Last week I focused on detailing my theory about Mirai and Izumi’s true motivations. I will try to not gloat too much, but based on this episode I was right on the money. Along with the emotional context that everyone has been missing this was the episode to bring it all together.
This episode is comprised of three parallel perspectives: Akihito’s dream world in which it is summer and Mirai is wearing her usual red-framed glasses. Mirai’s winter world in which Akihito is a lifeless zombie and she is wearing the black-framed glasses we saw Akihito planned to get her for her birthday. And flashbacks that give Mirai’s point of view on many events throughout the series. I am honestly shocked that so many people online (looking at you Kelloggs) did not notice that Mirai’s glasses changed. Really, what else is everyone else looking at?
The execution of Akihito’s dream sequence was actually top notch. It started off on an interesting note with a copout explanation from Mirai about the resolution of their battle from last episode. For a moment I felt cheated but I knew there must be more going on. It was very cute seeing Mirai play house wife with Akihito. Waiting for him to wake up and comically failing to cook meals for him in classic moe style. The cuteness here felt more genuine to me than some of the other moe comedy scenes. The scene, their interactions, and even her outfit seemed more casual than we have ever seen them. I can’t help but think just a little bit of this was what we needed to see earlier in the show to make their relationship seem more real.
At the end of the dream sequence, Mirai reveals what actually happened to Akihito before saying goodbye. I really liked the visuals during that scene. Using the windows in the club room as projection screens was a really good use of space. Even the in-room camera started to get this hazy water on the lens distortion effect that was really surreal. KyoAni’s execution here was perfect. Even though I have been complaining about my lack of investment in their relationship, Mirai’s goodbye was quite touching. I can’t help but think this episode again was let down by the previous episodes failing to detail their relationship. The suddenness of Akihito waking up in the Hospital again with only Mirai’s glasses there emphasized to me that Mirai is gone.
Following this is a series of flashbacks detailing the events of the past six months from Mirai’s perspective. The first flashback was actually the first scene in the episode. Mirai boarding the train merging seamlessly into the opening was brilliantly done. I love it when shows do this. I was pretty stoked that I predicted most of the flashback reveals in my post last week. The main thing I got wrong was I thought Izumi was blackmailing Mirai somehow to get her to kill Akihito. It turns out she is simply using utilitarian logic to convince her that Akihito must die or he will destroy the world.
From these flashbacks we finally know what was Mirai was thinking during the first half of the series. Up until now she has basically been an enigma. Many people have disregarded Mirai as an inconsistent and poorly written character because of this. But now we get to see why she acted the way she did throughout. Her violent and unprovoked attacks when she first met him now make sense with context. Her unwillingness to join the Literature Club and let the other characters help her was actually following advice Izumi gave her to not get too close to Akihito. She knew that she would need to kill him at some point, so distancing herself from him would make it easier when the time came is reasonable. Stopping Akihito in shade form after the Hallow Shadow incident with a hug has much more meaning now that we have context on Mirai’s internal struggle at that point.
This style of storytelling can put off some people and I can understand that. We are being given plot points long before we get the emotional context needed to appreciate them. When watching for the first time, the plot will feel hollow or sterile since we have not been given the information needed to look any deeper. Personally I like this kind of story when it is done well because of the huge payoffs it gives a second watching. I felt this way about Homura’s characterization in the Madoka Magica TV series. For most of the show, Homura was simply cryptic and mildly antagonistic cipher as far as the audience knew. She offered no explanation for her actions and all of her interactions with the other characters felt very confusing to say the least. However, once we learn the context of her motivations all of her interactions from the previous nine episodes suddenly feel consistent and have powerful new meaning. My favorite example of this was the scene in episode four where Madoka was talking to Homura on the bridge after Mami’s death. Madoka says “I swear I will never forget you [Homura] either!” Homura’s reaction is subtle and basically missed the first time you see it. But with the knowledge that Homura is a time traveler and she has seen Madoka “forget” her countless times her reaction here is much more powerful. This is why I plan to re-watch this series once it is completed too look for the subtle emotional beats that I am convinced are there that we all just missed.
Mirai’s decision to sacrifice herself to the Kyoukai no Kanata to save Akihito was powerful as well. Given her determination to not kill Akihito this seems like the only emotional way out for her. I believe that the winter scenes are what she is experiencing within the Kyoukai no Kanata. She is following around a zombie Akihito and looking for the core of the Kyoukai no Kanata. I am not sure what is going to happen next really. From the planet in the sky in the last frame it seems like Akihito is within the Youmu as well. And we still don’t know what the Spirit Hunter’s Association and Fujima have planned.
Just like I said for last episode, I feel like this one was perfectly executed but was relying on an emotional investment that previous episodes did not deliver on. I am going to blame the Idol episode again. If we had replaced that episode with one that showed how Mirai and Akihito interacted together it would have been perfect. Overall I still like this show and look forward to re-watching it next year. But I agree with most of the people that with a few simple changes it could have been even better.