Just as the anime recovered from an emotional storm, this week brings in a tide. There are still tonal changes, but the second half of the show became laden with some heavy stones on Hina’s side. The visual direction got more expressive to fit the mood of Hina’s emotional states, again. Also, the sound design became more noticeable to me by the end of the episode- there was good use of silence in this episode to convey Hina’s isolation and the tonal shifts from cheery to gloomy; and even helped to make the bullying feel really real and direct. Another well crafted episode.
The episode opens with a brief recap of Hina proclaiming that she did the right thing by standing up for her friend and Rei realizing that she was his savior. The opening sequence rolls.
The Kawamoto household is in a light, cheery mood- they are having cherries. Rei decides to continue to try his best in supporting and consoling Hina; so he proposes a shogi match under handicapped conditions- severely handicapped, apparently, he was playing with three pieces… and he still won. That got Hina down a bit and made Rei realize that he didn’t have the ‘skill’ his previous teachers had when he was warming up to shogi; he remembers that maintaining eye contact helps to encourage your opponent to feel good about themselves. It turns out that Hina was doing that all along, putting Rei in a comical situation where the one who wants to console gets consoled himself.
The tone shifts when Rei asks Hina about how her school days are going. Hina replies somberly. Her classmates don’t talk to her anymore, they maintain their distance and act like they are in a wake; while the bullies and the ‘cool kids’ just laugh away- their loud laughter filling up the classroom. Hina comments on how this sets up a classroom hierarchy where the ‘cool’ kids arbitrarily ‘rule’ over the others. Rei agrees and says that everybody has felt this way one time or another in their lives. Speaking from personal experience, I agree as well.
As Hina describes the atmosphere of her classroom, she pictures the classroom is under water. The staff used this to their advantage by visualizing the loudness of the bullies through bubbles. An under water setting is also widely known for visualizing overwhelming emotions (Hina’s emotions, which are revealed later on in the episode) and people being in a retreating position (Hina’s classmates who didn’t stand up to the bullies).
The scene transitions to Hina’s classroom (minus the water). The atmosphere mimicked her description of it, and as she went about her school day in a gloomy, awkward state (which she obviously isn’t used to), Takahashi- the guy she has a crush on- approaches her for a game of catch. It turns out that Rei talked with Takahashi about Hina’s situation. But seeing Hina chatting with Takahashi causes the bullies to become more aggressive towards Hina.
Meanwhile, Rei wins important matches and he clarifies his goals to himself and the viewer once more- he is determined as ever. Nothing much to add on this except, my boy Rei is making me grin from ear to ear with his sudden spike in spirit.
Back to Hina’s world. Takahashi is quick to spot Hina’s bullies and threatens them with a ferocious head-splitting throw, wearing a nonchalant expression. He tells Hina that this will show them that she has a friend who will stand up for her in these times.
Rei and Hina have another meeting where Rei apologizes for not thinking far ahead enough when asking for Takahashi’s help. Hina, as usual defends him. She says she enjoys playing catch and she is happy that Takahashi knows about Chiho, so she can talk about her with him. This leads her to talk about her current state of mind on Chiho’s bullies. She doesn’t know what to do now; deep inside, she wants to beat the bullies up but even though that will make her feel good for a while, it doesn’t help Chiho in any way because she has already left- so ultimately, Hina won’t be happy with what she did if she brawled with them. She also wants to make the bullies apologize to Chiho, but she doubts that Chiho would ever want to see the bullies’ faces again. Hina is confused what to do about this and she is frustrated. It’s amazing how selfless this girl is when she is the one who is currently getting bullied.
Just some comments on the visual aspects of Hina’s speech on what she wants to ddo to the bullies. During this visual, which is drawn in chalk against a black board donning fluorescent, popping color splashes: which cause the visualization of Hina’s emotions to have a trippy feel. Rage and anger are apparently, foreign to Hina, and the stark contrasting color scheme probably is indicating that; again, water comes into play in this visual narrative where faucets run wild- a metaphor for Hina’s boiling frustrations. Again, I really think is a nice orchestration of good visual effect on the narrative- of course, I can’t explain all the little visual detours the show takes, but thinking about how they integrate into the storytelling has been quite enjoyable.
The final scene of the episode shows Hina discovering that the bullies have reached quite an aggro- their harassment is now in full public display on the blackboard. We hear a bird’s sharp shriek, almost mimicking a high pitched scream going off near Rei- as if Hina was screaming internally (a pretty neat transition to Rei’s ending lines, I must say). Also, there’s that usual grey fade out that has been used throughout the last couple of episodes to show that Hina doesn’t have any allies nearby.
No one, steps up for her. The teacher, the one who paid no heed to Hina when Chiho was getting bullied, steps into the classroom to find the writing on the board and realizes her mistake. She briefly demands Hina to tell her what happened but Hina nonchalantly replies that it was on the board before she came; then the teacher asks Hina to meet up with her after the class. It will be interesting to see how that meet up will go; and I hope that Hina comes out fine by the end- this episode really raised the stakes for me because the bullying felt pretty raw and direct this episode.
I don’t really have any thoughts on what might happen in the later episodes, but I am looking forward to how this will play out for Hina. I haven’t really felt angry with Hina a couple of weeks ago (I felt more bad for her than be angry at the bullies), but this episode made me feel really bitter towards Takagi and her crew. I feel that this episode helped the viewer appreciate Hina’s emotional state better.
Before the credits roll, Rei shares some lines in the midst of the silence that permeated through the reminder of the episode’s airtime: ” There’s one thing that I realized. I thought that if things got tough, you can just get up and leave. When someone treats you improperly, you don’t have to respond in a proper way. But… she’s not only in pain. She’s angry. In fact, she’s seething from the pit of her stomach.”