Celestial Method
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

Shione might not be the most conflicted character in recent anime, but she's certainly up there in the rankings. In part we can easily explain away her issues – people she trusted went away and she was too young to really understand that it was involuntary on their parts, and now that she's formed a new bond with Noel, it looks like that won't last either. That's one of the major plot points of Celestial Method's ninth episode: that Noel, the saucer, did in fact come because they summoned her...but once her work there is done, she'll be moving on to the next wish she has to grant. We can infer from this that the only reason she's stuck around so long is that Nonoka moved away, thus making granting the group's wish impossible. Yes, Noel is warm and sweet and good – but she's also just in town to do her job. While that doesn't take away from the relationships she's forged with Shione, Koharu, Nonoka, Souta, and Yuzuki, it does put a different spin on her presence and her excitement at Nonoka's return back in episode one. It also goes a ways to explaining why Shione, who seemed to be mending her ways as far as Nonoka is concerned last week, has had such an abrupt turn-around. Noel joins the list of yet another person she cared for who is going to leave, so maybe it is better not to reconcile with anyone after all. Because after all, if Shione makes it impossible for Noel to grant their wish, Noel will stay...and that may make everyone else happy even if Shione herself is no longer part of the group.

Most of this is extrapolated from the few words Shione and Noel exchange during the episode, with the action focusing on the school festival and getting the planetarium up and running. Yuzuki and Souta call in more friends to help build it, which makes for some very funny background action, while Nonoka frets over Shione's absence. Noel announces her intention to visit the festival even though it means leaving the saucer behind, and as of the end of this episode, that looks like it might have been a really bad idea. That would be somewhat ironic, since she was clearly going to finally grant everyone's wish and move on, but since Shione absented herself from the festival that couldn't happen, leading to Noel's crisis at the end. You know what they say about the best laid plans, right? It's also indicative of Shione's ability to not think things through, since she knows Noel is the saucer and that she plans to attend the festival; that's at the root of her plans, in fact. I guess it just didn't occur to her that being away from the saucer could hurt Noel, something Nonoka seems to have considered, albeit briefly.

All of that aside, this episode goes by very quickly, even though most of the action is inside Shione's mind. We get more flashbacks to the kids' earlier childhood which helps fill in some details, and seeing everyone as part of a whole school community rather than as an insular group helps to make them all more human. Souta and Yuzuki even interact meaningfully this time, which is really nice to see. The art, unfortunately, isn't quite as good as it has been, particularly right after the opening theme, when the girls are all very off-model and look like their skirts have shrunk and Koharu's profile is distinctly snouty. These issues pop up again a couple of times throughout the episode, but never for as long as that first time.

With answers pouring in (although solutions aren't too plentiful) Celestial Method has finally hit its stride. Peoples' actions now make more sense, we know how and why (and by whom) Noel was summoned, and we can even guess why she's still there and how it factors into Shione's decisions. It's still a little slow, but at long last this show is beginning to live up to its potential. It still looks like there are tears in the future, but getting there no longer feels like it could be an impossible chore.

Rating: B+

Celestial Method is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rebecca Silverman teaches folklore and children's literature and writes manga reviews for ANN.

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