You know, I haven’t blogged about this show in a while, but I caught up over Thanksgiving weekend. And you know, after episodes 7 and especially this one, 8…and after watching ef episode 7…scenes like this mean something pretty dramatic to me now.
This is a show with an identity crisis of major proportions. The episodes that are meant to be filler–ie, the ones where Nanaka is not the main focus, and especially the ones that focus on Hinako the prepubescent 10 year old–are really filler. The story ones are really intense by comparison. I don’t think I’m too far off the mark when episode 7 started giving me, of all things, a Higurashi vibe, which I should have seen coming given that there was an entire episode preview that parodied Higurashi’s season 1 previews! What does this show want to be: a dumb romance featuring way too much time given to a girl way too young to be sexualized? Or a soapy melodrama filled with crying, dark pasts, and interminable hospital visits, with a dash of morbid horror added in?
It is now obvious that both Sana and Nanaka have had terrible, terrible pasts since they parted as children, and we now know at least the outline of Nanaka’s problems; we are still somewhat in the dark about Sana, though the pieces are coming together. (Past suicide attempts are almost certain. Look at the way he winces when Nanaka accuses him of forgetting her during his time away.) I’ve already discussed the way romance shows seem to be using this more and more in my Anime Blog Collective post. The funny thing is that in order to make the show feel much more unified and coherent, all you have to do is just skip the Hinako episodes (4, 6). There will still be the deeply annoying
Chiyo-chan-frozen-in-time Aoi, and some cheesy jokes left, but you will get a much stronger sense of something sinister building from the get-go. The Hinako episodes felt like they were inserted almost randomly into the story, and I am told it is also the case with the bulk of episode 9. Such interruption of delicious soapy drama can never be forgiven!!!
Well, all right. There is one quite funny joke which sort of depends on recognizing it from the Hinako episodes. This time, Aoi sees the porn and the tissues, which we know were not used That Way, and she emits her Chiyo-chan-getting-hit-by-a-volleyball vocalizations. That was well-paced and I laughed out loud.
I have to admit I really like the idea of the secret mailbox. For some reason, I find it a potent symbol of trust and togetherness between Sana and Nanaka and despite the fact that it was milked for all its worth in this episode, it was primal to see all those letters falling out and the one written in blood. I was also surprised by how well the Yuzuki-sensei and her caramel scene worked, too. At first it almost seemed like a digression, but it eventually tied very nicely and it didn’t go too far into sappy territory as it could have. (What? Yuzuki wasn’t traumatized by being a latchkey kid? That’s revolutionary!) That scene, and the buildup to the secret mailbox scene, was handled well, and easily makes this the most compelling episode in the series so far for me.
OK. So it took me the warning shot of episode 3 to finally get me to see there might be something to this show, and enduring several Hinako episodes which I almost simply decided to turn off altogether. But getting to this point was worth it. Are the emotions simple? Yes, and primal too; I winced when Nanaka cried that Sana wasn’t there for her when she needed him most. I think that’s what we all fear. Is the situation melodramatic and soap operatic? Yes. Especially the jealousy monster parts. Is this nearly as good as the kind of trauma featured in ef? No. This show is not that intelligent, though it does have the plus side of not having Chihiro’s voice actress be Nanaka’s too. But it seems to have a beating heart at last, and two characters that I am beginning to actually care for to an extent (those tense conversations between Sana and her mother are golden).
Oh lord, please don’t let episode 9 be as disappointing as I’m told it is. Please. (And, by the way, lose the cheery episode summary, OP and eyecatch music.)