As great as the mystery element in this series is – and it’s the best of any series for quite a while – I think the character interaction might just be even better.
Kubodera-sensei’s demise certainly didn’t shock anyone after the cliffhanger last week, but the manner in which Mizushima-sensei brought it to life – slow, clinical, with no heavy BGM to drown out the mechanics of the situation and very little censoring – was appallingly effective. I can’t help but think of his work on Blood-C, where the violence was so cartoonish and silly as to lose all emotional impact, and contrast it with this scene – and it cements the notion in my mind that he was merely a hired hand on that abysmal disaster of a project. I suppose there was some question as to whether Kubodera might turn his rage onto a student but I never thought so – the only surprise for me was how much this shocking scene contrasted with the rest of the ep. Perhaps it might better have been placed at the end of the last one, but that’s a small and debatable matter.
Some thoughts stand out as regards to the nature of the phenomenon. First, there’s the matter of Tatsuji. I think he believes what he’s telling Kouichi and Mei, but that there’s a fundamental flaw in his logic – i.e., he says he has “no direct connection to Class 3” and seems to consider himself somewhat immune to the effects of the phenomenon, but I don’t buy it. I think his original connection to the event still holds, and if nothing else he was the first to enter the classroom after Kubodera performed the deed he did. Tatsuji is connected, whether he thinks so or not – his judgment thus suspect, and maybe at risk as a result. His connection with Mikami-sensei is also interesting – “she knows my history” – and he was obviously actively involved in the strategy of taking the class to the shrine the group visited 15 years earlier that might have managed to stop the curse. As for Mikami-sensei herself, she's a figure of much mystery for anime viewers - even down to her identity - and is clearly deeply intertwined in whatever is happening with Class 3 past and present.
On the question of Kouchi being the Another, I’ve never felt it likely – it just seemed too obvious – and I still don’t buy it. There’s a tremendous amount of trolling in both directions on this question, with broad hints that he might be dead (even a full-on dream on his part) but I still think the phone calls to his father refute the logic of this. If anything, the categorical denial this week by both Izumi and Mei makes me question whether the possibility of a “double-troll” exists and he might actually be the dead one – but I still doubt it, and it seems likely the anime is setting aside this rumor and moving on. If that’s not the case and he is the Another, the whole notion that Mei might have deep sight in her special eye is pretty much bogus.
There were plenty of hints dropped this week, some subtle and some gross. There’s the matter of Mochizuki’s sister Tomoka (death flagged?) whom Yuuya has tipped off to everything that’s happening. She tells the group that one of her regulars at her cafe, a man named Matsunaga Katsumi, was a Class 3 survivor who claims to have stopped the curse ‘ “I knew I had to tell them – so I left it there.” Left a clue, for future classes? Izumi implies that Reiko was in Matsunaga’s class (not confirmed) but it makes sense. I also wonder if Mochizuki’s T-shirt of Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” is a clue – it’s been speculated that the painting was inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Relatively and the collapse of our fixed notion of time, but Dali later said it was “an image of camembert cheese melting in the sun”. The conversation between Izumi and Kouichi that preceded the group meeting at the café seemed full of significance for me and not just for her denial that Kouichi might be dead – there was the matter of Izumi stating her feeling that she’d shaken his hand before, and how “similar” their hands are. That last line especially has a weightiness to it that makes me think it might be crucial – could they be somehow related? I even get a slight vibe here that Izumi could be the Another, and her comment that the rumor of the dead person’s hands being cold is likely bogus because “it couldn’t be that easy” sounds right to me, and doesn’t refute the possibility that either of them could be the one.
So now we have a plan crafted by Mikami-sensei and Tatsuji, where the class is repeating the class trip of 15 years ago (and it’ll be interesting to see what the show does with the beach episode). This was the class Reiko was in, it was the year Ritsuko died, it was the supposedly the only year the phenomenon was stopped in the middle (August – most likely connected to Matsunaga and his clue) – in short, this is obviously the key year in the entire history of the phenomenon. The trip is being repeated on the same dates – 8/8-10 – and on the original trip two more students died, but the phenomenon seems to have been halted. We’re also told by Tatsuji that “It never became clear who the dead person was that year” – and if that’s not a major clue I’ll watch Blood-C again, that’s how sure I am. Maybe that Another never disappeared at the end of the term, and has been in our world ever since? Clearly something unique to that year happened that stopped the phenomenon – or could “delayed” be a better word? If “The Persistence of Memory” is indeed a clue, my guess is that it relates to how that class is connected to the current one. There’s a string of fate tying that class to this one, of that I’m certain.
Of course with the reality that ignoring Mei and Kouichi is no longer effective now obvious, the need to do so is gone – and they “exist” again. But that doesn’t mean that the connection between them has lessened – in fact, we saw a lot of development there once again. A telling moment was when Mei said she “didn’t feel as if a weight had been lifted” when the isolation was ended– seemingly a confirmation that isolation was nothing new to her (and were those blood stains on the roof during that conversation?). She’s certainly “weird” as Teshigawara says, but she seems to have recognized a kindred spirit in Kouichi. When she gives him her cellphone number, she’s making a pretty strong confession of affection – especially given her visceral aversion to the device. With her family going away to their summer house, we have not just a pretext to exchange numbers but a seeming confirmation that her father – not just unseen, but unmentioned – is alive. She also reveals to Kou-kun that the doll he thought was modeled on her was in fact a representation of what her sister – stillborn 12 years earlier – might have been. Weird and creepy – but is it a clue? Is Kirika connected with the phenomenon of 12 years ago? I still feel as if the weirdness with the dolls and Mei’s family is important to the story, but not directly connected to the phenomenon.
I loved the subtle signs of growing intimacy between these two awkward adolescents this week – so much of the character detail is on the money with Another. While there might have been a clue in Kouichi’s phone call with his Dad – at least we know that Ritsuko left the “creepy photo” at her parents’ house – what I most enjoyed about the call was Kouichi’s panicked reaction when his father was about to broach his defenses against emotional intimacy by telling him he loved him. It was so authentic for a 15 year-old boy – as was his involuntary smile after he hung up, relief at knowing his father still loves him despite their physical distance at the moment. This series is full of small gems like this – another one was the stunning imagery during Kouichi’s dream, as he walked down the school hallway passing in and out of the light from the windows – and it’s these small and profound moments that elevate what could be just a fascinating intellectual exercise into something that truly connects on a gut level.