It was all Auntie Meme, all the time this week. And impossibly, this episode was even fluffier and more ephemeral than the norm for this series.
It really seems as if the time jumps are becoming a bigger device in this series the further it goes. I can’t say that thrills me, to be honest – it’s generally on the level of a stunt, a kind of grandstanding. That’s the sort of thing SHAFT is known for, and in general anime terms it detracts from the experience more than enhances it – with rare exceptions such as Baccanno. It hasn’t been a huge annoyance thus far but but it has made things a bit more confusing than they need to be at times. This go around was a reprisal of the events of the last two eps, told from Meme’s POV. It even jumped back in time 28 years to make it’s point – and to give us a kernel of exposition as to the overall story.
Turns out Meme was pretty much the driving force behind the events of recent eps – getting Erio the job, getting the kids involved in building the rockets, pairing off Makkie with Ryuushi (Meme’s motives still unclear on that). The rocket guy is
Yammamoto Ashiro, an old playmate of Meme’s who moved away in middle school. Now he’s quit his job and moved back for reasons not explicitly spelled out, though it’s strongly implied it was because he’s in love with Meme. He even wore the cattle tag in his ear because he figured she was interested in cattle mutilation (no, that doesn’t make much sense even if you really try and think about it). She doesn’t even remember his name, but he’s happy enough to play along with her game and go by whatever name she likes.
The nominal plot of the episode is about as wispy as you can get – Meme freaking over turning 40 and wanting to follow Elliot’s old wish to “knock the aliens out” with a big ol’ bottle rocket. Elliot, as it happens, isn’t the rocket man (one theory disproved) but a foreign boy who went to school with Meme and later, apparently, knocked her up. Meme is also motivated by trying to breathe some life into Granny, who’s been saying she was about to die for at least 28 years. It was cute but felt like a side story more than anything really important.
That, in microcosm, it a pretty good description of this series as a whole. The whole series can’t quite get around to being about anything, really. We know Erio’s problems re-adjusting to society, we know Makoto’s quest for puberty points, we see the hints of the love triangle forming. But the series is almost over and those things are only intermittently part of what’s happening on screen. In a sense, it’s almost as if the series ended when Makoto crashed the bicycle into the ocean and knocked some sense back into Erio, and everything since then has been an epilogue.
I have no doubt there’ll be some sort of conflict and resolution over these last four episodes – though I’d be lying if I said I had any clear idea what that might be. Maybe Elliot will get back into the picture. Maybe the aliens will turn out to be real aliens. Maybe Makoto’s parents will try and take him back. Anything seems possible, but it’s going to be difficult for whatever “it” is to have much traction, given how little effort has been made to build towards a real conclusion.