Disappearance of Nagato Yuki chan Episode 5
by Nick Creamer,
Nagato's Epic Valentine Adventure ended this week, following up on last week's dramatic Haruhi-prompted cliffhanger. Tears were shed, chocolates were exchanged, and The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan slowly rambled its way back to a comfortable neutral. This episode wasn't great, and it didn't spell good things for the show's future dramatic potential, but at least it…
Nope, I don't have a comforting followup to that opening. This wasn't a very good episode.
We opened right at last week's cliffhanger, with Nagato walking in on Kyon in the process of accepting Haruhi's chocolate. There weren't any mitigating circumstances for that exchange - Haruhi really was just giving Kyon chocolate on Valentine's Day. Fortunately, it was just courtesy chocolate, which if you haven't seen any of the other ten thousand anime Valentine's Day episodes might be a bit of a mystery. On Valentine's Day, girls can give any generic guy friends courtesy (giri) chocolate, whereas other (generally more expensive or homemade) chocolate can signify romance (honmei chocolate). Either way, Haruhi's courtesy chocolate compels Nagato to pull the classic drop-her-chocolate-and-run-away maneuver, which then prompts all her clubmates to go running out to look for her.
This sequence was a well-worn and not particularly well-executed cliche, but it did provide an opportunity for this episode's one engaging relationship to shine - Asakura and Haruhi. In response to Haruhi asking what was wrong with her giving chocolates, Asakura actually explodes, calling her out on not respecting the clear atmosphere between Kyon and Nagato. I was actually really enjoying this sequence (as I said last week, this show really doesn't make me want to root for Haruhi), but also enjoyed Asakura chastising herself for blaming someone else and then promptly pulling herself together. As Haruhi herself later points out, Asakura is the only person aside from Kyon who can actually call Haruhi out on her actions, and their conversations are some of the most lively and engaging for it.
Unfortunately, Nagato ultimately working up the courage to give Kyon her chocolate was a lot less interesting. Outside of a few cute Nagato moments (Nagato patting herself down looking for the missing chocolate, Nagato only bearing to watch him eat her chocolate through her fingers, etc), the whole second half of this episode played out as slowly and obviously as it could have. Kyon was incredibly dense, Nagato moved glacially through all her little courage trials, and Nagato's ultimate confession was interrupted (of course) by Tsuruya bumping into her. Nagato bumps into Kyon, they share a momentary “I'll catch you,” Kyon falls into Nagato's boobs, and Asakura runs out with an “I won't forgive him!” These lazy cliches are crutches I'm used to, but that doesn't mean I'm ever happy to see them.
Overall, this episode seemed to largely confirm my last-episode fears that Nagato Yuki-chan just can't really handle the more dramatic material. When confronted with an actual conflict, it reacts much like Nagato herself - stammering, saying the least threatening thing, and then scurrying back to the status quo. Going forward, hopefully the show either learns to better articulate its character drama or sticks to the safe fluffy stuff it's used to.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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