「過去からの贈り物」 (Kako kara no okurimono)
“Gifts From the Past”
It didn’t strike me until now, but it’s sort of darkly ironic to see see an arc so focused on the theme of masks at the current moment. I think we underestimate (or at least we used to) the degree to which masking creates additional distance between people. So much of what we call communication comes down to reading faces, something we learn to do as infants and are constantly engaging in on a subconscious level. It’s at lot harder to do when you have to take a smile (or frown) on faith, and the eyes. It’s all perfectly necessary and saves a lot of lives, but it does have other impacts.
Not for the first time, Fumetsu no Anata e reminds me more than a little of Made in Abyss. It’s not as twisted as MiA to be sure, but the tonal contrasts are very reminiscent. That, and the tendency to put cute kids in very dangerous situations. The last few eps have been a perfect example of this – though Gugu (now played by Yashiro Taku) isn’t quite the same adorable moppet he was. At times they’ve verged on being slice of life, and Fumetsu is very good at that – these eps have had a wonderful relaxed tone to them, and often been very funny. But in Fumetsu (as in MiA) things can turn on a dime.
A few things we now know. Fushi has not transformed or created anything for four years, as a result of a desire to understand how humans live (which seems like a solid idea to me, actually). And this is why he aged – his lived as a human in his human body, so he aged as one. We know all this courtesy of his creator. What we learn about Rean we know by directly observing her – to wit, she’s developed feelings for Gugu. And given that she’s about to turn sixteen and be pawned off on the stiff her father arranged for her to marry, it’s time to put up or shut up on those feelings.
This is all part of the slice of life passage, and it’s thoroughly engaging. Having learned to cook Fushi is having Rean teach him to sew – as she grapples for an idea of what to sew for a boy who never wears shirts or shoes (no wonder he gets no service) Fushi knits a rag for Booze Man (you know – for his pits). He also spills the beans to her about Gugu’s feelings, which I would have guessed were obvious but Rean, bless her, isn’t the sharpest pin in the cushion. They’re not the only ones handicrafting – Jiji makes Gugu a special mask for future battles with the Nokkers (Chekov’s mask), and waxes nostalgic about how much he’s come to think of the boy as family. But there’s something about “I hate the idea that I’ll die before him” that’s kinda creepy, considering the source.
This all seems quite idyllic, but that starts to turn when Shin shows up. He waxes contrite but appears shocked when Gugu rebuffs his overtures to get him to abandon his new family (Shin is an expert on abandoning) and hitch his wagon to his brother again. He seems genuine but that’s a pretty deep wound to expect to ever heal. Shin does return the ring Gugu gave him (apparently he wasn’t totally passed out), which eventually finds its way to Rean (one secret blown, another to follow) which she rather painfully tries to jam onto the sleeping Gugu’s muscular finger.
The party is the climax to the emotional side of the story. Gugu gives Rean the same flower he saw her admiring when he saved her four years earlier, which causes a bit of a kerfuffle at the party. It also clues Rean in about what really happened that day, though I don’t think that was Gugu’s intention. Rean meets her betrothed, and Gugu decides that’s a little more than he can take and bails outside to wait for Fushi to eat his fill. The conversation between Rean and Gugu at the cliff’s edge really is wonderfully natural and heartfelt, and seems to be taking things in a very positive direction. But then- well…
The collapse of the cliff is followed very shortly by the revelation that the Nokkers have returned for the first time in four years – was it a coincidence, or no? Gugu’s fate is unknown, but it’s an abrupt shattering of the peace in any event. What will Fushi’s abilities be like after four years of inactivity? I’ll say this for the Nokkers, their sense of timing is certainly impeccable – just like that, all the concerns and developments for the cast are swept aside and the focus turns to survival. That’s Fumetsu no Anata e in a nutshell, and it makes it a very painful series to follow sometimes.