Well, it’s arrived at last – a “serious” episode, and the start of another character arc. Interestingly enough this was actually quite a funny episode in addition to that – arguably the most well-balanced and one of the best overall of the series so far. And in Nishizono Mio, we definitely have someone I consider a far more compelling subject than Komari – I see plenty in her character that makes me think that this can be an interesting story, and I find myself hoping that it will last longer than two episodes.
The way I see it, there are three obvious possibilities for what’s going on with Mio:
- Magical Realism. A ghost, or astral projection?
- Multiple Personality Disorder
- A twin – or at least, a sister
The first sign that something is off (well – not really, as things have been strange with her all along) with Mio was the incident in town. Riki sees a girl who looks just like Mio, but she disappears after a moment – gone when a man blocks her from Riki’s view just for a second. And even before, there was something odd – no parasol, and a smile (a real one, not one of Mio’s knowing, sad 1/4 inch mouth-curls). Did she really disappear, indicating supernatural involvement (which the test of courage ep apparently confirms is real in Little Busters)? This would arguably be the most classically Key approach to the issue. Then there’s her “It’s already too late” comment to Riki later – and the fact that she definitely seems to be aware of this other girl’s existence. For me, I’m going with the multiple personality theory for the moment – it feels as if Mio thinks this other personality is slowly taking over from the “real” one – or at least the one she’s shown to us.
There were a lot of nice character moments here, both comedic and otherwise. I enjoy seeing Kyousuke in the spotlight, because while he’s a very funny character there are obvious signs he’s much deeper than his superficially carefree demeanor would indicate. Take, for example, the Tenka competition. It wasn’t called out in any obvious way, but clearly he did this as a means to make Mio feel welcome in the group – something she could take the lead on, as the resident expert. I don’t seriously expect he really cares about poetry, but he’s all about including the outsiders and making them feel like they belong – and since Mio can’t play baseball, he changed the game to one she could play. I also thought it quite interesting that – as usually happens – Kuragaya-san ends up hanging with the guys when the girls split off to engage in their silly antics. In her way, she’s just as much an outsider as any of the others – she just happens to do a good job of covering it up with brash behavior.
Fundamentally, this is the main reason LB continues to work for me. There isn’t a villain anywhere here – all the cast are genuinely good people who just happen to have a little baggage. I enjoy watching them interact, I enjoy seeing Riki continue to gain more assertiveness to match his sensitivity, and I’m still finding most of the jokes funny. Mio’s misunderstanding of Riki’s manager request (it might be accurately be called a troll) was a winner, especially as she finally openly acknowledged Riki’s somewhat delicate physicality. I also liked the intro sequence with Kyousuke’s “5 yen/10000 yen” dilemma, and the way Riki defused it, as well as Masato’s cell-phone drama- and Riki’s reaction (and yes, you do see Japanese people bow to each other on the phone as Masato and Mio did). And the payoff to the Tenka scene – “I’m a freaking giant” – was characteristically random. In short, for me at least this is still working, and this week’s ep shows the potential for even better things to come.