Assault Lily Bouquet
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Assault Lily Bouquet ?
Oh Assault Lily Bouquet, you are so close this week! The lack of conceptual continuity between episodes of this show was an issue I noticed pretty early on, and which has continued to be a limiting factor even as it has managed to haphazardly introduce some interesting concepts. As such, apart from continuing to springboard off some of the emotional fallout from Yuri's death, this latest episode emerges as one that could have followed the sixth one in the series, or even the third. It seems someone in that anonymous writer's room at SHAFT finally popped up to suggest following on some of those ideas that seemed like they could have carried the whole show. That is, before the story made a series of left turns that looped it right back to where it started. Nevertheless, here we are, with just enough effort to make my attention perk up as we near the finish line.
The return of Ghost-Misuzu from last week comes off less like a demonstration of Yuyu suffering a grief-relapse and more like the plot of this show suddenly realizing the sheer number of loose ends from her storyline that could be pulled on to arrive at a finale. Misuzu's role, especially as it returns to come to fruition here, is actually a storytelling trope I'm quite fond of: A character who's departed the world of the living, but still has an ongoing tangible effect on the narrative. The opportunity was always there to utilize Misuzu this way, but apart from keeping her memory around to make Yuyu feel sad at relevant moments, things didn't really click as a cohesive arc. So it's too late for the rest of the show, but this episode does decently in demonstrating what could have been.
The escalating effects of Misuzu's influence on Yuyu mostly come off as abrupt, but they still accomplish what they're here for. Her appearance at the end of last episode was just a spicy visual punch, but her deployment here keeps up the strong tension her presence brings. She's not just a benign, if unhealthy manifestation of Yuyu working through her trauma; now she's following her former partner out of their dorm room and mocking her as she struggles with her connections with her living friends. It's a hilariously obvious symbolic idea – that our hang-ups with people from our past can interfere with our relationships in the present – and as well as it works here, it definitely would have worked better had it been deployed earlier in Yuyu's arc. But given that every person involved in composing this thing seemingly got like two episodes in an uneven rotation to put their ideas down, I'll take this as a solid representation of escalation if nothing else.
The result of poor group planning is more apparent in the graceless ways Misuzu's presence is woven into the first part of this presumptive finale. Suddenly a whole lot of questions are being asked by the administration and Moyu about Misuzu that probably should have been followed up on way earlier. It's clearly a way to drop some surprise details about her, as well as the Charisma ability that the show also forgot existed until now (the fact that both it and Misuzu return at the same time makes even more obvious how siloed the people juggling the plot-lines for this show must be). So it turns out that Misuzu may have had her own version of Charisma, that it's actually an even more powerful skill than we'd already been led to believe, and it's potentially responsible for the Huge attacks we've seen recently – attacks which would probably have registered as more obviously ‘different’ from the normal behavior of the creatures had we gotten enough context beforehand regarding what ‘normal’ was supposed to look like.
Again, this is a place where I can see the in-the-moment ideas of whatever writer was responsible for this section of the show almost working. The concept of Ghost-Misuzu being not merely an unhealthy coping mechanism of Yuyu, but a lingering extension of the dead girl's ability, would be a pretty neat spin on both those elements if either one had been extrapolated on or foreshadowed before now. Ditto for the eleventh-hour suggestion that Misuzu may not have been the perfect big sister Yuyu was compelled to recall. The potential for meditations on the way we suppress memories of abusive people and how they continue to affect us long after we get them out of our lives could have filled this show's entire season. And with just what they show here it would have been a damn sight more interesting than the nothingburger of Yuri's short, happy life, or the agonizing refusal to explore Riri's own Charisma skill. But instead this episode is forced to come off like it's making up ideas at the last minute, introducing things like Misuzu's darker side out of nowhere, and thus the characters' attempts to reckon with those elements as we try to build up to a resolution of the larger plot feels like rushed gobbledegook.
I want to at least recognize the effort of what was put to paper here. Someone cared about presenting these plot concepts as strongly as they could given the circumstances of story placement. And the presentation's as nice as Assault Lily has always managed. The banter between various characters has a noticeable uptick in charm. Conversations and things like Yuyu's nervous, terrified refusal to admit that she's still hallucinating Misuzu feel right. I particularly like the visual effects on the flashbacks to Yuyu and Misuzu, which lent a storybook texture that pays off even more strongly as they wrap with the contrasting reveal of Misuzu's less loving tendencies towards her surrogate sister. It's cool here, but just think about how much it could have done for the show being built up all season! But I guess we had to get all those bath scenes in somewhere.
That makes this a hard episode of Assault Lily Bouquet to score on an episode-review basis. I think it's good on its own, clearly a product of effort held back by having a lot of its strengths seemingly following on from an alternate-universe better version of this show. But as a supposed penultimate culmination of an entire season meant to lead us into the capstone of an entire series? The disconnects are as glaring as they've always been for this anime. Reminding me of the things it can still do well only momentarily distracts me from the weaknesses that led us here; Unlike Misuzu, they can't erase my memory of what happened before this.
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