I read this chapter a couple of days ago but to be honest, I had to give myself a little time to cool down before I blogged it. I was really, really pissed off at Jyougasaki-san (as silly as it is to be pissed at a fictional character) and I still am.
I had a sinking feeling from the moment Nitorin decided to allow Jyougasaki to interview him that it was a bad idea. Something like the grievous, monumental betrayal she committed against him in this chapter – publishing photos of him cross-dressing on her blog – always seemed like a possibility. But Nitorin is certainly too trusting, and frankly too kind. Not only doesn’t he admit to her that he’s extremely disturbed by what’s happened, but he agrees to allow her to interview him again. Shuu is a boy of supreme kindness and empathy, but there are moments liken this one where I wish he was a harder soul.
I’m getting very unsettling vibes from the last couple of chapters, but never more so than with this one, that we could be looking at some very dark times for Nitorin. I don’t want to say “bad end” because I simply refuse to believe Takako-sensei would do that to Shuu (and us) – but there are ominous signs if you choose to look for them. Shuu has all along been the supportive, kind and resilient heart of this amazing cast – he’s endured enough to have made most adolescents pack it in, but he soldiers on and tries to find a way to be true to himself. But now, as his world more and more begins to narrow around him, I get the sense that he’s heading for a breakdown.
Furthering that vibe are the scenes of a happy, smiling Takatsuki, feeling more comfortable in her own skin than ever – and she goes and says right out that it’s “thanks to Nitorin”. He’s always been there for her when her self-doubts got the better of her – but will she (or anyone) be there for Nitorin? The comments on Jyougasaki”s website (“clearly a male”, etc) obviously get to him, but Shuu has known for a long time that his body was changing in ways that were making his path more and more difficult. He’s been presented more and more with uncomfortable reminders of just what faces him if he tries to continue to live a double-life, and begun to doubt his own feelings more and more. I get the sense in the last few chapters that Shuu is wishing he were someone he isn’t – and for all the difficulties his identity has forced him to endure, I don’t think we’ve ever really seen that before.
I’m worried for Nitorin, I truly am. Worried for him in a way you can only worry about a character in a beautifully-written series like this one, and only about as decent and thoroughly noble a person as he is. In his dark moments it’s always been Takatsuki who he’s turned to, and I wonder – though I have no doubt of his love for Anna – whether we”re headed for a scenario where he faces an existential crisis the likes of which he hasn’t before, and she’s the only thing standing between he and despair. As much as he’s done for her over the years and as much as the two of them have shared, I really, really hope Takatsuki is there to catch Shuu when he falls.