Quick admin note: Barring a sudden change of plans, there won't be a review on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday of this week, due to me moving on Friday. So, three day review week this week -- we'll probably do Orange today, Danganronpa tomorrow, and something else (Ghost, maybe) on Wednesday.
For those keeping track, this episode puts us at the end of chapter eighteen of the manga, giving us four more chapters to cover in two more episodes.
In this week's episode, in the aftermath of the athletic meet, the gang makes plans both for Kakeru and Naho to spend Christmas Eve together, and for all of them to see the New Year in at the local shrine. The letters, however, warn Naho of an impending fight between her and Kakeru, one that will shortly be followed by him committing suicide, while Suwa's letter tells him that the aftermath of that fight is when he confessed his feelings to Naho in the original timeline. As Kakeru's grandmother falls ill, the events of the letters begin to come true.
I have a lot of problems with this episode, although they can basically be boiled down to three very awkward scenes.
The first really poorly done scene is a section early on in the episode, in the future, where the main cast sans Kakeru (because he's dead in that timeline) are in the car, and Suwa, Azu, Hagita, and Chino are discussing how if Suwa hadn't admitted his feelings, Naho might have ended up marrying Kakeru. Naho, while present, is not involved in this conversation at all, bar for one quick moment near the end where she half-heartedly remarks that she was very happy when Suwa confessed. Nobody in the conversation acknowledges her, or makes reference to the idea that hey, maybe Naho might have something to say on this subject.
I've talked before about how passive Naho is, and how all of her plotlines seem to be propped up by other characters, but this really takes the cake, as it is made startlingly clear in-text (as Suwa remarks that it's all because of him that Naho married him and not Kakeru, and everyone else counters with 'oh no, it was our faults as well') that Naho is such a passive character that she has zero agency in regards to who she ends up marrying, and requires other people to maneuver her into relationships. Did this happen at her wedding? Did she need Azu to stand behind her saying her vows for her?
|Letters are fun.|
(I'm admittedly a little irritated because Kana Hanazawa is a genuinely brilliant voice actor, and in this series she's been given a single emotion to play: Breathy, shy alarm. So, if you want to see Hanazawa's work with other characters, here's a short list of suggestions: Want a character who's somewhat like Naho, but more proactive and with more going on in her life? Try Durarara!!, in which she plays Anri. Want a character who starts off sweet and cheerful and becomes absolutely psychotic? Try Akame ga Kill, where she plays Seryu Ubiquitous. Want a character who initially starts off as being very similar to Naho, but then rapidly undergoes character development into a much more proactive, much more strong-willed character? Try Psycho-Pass, in which she plays lead character Akane Tsunemori.)
The next awkward scene is one that actually doesn't involve Naho and Kakeru at all, and instead involves Suwa informing the others that he isn't going to confess his feelings to Naho because he doesn't want to hurt Kakeru, and the others reacting with shock and alarm, while eventually saying they want to support him. This scene is a little difficult largely because it sets up the exact opposite story the writers are trying to set up: In a series where the main characters both tend to be quite passive and retiring, Suwa being proactive, making sacrifices, and having genuine internal conflict beyond 'I'm an incredibly passive person and don't want to do anything,' frames him as the protagonist.
Watching that scene, my prevailing thoughts were all along the lines that, actually, it would be a more satisfying ending if Suwa got together with Naho -- if, in this story about regrets and earnestly attempting to change the past, it wouldn't mesh better if Naho's marriage to Suwa was one thing she did not want to change, and if Suwa's actions over the series made her realise that.
|Oh wow a genuine moment of human connection.|
If Naho and Kakeru had chemistry, any kind of independent romantic moments not instigated by one of their friends, or any indication that their mutual passivity and anxiety wasn't a recipe for a self-destructive spiral of misery, I might not think that, but they don't. I have trouble buying that either of them are truly interested in each other, because they are constantly needing their friends to shove them together.
Which leads us onto the final rather odd scene, the argument scene. Kudos to the animators, the scene is gorgeous to look at, which is at least something of a distraction. The big problem with this scene is that it requires Naho to pick up the idiot ball and forget everything she knows about human interaction for it to work, as Kakeru confesses that he's worried for his grandmother's health and would like to leave early to check on her, only for Naho, justifiably fearing what will happen if she leaves him alone, to say 'Oh, I'm sure your grandmother is fine, just stay here.'
Now, I think it stands to reason that telling someone 'oh, it'll be fine' is pretty much the worst thing you can do in this situation, but okay, she could just be panicking and blurting it out without thinking about it (which would be a little more understandable if she hadn't been forewarned several days in advance that this would happen). Except then Kakeru explains that that's what he thought the day his mother committed suicide, and since he was wrong, he blames himself for her dying alone -- and Naho just repeats that she's sure his grandmother will be fine, like an idiot.
The reason why is obvious: Naho and Kakeru need to have an argument so that Suwa can have his 'it'll be okay, I'll make sure you two end up together' (because clearly they can't do that on their own) moment, and so that we have set-up for the final two episodes, but nothing we've seen of Naho thus far suggests she's this insensitive. But god knows it would have made more sense for her to suggest that she goes with him.
Egh. To be honest, at this point, I'm pretty much ready for this series to be over. I've enjoyed it while it lasted, but it's reaching the point where it's just making me exhausted, and if I wasn't reviewing it weekly, I probably would have taken a break from watching it by now.