Well, first and foremost I thought this episode was very well done. Which is frustrating (to sound like a grumpy old man beating a dead horse), because it shows that the series can do a good job in terms of timing, pace and interactions when it wants to and yet has decided to do things as it has in many episodes up until now. But hey – I am grateful for the good in this series! When it is on it hits the right notes for me. However, while this episode was quite touching in many places, the interaction between Isla and Kazuki was very refreshingly real – it was nice to get a glimpse of what they are both like with each other, and it is quite obvious they were both very close friends. But the interaction between Tsukasa and Constance was also an unexpected bonus – I really liked it and have come to appreciate Constance more and more as the series has aired.

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I will not lie – I was completely expecting Kazuki in this episode to do something very similar to what Michiru did in the previous one, and was gritting my teeth in anticipation. But thankfully there was nothing of the sort. More than that – this was the best showing Kazuki has made as a character for me up to this point. She shows she really does care for Isla and cares so much she attempts to pound through Isla’s stubbornness in the situation at hand (even though part of Isla thinks and feels otherwise than she is trying to convince herself regarding her affection for Tsukasa) – and thankfully, she succeeds. Once again for Isla a retrieval is also used as a catalyst to introduce an idea or perspective into her way of thinking – used not only by the series as a whole, but also consciously by Kazuki as a “tool”/lead-in. But what really is the finishing blow for Isla is Kazuki sharing that the separation from Isla a few years back was a mistake on her part. A mistake she does not want Isla (or especially Tsukasa) to experience.

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Of especial interest and importance for me was learning about the “unorthodox” retrieval policy used at the Section One office. It was indeed initiated by Isla. We find this during a conversation between Tsukasa and Constance, when the latter tells him many more details about the history of Kazuki and Isla. Isla began the “tender loving care” approach for both the client and the Giftia to be recovered, which does indeed take more time and turn out to be more expensive, and the approach was initially difficult for Kazuki to adapt to: “…she could not keep up with Isla’s sheer devotion”. However, Isla bulldogged ahead in the approach no matter what. It was immediately after Kazuki decided to dissolve the partnership with Isla that the former decided to promote and teach other members the approach that Isla had pioneered as the standard office policy. I mentioned it earlier, but Constance really is a first class Giftia in my opinion, and exactly the sort of partner someone intense and aggressive like Kazuki needs at the moment.

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The “final confrontation” between Isla and Tsukasa, where Isla “spills her guts” and finally admits publicly (I was not expecting it to be so “public”, admittedly) that she does indeed love Tsukasa and wants to be with him until the end was very touching and “convincing”, I thought – I especially liked the visual touch of Isla’s tears falling on Tsukasa’s leg as she was unpacking her feelings for him. It was also touching (and a bit surprising) that the two of them have the support of the entire office staff, including the Giftia. In some ways we got to see different sides of each of the staff members this episode – and while it was noticeably different/stood out (at least for me) it was not unwelcome. Sometimes in previous episodes the other characters felt more two dimensional, somehow. Here they felt more “normal”, and felt so “across the board”.

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All of this was well and good – in some ways it has been something the series has been working towards (however awkwardly at times) … but there are still a few eps left, of course. And both I and other viewers I have seen discussing the overall feel of the ep have agreed that the last scene felt very much like a “death flag” has been raised. I strongly foresee (or intuit, if you like) a tragic ending looming on the horizon, but I am hoping the series can continue in the same vein as this episode was and pull off a strong ending. If so I would be able to overlook quite a few of the aspects of the series I disliked (especially earlier) and I think overall it would be more effective … on so many fronts too! Story wise I am still kinda leaning towards the possibility that Isla may unexpectedly turn into a wanderer (like if there was an unexpected “speed up” of her end-of-service time for some odd reason), and that Tsukasa may be in the unenviable situation of having to pull the trigger of the weapon he used on Marcia back in episode 5 or watching someone else do so (Kazuki, perhaps?) – hopefully things will rev up at the end here like they did in the Marcia mini arc!

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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