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Myself; Yourself 9–Oh, all right, you’re forgiven

This is more typical of this episode than not.

Previews and blog rumors aren’t so reliable after all. My fears about this episode were largely unfounded, though it has other sets of problems alongside some relatively strong material. Even if this is really talking about three relatively unrelated plot threads, this ain’t filler; don’t skip it.

First off–they didn’t use the chipper music for the “previously, on Myself; Yourself” prologue. Hooray! The OP, ED, and episode preview music is the same, but it’s less intrusive for some reason. Getting off on the right foot helps, I suppose.

The first thread of the episode explores Nanaka’s background further, planting the suspicion in her (and our) mind that perhaps her uncle was the arsonist responsible for killing her parents and giving her an awful junior high experience. This part really did feel, at times, like Higurashi-lite, complete with overheard conversations, half-memories, and more emotional breakdown at the sight of a mere overheated grill. It seems the writers want to insert a lot of elements of mystery into the series, a whole lot of whodunits and whys, especially with that creepy grandma in the nursing home. They’d do well to remember that there are only a few more episodes left in the story and that there are more plotlines to wrap up, but on the whole, this episode represented a decent continuation of the emotional and logical threads from the prior episode.

The emotional climax in the ferris wheel was, as another blogger pointed out, typical–but I think Honey and Clover, which turned it into a potent metaphor as well as setting, proves that it need not be done badly. It was a needed reconciliation between the two and nicely understated compared to the previous episode’s massive emoting, which is recalled in flashback. (I disagree with another writer who said that Sana and Nanaka have no chemistry, by the way. They don’t need chemistry so much as something in common, which in this case is trauma. They are both very needy people who managed to find each other again. Not that that bodes well for the relationship in the long term, but hey, this is a romance anime…)

The next strand is the brief reintroduction of the more minor drama happening with the twins. Having failed to talk about it in the previous review, I’ll say right now that I find this thread thin and introduced too late to have much emotional impact, at least when weighed against the far more (melo)dramatic travails of our two leads. Their situation is painful and common: children who have a hard time accepting the stepmother, and it isn’t handled with much emotional nuance or detail. It basically consists of two scenes, Shuri getting slapped by her dad, and then this episode’s crying about their broken family situation with a little prodding from her brother in the ferris wheel. They were supposed to be the comic relief duo and trying hard to introduce some emotional heft to their lives needs to be handled a little less clumsily.

The final strand is the one emphasized in the episode preview: the sentai parody, Animengers, and the presence of Hinako. It was not nearly as bad as I had feared; I just wonder what the heck it’s doing in this show. By itself, it’s a fine piece of meta-satire, a direct pitch to the otaku watching the show by concocting a villain who threatens their “anime lifestyle,” and perhaps at best a gentle tweak at conventions of the cliched shows it seeks to represent. They even mention A-parts and B-parts! (I only first saw TV production mechanics like this mentioned in Hayate no Gotoku.) Unlike the caramel flashback from the previous episode, though, it failed to wrap itself back into the main plot as elegantly and convincingly as that well-timed scene; I was half-expecting an actual abduction plot, perhaps involving Hinako, to start in due order. This is, of course, par for the course for this show–I am beginning to realize just how exceptional episode 8 really was–and the fact that it was actually decently funny made it go down a little better. It certainly didn’t destroy the episode.

Owen has written about why both this show’s structure and content are actually smart and genre-busting (“post-harem” is his term), and that there is no real filler in this show properly construed; this justifies the constant plot and mood jumping. Episode 9 continues to reinforce my belief that this strategy feels more disjointed than effective. Maybe I just like the Sana/Nanaka plotline too much to care about anything else? In agreement with his review from today, I certainly agree that an excess of drama is also bad; this is one of the reasons why [putting flame suit on–you might be surprised by the following] I couldn’t stomach Saikano. I just don’t think this way is necessarily the right way to go about giving a show variety. The main reason why I really love ef as much as I do is that the unconventional artistic measures support the show narratively and thematically, and it holds up under close scrutiny. I do not yet sense this from Myself; Yourself, and I’m not as hopeful as Owen is that this might be the case–though, like him, I hold out the possibility that they could yet pull a brilliant maneuver at the end to prove me wrong. For me, as long as they wrap up Sana/Nanaka effectively I’ll be reasonably happy. I’ve already explained why I tend to appreciate emotional intensity in anime.

Finally, the title of this show, which at first struck me as being both pretentious and meaningless, is finally starting to make sense to me. If we focus on the Sana/Nanaka storyline, it really is a story that is about coming to terms with their selves, which is probably why Me; You wouldn’t suffice. And if they are a destined couple, as they certainly are, it’s about how a “my self” (Sana/the player) and a “your self” (Nanaka) get together. Not sure why there’s a semicolon, though, rather than a period.

BTW, I love the nickname that’s been coined, Pronouns. Who thought of it first? This must be the first anime title that might get English grammarians both frustrated and excited by its possibilities.

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