Knowing that Tomoya has been working hard on the yard, Nagisa, Kyou, and Ryou bringing him a boxed lunch one morning and wonder if he’s been at it all night. Tomoya claims that he goes home at night, but the girls still want to take a day off from school to help. Since Tomoya disapproves of this, Kyou instead yells into the house, asking if Kotomi is sleeping and eating properly, and she wants Kotomi to have fun with them on her birthday. There’s no indication from inside the house, however, that Kotomi heard her. Regardless, Tomoya continues what he’s been doing, and the girls rejoin him that afternoon. They work until it’s dark outside, and Tomoya intends to carry on through the night to finish the yard, so Nagisa volunteers to join him. Tomoya, however, refuses to let her and cites what her father would do if she got sick. Once he’s alone again, Tomoya takes a break and notices the upstairs curtains moving, making him realize that Kotomi was watching. As he then looks up at the star-filled sky, he thinks about what the old man had told him about the hidden world.
The next morning, Tomoya looks over the completed yard and garden. With nothing else to do, he takes out the book that Kotomi gave him and starts reading. Tomoya soon realizes that the story includes the rabbit/dear/you line that Kotomi had been using previously, so this book must be where she got that from. He has a hard time staying awake though, and he soon falls asleep and starts dreaming of his past with Kotomi. Back then, he had gotten lost and wandered into her yard, and that’s how the two had met. In those days, Kotomi’s mother had urged Kotomi to play outside, and she had meant the outside world beyond their yard, but Kotomi had resisted the idea. When Kotomi’s birthday had come around, Tomoya had offered to bring his friends for the party, but as he later found out, his friends didn’t want to go to the birthday party of some girl they didn’t know. This left Tomoya feeling that he was unable to face Kotomi, and it wasn’t until after the sun set that he decided to go to her house after all.
There, Tomoya had found Kotomi crying inside her father’s study with the flames from burning the envelope starting to spread out of control. Tomoya had tries to douse the fire with glasses of water that he repeatedly brought up from downstairs, but this wasn’t nearly enough. It was not until the old man and his colleagues had arrived that the fire got put out, and since Kotomi was crying over how she had burned the thesis, the old man had told her that this hadn’t been it. According to him, what was burned was actually something for her, but Kotomi kept crying. Tomoya remembers that he didn’t see Kotomi again after that, no matter how many times he went to try to see her. All of his time with her seemed like a dream, and so he eventually forgot it all. Tomoya now wakes up to find Kotomi watching over him, and she admits that she had always been waiting for the boy who she had really liked. He had been her only friend – the “you” that the deer/rabbit/you line was referring to. Hearing all this causes Tomoya to start to cry, and he tells Kotomi that he came to get her and that everyone is waiting. After taking his hand, Kotomi then notices how beautiful the sky is.
The next day – Kotomi’s birthday – Kotomi comes back to school, and Tomoya and the girls are waiting for her at the school’s front gate. Since the violin is still being repaired, they can only give Kotomi a slip of paper promising it as a present, but Kotomi is still very happy. She is then approached by her teacher who explains that her guardian is coming here today with something to give her. Seeing Kotomi looking a little down, Tomoya reassures her that the old man isn’t that bad a guy, and Kyou suggests that they have him come to the drama clubroom so that Kotomi can be more relaxed. To Kotomi’s surprise, the old man ends up bringing with him a suitcase that had belonged to her father. It turns out that this suitcase had arrived at the research laboratory the previous night, and after the old man had confirmed that it belonged to her father, he felt that he had to give it to her today. Kotomi thinks that her parents’ thesis might be inside, but instead, she finds a teddy bear along with an envelope. The front of the envelope had “if you find this suitscase please take it to our daughter” written on it in English, and it was signed “K&M.”
As the old man explains, these initials belong to Kotomi’s parents, Ichinose Koutarou and Ichinose Mizue. He theorizes that the suitcase washed ashore somewhere and was found by someone. That person opened it, noticed the letter, entrusted the suitcase to someone else, and the suitcase had been passed from person to person and from country to country until it finally got here. The old man then brings up how Kotomi still doesn’t know what was inside the envelope that she had burned on that night. It wasn’t the thesis that Kotomi thought it was because there never was a duplicate – her father had continued to make revisions to it until the very end, so he never got the chance to make a copy. Instead, that envelope had contained a stuffed animal catalogue. Even now, the old man remembers how her father had happily talked about how this was the first time his daughter had said she wanted something. As for the actual thesis, he directs Kotomi to read the letter inside the envelope that was in the suitcase. The letter is addressed to Kotomi, and she immediately recognizes that it’s in both her father and mother’s handwriting.
The old man thinks that Kotomi’s parents threw everything inside the suitcase away, including the thesis, and replaced them with the teddy bear and the letter. He knows that they tried to describe the way the world came about as beautifully, as purely, and as concisely as possible, and he’s never encountered words as beautiful as they are in the letter before. It made him realize that her parents were wishing for her happiness even until the very end. Picking up the teddy bear and hugging it now, Kotomi directly addresses her parents, saying that she had waited and had cried alone at home for a long time. But then Tomoya came for her, and so she’s very happy right now. Unable to hold back the tears any longer, Kotomi welcomes her parents home. Tomoya meanwhile thinks to himself about how this suitcase traveled all over the world: from desert towns to islands of ice to steep mountains to green lands and from person to person with care. The letter itself starts with Kotomi’s father talking about how the world is beautiful even when filled with sadness and tears. He wanted her to open her eyes, do what she wants to do, become what she wants to become, look for some friends, and not rush growing up. Kotomi’s mother, on the other hand, had written about how they had found the teddy bear inside a gift shop and how this was the biggest one they had seen, but they didn’t have time to send it to her from the airport. Both of them had wished her a happy birthday.
Sometime later, Tomoya and the girls arrive at Kotomi’s house with the repaired violin, but since they’re going to be holding a party for her with all their friends, they decide to give it to her during a presentation ceremony once everyone has gathered. Kotomi had made a lot of sweets for this, causing Tomoya to wonder if she made too much, however Kyou thinks it’s okay because of how many people are coming. This causes Tomoya to worry that there’ll be too many people, but Kotomi feels that it’s fine because she has a big yard.
Well, I don’t see how it’s possible to watch this and not want to cry or get choked up. The first half had some pretty scenes to look at and answered a lot of questions, but it didn’t really conjure any emotions. I was starting to think that there wouldn’t be anything that would do so, but then the old man showed up with the suitcase and the teddy bear, and that entire scene ended up being so incredibly sad. I have to commend Key for writing stories that always seem to be so touching and Kyoto Animation for capturing all of that in the anime adaptation.
The only thing I would have done differently is cut down a little on the foreign languages during the suitcase journey scene – it ended up being more distracting than helpful (partly because of some of those accents). I only bring this up because I went from wanting to cry to trying to figure out the languages and then back to wanting to cry. Maybe it was just me, I thought using just a couple of languages spaced out over that scene would have had done just as well since a lot of the impact was from the images and the music.
Anyway, I still loved the episode and the arc (more than Fuuko’s even). It seemed to go by really quickly though, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was because it didn’t feel like the story was entirely focused on Kotomi until around episode 12. There also was a lot of Ryou and Kyou stuff at the beginning, which made me think that the next arc would be about them, but from the next episode preview, that doesn’t necessarily appear to be true. The preview instead seems to be focused on both Sunohara and Nagisa, and looking ahead, episode 16 appears to be about Sunohara’s sister, so I don’t know what direction we’re going now. That doesn’t matter too much though since I’m confident they’ll do a good job with whoever’s story they tell next.