Back when Nagisa was starting her third year of high school, she found that she wasn’t in the same class as any of her old friends. At the time, she had bumped into Tomoya, but neither of them knew each other yet. Tomoya and Sunohara were still second-years, and they still got into trouble all the time. After failing to escape from class and getting caught, they were forced to help put together a banner welcoming new students with Kyou watching over them. She didn’t know them very well and refused to tell them her name until after Tomoya saved her from some falling boards. Nagisa meanwhile had a hard time making new friends, and although she considered taking some of her father’s advice, she couldn’t bring herself to embarrass herself like he suggested. After school one day, she ran into one of her old friends, and the girl convinced her to go shopping with another girl. The two played a trick on Nagisa while she was trying on clothes by making her think that a teacher was coming, but they apologized afterward. Despite these friends though, Nagisa was still alone in her own class. Even when some girls started talking about the dango character, she didn’t get a chance to chime in.
Around that same time, Kyou had found Tomoya sleeping outside, and she noticed that he wasn’t bad looking and wondered if he had a girlfriend. She had been caught looking at him by Sunohara, but she had punched Sunohara before he could say anything to Tomoya. That night, Ryou’s fortune telling had predicted that Kyou would get confessed to the next day, and unbeknownst to them, Sunohara was crafting a letter to give that very impression. Sunohara’s intent, however, was to lead Kyou on a wild goose chase for his own amusement. He was successful to a point, but Kyou eventually caught him and Tomoya and beat them up. With that over, Sunohara’s next prank was to try to trick a new student into pulling on a string to open a ball normally used to drop a banner. Sunohara had wanted to leave a stupid message on the banner, but Tomoya wrote something else instead. No one was foolish enough to pull on the string until Nagisa walked by, and pulling the string caused a pan to fall on her head, knocking her out. Nagisa ended up being taken to the school infirmary and watched over by one of her classmates. This was a girl who had wanted to talk with Nagisa for a while now, and after Nagisa woke up, the two became friends.
At home, Nagisa told her parents about her new friend, and she attributes it all to the prank. She had kept the banner that had gone with it, and on that banner, Tomoya had written a message encouraging her to do her best and not lose to the hardships to come. Although she didn’t know that it was him, Nagisa had been grateful.
The preview last week made me think that this would be a Nagisa focused episode, and while it was sort of that, I think Kyou and to a lesser extent Sunohara were the ones who shined the most this week. As always, Sunohara was the source of a ton of laughs (Akio too), especially the European extreme ironing part, though I thought Kyou simply stole the show with how she acted. Maybe it’s because the first series never did a significant amount of focusing on Kyou or Ryou, and this felt like them making up for it a little. It certainly makes me wish their story had been animated.
It was also nice seeing that there was a connection between Tomoya and Nagisa even before they really met and that Tomoya had helped her make a friend. On a more general note, I think having a lighthearted episode like this after all the heavy emotional stuff in recent weeks was a pretty good way to ease us out of the show. I was hoping though that there’d be a commercial after this episode, like there was last year and the year before, for a new Kyoto Animation and Key series, but instead there was a preview for a recap episode next week. It made me curious how they plan to tell all this story in just half an hour, and regardless, I’ll probably still watch it to see if there’s a commercial after it for a new series.
Final Thoughts: It felt like AFTER STORY was a little slow to get started since they spent a number of episode focusing on the side characters, but once things got going, it really got good. If there’s one thing the Kyoto Animation/Key team knows how to do, it’s evoke emotion, and they really showed that in recent weeks and months. Now at the end of the first series, I noted that it was pretty good, but nothing too special, however I think AFTER STORY really brought everything together and made it a great ride. The entire forty-something episode show is well worth watching, and at this point – regardless of how a certain tiger/dragon series ends – AFTER STORY has my vote for best romance/drama series of the year.