Disappearance of Nagato Yuki chan Episode 13
by Nick Creamer,
I said last week that Nagato Yuki-chan likely couldn't keep up its (surprisingly well-composed) drama act forever, and this week revealed the truth of that. The new Nagato Yuki, the quiet girl who reads books and thinks deeply about her feelings, is gone, replaced once again by the clumsy, lovestruck girl of the beginning of the series. But before she left, the new Nagato got one more episode to spend time with her friends, come to terms with her own individual feelings, and say goodbye.
The episode opened with Nagato being taken to a used book fair by Kyon and Asakura. In contrast to last week's constant sense of unease, the mood this time was somber but peaceful, set perfectly by a melancholy piano track and a long series of richly colorful background shots. Walking among the books and sharing ice cream, it became clear that this new Nagato had solidly established real friendships with Kyon and Asakura again, silly faces and all. Though the idea of this Nagato “replacing” the old one in Kyon and Asakura's life is an awkward one, in practice these scenes came off as endearingly as they were intended.
This low-key friendship pattern continued in the next scene, as Asakura badgered Nagato about her feelings towards Kyon. As a train rushed by (a touch that seemed maybe a bit too melodramatic, given how light the execution of everything else has been), Nagato realized that Asakura was right. She may have inherited an understanding of old Nagato's feelings, but she's also developed feelings of her own.
That led into one of this episode's several vivid dream sequences, where Nagato's sense of being set adrift were represented visually through her floating in the cosmos. This episode was a visual step up in general for the show, from some slightly improved character animation to the painted backgrounds, and I particularly liked the trick of having Nagato's memory of stargazing be represented as her staring up at a theater curtain painted in stars. There wasn't too much time to enjoy the sights though, as in the wake of this dream, Nagato realized that this was going to be her last day.
That opened the final act of the episode, as Nagato spent a little more time enjoying Asakura's company, and made one last phone call to Kyon. This whole series of scenes was handled with a welcomely light touch, given the subject matter - the theme here was essentially “coming to terms with your own death,” so it would have been easy for the show to go over the top. Instead, we simply heard Nagato quietly resolve to see her friends smiling to the end, and to make sure she left without any regrets. Kyon's face when Nagato revealed her feelings was a real treat, and I also liked how this episode consistently returned to Nagato's “they seem close enough to touch” refrain. In its original context, that line reflected hopefully on how the distance between her and Kyon was closing - here, it was a sad reminder that they're as close as they'll ever be. This was a fitting end to a welcome arc.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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