I must admit that I did not quite expect this series to end in the way episode four, titled “Clover” did, but after thinking about it for a day or so I really have to applaud the anime studio for their decision in this regard as well. They have done a fantastic job with this series of shorts, and it has easily become one of my favorite shorts series ever (yes, I enjoyed it that much). If ever a series were criminally underrated and ignored it is this one. One of the more interesting things of this episode for me was the purposeful and yet possibly not purposeful angle of presentation the studio chose to do….
The subject matter for this week’s episode involves a teacher who has finally retired looking back on nearly 30 years uninterrupted work – a thing she devoted herself to heart and soul and with little thought for anything else. It takes place on what I presume to be her last day on the job, and both she and another teacher (who may have started at the same time or near the same time) are holding bouquets and talking to one another. In many ways it felt as if there was (and yet was not) a parallel between the musing matter of the teacher of the time she spent with so many students through the years and the anime studio itself kinda musing with its audience through her mouth regarding the previous three episodes. Well done, and thought provoking at the same time.
As the teacher (her name is “Sakurada-sensei” while the other teacher is named “Matsuzaki-sensei”) muses to herself over the times that have passed they take the form of still shots, and we discover later on that they are a collage style collection of photos presented to her at her retirement of her work with various classrooms over the years (once again, very effectively done). Sakurada speaks of the trials, the difficulties, the rewards, the irreplaceable experiences of living and loving and mentoring other people during what may be one of the most (if not the most) important times of their lives. The VA (the little know Tairi Masumi) totally nails this role and is able to convey a wide range of emotions, but also the feeling of having received a true and invaluable “living wealth”.
The episode ends in an unexpected and actually very touching way – on the day of their mutual retirement Matsuzaki takes Sakurada to a nearby Cherry tree that is in full blossom that has grown tall. Both of them remember when it was planted and muse over the years that have gone by and how it intertwines with their work. It is actually Matsuzaki who is doing most of the talking, and he ends the discussion with a surprise statement, essentially asking Sakurada if she would consider taking him to be her husband for the two of them to look after one another in their remaining days and spend their time together. Sakurada-sensei (and I!) is understandably surprised, but being the beautiful soul she is graciously accepts and veritably beams with that inner joy and gratitude she has gathered throughout the years through both wonderful and hard times.
After accepting the marriage offer, the words Sakurada-sensei thinks to herself are a perfect wrap up for the series itself: “Many people cling to many different emotions as they say goodbye. We say goodbye today, as well. The people we wave goodbye to,” [reference to episode 1) “and the people we don’t have a chance to wave to…” [reference to episode 2] “we simply continue to pray that they will always be happy and healthy.” [reference to episode 3] “But in seeing them off, and in the days that follow, not a single thing will have been lost….” [reference to episode 4] “Off you go, now.”
Together with the episode I also bid a fond farewell to all who have followed this lovely little series in my reviews and posts about it. I am so glad I had the opportunity to watch and review this series and thank all who walked alongside me in doing so. May we meet again elsewhere soon. ^^
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