The day before New Year’s Eve, the girls set up their second annual “We” Exhibition. They fall behind, but finish strong with help from Shimokamiyama, Dougou, and Yakusa. Kanae is sad about the fact that come next year she’ll have to focus on exams, and that she’ll have to leave the photography club. The next day, a large crowd awaits when the doors are open, and the exhibition is a resounding success. After ringing in the new year, Sayomi picks everyone up before dawn to see the sunrise by the seaside, where everyone yells out their hopes for the new year.
There were times during this episode when we were worried that Kanae was going to disappear in a wisp of vapor on the stroke of midnight, so apprehensive she was of the coming new year. Part of us wanted to jump into the tv screen, give her a shake and say “Honey…everything will be fine!” She’ll always remember the past year as the year she broke out of her shell, inspired and supported by Fuu and her friends. As Maestro says, Kanae and Fuu shaped each other in that year, and they also enriched each other’s love for photography, and life in general. We like how their year is documented in photos and exhibited in chronological order, so that anyone who cares to can see the progression of their friendship along with their growth as photographers.
When the bells chimed midnight, the new year began, Kanae was still there in one piece, albeit having closed the lens cap on her camera. The series pulls out all the stops for the tearful, heartwarming final scenes that take stock of the past year and all it meant to everyone. We especially liked the sweet “parent meeting” in which Potte’s mom and grandma and Maon’s folks marvel at how far their kids have come since deciding to move to Takehara. Sayomi shows up to make sure the girls don’t miss the first dawn. Kanae makes sure to savor her last moments with Potte as her president: when the sun rises, she’s aggressive and pulls her in for a big ol’ hug, thanking her for a wonderful year. Potte tears up and reciprocates, which makes everyone else tear up…including us. A bit.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Shimokamiyama-sensei informs Potte and Mitani of a sakura photography contest. They agree to enter and set out to snap photos, but all of the cherry trees they encounter have already shed most of their blossoms. They run into Kaoru’s sister Sayomi, who gathers everyone together for a trek up Mt. Asahi, home to a grand 250-year-old cherry tree in full bloom. Potte and Mitani snap up tons of photos, and even though Shimokamiyama got the deadline of the contest wrong, they still had fun.
Potte and Mitani Kanae may lack confidence in their photographic abilities while simultaneously revering one another. Mitani even credits Potte’s presence in her photo for winning the contest for her; she’s always been too nervous to take portraits of anyone, but something about Potte in that time and place affected Mitani so powerfully, she forgot to be shy or worry about failure and just snapped up a damn good picture.
As it turns out, there are many ways of being aggressive; perhaps no one is more aggressive than Sayomi, who wrangles everyone up for another one of her patented “death marches” that always pay off in the end. Not only does everyone end of having fun, but Mitani gets back that feeling she got when she snapped Potte; the ability to stop over-thinking everything, live in the moment, and not be afraid to document it. She’s even able to halt her tendency to delete photos that don’t come out perfectly. Part of being aggressive is not fearing failure and trusting in the world, and Mitani’s on her way.
Rating: 8 (Great)
After Haruka and Rin race, everyone gets into trouble for trespassing. Nagisa and Makoto bump into Gou/Kou, who arranged for Rin to meet them at the abandoned swim club. Nagisa suggests they start a swim club so they can swim with Rin again. Their teacher Amakata Miho agrees to serve as their advisor. Kou visits Samezuka and learns her brother isn’t on the swim team. Haruka, Nagisa and Makoto commence restoration of their school’s dilapidated pool.
Kou learns that Rin beat Haruka in their night race, but wasn’t happy about the win. Kou decides to join the swim team as their necessary fourth member, in hopes they can help bring the “old” Rin back. Later that night Makoto learns the old swim club is being torn down, and runs into their old coach , Sasabe, who tells him Haruka and Rin met while Rin was home from Australia. Haruka beat him in a race they had, frustrating Rin. Knowing his win hurt Rin, Haruka quit competitive swimming.
When you have a situation in which two good friends are really good at the same thing, there’s always going to be the possibility of a rift forming. No matter how tight the bond of friendship may be, there can still be only one winner, and winning it all is what it’s all about, right? That’s why Rin went all the way to Australia to train, presumably. And when he came back and Haruka beat him anyway, that rift grew even wider. Haruka was no longer a treasured friend – he was an obstruction.
When Makoto learns of this pivotal event in Haruka and Rin’s lives, he corrrelates it to Haruka’s sudden loss of interest in competitive swimming that followed up until the present, when Rin reentered their lives and re-lit some kind of spark. If that’s true, Haruka is a more layered character than we initially expected. In joining the swim club founded by his friends, Haruka seems open to giving swimming another chance, perhaps hoping the same sport that rended his bond with Rin can mend it as well.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
- Kou may be far more forthright in her desire to get the “old Rin” she loved and admired back, but Haruka seems to share her sentiments on some level.
- Kou knows nice muscle when she sees it. At first we thought she was into Haruka, but she had the same reaction to the Samezuka swimmers.
- We also loved Kou’s reaction to being called cute by one of the Samezuka guys: “Thank you! Where’s my brother?”
- We understand his reasoning, but we still thought Nagisa’s suggestion that they start a swim club seemed a bit…sudden
- We dig the club/desert/oasis-themed ED.
Kuuko springs Aki and frees Hibino. Hirashino corners Kuuko and Hibino, but Kuuko pushes Hibino outside and grapples with Hirashino, killing him with his own gun in a struggle. Hibino is met by Mahiru on the roof, who has a bone to pick with her vis-a-vis Kyohei. She gets carried away and throws Hibino off the roof with Magatsuhi, but Kukuri catches her in the knick of time. Utao and Mahriu have a sustained duel, ending when Kukuri lands a blow that makes Mahiru lose control of her Magatsuhi. Now out of her control, it grabs Hibino again. Kyohei saves Mahiru from its swipe, then rushes to Hibino’s aid, only to be ensnared himself. As it crushes them, he remembers the day he told his parents he’d be leaving the village, then meeting Hibino in school. Entering the battle, Kirio accidentally knocks Kukuri out. The episode ends with Kukuri waking up, but rather than singing Utao’s song, it’s singing Kyohei’s.
Rape threats…gun grappling…seki duels, kakashi group battles…flashbacks…this episode had a little of everything. Once again, Mahiru takes the lion’s share of screen time, and she’s still a horrible selfish brat, but she becomes a little more sympathetic once Utao manages to beat her Magatsuhi. Cornered, beaten by a little kid, she’s an emotional wreck. When she loses control of her Magatsuhi, she panics. As I said, bringing her in so late was a bold move, but I’m still glad it was done; her presence and her feelings for Kyohei help get both Kyohei and Hibino thinking about what they are to one another. It also forces Kyohei to stop trying to escape the village.
I thought a lot more was to be done with the diet member, but his death makes me question what his purpose was. Also, while she’s really fun to watch and listen to, Kuuko is again really only around to kill him and save Hibino. Her only goal at this point is to be involved in all this intrigue – the embedded journalist, as it were. But she did kill a man in the middle of Tokyo – one would think there’ll be consequences. The cliffhanger was well-played: it would seem empty kakashis respond to whichever seki is projecting the strongest emotions, in this case, Kyohei’s. I just hope that after all this soul-searching and exposition, the finale will me more than just another episode of Save Princess Hibino.