Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 03

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The show’s called “In Search of Lost Future”, so I expected a bit of time-shifting hijinx. This episode continues that theme by continually mixing the present as we know it with tinges of the past. To that end, we start with Airi dreaming about the first time she met Sou, which comes up later in the episode in a tender moment between the two (even though Airi doesn’t have, nor will she ever have, any shot at Sou; that’s just how these shows work).

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Airi also remembers how she came to befriend her future rival Kaori, in a relay race in which Kaori fell far behind and Airi had to give it her all to win. She suspects new girl Furukawa Yui to be just as athletically inept…

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Then spots Yui blasting through hurdles like a bat outta hell, disproving that theory in its infancy. Still, the primary matter at hand in the present is the investigation of the ghost sightings…that is, until another brush fire springs up that the Student Council asks Astronomy to put out: that between the Judo and Karate clubs…again?

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Yui, apparently possessing some memories (something only Nagisa knows), tries her darndest to keep Kaori out of the fray, lest she get injured and…well, we don’t quite know what Yui is worried about. Yui also laments that trying to act only makes events grow more “unpredictable”, suggesting maybe doing nothing would be better.

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The source of the “ghost” everyone at school’s been on about turns out to be a “horror workshop” stunt by the film club, who are chastened and rebuked…but just because their ghost was a ruse doesn’t mean there isn’t another ghost lurking up there on the school roof….which of course there is. Yui sees it clearly at the end, glowing blue and ominous.

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So, you may ask: Just what the heck is going on? Well…I’ll have to get back to you on that once I’ve watched more, because even I’m not totally sure. Time is whimsical in this show, resulting in some inevitable confusion. Confusion aside, I still find myself invested enough in the members of the Astronomy club — particularly Sou, Airi and Kaori — to stay the course. Something very interesting is afoot, and so far we’ve only seen the seeds.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 02

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The timeline in which Kaori ended up killed by a runaway bus right after confessing to Sou falls by the wayside, as the arrival of the naked, silver-haired amnesiac Furukawa Yui seems like the herald of a new and different timeline. The Astronomy Club takes care of her, and it isn’t long before she enrolls at school as a transfer student,

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While she knows her own name and seems to know Kou’s, the rest of Furukawa remains a stubborn mystery, aside from the fact she’s a bit clumsy. Meanwhile, the school brass wants the club to continue its role as mediator and defuser of conflicts, and also to investigate ghost sightings, though I’m pretty sure Furukawa is the ghost in question.

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All that, while organizing their planetarium exhibition, complete with maid costumes. Throughout both the investigation and the preparation, the club is its usual rowdy, ebullient self, which Furukawa seems to enjoy in her own sedate way. The romantic complexities of said group are largely put on hold this week, but once Furukawa accidentally touche’s Nagisa’s mysterious magical box, she suddenly remembers why she’s there.

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…She just didn’t deign to share that with us this week, so we’ll have to wait for the next. I must admit, this episode was not nearly as strong as the first, and was a largely workaday affair, introducing a new element without shaking anything else up too much. That element, Furukawa, is presently straddling the line between mysterious and…dull.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 01

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I like how the Astronomy Club of Uchihama Academy is the de facto “mediator” of interclub scuffles; as they’re always up in the stars, they’re literally “above the fray.” Of course, in both mediation cases we witness, the Astronomy Club ends up resolving things by beating up both sides, suggesting they’re capable of being in any number of clubs that make better use of their prowess; they just choose not to be.

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That is a good thing from my perspective, as the club is made up of likable if flawed members with nice chemistry and an easy rapport. We’ve got the sarcastic, dense Akiyama Sou, his childhood friend Sasaki Kaori (who also lives with him and is in love withhim), the lovely combat specialist Hasekura Airi (who also likes Sou), the mischievous, conniving senpai Hanamiya Nagisa, and the American exchange student Kenny (who is not killed here, you bastards!).

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It’s a good group, and they all exude distinct personalities and motivations, and their interactions are fun to watch, helped by a tight and efficient script. The characters appear to be CGI in design, but far subtler and smoother than, say, those of Ars Nova or Sidonia, and every scene is carefully, beautifully established and shot. In this regard, the show is already calling to mind the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise; not a bad start.

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What I also liked about this first episode was how close it held its cards. It painstakingly builds this placid, if somewhat wistful, portrait of a club of quirky but warm characters, and an unfortunate love triangle. Then Airi defers to Kaori, who finally, nervously confesses (a fantastic job by her seiyu Takada Hatsumi) to Sou, then proceeds to head home without getting a straight answer and gets squashed horribly by a runaway bus.

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The brute force of that event, followed by the hospital scene shot in near darkness that follows, is straightforward but powerfully staged stuff that gave me a sinking feeling in the stomach. Still, I kinda new the weirdness wouldn’t end there, so wasn’t too shocked when time rewinds to the day the club decides to build a planetarium for Nagisa’s last festival, there’s a boom that shakes the school, and Kou finds a wet, naked, silver-haired girl upstairs.

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That, and the very first shot (which doesn’t make much sense at the time) of the episode shows us that very girl, apparently the subject of a failed experiment. Suffice it to say, strange things are going on at initially normal Uchihama Academy, which is generally what we expected of a show whose title is based upon a 4,000-page Proust novel.

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