“Proof She’s Alive“
The view from Igirisu:
What’s the point of changing the opening title sequence at this stage in the series? Having more than one opening or closing sequence per season is a phenomenon peculiar to anime, but starting on a new one with only four episodes to go is especially odd. My only guess is that there might have been some kind of a financial deal that made this happen. I don’t know why else the studio would want to use this particular song. It’s not so much that it’s a bad piece of music. Well, yes, OK, it is, but I do appreciate there are people who like that kind of thing. The problem is that so little attempt is made to make the visuals fit with the music. It’s more of a mess visually than it is audibly, and the fact that it replaces a sequence that had such clever integration of the two makes it all the more annoying. There was a flow to the original sequence, whereas this is a load of random shots thrown together, with frantic cutting between them. The one clever thing about it is the inclusion of Nanami, who is dead within a few minutes of the start of the episode. Buffy the Vampire Slayer once pulled a similar trick, and it’s a nifty bit of misdirection. We probably weren’t expecting Nanami to survive much longer, after the end of the last episode, but as soon as we see her in the opening it makes us think we might be wrong about that… but we’re not.
Nanami’s death is very painful to watch, and so sudden that it is quite shocking, despite our expectations. Her philosophy of living on in her friends’ memories is a lovely moment, and having spelt that out she forfeits her survival in their minds in order to save them the pain of loss. In just over one episode, Nanami has become a more memorable and well-rounded character than most of the regulars. The way she continues to exist in some form, “infused” into Murakami’s memory, was a nice touch, and allowed the episode to move on quickly without becoming too much of a grieving process. It will also presumably be significant due to the knowledge she has passed onto him.
For the rest of the episode we move swiftly from one thing to another. Apparently what happened here is that the story had been following the manga very closely up to this point, but with so few episodes to go the pace really picks up here and chunks of the manga start getting left out. It does feel rushed and loose ends are left dangling. Nanami didn’t have a line of sight to Kogorou, so presumably he retains memories of what happened, and even if he doesn’t you would have thought a scientist would be at least a little bit interested in a mysterious gloopy puddle on the floor, topped with a girl’s hair and clothing. Then we rush through an important scene between Neko and Murakami, which is mainly tedious nonsense about indirect kissing but also shows the strength of Murakami’s feelings for Neko and perhaps puts into perspective his restraint with Kazumi; from there to the school, and a really funny moment of misunderstanding for Neko (switch over to the subs if you’re watching the dub, or you won’t get the joke; here’s what she should say: “I would also like a virginity”, i.e. she doesn’t know what the word means); and then we’re off to the beach, which in any other anime series would be a whole episode in itself. That’s our tedious fanservice part of the episode, with depressingly familiar clichés such as boing-boing sounding boobs, and the oldest trick in the anime fanservice book: a wardrobe malfunction.
In the space of just a few minutes all of that has been dispensed with, and we are rushing headlong into our endgame, with the introduction of the Valkyria. She was sent out with a team of AA rank witches, all of whom are lying dead in front of her, immediately establishing that she’s in a completely different league to anybody we have ever seen.
“Oh, did somebody get hurt?”
We’ve come a long way from where we started the episode, but let’s spare a final thought for poor, forgotten (almost) Nanami. Blink and you’ll miss it, but the animators were thoughtful enough to add her to the end credits, there in spirit with her friends.
“I got my reward. Thank you everyone for being my friends. This was the best day of my life.”
The view from Amerika:
Well, if there was any question of whether this show was for me, this episode nailed it. Nanami is by far my favorite character. It’s not that she’s the best written but she has this depth of emotion that even in the end… no, that’s not fair, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first 10 minutes are spent on Nanami and determining what Murakami’s uncle can do for her. She ponders how great life is now that she has friends and she realizes life has value. Up until this point, she was willing to die if she’d be remembered, but now she is unwilling to die because she wants to experience friendship. For her, the idea that death wasn’t the end as long as someone remembered her was a deep belief because she is a girl who can erase memories. Being remembered is a big deal. But when she finds out what it means to have friends, she wants to live. And they all accept her… all of the people she was sent to kill have forgiven her and accepted her as one of their own! Her comment “this is the best day of my life” is utterly beautiful. And then, the thing on the back of her neck bursts off and she melts in front of everyone. They are all mortified and heartbroken… until they are not. In an act of supreme kindness, she wiped herself from their memories so they don’t have to mourn her death. For the girl who wanted to be remembered more than anything, her final act is to decide friendship is more important and she dies content knowing she “got her reward” and had those friends, even if only for a little while. How incredibly deep, even from the writers point of view, not just the character!
The only caveat was that she can’t erase Murakami’s mind because he has a photographic memory. So she instead imprints herself on him so she has some form of consciousness within him and in so doing, he carries her with him. The whole idea is stunningly beautiful and equally heart breaking! Thus concludes the first half of the episode, and I am moved to the brink of tears!
The second half is more of that slice of life stuff but it works well in contrast. We needed a lighter second act after the meltdown (see that pun?) of part one. In this half, Kazumi starts flirting with Murakami saying she wants his virginity and Neko has some powerful reactions to this. She runs off and sings the funniest song ever, intent of not being bothered by Murakami’s possible attraction to another girl. When Murakami does his deductive reasoning though, he realizes how much he cares about her and gives her a hug. There’s something so gentle about this approach. Plus, as a personal moment of glee, the water bottle Murakami shares with Neko is, I am sure, made by the company I work for, so that was a fun bonus!
When the group have to take tests to get a “reward” and a trip to the beach, Neko takes top place and when asked what she wants as her special prize, her outstandingly funny reaction is “that virginity thing sounds good.” Hilarious! So they manage to get to the beach and realize how much it means to them. Kazumi gets to model her bathing suit but Murakami just thinks of her body and she clobbers him for thinking something less than appealing about it. (Again, even in his thoughts, he doesn’t know how to make her feel good about herself and that bothers me! Although in this case, I’m no thought-police, so he can think what he wants!)
The episode ends with the bad guys deploying Valkyria. As is the nature of this type of show, the bad guys have to get badder and badder and we’re getting close to the end – that tells me this is Armageddon being unleashed. How can the witches defeat it? We’ll have to find out with next week’s review… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 11