「新月のルミナリエ」 (Shingetsu no Ruminarie)
“The New Moon Luminarie”
I won’t mince words, the conclusion of the episode was very rushed. Specifically, Erika’s arc seemed like it resolved because they had to get it over with so it wouldn’t interfere with finding the golden dragon. The only reason she returns to her family is because her little brother, Anji, ran away for her sake, and it made her feel guilty for making him upset by leaving. Erika still has to live with the grudge she has for Manoyama, and hasn’t changed in her resolve to leave to establish a clothing shop when she decided to return. As soon as she reunited, she let loose on everyone about feeling trapped in the town, ranting about how her dreams of branching away to create such a shop would languish if she was stuck living in such an unpopular town. However, once she goes back to her house, it’s not like anything on her end has changed other than wanting to visit Tokyo when she’s ready. I guess the main takeaway is that she’s too young to have any serious thoughts about leaving so she has to stay until she at least graduates, especially since Nobe could run his dream book store without having to be born into it.
But is it really okay for Erika’s story to be left on that note? Should she continue to have that claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in the isolated prison she sees Manoyama as because everyone who’s lived in Manoyama all their lives are too uncomfortable to talk with her about her feelings? It’s that level of neglect that would obviously harbor a deeper resentment of her family and elders who didn’t bother to try and level with her. It surprised me that Angelica learned the least from all of this since it was her poor choice of words that gave Erika the push to run away in the first place. She was frightened and upset when her kids kept running away, and was tearful about how much Anji wanted Erika to make her dreams come true in Manoyama. When Erika snapped on everyone and returned, however, it felt like Angelica didn’t even apologize to Erika. When she leaned in to hug Erika and Anji together, I was like “excuse you!”
If this was Shiori’s time to re-evaluate her place in Manoyama, it was also a development that didn’t seem as well-executed as the other girls’ conflicts. It wouldn’t be too fair to come down on her about that since her troubles are less dramatic than leaving behind the city life or a dream career to settle down in the countryside. Nonetheless, the extent of Shiori’s development all this time was being alright with visiting Tokyo with Erika, and that seemed like she only did it to pacify her. Otherwise, her resolve is the same as always with that stubborn push to stay in Manoyama, and block out any of the concerns that people have about the town’s stagnation. It would make sense for Shiori’s resolve to ultimately be about staying in Manoyama regardless of whether it’s thriving or perishing, but I feel like most of her interactions with Erika that challenged her point-of-view about Manoyama often ended with “Well, I like it here,” and didn’t do much to change how Erika or Shiori think about the town.
One thing I enjoyed about Erika and Shiori’s arc was that they reflected on the recurring theme of aspirations and their place in reality. Maki’s challenges and resolutions brings much more insight into the theme, and are actually more helpful to Erika’s train of thought in relation to seeking out her dreams. Maki’s outline of how dreams are challenged constantly by the obstacles that make them unrealistic to outright accomplish, and that it takes more than willing yourself to have a dream in order for it to be a possible outcome in the future. Erika wants to own a clothing company in Tokyo, but trying to rush it wouldn’t help her get from Point A to Point B, and it takes more work and resolve to be able to get to the point where she could open up a store in the city. Sometimes, you have to start out small or gain experience elsewhere before a specific dream can be actualized, and sometimes dreams might even be impossible to make a reality. However, while this resonates well with how far Maki, Yoshino, and Sanae have come, it would’ve been nice for Erika to have learned something from it other than pushing back her plans to go to the city for a little bit longer.
To me, my favorite parts of the episode are the small details that emerged along the way. It was cute to see Chitose comfortable enough with the agency girls to willingly giving them advice on offering pain relief for Erika’s toothache either through reflexology or children’s pain killers that are available from the town’s pharmacy. I also liked how Yoshino’s trip to the pharmacy gave them the idea to light up more lanterns across the streets to give the shopping district some life. It was a very minute addition to the episode, but it does do some good for the agency girls in hindsight to breathe life into the district, and raise awareness in a useful yet neglected part of the town. There wasn’t as much screen time dedicated to the dragon or the three friends, but it was funny for them to realize that all this time they’ve buried a toy dragon. Additionally, they gave an equal amount of insight on how their dreams came about where Nobe mentions inheriting the bookstore from a stranger who was leaving with his family, or how the other two guys had their dreams come around, but with differing results. I am curious though how the dragon will be sorted out though now that we’ve learned that the guys only unearthed a toy they had in their possession.