At the end of the first half of the last episode (which was dedicated to the twins) we were unexpectedly given a small foreshadowing of this week’s contents when Ai was examining Makoto’s locker and was musing over the fact that he kept and held on to things for a long time. The same basic crux took place in this week’s episode, but the main character who did so this time around was Futaba, and the “things” she held on to were … digital photos she had taken with her cell phone. (And perhaps unsurprisingly the member of the character cast who showed the quickest empathy for the struggle Futaba was shown having in this episode was … Makoto.)
This was an episode that I have been anticipating for some time – it is one of my favorite chapters in the source manga, and in my opinion really helps to give insight into a bit of the “logic” of who Futaba is and why she responds to situations the way she does. Futaba, we are shown, has always been a “sideline” sort of character whose shyness and reservedness almost immediately out of the gate quickly developed into a habit of non-interaction and keeping to herself.
And she might have remained that way if not for two fellow Middle School students named Akane and Chizuru who sort of gently made their way into Futaba’s world (it seems Akane was the main catalyst) and gave her an experience of meaningful human interactions – and planted the seeds of the growth process she is currently in the middle of. Have to also admit that after seeing how Akane and Futaba interact it makes absolute sense why Pikari’s effect on her was so strong.
Futaba, after suddenly finding herself befriended and experiencing things she had not up to that point began taking photos of her friends and the time they spent together, and began to intensely associate the two in her mind. And to the credit of her newly found friends they did not make fun of her or criticize her or anything of the sort.
More than that, when Futaba had to move and was clearly cut to the heart at having to leave her newly found lifelines they even got her a phonestrap as a going away gift, which Futaba accepted but came to associate it as a “negative” gift in a way – she was touched and moved by it, and was very thankful, but the expressing of her thanks became associated “only” with a farewell.
Fast forwarding to the present, Futaba and the other members of the Diving Club are on the school roof when she suddenly discovers that her cell phone’s memory is full from the large number of photos she has taken the past few years. Confronted with the possibility of having to move (or in an extreme pinch even possibly delete!) some of her photos brings mountains of memories and unresolved feelings and impressions to the fore once again.
However, not only is Futaba a different person now (even Pikari’s grandmother was shown discerning this in this episode), she also has had a close group of friends and now has yet another close group of friends. She is maturing herself step by step and is being supported in a healthy way as well – as especially shown when Pikari and the other Diving Club members go out an purchase Futaba a belated birthday gift of a digital photo frame to house the piles of photos she has taken up to now, building on and following in the steps of Akane and Chizuru’s kindness.
Unexpectedly this episode had an “easter egg” in it with the choice of the VAs for Akane and Chizuru … they were the same VAs who voiced Akari and Aika from the Aria franchise! When Akane, who even bears some physical resemblance to Akari, began to speak in this episode at the very first sentence my eyes went all round from surprise and happiness, and when she delivered Akari’s trademark “hahi” phrase I was grinning from ear to ear in delight.
But while this was an unexpected gift, a far better present was the episode as a whole – the narrative and the final obstacle Futaba was able to overcome was so well done I was nearly cheering by the time the ED was being shown. The adaptation really, really is both creative and skillfully pulled off thus far! I have nothing but praise to heap on the work of the studio thus far, even with their unexpected choices and content juggling thus far! Once again, looking forward to the next episode – will see you all next week!
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