「長いさよなら」 (Nagai sayonara)
Sonny Boy doesn’t make it easy, I’ll say that much. You have to work for it if you want to follow this show – follow as in really grasp what’s happening. I much prefer that to dumb writing which assumes a dumb audience, which is sadly what a lot of anime is these days no matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise. But the contract Sonny Boy’s sort of writing creates with the audience stipulates that everything has to hold water – if the puzzle pieces don’t fit, they committed fraud when they sold you the box. If it doesn’t add up to something logical, it was just narrative masturbation (and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve used that word twice on the site in one day).
To be clear, I’m not saying Shingo-sensei isn’t going to make it work – he’s a damn fine writer. This is only the halfway point, and even if Natsume hadn’t expressly said so it would be obvious that this was a sea change episode. The story appears to have reset itself to an extent, and a lot of different paths seem possible from here (fittingly). But he’s set himself up quite a challenge, as abstract as all this has been so far. I’m fine with the lack of a linear narrative, as long as events conform to some sort of logic.
What we know (which is a lot less than what we have to guess at) is that Nagara and his allies have been jumping from one this world to the next for two months, trying to find a way to follow Nozomi’s light and get home. Raj and Mizuho are with them, obviously, and there’s another group including Cap and the Prez following Hoshi which is neither their enemy or their ally. Aki-sensei (and it’s been pretty obvious for a while she’s not a real sensei), with Asakaze as her WMD, have their own group of followers (like Ace and his foreigner girlfriend) and are on the chase.
The current world is the most important so far, plot-wise. It’s a film world, to the extent that whatever Nagara sees gets put down on film (old-school celluloid) from his perspective. Raj (whose preternatural ability to master any technical problem is a bit of a writing crutch, if we’re honest) soon realizes that Nagara has to be present for things to move, and that all sorts of things are possible. Like a “director’s cut”, where he can combine the worlds of two reels onto one film. But while they can observe the past, they can’t change it – they can only change the future.
However, that too is in dispute – at least if you believe Hoshi. He’s been getting advance intel (even before the original jump) from God – who’s actually the principal as it turns out – and is convinced the future is all pre-written. Hoshi doesn’t strike me as evil, but he’s megalomaniacal – believing that everyone needs to be saved and only he can do it. And really, since he’s talking to someone who claims to be God who gives him accurate information about the future, why wouldn’t he believe that? His plan is to save everyone on-board his “ark” from the destruction he knows is coming.
Another random element here is Yamada Kunihiko (checking off Tsuda Kenjirou’s legally mandated appearance in every series). He’s a student from the same middle school as the others. He’s a dog. And he’s 5,000 years old. Or he’s a massive bullshitter, one or the other. Kunihiko says he’s seen others try and get back to their original worlds and fail, though as he rightly points out that doesn’t imply a zero chance that someone else could succeed. For himself, though, Kunihiko says it’s too late. How does he know that, assuming it’s true? Honestly I’m not sure.
What this all builds up to is Raj and Nagara’s plan to try and splice everyone into the mildewed film of their middle school graduation that Nagara has restored by his magic touch. Hoshi reluctantly agrees to give this a shot and team up, despite his insistence that he knows what will happen. What happens is that everyone does wind up being transported to that place and time – except they can’t interact with anyone there. They’re copies, as Hoshi authoritatively declares – not the “chosen ones”. And what’s more, while the others see versions of themselves all Nozomi sees is her empty desk and a memorial in her name, which is creepy as hell.
Damn, that’s a lot to process – so, par for the course with Sonny Boy. From there it’s pretty much pure speculation. Who is this God, and why did he roll the dice with these kids lives? Who is Aki-sensei really – a student impersonating her, most likely? Was Nozomi’s death somehow keeping the leapers from “synching” with this world, or wouldn’t it have mattered? What we seem to have here is a bunch of kids adrift in space and time, cut loose from their own world and toys in the hands of a capricious God. That would make for a pretty depressing second act, but that wouldn’t be out of character for the sort of series Sonny Boy is paying homage to.