runs back into the changing room, and when Amane tells him what the deal is, he apologizes to Nanako and tells her he’ll keep his distance and avert his gaze. Of course, Nanako wants neither of those things, and so rushes back outside to grab him and assert that it’s okay for him to look, a little—all using a tanzaku she seemingly conjured out of nowhere!
Nanako hates the rain because it makes her hair frizzy, but Amane tells her it’s not that bad—if she walks home with someone while sharing an umbrella, they’ll be “together forever,” and that’s something with which Nanako can get on board.
As a result of the last storm, a tree destroys the school rabbit hutch, so it’s up to Eiji to fix it, but while picking up branches his hand get riddled with splinters, necessitating a trip to the nurse…who is just Koto in nurse cosplay. Even not in the running, she’s going to have her occasional fun with him.
When Kino joins the reconstruction effort, she envisions a grand, avant-garde, Gaudi-like creation that’s simply too much for a rabbit hutch. Yet, when the hutch is rebuilt, the door falls off the hinges and all the rabbits escape, making Tao’s prophecy come true.
Thankfully, Amane sends a message through the PA for anyone who finds a rabbit to capture it and return it to the hutch, and all the rabbits are retrieved. All that’s left is for Eiji and Nanako to walk home, but since both of them forgot umbrellas, Amane provides a key assist by giving them one of hers. All’s well that ends well!
Nanako’s Papa needs to watch what he reads in the papers, as he starts to compile a list of signs his Nanako is rebelling based on poor data. First, he she glares at him in the morning and ignores him, but she has earplugs and no contacts.
Then she won’t answer when he knocks on her door, but she’s already gone out. Finally, her brother says she’s out with her thug friend and might stay out later. Pops envisions Nanako in classic delinquent garb, nail bat and attitude, but the same sweet voice threatening in haiku. I agree with him…that would be pretty dang funny if true!
Of course, her dad is overreacting—he’s a good dad and has raised Nanako right (his instances of “being too harsh” show a laughably light touch), and Eiji isn’t a thug, he just looks like one (and Eiji may have a former thug for a dad, as he steers Nanako away from coming to his house lest his dad ask for her measurements).
Nanako is just out to meet Eiji’s big fat rabbit, who poops constantly. His little sister tags along, and immediately pegs Nanako as girlfriend material, for which she’s flattered (she also invites Eiji to sit on her lap). Her next stop is a friend’s house for a baking session, and when she gets home, her dad is fully prepared to cut ties with her forever, only to be presented with a freshly-baked cake just for him.
He had no reason to fear rebellion. Nanako is rebel-proof!
This week swaps one new girl out for another: the fortune-telling, purple stripe-loving Hanakai Tao, whom Nanako and Eiji learn about through Amane. When they go to have their compatibility assessed, she determines from their names that they’re the most incompatible couple imaginable. Only problem is, she used the wrong kanji for Eiji’s name. Still, Nanako is happy because Eiji is so quick to dismiss the unfavorable verdict. Turns out Tao also attends their school.
Her Tarot reading points towards a night of good luck for Nanako…and Eiji getting struck by lightning. Of course, one shouldn’t take the cards too literally. Nanako probably would have had a good time regardless of luck—just spending time with Eiji makes her happy—while the “lightning” that strikes Eiji is the shock of discovering the size of her bust after she removes an outer layer after their rollerskating. Nanako and Eiji enjoying each other’s company simply never gets old…especially in this half-episode format.
Eiji gets the feeling he and Nanako are being followed. When Amane suggests it could be a cute girl stalking him, Nanako springs into action to “protect” him. Turns out Amane is half-right: it is a cute girl, but she’s not stalking Eiji. She’s been trying to return his student handbook, but could never find the right time to approach him.
Making matters trickier? Kino, like Nanako, is too shy to talk, but instead of senryu, she draws what she wants to say, like a live manga. The ensuing totally silent conversation between Kino and Nanako is a delight to behold, and Kino turns out to be quite the chatterbox (speaking abstractly). Her inner voice is provided by the immensely talented Kuno Misaki, making this a mini-reunion of Kawamoto sisters.
Because Kino makes it look so fun (not to mention easy due to her skills) the whole club has a drawing session, and we learn the sketching styles of Amane (everything is naked), Eiji (everyone looks sinister) and Nanako (everyone looks adorable).
When Eiji stares at Nanako to draw her she becomes bashful, but when she tells him she hardly has to look up from her sketchbook because she knows his face so well from seeing it every day, he gets bashful, much to Amane’s amusement!
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.
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.
Senryuu Shoujo is a tonic for a long, stressful day. Its heroine Yukishiro Nanako is also the antithesis of the non-studying Ao-chan, the first episode of which was most notable for its catchy OP. Rather than assume the worst of anyone, Nanako embraces her classmate Busujima Eiji, a nice book with a rough cover, as a fellow devotee of senryuu, a kind of haiku.
Unlike Eiji, Nanako doesn’t talk. We hear Hanazawa Kana’s voice, but it’s only in Nanako’s head. She communicates with senryuu, gestures, and body language…and gets by pretty well! The idea of someone developing senryuu as a means of organizing one’s thoughts and expressing them with a manageable, reliable structure, is an enticing one.
But more than that, Nanako is just adorable as all get out, and her unlikely friendship with a former delinquent—who got his scary face bandage from his cute little sister—is most endearing. And at an economical twelve minutes, we may have a lightweight slice-of-life keeper here.
What if, at the end of episode 23 of Steins;Gate, Okabe, his coat still stained with Kurisu’s blood, didn’t get slapped by Mayushii, or told by Suzuha he had to fail once in order to unlock the video message on his phone, and thus never heard about Operation Skuld. In short, what if he never saved Kurisu? That’s where Steins;Gate 0 starts. It bypasses the happy ending of the 2011 anime.
Instead of slapping him, Mayushii gave Okabe a comforting hug, and from that point on there would be no more jumping between world lines, no more Hououin Kyouma, and no more Future Gadget Lab. Okabe goes back to college and settles into the life of a “full-fledged normal.” But in the distant future, on the same world line as the present day, WWIII is raging as Suzuha warned.
The same circle of friends remains, but Okabe sees less of them, partly due to college, and partly, perhaps, to avoid situations that will worsen his already fragile grip on sanity. Simply putting one foot in front of the other seems to be a challenge for him.
An encounter with Mayushii eventually leads to the whole gang getting back together at the lab, where Itaru is doing his usual thing, only with his daughter Suzuha around, nagging him to build the damn time machine already.
But there’s the distinct feeling things aren’t quite the same, they never will be, and it’s due in large part because Kurisu is gone, and because Okabe was the one who accidentally killed her, as if his hand were guided by that indelible fate.
When going to the bathroom Okabe encounters Suzuha (who was hiding from her future-mother Yuka), and the two go to the roof. Suzuha hasn’t given up, and reiterates that if nothing is done, the world line they’re in will be destroyed by war and billions will die.
Her memory of that hellish future is still clear as day, judging by her horrified reaction to something one hears dozens of times every day in a peaceful city: an airplane cruising overhead.
Okabe hears her, but he doesn’t believe there’s anything more he can do. No matter how many world lines he drifts through, the overarching constant is that he only has the power to change or control so much, and the rest is in the “domain of god.” Whatever he does, the universe will self-correct. There may be no stopping WWIII from happening. Suzuha hopes he’ll reconsider.
But Okabe is on a new path, and saving the world (at least that way) isn’t a part of that path. Neither is visiting the lab as much as he once did. Mayushii notes that it felt good for everyone to be there, but that there are times that she feels so lonely there she could cry, even though Itaru is there (and when he wasn’t, she waited for Kyouma countless times).
Okabe knows a part of her must sense that Kurisu is the missing piece, but insists that she, he and Daru were the only ones ever in the lab. But that’s a lie.
While having drinks with other college students and professors, Okabe suddenly has a vision of Kurisu’s demise and runs outside, ready to hurl. Like Mayushii, he can feel her loss, and because he blames himself, it’s all the more visceral, constantly tugging at him.
And if he feels Makise Kurisu the person is permanently gone from his life, her legacy lives on in the scientific world, as he witnesses first hand attending the Akihabara Techno Forum lecture on the “AI Revolution” being given by the chief researcher of the Brain Science Institute of the college Kurisu used to attend.
There, he meets the very diminutive, but definitely 21-year-old, Hiyajo Maho, who not only also works at the BSI, but to his surprise, serves as the English-speaking chief’s interpreter for the largely Japanese audience. (Kiryuu Moeka is there too, someone Okabe no doubt wants nothing to do with).
As it turns out, the march of progress did not stop with Kurisu’s untimely death. Her scientific colleagues have used her ingenious theories on preserving memories as data to develop an artificial intelligence system unlike any other—an AI with human feelings and memories…with a heart. That system is called Amadeus…and its reveal scares the daylights out of Okabe.
Having gotten the happy ending I all but demanded back in its original run, this new Steins;Gate is a welcome opportunity to explore a darker path on Okabe & Co.’s journey. S;G didn’t let me down before, and I have no reason to fear it will let me down here either, so I’m ready to dive deeper in to what Suzuha calls “the worst world line imaginable,” quoting her dad, future-Daru.
With no more conflicts or catharses left to have, the girls enjoy their final days in Antarctica. They’ve settled into such a routine and gotten so used to the astonishing environment, one adult jokes they won’t be able to reintegrate into society, presenting Shirase and the other Mahjong junkies as evidence.
Their final journey to the frozen sea affords them the opportunity to taste snowcones made from ice with thousand-year-old air pockets, which Mari attests to be delicious. They also learn that much of the winter team’s activities will include sleeping, drinking, and games to pass the time.
Shirase finally gets her wish to be surrounded by adorable penguins, but she’s locked in a cycle of being disgusted by the smell and delighted by being in their presence while asking for some unspecified form of help. I imagine many of us would feel the same way.
Mari is getting cold feet about leaving, and wonders out loud to the others why they can’t just stay. Hinata flicks her forehead and doles out reality; they have to get back to their homes, their families, and their school. But all four promise that they’ll come back together someday.
They then present their final request to the rest of the team: that they play a game of snow softball. Captain Toudou is, naturally, the ace, but just like Takako, Shirase is not only able to hit her pitch, but drive it out of the “park.”
On the eve of departing, Shirase decides to have her hair cut short—her heart wasn’t broken by a guy, but such a change makes sense after her catharsis with the laptop (she also wisely chooses Hinata to cut it, not Mari). The whole team musters for the girls’ farewell ceremony, and after a heartfelt speech by Gin that starts everyone crying, Shirase confidently delivers and even more heartfelt, tear-jerking speech.
In it, she expresses the understanding she reached in this place beyond the universe, and why both her mother and her love it so much: It’s a place that strips everything bare, with nothing to protect you and nowhere to hide. It’s a place where someone can come face-to-face with who they really are…and she did that.
Before embarking for home, Shirase hands Gin her mom’s laptop, stating she no longer needs it. Later, Gin discovers there’s still a message from Takako in the outbox; the last she ever composed. The quartet waves goodbye to their Antarctic summer home where they experienced and learned so much about the world, each other, and themselves.
Yuzu wonders if maybe they all got a little stronger during the journey. A ‘little’? I think she sells herself and the others short here. They were the first high school-age students to explore Antarctica, and they made it. Now, all of a sudden, they’re headed back to the normal world. Even if and when they come back, it will never be the same as their first time.
When night falls, Mari finally gets to experience the one thing they couldn’t due to the laughably short Antarctic nights: view the aurora. Just when they do, Gin sends the last email Takako wrote to Shirase, stating how the real thing is “ten thousand times more beautiful”—something of which, in that moment, Shirase and the others are all to aware.
The four friends, having forged their bonds in the coldest and harshest crucible on the planet, go their separate ways with confidence and return to their lives that were with a serious sense of accomplishment, self-awareness, and maturity.
They discovered as much about themselves in Antarctica as they discovered about the place itself, like how there are no “nothing” days but there’s still more to discover upon returning, like the smell of one’s house.
And in a perfect capper to a marvelous series, Mari texts Megumi that she’s home, and gets a near-immediate response, along with a photo of her posing with the aurora: “Too bad. Right now, I’m in the Arctic.” Well played, Megu-chan; well played.