「明けない夜の夜明け」 (Akenai Yoru no Yoake)
“The Dawn After an Endless Night”
The last episode of Seishun Buta Yarou caps off Kaede’s arc by solidifying that she did, in fact, regain her memories from before. But with Kaede’s memories restored, she actually takes a back seat this time around as it was Sakuta who had to confront his own anguish. The episode was definitely setting up towards the movie as Shouko returns to try to comfort him after he rushed out of the hospital, torn up about losing the side of his sister that he had grown attached to.
This episode makes a pitch towards seeing Shouko in a different light as more than just a girl from Sakuta’s past. Shouko appears right at the perfect moment to reconceptualize Kaede’s push to change by reading her diary out to Sakuta. She highlights parts of her diary where Kaede feels guilty about the possibility of Sakuta blaming himself for not being able to help her, pushing her to go out of her way to overcome her anxiety even if it means having to say farewell to the side of her that Sakuta had just started to get to know. Sakuta says he was cheered up by Shouko, but nobody can tell me that someone who bites into a whole tomato and a slice of bread is a jolly guy. The most interesting part of Shouko’s presence is how much of it feels like a blur. Futaba seems on-board with the suspicions I have of Shouko being more of a figment of his imagination as she only materializes when Sakuta is at his worst. And since no one is around to tell who she really is, there would be reason to believe that Shouko is more of a concept than a person. Almost like the Adolescence Syndrome itself, Shouko’s presence is an enigma that feeds off of Sakuta’s emotional state at its height.
And speaking of emotions, there is one last hail mary for the episode to make as they throw in one last conflict for Sakuta since Mai is upset at him about Shouko coming to comfort him while she was away. Admittedly, this one felt like it was added in to bring tension to Mai and Sakuta’s relationship for the final episode as it culminates in a bonding scene between the two where they make up. It brielfy dabbles into that cliche romcom trope where a misunderstanding threatens the relationship until a window of opportunity opens up for Sakuta to realize his mistake and make amends with Mai just in the nick of time. It does tie into Sakuta’s guilt with Kaede since him and Mai are distraught about not being able to be there for their loved ones, but the good thing is that Nodoka really cleaned up that particular mess before it overshadowed what was otherwise a decent final episode. With the episode concluding on the two reconciling as Sakuta opens up to being supportive of Kaede’s older self, aims to strengthen his personal relationship with Mai and introduces her to his dad and Kaede, the last episode at least ends on an optimistic note.
Without a doubt, there’s a reason why Seishun Buta Yarou is one of the best shows this season. it’s a series that hooks viewers in with its clever writing, its finely crafted narrative that aims to defy expectations, and its loveable characters that make you want to root for their success.
What automatically drew me into the series was how unique the anime is in its structure. The logic that the cast operates off of is far more sensible and realistic than your standard romantic comedy. Rather than dragging out a mindless dramatic moment for the heck of it, they nip a misunderstanding or negative train of thought in the bud as they seek out a solution that makes far more sense. The twists are particularly hard-hitting as well with many of them come out from left field in a way that leaves you jonesing for what’s next. When an episode ends on a strong note like Mai coming over Sakuta’s house to confront him about the fake relationship Koga was planning or Kunimi’s girlfriend showing Sakuta a social media account with Futaba posting seductive selfies, its hard not to have the air sucked right out of you. The anime thrives on such moments and it becomes a part of Seishun Buta Yarou‘s identity for the drama to be as shocking as it is satisfying. The pseudoscience also offers some fun times when you have the characters making sense of the enigmatic, shape-shifting state of the Adolescence Syndrome.
Part of the charm is also in how loveable the characters are. Sakuta and Mai’s chemistry make for so many fun moments where the two play off of each other while they handle the latest problem. Sakuta fits the “rascal” role to a T with how willing he is to go any length he feels is necessary to get his point across. Only a guy like Sakuta could approach a bully, and rather than just walking into his fist like other dense romcom protagonists or anime leads, he kicks him in the shins while he’s caught off-guard, steps on his face, and then pretends that he just stepped in poop before doing all of this. And rather than playing coy or getting overly embarrassed, Mai knows just the right steps to throw any of Sakuta’s clever one-liners right back in his face. They’re a very fun couple, and this level of fun also goes into the other characters as well. Koga’s countryside mannerisms, Kunimi’s status as Sakuta’s bro, his girlfriend’s efforts to gradually shed her ice queen reputation, Kaede’s ability to worm her way into our hearts as everyone’s imouto right before she regained her memories, Futaba’s love for science and the love she slowly starts to dedicate to herself, Nodoka being there for Mai and Sakuta even if she doesn’t entirely understand how the two operate. There’s no shortage of characters who make us want to cheer for them as they face both their everyday lives and the mysteries that come from the Adolescence Syndrome. My personal favorites are Futaba and Nodoka. Futaba for her tendencies to brew coffee in the lab equipment, her need to find a scientific explanation for every phenomenon, and the struggles she goes through as she confronts her unrequited love for both Kunimi and her desires to be closer with her friends. And Nodoka for how much she truly cares about Mai, how she warms up to Sakuta to the point where she’s more than happy to help him and Kaede out, and the trials she faces as she puts more faith into her own abilities.
It’ll be sad to bid Seishun Buta Yarou farewell, but luckily, it isn’t a permanent goodbye. With the film coming up in the horizon that dives into Shouko’s role in Sakuta’s life, it’ll be bound to give us more time with the characters and ambiance created by the series and the beach town of Enoshima. While it will take some time to get used to not having my Wednesday “KIMI NO SEI” fix, I’m glad to have experienced such as gratifying and enjoyable romance this Fall. I’m looking forward to the prospect of seeing some of the stories translated such as the Futaba and Nodoka arcs, but above all else, I’m excited to see what’s in store for the series’ future with the upcoming movie.