I’ll do annotations again.
• At the start of the episode, Atsushi drops Hazuki’s hat and starts walking away. When we see him and Rokka again, he is wearing the hat. Continuity error?
• In the screen cap above, it sure appears as though Atsushi’s about to choke Rokka, doesn’t it? We’ll revisit this in a bit.
• Hazuki’s reaction to the shift in the dreamworld seems to confirm that Atsushi is responsible for the change. Oh well, the dreamworld seems a bit less interesting for now, but we’ll see how it all unfolds. Still, Rokka-as-fairy hinted last week that it’s possible for Hazuki to influence his situation within the dreamworld. This week, we see Hazuki push away at a giant pot to no avail (like Sisyphus, perhaps?). What can he influence if anything?
• So how does our mermaid myth work if it’s really Atsushi’s doing after all? Well, like I previously said, the prince fell in love with the wrong person in the original tale. The mermaid then turned to foam and the prince presumably lived happily ever after. Even though Atsushi’s dreamworld has the Rokka cast as the mermaid, it sure seems as though Atsushi is the mermaid in the real world. I’ll revisit this thought in a bit.
• Even though Rokka-as-mermaid seems to lack any sort of sexual characteristic (she has curves but no nipples, for instance), Hazuki gives her his shirt. Rokka-as-fairy then remarks that she now understands why the prince likes Hazuki. This is a bit odd to me since Hazuki tried his best to get Rokka into bed when he was in the real world. All of a sudden, he can’t stand to be around a topless mermaid — if you can really consider that topless. Perhaps there’s something to idea that the situation determines who we are. Within the dreamworld, Hazuki becomes more childlike. In the real world, Atsushi becomes brooding and more complex as a result.
• Rokka-as-mermaid comments, “[The dreamworld] won’t last forever. It’ll only grow sadder if it’s drawn out. He should know that better than anyone.” The last part seems to hint at Atsushi’s illness. Likely, his death was drawn out, and as each living day passed, the situation just got sadder and sadder for him and Rokka. What, however, does the first part hint at? Will Atsushi accept that Rokka has fallen in love with someone else and give up? But how might he give up? He can’t commit suicide, obviously.
• The fact that Atsushi and Rokka ride the trains again might be symbolic. Even though Rokka thinks she’s falling in love with someone new, her life seems to be on rails: “I think the last time I suddenly decided to ride the train was in my student days.” Didn’t she fall in love with Atsushi during her student days?
• While they are on the train, they gaze out the train’s windows at the sea. I’ve mentioned before how bodies of water signify some sort of gateway. After this scene, Atsushi seems to emerge from Hazuki’s shell, i.e. he starts to remind Rokka more of himself than Hazuki. Case in point, Atsushi accidentally recalls a memory about Rokka that Hazuki should have no knowledge of. I don’t know if the two are related, but just some food for thought.
• Atsushi broods that he should be allowed to make Rokka happy. After all, he’s had to give up on everything and he doesn’t want to give up on that. Nevertheless, he seems resigned to the idea that he has to step aside. Perhaps he feels the guilt of having kept Rokka attached to him all this time, and making her happy means allowing Hazuki to return.
• When we see Hazuki again, he tells Rokka-as-mermaid that “[he] was prepared to shoulder the burden for both of them.” So did he willingly switch places with Atsushi? Did the drunkenness play no part? We see Rokka fall in love with Hazuki anyway, not knowing that Atsushi is the person within. Would Hazuki not have succeeded eventually had he kept trying?
• So sex finally does happen. Now, I mentioned before how Atsushi looked as though he was about to choke Rokka. On one level, recall that the orgasm is known as ‘la petite mort,’ so perhaps there was some foreshadowing at work. On another level, Atsushi must understand that even though he’s the one who actually gets the pleasure of sleeping with Rokka, Rokka will believe that she’s sharing a moment of physical intimacy with Hazuki. In a sense, Atsushi knows he’s dooming his chances by giving in to his and Rokka’s sexual desires. In other words, perhaps he’s killing himself off symbolically — the part of himself that is attached to Rokka. This would fall in line with the idea that he’s willing to step aside.
• Of course, the irony is that just when Atsushi is willing to step aside, he can’t help but remind Rokka of his — rather than Hazuki’s — existence. In “The Little Mermaid,” the prince fell in love with the wrong girl, believing that the maiden at the temple had really saved him. In a similar sort of way, Rokka falls in love with Hazuki even though she’s really spending all this time with Atsushi. At the end of the myth, the mermaid disintegrate into foam. Where will Atsushi go when he gives back Hazuki’s body?
• This pot seems to hold some special significance that we won’t find out till later. Addendum: commenters have pointed out how the pot may refer to one of Atsushi’s failed class assignments.
• To reinforce the flower metaphor from the second episode, Atsushi leaves behind a bunch of flower arrangements. Although they seem innocent enough, the flower arrangements appear to send Rokka into a state of confusion: she sees Atsushi within her store for a brief moment before the image disintegrate (like foam?). Of course, we just saw Atsushi walk past her mere moments ago. What she sees cannot be some form of supernatural manifestation, which would have implied that there exists two Atsushi. Rather, the flower arrangements symbolize Atsushi as I may have discussed back when we first saw the second episode.
• So why did I subtitle this post “Sea change?”
“Sea-change or seachange is a poetic or informal term meaning a gradual transformation in which the form is retained but the substance is replaced….”
Would this describe Rokka from Atsushi’s perspective, no? On a less serious note — one that’ll close this post out — Beck’s “Sea Change” would probably match Atsushi’s mood.