「君だけがいない世界」 (Kimi dake ga Inai Sekai)
“The World Without You”
To conclude Mai’s bout with Puberty Syndrome, Seishun Buta Yarou goes in for a strong finale that wraps up her arc with a tightly knit bow. While the story could have been longer, especially with how the much the manga had to work with when they adapted the first volume, it captures the emotional core of what Sakuta and Mai have to endure when the possibility of Sakuta losing his memories becomes a reality.
Futaba turned out to be the bearer of bad news as her lesson on Schrödinger’s cat comes right back around after finding out that Sakuta’s friend Kunimi forgot about Mai as soon as he woke up. With sleep being the catalyst for finding out whether he will remember Mai the day after, Sakuta’s mindset takes a darker turn as his resolve to keep Mai in his memories is to deprive himself of sleep throughout most of the exam week. It could take some time before the mechanics behind Puberty Syndrome are given full detail regarding how sleep plays a role in the atmosphere and effects that intensify the syndrome save for the cat theory, but it does make for more dramatic developments such as Sakuta willing to keep himself awake for days just so that he doesn’t forget Mai.
On that note, the 3rd episode’s biggest strength is how it executes emotional moments. The anime has done a great job at showing how isolated Mai feels from her syndrome as well as the foreboding atmosphere in Sakuta’s exile from his class, but this episode’s struggles were hard-hitting as Sakuta is aware that his memories of Mai are on borrowed time. Sakuta’s abuse of energy drinks and caffeine pills start to take a toll on him as Futaba, Kunimi, and even Mai start to notice how he hasn’t been getting any sleep for days. Mai spiking his drink with sleeping pills just to get him to rest was painful as the reality of the situation hits hard for the two. Sakuta knows that nodding off will mean he will forget about her while Mai knows that what she did will mean that the only person that gave the time to understand her is about to forget everything he has ever known about her.
The images that begin to trigger Sakuta’s latent memories of Mai hit directly at the series’ emotional core as his sudden realization gave him the motivation he needed to completely switch direction towards finding anyway he can to find her again. One way to get second-hand embarrassment is to watch the episode’s most powerful scene with Sakuta confessing his love for Mai in front of the whole school as he shouts his confession outside to anyone who can hear him from their classrooms. Students indeed all come out and hear him continue to shout about who the lucky girl is, but in Sakuta’s declaration, Mai not only shows up, but is visible to the entire student body, giving her the opportunity to pay things forward by shouting about Sakuta’s reputation.
In its essence, Sakuta’s experience with Mai ended up creating the key towards resolving Puberty Syndrome in the form of provoking the emotions and attention of their classmates. Where rather than avoiding the negative atmosphere to dwell in a world of invisibility, it was Sakuta actively gathering a crowd and bringing attention to himself and Mai that ended up resetting the school’s perception of Mai and possibly shifting how they feel about Sakuta. He still retains his dry humor and mentality, but it shows growth in his character regarding the hospitalization incident that he was able to come forward to his school and classmates, and tell them how he’s been feeling lately. By stepping out of his own comfort zone, he could fight against the atmosphere that left him weary, and decides to embrace the attention he receives instead of doing nothing to fight against his circumstances.
At this point in time, Seishun Buta Yarou is an exciting, fresh breath of air that tells a meaningful story within its first three episodes. There are some details that could have been improved such as showing a little more romance on Sakuta and Mai’s side, or retaining some of the dry humor that the series excels at. In light of Tomoe’s LN arc being the focus of the next episode, it would have been especially good to give us something more concrete with their relationship so that it doesn’t look like Sakuta would be moving on with whoever is the main star of the next upcoming arcs. But without a doubt, if they are still able to give us more interactions with Sakuta and Mai as they take on Tomoe’s issues, then it would be easy to say that Seishun Buta Yarou stands out as Fall’s best rom-com and possibly anime of the season. With how they nailed this episode’s deeper moments, it would be easy to see them continuing to top it as the series goes forward.