「聖夜のフェニックス」 (Seiya no Fenikkusu)
“The Phoenix in the Holy Night”
Though some of the episode names fit their respective storylines, Maki truly did go through a phoenix’s life within the span of 24 minutes. I was worried that they shot down Maki’s big screen dreams so soon, especially when she just regained her resolve to try and get back into acting. It’s always hard to let your passions go, and it was devastating to see Maki endure a tearful ride home as she resided to the fate of being rejected from her biggest opportunity yet. As time passed, however, it made sense why they gave her the boot early on. Her recent aspirations had been to focus more on her work at Manoyama and to steer away from the heartbreak she got from sticking her neck out in the film and TV industry. While it would be easier for Sanae to spearhead the initiative to boost the town’s online presence after being beaten down by working in the city, it would seem puzzling how Maki’s inspiration to get back into acting would translate with her work in Manoyama. By the time the episode ended, it was evident how significant it was for Maki to make the decision to build an acting troupe at the public facility they will convert the condemned school into.
For Maki to use the class reunion as a chance to put on her own play that transforms the Bloodstained Santa myth into a light-hearted Christmas story where Santa’s daughter helped deliver gifts for her injured dad was a momentous achievement for her. It gave meaning to her decision to stay at Manoyama to build on the town’s development and culture for the play to position her effort as her way of thanking her town and family for the opportunity they gave her to shine. I was nearly teary-eyed when she spread her arms in joy on-stage like she did when she was a younger actress enamored with the stage. Maki’s character growth happened not from pushing herself back into spotlight for widespread fame, but to regain her love of acting through expressing herself on her own terms through her writing and performance. It was poetic how Maki’s father came around to supporting his daughter’s ventures as he saw her not only enjoying herself as she did when she first started acting, but doing so as a tribute to her town. Her father’s blessing coming after they showed him adding photos from Maki’s performance as Santa’s daughter in his old picture album was a touching way to end the episode.
Converting the school into a public facility was a neat choice that works very well with the townspeople and the town’s culture. I wonder if making it an open space to use for events, community groups, and cultural happenings would open up the potential for the town to thrive considering Maki’s brother’s friend who wanted to leave the town out of disinterest for not having a place to watch movies or have fun. There are also some side-developments that are made along the way in the episode like Ririko finding a little success after singing the “Dragon Song” on the internet and Erika trying her hardest to connect with Maki’s brother. The former I could see being incorporated into Maki’s acting troupe where she wanted to adapt the Dragon’s story into a play, but the latter is looking to shape how the next episode will look with a deeper look in Erika’s issues.