Lord Uroko calls all of the adults to a secret meeting, sending the kids to the surface until further notice. Hikari and the others decide to do the Ofunehiki on their own. They set to work repairing the Ojoushi-sama and procure a boat from Tsumugu’s Grandpa. Manaka cooks dinner, but when Chisaki and Kaname return to town early and Hikari ducks out, she returns home too, to find the adults waiting for her. When Hikari comes to class to find the others absent, he races home to find heavy saltflake snow falling. Manaka tells him the adults have banned further visits the surface. When his father comes to get him, he grabs Manaka and runs off to their old school, where they have an awkward, confused exchange.
“Poor Hikari”…early in the season we’d never thought we’d ever be telling ourselves that, but here we are. After some ups and downs he’s become a genuinely likable, sympathetic character, and at the moment nothing seems to be going his way. For one thing, every attempt to resurrect the Ofunehiki is met with unwelcome intervention, either by vandals, then elders, or fate. Shioshihio isn’t doing too hot either; it occurs to us that the only kids of their age left in the village are our four friends. That’s a pretty dire situation, and Uroko-sama has decided that to have any hope of preserving the village, surface visits must end. It seems like far too little too late; the town bleak, dreary, foreboding ghost of its former lush, inviting self. The visuals of Hikari’s return reminded us of the ruined towns in Nausicaa; hauntingly beautiful stuff.
Also beautifully heartbreaking is every exchange Hikari has with Manaka this week. Like Chisaki, he’s tried to “be an adult” and put Manaka’s wants before his own, but this week it seems like he just can’t do it anymore. He loves Manaka too much to just be a friend, but just can’t say that to her. Tsumugu sees Chisaki’s actions as retreat, while Manaka’s reaction to Hikari’s hug is a complicated thing, motivated by her confused feelings for both Tsumugu and Hikari, as well as her knowledge of Chisaki’s feelings for Hikari. The rapid deterioration of their home mirrors that of their relationships. The once-warm, harmonious quartet of friends now find themselves listless and full of doubt, their very worlds upheaved and on the brink of destruction. But it’s always darkest before the dawn…right? Please?!
Rating: 8 (Great)
In his first swimming class on the surface, Hikari challenges Tsumugu to a race, but loses and splits his toenail on the pool wall. Manaka tries hard to bring Chisaki and Hikari, but only ends up making things worse. While biking her to the pier, Tsumugu asks her about the phenomenon known as “Tomoebi”, when there appear to be three suns underwater; Manaka remembers angering Chisaki when she missed it last time. When it happens again, she finds Chisaki and they watch it together; Hikari and Kaname also watch just below them.
After focusing on Akari we return to the core group and its bright, buoyant core, Mukaido Manaka. As Kaname points out, is always the first to jump way ahead in things before the other three realize it, contrasting with her classic scaredy-cat nature. When Hikari gets hurt she springs into action before Chisaki can budge. She tries desperately to keep everyone together, and happy, but no matter what she does or says, the unhappy reality remains: it might not be possible for everyone to be happy. Too much may have changed, or is changing, between them all.
All she and everyone else in the group can do is be clear in their feelings for one another, face the trials that come with those various revelations, and see how the saltflake snow shakes out. Even Kaname, a relative island of tranquility (and gaining a surface-girl admirer), hasn’t come clean about liking Chisaki as Hikari remains paralyzed vis-a-vis Manaka. The final scene of the Tomoebi in all its grandeur is remarkably beautiful in its execution, but also profoundly sad; an echo of simpler times. Manka brought everyone back together for that moment, but the peace may be fleeting.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
- A lesser show might’ve had Hikari’s pool duel with Tsumugu be the entire plot of the episode; here the point is made and it wraps it up quickly
- Speaking of wrapping-up, what was with the surface girls wearing modesty towels even in their own locker room?
- At this point, Hikari gets so mad seeing Manaka alone with Tsumugu that it makes his own encounters with Manaka needlessly tense and strained.
- We like how the show portrayed the sea people being accepted more and more by the growing number of people helping out with the Ojoshi-sama
- We hope to more of Kaname’s growing friendship with the nice surface girl who likes him.
- Manaka’s multiple attempts to include Chi-chan were appropriately hard to watch, but that’s kinda Chisaki’s fault for not being upfront with the necessary party; not that anyone else has been, mind you.
- Tsumugu’s suggests that Manaka finish her sentences to avoid ambiguity, which is safe but ultimately self-defeating in the present situation. That sound advice could apply to everyone in the group.