I hadn’t really noticed much, as this show does such a great job of integrating all its characters into every episode, but Jintan has been kind of secondary in the last few. This was definitely a return to the themes of the first two eps – the main focus on Jintan and Anaru now that everyone’s character and the general premise has been established.
Much of the fan debate seems to be on the nature of Menma’s wish, and indeed on the nature of her existence itself. I personally think those are ultimately the wrong questions to be asking, but there’s no question they’re awfully important to the specifics on the ground. Jintan is at his most analytical and reflective this week – coming to terms with Menma seems to have taken on new urgency given the events of the last two weeks. So he thinks back on Menma’s speculation of earlier and decides to go to school.
This was a pretty fortunate turn of events, as well as an amusing one. It seems that word about Anaru’s visit to the love hotel has gone viral, and it’s all the school is talking about (never mind that she never actually went). On the one hand, Jintan’s return is an afterthought – despite his absence he’s barely noticed in the furor over Anaru. Despite his panic attacks on returning to school he seems almost disappointed, but more that anything he’s incensed to hear Anaru being verbally abused – so upset that she’s silently pleading for help in her notebook. Jintan rides to her rescue – clumsily and awkwardly, but effectively nonetheless.
Anyone who’s ever missed time at school knows how hard it was for Jintan to call down all that attention on himself, and while still tsundere about it, Anaru does show gratitude. The underlying issue of Menma still hangs over everything, however, which eventually leads the two of them and Poppo to go to Menma’s house. The scenes with her mother are painful to watch – the empty room, the sealed boxes of Menma’s things, and especially the shared glances with Jintan. They’re soul-mates in their misery and guilt over Menma’s passing, those two. The trio walk out with Menma’s diary, which Jintan makes Poppo promise not to read until he’s present.
Yukiatsu and Tsuruko are absent from that outing, and indeed are absent from the episode for the most part bar one short scene in the classroom and on the train home. But it’s a killer scene – the two of them firing truth daggers at each other with extreme prejudice. Yukiatsu has a powerful ego, but even he’s admitted that he can’t possibly slip anything by her at this point. He’s also finally admitting that he’s as obsessed with Jintan as he is with Menma, to this very day. The one thing still lurking underneath their relationship is Tsuruko’s romantic feelings for him, which she has yet to admit openly even to herself. The scene also lasts long enough for them to share the nugget that Menma called them both the morning she died, saying she wanted to tell them something…
While this episode didn’t feature as many pure emotional crescendos as some of the first five, it was breathtakingly simple and direct in it’s approach. Really, there’s more emotion in the OP and ED here than in most entire shows, so the straightforward interaction between the characters packs a true punch without the need for grandstanding.
One last thought about this wonderful show. It seems to me that one of the major themes emerging is the nature of “moving on”. We always hear talk of the importance of letting go of what’s lost – for that matter, it’s one of the central tenets of Buddhism. But is it really so wrong to cling to the memory of those we loved to the point where they’re a daily influence in our lives? The two extremes of this issue are Menma’s mother and father, I suppose. She clings to Menma – even cooks curry for her – while he closes her memory out of his life altogether, boxes her up and seals her with packing tape. I’m not sure either is right or wrong, but it seems that this is a growing part of what this series is musing on and of course, it applies as much to the kids as it does to Menma’s parents.