Seriously – that has to be the tensest beach episode ever. I was on pins & needles through the entire thing – jumping at shadows and noises and seeing death in every corner. Are pufferfish poisonous? Are they going to forget Michizuki when the tide comes in? Is that a propane grill, and is propane explosive? As always much of the credit goes to Iwanami Yochikazu’s astonishing sound design and Otani Kou’s BGM. The stage was set with the utterly brilliant scene with the truck, which had me on edge from the get-go – the sound there was just incredible – and it set the mood of impending doom for the entire episode. Hilariously, the cast was just as much on-edge as I was, as witness their sigh of relief when they passed the city limits. I wonder if they were as queasy as I was when Reiko hit the accelerator.
As always I have reams of notes I took this week, but these long posts are killing me so I’m going to try and stick to what really jumps out. In simplest terms, we have Nakao’s death (neatly foreshadowed here) to consider, because (in addition to being incredibly gruesome) it forces us to reconsider our previously held assumptions. I see three basic possibilities:
- Death was coincidental and unrelated to the phenomenon
- Chibiki was wrong – the phenomenon can reach outside Yomiyama
- The phenomenon is not centered around Yomiyama, but around wherever the Another is – and that means the Another was on this trip
Absent any compelling evidence to the contrary I always default to Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. For me, that’s #3 – but I don’t know how much that helps, since all the most widely-held suspects (except Mikami-Sensei and Kyuubey) were on that beach. What’s also interesting to me is that Nakao is such a minor character, I can’t even remember if he had a speaking role before this – for a moment I wondered if he was the Another, and had just appeared in the middle of the cast. Was his carsickness a distraction, or a clue?
Most of the other things that jumped out for me this week involved Reiko. First, the way she was framed in this shot – obscured behind the frosted glass while Kou-kun was visible, just after a close-up of a dissolving sugar cube. Then there was the moment when Matsunaga said “Have I seen you recently?” (this was after noting “how much you’ve changed”). Her mind immediately went to the memorial services of two classmates we can now give names to – Kentarou and Natsuko, perhaps the ones who died on the class trip. Matsu-san said no, he’d only been to the funeral. That whole sequence screams “clue”. I’d thought for a time that Reiko was preventing the others from talking to Matsunaga intentionally, as we never actually saw her try and contact him – but that appears not to be the case, unless she intentionally gave him her cell number knowing the battery was dead. We also have the fact that she seems to get headaches every time she thinks back to 15 years earlier – or “more like 14 since we graduated”, as she interestingly puts it. This ep definitely casts “My poor Reiko, too” in a suspicious light.
As always, there was lots of good stuff not directly connected to the mystery here. The watermelon troll was funny, if a bit obvious. We had absolute confirmation that Akazawa is crushing hard on Kouichi, and some nice interaction there. I loved the scene where she said “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” (now that’s foreshadowing) and they had a cute little banter regarding how he saw her. But really, Mei is so kawaii that Akazawa just has no chance. Mei with the octopus, Mei offering up various inedible items for Kouichi’s approval, Mei in a school swimsuit – what an amazing transformation for her character, and it’s clear Kouichi only has eyes for her, and she him (for what it’s worth, we were also shown – not coincidentally I suspect – that both have a reflection). What’s up with her not knowing what her father does, and him being “rarely in Japan”? I don’t think it’s a clue, but it does give her something in common with Kou-kun. I also enjoyed the sequence where Mochizuki got buried in the sand, tickled and given boobs – it was borderline bullying and I felt for the poor kid, never mind worrying about him drowning if they forgot him – but it just fit him so well…
Somehow, we seem to have inched closer to the truth. Nakao’s death jolts Matsunaga into remembering that he left the clue in the classroom – and judging by the preview, it looks like a cassette. Speaking of which, it’s a pretty terrifying preview – either Kouichi is going to have another nightmare or some seriously bad crap is going to come down. Will the class trip – which I’d mistakenly assumed this beach visit was – still happen, now that Nakao has died? I think it must, because the matter of the shrine still seems intimately connected with Matsunaga’s “solution”, though we don’t know just how. I think we’re due to have some exposition on the doll angle, too, because that’s been largely ignored for weeks and it’s weight in the episode titles, OP and eyecatches strongly implies it’s a matter of some significance. Indeed, the images in the preview could be interpreted as hinting in that direction, if one looked at them from a certain angle…