As the girls start vigorously preparing for their big winter exhibition, Maon decides that instead of whistling or singing, she wants to do a recital, like one that moved her long ago. However, when the time comes to write something down, she has a lot of difficulty, which is compounded by the increasingly public buildup and expectation. With the support of her friends, she’s not only able to recite her story in front of a large audience at the Virgo theatre, but is able to recite the ending straight from her head. Her bold venture lends added courage to her friends in theirs.
As it’s been established that Maon is the group member with the most diverse and fleeting passions, we expected a degree of trepidation in her efforts to write a one-person play. But lo and behold, she follows through, by the seat of her pants and in the face of enormous anticipation – without any rehersal or even an ending in writing. Maon didn’t make it easy for herself – writing something can be far more emotionally and intellectually labor-intensive than, say, baking cookies, making tinctures, or snapping pictures.
Her story is simple, pleasant, and very much autobiographical. It wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t embarass herself up there like a presidential candidate, either. It was a nice touch for her to tell the story of how she literally found her voice thanks to friends like Norie, without whom she’d only dream of speaking to a full house in a theatre. Her friends are right there backstage cheering her on, and Fu is there to snap a tender moment when Maon is finished her story and basks victoriously in the bright lights and applause. Whatever Maon is, she’s no longer someone who never finishes things!
Kaoru tries to get everyone together on a Sunday for undisclosed reasons, but they all have plans, doing what they’ve chosen to do. Kao-tan begins to falter in what she wants to do, and doesn’t want to bother her friends with her half-hearted efforts, but Norie and the the others pick up on this. At her sister Soyomi’s behest they arrange a surprise party to cheer her up, and she declares her plans: to create an grand exhibition, including Potte’s photography, Norie’s sweets, Maon’s live whistling, and her own fragrances.
We never thought I’d hear the bawdy, animated Norie saying something like “It’s not good for this chaos to persist!” or for Kaoru to be led across town at bamboo vinegar-filled gunpoint, or for her friends to stage an intervention for her. But all this happens. This is a Kaorucentric episode. We’re with her as she gloomily frets about whether she’s doing the best she can. Norie later scolds her for worrying about meeting some kind of standard; what’s important is to do your best and have fun.
It’s a pretty common theme in anime for a girl to feel like she’s “no good” or even “the worst”, and while we can hear her thoughts, Kaoru’s outward behavior is really not all that different from her normal self. Still, Norie has known her far too long, and knows something is amiss almost immediately. She, along with Potte, Maon, and Soyomi, waste no time prodding her to let out whatever it is is on her mind, which turned out to be the proposal of an exhibition, which will combine everyone’s myriad talents into a unified whole. Funny, I’ve never taken her for an exhibitionist…
The first half goes back to 1999 when Maon crosses paths with Fu, Norie and Kaoru for the first time. Maon is inspired by hearing someone whistle at the top of a hill overlooking the sea, and figures out how to do it herself. Ten years later, Maon’s company cheers up a recently-rejected Norie, and when Maon whistles at the sea, Norie can understand her, as if she could read her mind.
We were surprised to be treated to a character-centric episode where the character was someone other than Fu, namely, Maon. We learn that whistling isn’t just something she does to distinguish herself from the others; she’s so bad with words, that she seems to express her feelings best by whistling. Which is, of course, nice and whimsical!
There’s a great little moment when she first encounters a sober-for-once Norie (always good to see other sides of her) and while she’s thinking, she almost involuntarily starts rhythmically whistling. At this point she’s been whistling for a decade, ever since she first met Fu, who was visiting the town with her father, as well as Norie and Kaoru. Small world!
Potte, Kaoru, Norie and Kou pay a visit to the island where Pottes grandfather lives, and stay at an in owned by Maon’s family. Watching her work hard at the inn and put her customers before herself, they all come to the conclusion her parents are grooming her for inhereting the inn. When they confront them about it, Maon assures them her work at the inn is just as important to her as her musical dreams. It’s also revealed that she has a tendency to change her dreams with great frequency.
This series is like a cool, breezy day by the seaside. It’s so happy and fluffy, and yet so sincere, we can’t help but be charmed. Norie can try our patience when it comes to her energy level and rivalry with Komachi, but this week she gets serious and speaks up when it looks like her friend’s parents are pushing a very timid and reserved Maon into a future of servitude. It turns out to not be that big of a deal; as Maon is wishy-washy. As for the parents, they’re just ecstatic she has actual friends.
Ever the photorecorder, no one is safe from the crosshairs of Potte’s Rollei. She has a wealth of material, as she’s surrounded herself with warm, loving people. The gorgeous quaint island village setting is like a tall glass of fuzzy sunshine. Also notable, Potte’s grief is all but gone from this episode. She sees her father in her grandfather’s face, but doesn’t fret. She watches Maon with her father and isn’t envious or wistful, but joyful.
At the Tamayura cafe, Potte & Co. are served delicious, gorgeous food, she is determined to capture it with her Rollei 35S. She isn’t satisfied with her first attempt, but opportunity knocks when Komachi a school friend of her little brother Kou, challenges Norie to a cooking contest to see who can make the best desert for him. As Komachi and Norie lovingly prepare hotcakes and peach jelly for Kou, Potte finds that photographing the process of making food is far more rewarding.
Norie is definitely the most annoying character of the core quartet, but her little rivalry with Kou’s would-be girlfriend is sweet nonetheless, and the series made sure to include Potte as the observer and recorder of their competition. There are some issues with this cafe: how does Potte’s tiny grandmother reach the register? How can Tamayura afford to give away so much food? Also, Maon and Kaoru are basically sidelined this week.
One must set aside such practical matters and just enjoy the happy vibes, which we did. We love food, and we love making food, and hell, we love watching other people making food; especially food we don’t know how to make, because then we learn. So any episode that spends time making food – and does it well, which this did – we’ll be happy. That’s all we ask of light, breezy slice-of-lifes like this: competence and positivity.
Back in her hometown, Potte instantly settles into a circle of friends, and reflects on what a good idea it was to move back. They help one of their teachers with the bamboo festival, then have a sleepover in which they bond further. The older sister of Potte’s friend Kaoru notes how Potte’s sadness about her father’s passing has changed to warmth, and she can see it in her growing collection of photos.
Taking photos is tricky. You can’t take too many all the time, or you’ll miss out on real life by constantly closing one eye and looking through a viewfinder. You have to find the right balance of living and recording said life. We think Potte has a good balance going so far. She’s not the kid everyone hates who is always snapping pics of you without asking. On the contrary, everybody loves the photos, and she’s quite good at taking them.
After the dual debuts of Un-Go and Guilty Crown, this was a slow, warm and cheerful respite, serving almost as a digestif for all that intensity. Sure, the passionate teacher is a little cliche’d, and so far Potte’s friends kind of too neatly fit into molds (childhood friend, check; loud energetic pigtailed Norie, check, tranquil, quiet, whistling Maon, check) but watching them simply existing in this comely town was most enjoyable, yes it was.