At one point in the episode, Akira pays her physician a visit and learns that her wound has completely healed. After she leaves, the nurse wonders why the girl is unwilling to go through rehab. If she did, she’d be able to run again. In other words, Akira may have physically recovered from her injury, but there’s still a gaping mental wound left untreated. It would make for an interesting finale if Akira manages to find her resolve again. After all, she still loves to run. She even went and checked out a photo book all about running from the library. But who will help her? Haruka is content to wallow in her own self-pity, and Kondo has his own issues to deal with. He might have an inkling about Akira’s deeper issues, but he may not feel as though it’s his place to butt in. Still, if I have to guess, Kondo is the likeliest candidate. He just has to overcome his mental hurdles first. If you’ll recall, he wants to be a novelist, but he hasn’t written a book in years.
One night, the guy goes to get ramen. Right before he can dig into his bowl of noodles, he sees his dear friend Chihiro on TV. The novelist is being interviewed on a talk show. At one point in the program, Chihiro has a reply that stirs up something deep within Kondo’s soul: “…novels are like a lover.” When was the last time Kondo had a lover? It starts to rain, and after returning home from dinner, Kondo goes through his old boxes of notes and manuscripts. He eventually stumbles across not only a photo of his son and ex-wife, but a wedding band as well. He finally remembers that his love for writing was one-sided, and his obsession for it eventually cost him his family. He still sees his son regularly, but one can only wonder how long it’s been since he’s been in contact with the boy’s mother.
Depression comes in many forms. Oftentimes, a person suffering from depression may not seem depressed at all on the surface. And yet, one common thread that we can always find if we look close enough is that pervasive feeling of hopelessness. I’m not suggesting that Kondo is clinically depressed — obviously, I cannot diagnose an anime character from just a few short episodes — but he certainly seems to have resigned himself to hopelessness. He can’t forgive himself for losing his family, so he gives up on writing. Akira treats her love for running in much the same way. She blames herself for her injury. We learned in a previous flashback that her right heel had been feeling weird, but she kept practicing anyway. She ended up overworking herself, and one day, a tendon in her heel just snapped. Not only did Akira feel as though she had destroyed her own dreams, she blames herself for letting her team down.
And last but not least, Haruka also treats her broken friendship with Akira with that same sense of hopelessness. At the festival, she blamed Akira for making things difficult between them, but I suspect she was merely projecting. In actuality, Haruka felt guilty for lacking the courage to reach out to Akira during those difficult times, and as a result, she was the one who made things difficult between them. Haruka can’t forgive herself for ruining their friendship, but she’s not brave enough to admit this to Akira’s face. So in the end, we have three forlorn individuals, shuffling aimlessly through their days because they remained imprisoned by their feelings of guilt. Of course, these three characters are still functional members of society. They can still get up in the morning and fulfill their obligations. Nevertheless, they each have something that they’re depressed about — something that they seemingly can’t confront by themselves.
Akira reveals to Kondo that she had bought a book from the secondhand book fair that they attended. It is yet another novel by Natsume Soseki. In the book, there’s an old bookmark with a faded mark of a swallow, and this reminds Kondo of a nest of swallows that used to be perched right outside the restaurant. One of the baby swallows had trouble taking flight, but it eventually managed to leave the nest on its own as well. Still, Akira wonders what would have happened to the swallow had it failed to fly. Clearly, she’s referring to herself. It’s not that she can’t run again. In fact, her physician likely assured her that going through rehab will have her running like new. But when she injured herself that day, she had to suffer through some dark thoughts. Thoughts of never being able to run again. Thoughts of losing her dream of competing with her friends and winning a tournament. Thoughts of disappointing everyone around her. After all, the track team isn’t doing so well these days. What if Akira tried to run again and this only gave everyone false hope? What if she ended up letting her team down again? None of these dark thoughts are logical, but they are strong nonetheless. They are so resonant that Akira can only hope to push them out of her mind by allowing herself to be consumed by an emotion equally as powerful: love. Imagine being depressed for weeks and weeks on end (or perhaps even months) then one day, you no longer feel sadness. Instead, you are overwhelmed by an intense infatuation. Wouldn’t you pursue that feeling at all costs? Wouldn’t you try to hold onto it and never let it go?
After a long pause, Kondo replies that the lonely swallow could still find some sense of happiness by staying put. Isn’t that what Akira is trying to do? For now, she’s given up on the idea of flying. For now, she’s content to devote her energy to Kondo. Nevertheless, she’s starting to suspect that even if she finds happiness elsewhere, she will never be feel truly fulfilled if she gives up on running altogether. And right on cue, Kondo warns her that the swallow would always find itself staring up at the sky if it gave up on its dreams without trying. Akira, too, will live with regrets if she doesn’t at least try to run again. She can’t be scared to fail. She can’t be scared to disappoint herself and others. After all, there’s nothing more disappointing than a person who refuses to even try. At the same time, however, Kondo should heed his own advice. So to return the favor, Akira also gives Kondo some words of encouragement: she hopes that she’ll be able to read his writing one day.
Akira: “…the swallow that gives up on flying would likely give up on looking up at the sky.”
Kondo (to himself): “The swallow knows that any place where you won’t get wet from the rain will also have no sunlight.”
Misc. notes & observations:
— The episode opens with Akira gazing at the moon, and it reminds her of Haruka. After all, she had made a wish to the supermoon at the end of last week’s episode; she wished for her friendship with Haruka to eventually work out in the end. But wishes are just wishes. She’ll have to take action herself if those two ever hope to become close friends again.
— I think Akira looks better with her hair up, but I’m weird in that I think this is true for almost every girl. Growing up, I remember watching cartoons where the girl would always say to the guy, “Should I wear my hair up… or down?” The guy would then reply back enthusiastically, “Down!” Even as a kid, I disagreed. Oh well. What am I even rambling about?
— Akira seems to have a friendly relationship with her mother, but the woman appears to be relatively clueless about her daughter. She certainly doesn’t know about her daughter falling out with her former best friend. Granted, teenagers typically hide their personal lives from their parents, but it’s interesting that they aren’t closer. Akira’s father doesn’t appear to be in the picture, so it’s just her and her mother in this rather spacious apartment.
— There’s an upcoming book fair, so any thought of reconciling with Haruka is temporarily shelved for now. After all, she just found another perfect opportunity to spend time with Kondo. Moreover, she’ll learn another new thing or two about her manager.
— Immediately after the OP, we see Kondo running up to a blushing Akira at said book fair. Man… just think about it: a 45-year-old man takes time out of his free day to meet up with a high school girl. Yes, they’re meeting at a book fair. Yes, I know she invited him out as just friends. But considering how she’s still in love with him, isn’t he being a bit naive? Isn’t he being a bit cruel in giving the girl the impression that she still has a chance with him? This is why I’ve been saying in recent weeks that Kondo’s actions are inappropriate. I would never do a one-on-one hang-out with a high school girl. At least invite one other person to join you! Plus, you don’t need to recommend books to people in person. Just sayin’…
— As aside, Akira’s look here is cute too.
— Kondo meets an old friend, and the guy immediately (and naturally) assumes that Akira is the daughter. Hilarious. Akira insists that she and Kondo are friends, but even then, they looks kinda shady. I can’t picture myself befriending a high school girl.
— Akira finds herself blushing at a postcard. Unfortunately, Amazon’s subs flashed super quickly here, so I had a hard time reading what the contents of the postcard. After rewatching the scene, I’m still not sure why Akira is blushing. Do you guys know? What did she discern from the short letter on the postcard? Is it simply the fact that she’s staring at something meant only for the eyes of two lovers?
— Kondo tells Akira all about the world’s shortest letter, which was apparently a simple “?” from a writer to his publisher Ah, I get it. When my team is pinging me over and over in League of Legends, they’re just channeling French literary master Victor Hugo!
— Kondo is supposed to recommend a few books to Akira, but he’s like a kid in a candy shop. He’s running off on his own to check out stuff that would interest him and only him. But to be fair, it’s not as if he knows Akira all that well. He just knows that she used to be on the track team. The girl even admits it herself that she doesn’t really read.
— Still, it’s rather rude of Kondo to suddenly start reading a book in the middle of nowhere. He’s taken his glasses out, so he has his book-reading gameface on. He’s practically forgotten all about Akira. Before she knows it, the guy has disappeared from sight. That’s really inconsiderate…
— I wish I could brag that I read a lot, but nah… there’s just so little time in the day.
— The girl sees a post from the track team about how they’ll be holding a farewell party for the third-years. I forget what year of high school Akira is in. I wonder if she has any plans to attend college. Elsewhere, Haruka looks at the same post with a melancholy expression on her face. She’s still thinking about Akira, but she’s so passive about it that she just puts her phone away. Personally, I can’t picture myself in her shoes. She’s depressed about Akira, but she can’t bring herself to find a resolution. So instead, she just tortures herself about their broken friendship day after day, week after week. That sounds so mentally exhausting. Is this what people really do? Are they really so paralyzed by awkwardness that they would rather stew in their own negative feelings instead? Give me awkwardness any day of the week, sheesh.
— Eventually, the girl cheekily texts Kondo a simple “?” He replies back with a “!” Like Victor Hugo and his publisher, she hopes that she and Kondo know each other well enough that words aren’t always necessary. She hopes that he will understand her feelings and return to her soon.
— Kondo ends up buying an expensive book, so the owner throws in a free postcard. Akira gets to pick one, so she chooses one that reminds her of Haruka. This moves Akira enough that she finally decides to like the track team’s post, which Haruka sees. Maybe in our day and age, likes have become the shortest form of letter between two people.
— In the end, did Kondo recommend a single book to the girl?
— I couldn’t resist taking a screenshot of the ramen. Shades of Koizumi-san having an effect on me, I suppose.
— The thought of two people promising to be together forever only to break up in the end depresses me horribly. Of course, we can’t shut ourselves away. We can’t all become hermits. To live life is to risk being hurt… but man, I don’t know how I would cope in that ever happened to me.
— The person who wrote Koi wa Ameagari no You ni sure is a big fan of this guy. As I’ve said before, I’ve only read Kokoro (thanks to Aoi Bungaku).
— Out of insecurity, Kondo suddenly ruins the gravitas of his wise words by adding a “just kidding” at the very end. Good lord. It’s the equivalent to our generation’s “lol.” When we’re not confident in what we’re saying to our friends online, we’ll always add a “lol” to the end of all our sentences. Still, Akira can ignore Kondo’s “just kidding” and focus in on the truth in his words.