— When we last left off, everyone was at the beach having a good time until one of Kaede’s old friends showed up. So now, we get to see what had happened to her all those years ago. Kinda. Sakuta needs to fill his girlfriend in on the whole story. Nodoka is just here for kicks, I guess.
— So how did it start? Kaede woke up in her own bed one day and started freaking out. She had no clue where she was nor who she was talking to (Sakuta).
— Oh look, it’s those deadbeat parents!
— This all happened thanks to cyber bullying. She internalized other people’s hate for her so deeply that she became a whole different person. Intellectually, I understand that you can’t just simply block your internet bullies. You can’t just ignore the fact that your peers hate you for who you are and will relentlessly target you every chance that they get. Not everyone is built the same way, so some people can’t shrug off verbal abuse (nor should they have to). Most of all, just “walking away” from the mean words won’t necessarily take the pain away. Intellectually, I understand all of this.
— But if I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t feel emotionally engaged by this story. I haven’t been for a while. Maybe I never was. The show got my attention thanks to two things: 1) the chemistry between Sakuta and Mai and 2) the weird phenomenons surrounding these kids (i.e. people not being able to see Mai for whatever reason). Of course, the latter is ostensibly just a “gateway drug” towards discussing deeper, mental issues afflicting Japanese youths (though in this case, only Japanese girls). Nevertheless, the truth is that my interest in this show has always been more of a curiosity than a deep, emotional connection.
— Arguably, Kaede has the most well-grounded trauma of all of the girls thus far. She’s suffering from a problem that I could easily imagine happening to a lot of people. On the other hand, Mai’s issue was a very special case. Most of us aren’t celebrities. As for Tomoe, she selfishly trapped Sakuta in a time loop just because she didn’t know how to turn a guy down without jeopardizing her shallow friendships. Rio divided herself into two over a crush. Compared to Kaede, these just feel silly. On paper, the girl faces an issue that feels more real and pertinent. So why do I still find it so difficult to empathize with her?
— I dunno, maybe it’s just fatigue again. After so many episodes trying to convince myself that I should care about these girls’ individual problems for the sake of blogging this show, I just can’t muster up the emotional energy to properly react to Kaede’s story. So this story probably works better in its original form, i.e. a bunch of light novels. In theory, you would get some space between each reading session.
— Or maybe, despite intellectually understanding the ramifications of cyber bullying, I still can’t internalize how badly it must hurt. Unless I go through it myself, I won’t know how it feels. And as cold as it might sound, this renders me less empathetic towards the girl.
— Ah well, back to the episode.
— And of course, the girl got those mysterious bruises, so the weird phenomenon stuff hasn’t gone completely away.
— Now Sakuta is talking about how Shoko was the only person to believe him. When he gets to this part, his girlfriend’s eyes narrow a bit. This scene is trying to show us how his first crush lifted his spirits and taught him a whole new approach to life, but honestly, my attention is kinda drifting off a bit. Why? Well, I can never forget Clementine’s rant from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:
“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”
We know so little about Shoko. The only thing we know about her is how he would meet her at the beach, and how she magically fixed Sakuta like some wise old sage. She’s almost like a manic pixie girl. She doesn’t have the trademark quirkiness that afflicts the typical manic pixie girl, but right now, her character only exists for Sakuta’s sake. Poor boy was depressed, so she came along to lift him up. And as soon as he got back on his own feet, she mysteriously disappeared! It’s hard for me to take Shoko seriously.
— So the guy returned home and told his sister that he would embrace whatever version of herself that she wanted to be. Unlike others, he won’t keep harping on her about being normal, about being the old Kaede again, yadda yadda yadda. Clearly, the status quo wasn’t working.
— And here comes the deadbeat part. I absolutely cannot and will not wrap my brain around the idea of this dude just leaving these kids to fend for themselves. Yeah, yeah, the mom needed help. How do you go from that to two kids living alone without any adult supervision? Hilarious. Anime’s gotta anime, I guess. How else would Sakuta be able to treat his apartment like a revolving door for all the girls in his life? Is Tomoe the only girl who hasn’t been to his home?
— Sakuta wraps up the flashback by telling us that although he wants Kaede to recover her lost memories, he’s worried what this would do to the current Kaede. Shrug, she can just combine the two? Neither persona needs to be lost forever.
— After tugging at heartstrings — or at the very least, an earnest attempt to do so — it’s right back to dumb nonsense. The girl is such a shut-in that she got muscle cramps because she spent a day at the beach. Y’know what? Let’s erase this persona completely. It’s not worth keeping around.
— Oh well, the mysterious bruises keep showing up. The more she pushes herself to be normal again, the more bruises she gets. I could keep speculating, but I’d rather just wait for the story to tell me what’s going on.
— After seeing a note from her old childhood friend, the girl collapses and ends up in the hospital again. Her old memories might be coming back, but that doesn’t mean she’s equipped to deal with them just yet. As a result, a doctor warns Sakuta that her memories might be affected when she wakes up. It never ends.
— You know it’s the same Kaede ’cause we get more trashy brocon stuff. If you took this stupid incest thing out, it wouldn’t adversely affect the story one bit. Still, the doctor’s foreboding words must be foreshadowing for later. Knowing this show, it’ll probably be the cliffhanger.
— The girl then overhears her brother discussing her situation with Mai. There’s no doubt that she feels guilty for putting Sakuta through this, but as to what ramifications this will entail, I won’t even try to guess.
— Afterwards, Kaede tells her brother that she would like to go to school over seeing pandas. Maybe she’s forcing herself to recover more quickly because she feels bad for her brother. This might exacerbate her problems if she’s not fully ready.
— Kaede wants to at least visit the school. She won’t sit in on any of the classes just yet, but stopping by the nurse’s office counts as progress. Unfortunately, she has enough problems just walking to school. Adolescent life sure is treacherous.
— Yep, the girl is trying to force herself to overcome her problems faster than what is natural (but what even is natural in this case?). As a result, her brother can literally see the bruise on Kaede’s neck grow before his very eyes.
— So finally, Sakuta takes his sister to the pandas (along with all the other animals). Anything to distract her right now, I guess.
— But in the end, he takes Kaede to school anyways. Just during the evening when nobody’s there. I guess the school won’t be so intimidating with none of the other kids around. It’ll just be intimidating for other reasons like, y’know, being dark and scary. Also, it’s a bit reckless to climb over the gates. They just spent a long day at the zoo. Aren’t they tired? Couldn’t he have “tricked” her into coming to school on another night?
— After it is all said and done, Kaede sounds cheerful and upbeat… for now. But like I’ve said, this show loves its cliffhangers.
— Sure enough, when the girl wakes up the next day, she seems to be a whole different person. Even the inflection in her voice has changed. It sounds terrible, but her voice is a lot less annoying now. Can we keep this Kaede? Judging by Sakuta’s reaction, I’m guessing that’s a no. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t prevent Kaede’s last persona from disappearing.
— Ah well, just one more episode, right? I can’t wait to wrap this up.