「きらめく日々を駆け抜けろ」 (Kirameku Hibi o Kakenukero)
“Dash Through Those Brilliant Days”
After last episode I felt emotionally drained, like someone had strapped a vacuum to my soul and sucked out all the life. This week, I feel uplifted. All the pain, all the struggle they went through lead to something fantastic. Characters grew, learned about themselves, and came to realize what the true happiness of Sakurasou is all about. I could almost sing.
Yet not all that glitters is gold, and though uplifting by the end, this episode had its punches to throw as well. It was subtly painful how they didn’t know that Mashiro was gone at first, but what did it more was the painting. As soon as I saw it, I saw the beauty of it – not necessarily in the placement of the brush strokes, but in the feelings they conveyed. It was like looking through Mashiro’s eyes at the Sakurasou she loved – which is when I realized what Sorata noticed as well. Mashiro was not in it.
The whole first third of the episode was heartrendingly beautiful, from Sorata’s frustration at Mashiro’s departure, to Jin and Misaki’s kindly advice, all the way to Sorata taking charge so definitely when it was Mashiro that may leave him forever. Which set up…
I’m not sure when the first time was, but when Sorata became determined to find Mashiro, he stopped calling her Shiina and started using her given name instead. I think once Nanami heard that as they ran down the stairs to find her, she knew. He did it with so much feeling, so much more feeling than when he ever had with her. Or rather, with different feeling. No matter how important his nakama are to him, his concern for Mashiro was on a totally different (and deeper) level, and Nanami knew it.
That’s why she dodged. For a second I thought she was going to do it, she was finally going to confess her love for him, but she dodged it. She didn’t say what she truly felt. Well, she truly felt what she said as well, that she was glad to have met Sorata and that he made her feel like working even harder, but that wasn’t all. It was only when he was gone that she could say what she really wanted to say: “I was able to work so hard till today because I was in love with you.” By then, she already knew the score, and I think she loves both Sorata and Mashiro too much to get in the way until he has at least had his chance to tell Mashiro his feelings. The world truly isn’t good enough for people like Nanami.
Permission To Believe
Many will say that Sorata loving Mashiro is unfair. Why must the hardworking Nanami lose out to the natural prodigy Mashiro, who always seems to get everything she wants? I will avoid mentioning how much effort Mashiro has put in, both in her work and in pursuing Sorata, as haphazard as the latter has been. Instead, focus on only one thing – Sorata’s feelings. If we’re talking about who Sorata loves, that’s only fair, right? In fact, not a whole lot else matters. Though any of us might think his choice is wrong, it only matters who he loves. So, why Mashiro?
It comes down to what caused his eye to turn towards her first, and in fact, it’s similar to what turned Nanami’s eye towards Sorata. For Nanami, what she most needed was someone to help her through the dip, the slog, through the hard times as she tried to reach her goal. That’s because she already had her dream, and was working actively towards it. But while Sorata eventually benefited from this as well – and he said as much to Nanami this episode – that’s not what he needed most of all.
What Sorata needed, more than anything else, was permission. Permission to believe, permission to strive, permission to chase after his crazy, stupid dream in the face of all challenges. Sorata was trapped, thinking he couldn’t do it. He wasn’t even trying! Every day was boring…and then came Mashiro. Mashiro gave Sorata permission to strive for his dream, simply by being there and being herself.
Of course, there are other reasons – Sorata has always struck me as the type who likes to be needed, for instance, so that points to Mashiro there. But most of all, simply by being around her, Sorata feels like he can become a better version of himself. Simply by being with her, he strives towards his dream and has had some of the best times of his life. Maybe it’s unfair to the hardworking Nanami, but so be it – love is, of course, subjective. As with dreams, love doesn’t need a good reason. It only needs the feeling.
Away On A Train
I cannot praise the scene at the station between Sorata and Mashiro enough. From a storytelling point of view, it was beautifully done, from how it was arranged to the use of pauses, silence, and uncertainty. And uncertainty is the key. As I have said before, we often “know” the ultimate ending of a story like this – the title girl is going to win, right? But then again, that’s true of nearly all stories, because the good guys almost always win (eventually. Unless you get into horror stories. Those can get pretty bastardly). So if we already know the end, what’s the point of even watching?
It’s the journey, of course. I could go on at length about this, but I’ll confine myself to one point – if the audience already “knows” how it’s going to end, how do you heighten the tension and enhance the relief when what you knew was going to happen anyway comes to pass? Doubt. Uncertainty. You make the audience unsure for just a second, so that when it happens they are relieved. “Phew!”, they will go. “I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen for a second there!”
That’s what the train scene was. Setting them up across the tracks from one another was great, and having the train come right as Sorata was getting to his confession set the moment up well. And did you hear all the emotion in Mashiro’s voice? That too, primed the pump. Yet it was in the pause while the train loaded and headed off that uncertainty set in. The story stopped talking, and let the audience’s brains go to work. That’s where the thought came to me – oh gods, what if she isn’t standing there when the train passes?
And she wasn’t. My heart almost stopped in that moment. Uncertainty had crept in, and all the sudden it was fulfilled, and I was totally floored. Only, nope! But that’s okay. That’s perfect, in fact! For Mashiro to actually get on that train would either have been uncharacteristic of Sakurasou or a huge waste of time. Instead, they shocked us with an event we didn’t dare consider by making us consider it, if only for a split second before they proceeded to the sweet, sweet reunion between friends. I still feel it, a dull shock left over from that moment. Instead of speaking to the logical Stilts, they grabbed the emotional Stilts and jerked him around for just long enough for me to feel.
And that, my friends, is why I love fiction. In a world full of so very many troublesome things, good fiction almost feels more real somehow. You have to met the author halfway, but if you can immerse yourself in their world and let yourself be swept away in the tale they are telling you, you can experience emotions more real than anything we get in our day-to-day lives. Shock, dread, sadness, despair…and of course, overwhelming relief when the clouds part and our heroes come out the other end okay. Woohoo!!
I am still not sure whether we’re going to see an anime original ending or not, but if I were to point to any event as evidence of one way or the other, I would say that Rita’s return points to an original end. For the series to satisfactorily tie things up, we need a resolution to all the major couples, Ryuunosuke x Rita included. Combined with a certain event that was left out of the Valentine’s Day episode (I won’t go into details, and I ask that anyone who comments on it use spoiler tags), I think they saved enough material to give us a satisfactory end to this relationship here at the end. But of course, that requires Rita to be in the area, and now she is.
Aside from that, I have only to repeat what I’ve always said about Dragon x Freeloader – the seiyuu shipping that this couple inspires in me is certifiably lethal. Hocchan x Ayachii? *dies*
Looking Ahead – Graduation
As noted in the previous section, I’m seeing signs of an anime original ending in our future. Not that that’s bad – with how much original creator Kamoshida Hajime has been involved in this project, I’m sure they’ll be able to knit everything together into a satisfactory ending (probably). Plus it does spare us from an uber-rushed Toradora ending, which I appreciate. But we still have two more episode to go! In that time, we’ll have to see a satisfactory ending to Sorata x Mashiro (did she hear his confession? How will the two react?), Nanami (where will she go from here? Will she really go home?), Ryuunosuke x Rita (just…all of that mess!!), and Misaki x Jin (we’re probably okay on that one). And maybe Chihiro-sensei x Fujisawa? Oh, and that whole Sakurasou demolition thing! (What are you up to, Jin?) There’s a lot to do in these last two episodes, so let’s hope the series finishes out strong.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – From the depths of despair, we are uplifted #sakurasou
- The soundtrack continues to be wonderful. From wistful, almost pained strings during pivotal scenes to the deliberate lack of any sound whatsoever during others, the soundtrack is being deftly used to enhance every scene. This is a soundtrack in service of the story at its finest.
- Points go to team for making me laugh even amidst all the roaring emotions. From Dragon’s GPS tracker on Mashiro’s cell phone to Hauhau being moe to Mashiro’s deep love, I was laughing more than I had any right to in such a powerful episode. Which worked well – with everything they were piling on us, the occasional laugh served to lower the tension and keep the episode in balance. Plus, you know, funny, so that was nice too.