Three more episodes until the end! Negative Primes and I are still trudging on.
This episode is loaded with symbolism and random bizarre moments.
Primes: Ain’t that the truth.
It opens with a continuation of Ryuji’s rescuing of Taiga, but it turns out that it was all just Ryuji’s nightmare in the middle of class. I did a double take there. Wait…did none of the rescue or the ski trip even happen?
Primes: Not only did they happen, they happened more than once, as Ryuji keeps experiencing them to the point that confuses the memory with the present moment.
Oh, Yuri-sensei says “it must be tough having your friend go missing.” Wait, is Taiga STILL missing???
Primes: Missing from Ryuji’s life, definitely. The whole point of the episode is to make Ryuji aware of that hole.
You’re quite right. It’s such a disturbing way to open an episode after last episode’s mess. It gets us questioning what reality is, which turns out to be a big subject for the rest of the episode. Ryuji even attempts to rewrite the reality of what happened by convincing Kitamura to lie to Taiga about who rescued her and what happened. Tsk tsk…
Primes: Hey, lying in rom-coms always works out, right? I like the parallel you draw between Ryuji’s confusion of reality and his attempt at confusing another’s view of reality.
That’s exactly why I hate rom-coms!! Well, generally anyway…
Soon after this, we’re introduced to the subject of the characters’ future realities. Ryuji’s friends have ideas, Minori is an arts kid for sure (this surprised me, actually!), and Ryuji, characteristically, avoided thinking about the subject altogether by not submitting future plans. We later see that financial problems might be a factor. But as unfair as the system can be, there are ways to overcome the hurdle if he wants to play the game. Yuri-sensei sees this, and suggests scholarships and grants; Yasuko knows this and starts a second part-time job for the sake of her son. Ryuji can even be like Minori, and pick up a part-time gig or two himself. Is it because deeper down, Ryuji is afraid of dealing with the uncertain?
Primes: A bit off topic, but can I just say that Noto-chi and Minori are people after my own heart here?
I know, right?? Noto I’m a little more worried about (may he never be crushed by the world). His dreams aren’t necessarily unrealistic, but he seems to see them as a matter of fact.
Minori seems to have restored her previous confidence (that is, for the first half of the episode), now that student life resumes without any incident-filled festivals and holidays. She’s not only the head of the co-ed baseball team now, but picked up another part-time job at a ramen place. To Minori, working is “something that [she] can see.” Minori believes in the narrative that youth is supposed to be a time for “hardships,” and finds solace in investing effort towards things that are supposed to be beneficial, according to this narrative. As convincing as her act can be, probably to everyone except Ami and the absent Taiga, it’s just another way of coping with the issue of uncertainty.
The visible vs. invisible theme is presented in the strangest ways in that ramen shop. First, Minori makes a bad pun,
Primes: What is the pun? I missed it, or it wasn’t put in the sub.
She tells them not to order an “ikemen,” which can be a type of noodles or “handsome guy.” I don’t think “ikemen” is an actual dish, but “men” means noodles, in any case.
Ryuji and the boys take part in the gag, and Minori pokes all of their eyes with a pair of chopsticks, just as she threatened to. First of all, OUCH! I was once grounded for a long time for poking my dad’s nostrils with chopsticks during a wedding (context lost), and that wasn’t even in the eyes.
Second of all, what’s the significance behind it all? Subtle revenge on Ryuji et al. for having seen her without her mask last episode? (In which case, I am reminded of Artemis and Actaeon.)
Primes: For those who don’t know the story of Actaeon: He saw the goddess Artemis bathing. In retaliation she turned him into a stag, and he got killed by his own hunting dogs. One could interpret the moral here as the danger that by exposing another’s unveiled self, you expose your own true self as well, and risk all the vulnerability that entails.
Yes, thanks for that. I was going to include a link to the story, but forgot. To add to that, Artemis’s retaliation is intense. Not too intense for a Greco-Roman deity, perhaps, but even among them, Artemis is the most extreme when it comes to protecting her image of virginity. I can kind of see parallels there, with Minori so set on having nothing to do with romance.
And the ramen guy. Boy, the ramen guy. What am I supposed to make of his dramatic eye-opening scene and “Secret Art” of steamy ramen-flinging?? A metaphor for “unveiling one’s true nature”? Side note: Minori crouches down with preparedness as it happens, while Ryuji and friends shield themselves from the ramen water. The side characters are literally the only ones enjoying this show.
The next surprising turn of events is Minori’s choice to confront Ami in her vending machine gap. Minori effectively forces Ami out of her little harbour by telling her that the vending machine gap is haunted. What was that for? Turns out she’s suddenly in the mood for discussing ghosts again. Minori thought she found a ghost (*flashback to UFO conversation with Ryuji), but has now made up her mind to pursue only what’s visible. Even so, her declaration is undermined by how desperate she is to be understood by Ami and excessive reiterations of “I’ll make it work out.” “I’ll make a choice” is the last thing Minori says, which implies that nothing has been decided at all, even in her own head. Minori clearly was not ready for poking Ami first.
Primes: I have to wonder: Why did Minori do this? Why is it so important to her that Ami “understand”? Understand what?
A very good question. Because Ami is the odd one out in the group–the only one who seeks to challenge their placid contention by calling it pretend? Why does Minori suddenly care so much about Ami’s opinion? Unless she always did? Honestly, I still haven’t made complete sense of her character at this point of the series.
The episode closes with another confrontation–the reunion of Ryuji and Taiga in Ryuji’s home. Prior to Taiga’s entrance, the way Ryuji looks at his boxed collection of Minori-related things (from Episode 1) after storing the hairpin there confirms that he no longer feels those intense emotions for Minori. When Taiga comes to sit beside him by the table, he realizes that it makes him feel right. Just when you think Ryuji’s coming closer to doing something, idk, maybe saying something to Taiga, he assures her that she mumbled nothing while she was rescued and that Kitamura was the hero. This story has already lost the romantic significance it would have had earlier in the series, but crediting Kitamura is still what Ryuji perceives as an easy way out when it comes to Taiga. Taiga, however, is still stuck in the narrative that she must help Ryuji work things out with Minori–the plot they mutually wrote in Episode 1.
Ahhhhh…when will things work out?
Primes: Well, given that there’s only three episodes left, it’s either really soon or not at all!
For my part, the big theme that hit home was the various kinds of non-romantic love that cropped up this episode. Ryuji’s friends try to distract him from his obvious distress at Taiga’s absence and take him out to dinner. His mother takes on more work so he can go to college. To my mind, she’s a hero: a single parent, which is hard enough in itself; working hard to give her son the best opportunities he can have; and now she stretches herself even further for him, giving up the precious time they share together.
Not all superheroes wear capes.
Can’t agree with that more. Yasuko deserves everything in the world!