Assault Lily Bouquet
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Assault Lily Bouquet ?
Coming to terms with the death of a loved one is a complicated process. It can take time, comfort from others, and all kinds of support networks and assistance. Even if Assault Lily Bouquet couldn't properly pace out Yuri's untimely demise at the very end of the previous episode, that should at least leave it a solid cushion of time to explore the grieving process in this following one. I don't have any issue with a show shooting for pathos so long as they make some effort, somewhere, to earn it. Unfortunately the potential for a hearty helping of feels doesn't really get delivered on in this week's installment of Sad Girls With Swords, with the direction of the whole affair feeling more aimless than Riri's supposed to in the wake of losing her pseudo-daughter.
There are fleeting attempts at exploring the issue, to be sure, just not dwelled on in any depth. We see Riri sitting sadly in solitary confinement a couple times! She has a poignant vision of Yuri and she feels bad about it! There are even a few aside bits in the dialogue from other characters, notably reminding us how these battles have always had the threat of death hanging over them, and making allusions to Yuyu's own backstory-based trauma as an example. But it's absolutely not enough. The laughable nature of Yuri's death last week could potentially have worked in postmortem if they'd leaned into the jarring, sudden nature of it, but there was no real intended feeling of in-universe whiplash when it happened. Instead, her death seemed to be capped off as a bittersweet moment of triumph for Yuri herself. So no one in this episode really reflects on the sudden nature of a battlefield death, nor the obvious aspect of not getting to say goodbye. Yuri's simply gone and we're supposed to feel sad about that inherently, without getting too deep into what it means.
The chance for that is blown off with the one connection that should have been easy for the show to make. Yuyu's issues in the wake of Misuzu's death are given only the most token mention in the main body of this episode. After previously seeing that it was Riri's belief in her partner that was instrumental (twice!) in snapping Yuyu out of her widowed funk, you'd think Yuyu would be able to turn around and offer at least a base version of that same idea to reassure Riri. But instead the character writing here makes a bizarrely-advised turn to show Yuyu pay her surrogate sister a single ten-minute visit before coming to the conclusion that recovering her lost hair-tie is the key to preserving her mental state. That's the core of the actual episode I can talk about in a minute, but it remains baffling that after finally getting the characters to this point after ten episodes, no effort is really expended in emotionally connecting them over their deceased loved ones.
There is a last-minute acknowledgement of that element at the end (I'm talking post-credits) of the episode, with Riri suddenly remembering that Yuyu has a dead wife and asking if they should pay their respects while also visiting Yuri's grave. But like the other plot elements hastily thrown into this ending scene as the show desperately plays cards to carry it through a couple more episodes, there's little meaningfully explained or explored here. Perhaps most egregious is Riri asking Yuyu for advice on the basis that the latter has ‘gotten over’ Misuzu's death, even though we've had multiple episodes making clear that that is definitely not the case, and whatever progress she's made was with the assistance of Riri anyway! The show even hammers that home with the revelation that Ghost-Misuzu still hasn't quite left Yuyu alone either, in one of the more striking visual punches of the whole episode.
But instead of making any meaty points with those little bits thrown out, Assault Lily Bouquet puts most of its eggs in the ‘silly sitcom antics’ basket again. As you can imagine, this does a number on the post-funeral tone this episode is supposed to occupy, and as usual comes off as padding more than anything else. At first it seems the search for Riri's hair-tie is going to work as a showcase of the Rare Skills of the characters we haven't really gotten to see utilized yet, but that dries up after like day two of the search. After that it's repeated beats of the gang standing on the beach followed by watching them take baths. The whole thing even resolves with the farcical sitcom reveal of Kaede's well-intentioned deceptive plan for the hair-tie and how that unravels at the end, and by that point it feels like the show has almost forgotten about the death of Riri's daughter outside of treating it like an inciting background detail.
For all that, some of the conceptual stuff around this beach-searching plot does work. The final-day visual of virtually all the Lilies of the school coming together to help find the tie for Riri is a nice one (though once again I feel the show's introduction and lack of exploration of Riri's Charisma ability undercuts things more than it intends to). And if its placement seems a bit tonally inappropriate, I appreciate Kaede's plot giving the character a more earnest outlet for her eccentric ends; I'm glad the last episode and this one show how she is a good person in spite of herself. But then you get the painfully obviously-explained metaphor of the damaged and new hair clips with only the most basic, cursory illustration of Riri actually grieving, and it becomes clear that even if the show actually knew it had the building blocks of some decent pathos here, it probably didn't have the faintest clue how to make something out of them. Assault Lily Bouquet was barely okay when it was doing this stuff earlier in its run, but now that marks it as way out of its depth in terms of emotional ambition.
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