The junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Someday in the Rain...
The view from 5930 miles away:
Nagato has been involved in a car accident but has had a lucky escape, at least physically. She insists she is fine, and only has a few bumps and scratches, but as Asakura says to Kyon “something about her seems off”.
What follows is superficially an entirely slice-of-life episode, and that’s actually a very clever move because it allows us to see Nagato in her normal daily routine, with everything feeling just a bit wrong. She is quiet and looks depressed and the little she says seems all about politeness and going through the motions of saying the right things, rather than genuinely engaging in a conversation with anyone.
“Thank you for being concerned. That’s nice of you.”
Normally any physical contact with Kyon would be a thrill and an embarrassment for Nagato, but when he kindly re-fixes the plaster on her forehead she looks blank, while he is the one whose cheeks redden. Instead of playing video games she spends her time in the club room reading. Note that she starts and finishes a book in one sitting, moving on to its sequel, and the book she chooses is a locked room mystery: Le Mystere de la Chambre Jaune. And then, after 22 minutes of nothing much happening, Asakura delivers the final sucker punch of a line:
“Actually, there is just one more thing. Who are you, and where’s Nagato?”
Wow, what a moment that is! It’s made all the more powerful by the humdrum nature of the rest of the episode. The implication is clear. Although Nagato hasn’t said a word about what’s actually happened, the obvious answer is that her alien true self has broken through, presumably some kind of survival instinct when her life was endangered. Melancholy/Nagato is back.
The build-up to that moment is slow and frustrating, but I think it’s supposed to be. Note how the most fun characters are kept entirely out of the picture: Haruhi, Mikuru, Tsuruya. It’s a clever decision, because they would have made things feel a lot more familiar and normal. In this spinoff in particular, Haruhi is the one who gives the viewers a sense of normality, ironically. It’s boring without her around, which is a risky strategy for the writers, but it all adds up to the feeling of wrongness and melancholy.
That’s actually the word that sums this episode up the best: melancholy. It’s more melancholy than Melancholy ever was. Everything is bleak, sad and colourless: the train carriage with silent passengers on a rainy day; Asakura standing at a crossing and forgetting to move when the barrier goes up, deep in thought; the quiet clubroom; Nagato looking out of her window into a world that isn’t quite her own. The whole episode takes place with the incessant backdrop of rain. The soundtrack is beautiful and sombre, but for Asakura’s bombshell question everything goes momentarily silent. The world holds its breath. Once again, this is a series that requires a lot of patience from the viewer, but boy is that patience rewarded. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
After the coming attractions at the end of the previous episode, I was quick to want to get into the next episode of The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato. It was a bit of a surprise to realize the “coming attractions” were actually a prelude but it certainly held my attention. (But it did make me wonder how often they would do a thing like this, because I can easily see it escaping someone’s notice!) Strangely sharing the same title as one of the Haruhi episodes, I tried to piece together how the two were connected and came up with nothing, barring the rain. And in fact, barring a deeply disturbing near-death of a character I’ve come to like, I came up with mostly nothing on observation of this episode as well.
OK, it’s clear this will launch into a bigger story, and that’s a good thing. I’m very curious to see where it goes, but it’s where it is that I need to focus on and where it is, is a slow build to a really powerful final line but little else. Everything moves at such a slow, deliberate pace, including the (admittedly beautiful) music. It’s a slow piano piece that is ear catching but better for a relaxing evening with rain pattering against a thin roof, rather than in the near-middle of an “arc”, if one could claim this series has a point up until now. Yeah, slice-of-life; all good. But where’s the story going? Anyone can tell a slice of life story. Watch my day for an example and you’ll laugh at some parts and cry at others, but barring heading towards a paid mortgage, most of my days are just getting a job done. For school kids, it’s about getting to know ones friends and experience small moments of life while we get to understand who we are becoming. But Yuki isn’t becoming anything at this point! She becomes stoic, perhaps! She’s basically an emotionless android in this, going about her days like an automata. Sure, that’s what Yuki basically was in the parent series so one wonders if the near death dragged part of her personality into the “human” version of herself. (Hopefully we learn that as the three following episodes evolve!) But that makes every interaction she has very awkward.
One might think Kyon would understand more and help but the previous episode showed that it was Haruhi who understood relationships the best. But that begs a question: where is Haruhi throughout this episode? Why is it that when Nagato finally shows signs of her original personality, the cross-over from the other universe suddenly goes missing? Yuki’s “you’re over-reacting” to Asakura’s concern was about as mechanical as one could expect from a data entity, but this series has gone a long way to showing Yuki as a real girl, so why give up on that? She no longer games, but she reads quietly. She seems to come alive ever-so-slightly when Kyon worries about her, but not enough. I know there will be a point, or at least, I hope so, but where is it? And most interesting of all was a very David Lynchian scene when Yuki sees a sign for the summer festival; she squints almost angrily at it then the “camera” skips to outside to show the red lights of the train tracks. Does this mean “stop”? Perhaps it means “not again” considering the Endless 8 cycle that took place during that time; it’s no wonder Yuki would give the sign a glare. She had to relive that period some 15000 times, so it’s no wonder she looks at the sign with contempt. But where is it going? Was it artistic license or something more? (I’d hope something more!)
The episode had lacked even its typical sense of humor, giving me only one chuckle when Kyon misheard his friend while staring googly eyed at Yuki. “You’re going to play tennis at the mini-mart!” But short of that, the episode spends its 22 minutes building to this moment, that lasts less than 5 seconds: “who are you and where is Nagato?” Maybe the science fiction I crave will show up. I just had to be patient. I hope… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan I