What a change of pace this chapter was. After having been very little in the picture for most of the last 100 chapters, it’s Nitorin’s Mom who steps up with the biggest emotional moments this week.
The chapter title – and the title page – certainly hints at the momentous. But I’m not quite sure I have a handle on just what the message of this was as regards Nitorin’s future. The story is mostly set at the sports festival at Nitorin, Makoto and Doi’s school, where the second-years (as covered earlier) have to dress in cheerleader outfits and the third-years have to do something… weird (I don’t know how to describe it). My favorite element here is Makoto’s reaction – he says “I may be absent third year.” but thinks “Still – it’s nice to look at…”
The moment that will stay with me from this chapter is Nitorin-san looking down at the cluster of boys readying for the mixed-year relay and saying “It’s strange to think of Shuu being in the middle of all those men.” That surely captures the feeling of so many mothers whose sons are at the stage of life Shuu is – still very much a little boy in her eyes, but surrounded hordes of man-children who dwarf her. In her mind she looks back and sees Shuu the toddler, and tears come to her eyes.
Compounding this, of course, is that seeing the second-years in skirts puts Nitorin-san in a reflective mood, and makes her realize just how little she understands her son. She loves him and wants to protect him, but can’t understand why he would want to dress as a girl – never mind go to school as one, knowing he’ll be humiliated. In the aftermath of that event – so beautifully adapted in the anime – she and her husband came off as kind and non-judgmental, but totally lost at sea – and it was the father who appeared slightly more comfortable approaching his son. The mother was largely a cipher than, and has remained so – but it became clear that seeing her child engaged in what she sees as self-destructive behavior pains her deeply.
As always the pressing question is where we go from here, and there aren’t a lot of clues in that respect. Even so, the final page of the chapter reaffirms the message of the title - that days of reckoning are coming, and life choices are going to be made soon. Whatever Nitorin – and Takatsuki too, for that matter – decide, it won’t be in a vacuum – especially in Shuu’s case, their journey is woven into the lives of their family and friends.