There were lots of echoes from last season’s finale in this episode, which was pared down to two stories and really focused heavily on the “core values” of the series. First: invasion, and all that goes along with it. Ika’s plan to use the Invasion Club “training” as a pretext for a dry run at invading Lemon – when Chizuru isn’t about, of course – has predictably disastrous results. First off, even a terrified Nagisa turns out to be too scary so Ika is forced to invade her schoolboy harem, but they just end up enjoying themselves (that sounded wrong). When Chizuru ends up turning on tables on Ika, she proves once and for all she’s much happier as a middle Aizawa sibling and waitress than an invader.
The bulk of the episode focuses on priorities, and getting past the humor and cutting to the emotional chase is something Shinryaku Ika Musume was always better at than almost any other comedy. I didn’t think about it it until this week, but Eiko really hasn’t been as much a part of the series this season as she was last year. Well, she’s smack dab in the middle of this last story, as she and Ika have a bitter spat about an erased saved game that leads to a communications embargo. Despite Chizuru’s attempts to force the two of them together, both combatants are stubborn and refuse to give an inch, and Eiko finally snaps and tells Ika to return to the sea. As a kind of desperation pass, Chizuru closes Lemon early and packs everyone off for a night at the local Obon Matsuri.
Whenever the central cast in this series is struggling with the odd relationship that fate has thrust Ika and the Aizawas into, Octopus Girl Tanabe Kozue (the wonderful Kanda Akemi) is always handy and ready to step in with a helping hand (in this case, literally). The impression one gets is that she’s always standing by watching over Ika, though just why isn’t exactly clear. Unlike last year, this time it’s Eiko that Kozue approaches, helping her out of the pond she’d jumped into searching for the lost Ika-chan (though why Eiko thought Ika could drown is beyond me) and offering her some perspective on how lonely Ika-chan probably was, and a nod in the right direction to find her.
It’s very rare that Diomedea has gone to anime-original episodes with this adaptation – apart from the two season finales they’ve used almost exclusively manga material with some padding. While “Isn’t it a Festival?” is a manga chapter, it a straight comedy piece that comes very early in the story, and this is effectively an anime-original ending (for now, I hope). As with last year, they’ve done a great job injecting just the right amount of sentiment into the send-off, and Chizuru’s reflection that Ika’s invasion has effectively succeeded because she’s at the center of all their lives is an astute one to end on. And with the ED playing over the characters dancing the Bon Odori, it feels like a good place to leave them – and it feels like “so long for now” rather than “good-bye”. I sure hope so, anyway.