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Disappearance of Nagato Yuki chan
Episode 11

by Nick Creamer,

We received some answers in this week's Nagato Yuki-chan, as the story rewound to show us the events of last episode from Yuki's perspective. Apparently, the Nagato we are currently seeing is something of a stranger in her own body; she can look back on the memories of old Nagato, but has no emotional connection to them, and feels like a bystander within herself. This was nicely conveyed through a series of measured but still somehow panicked monologues as the world slowly moved around her - awkward camera angles and a fuzzy overlay conveyed the disconnect in her feelings, while the voices of those around her came through as muffled and indistinct.

These smart aesthetic choices were followed up by some very satisfying narrative ones, as Nagato just directly admitted all of these things to Asakura in response to being challenged. And Asakura, for her part, took this shift very reasonably as well. It's clearly a very disturbing turn of events, but it doesn't mean she can “blame” the current Nagato for stealing her friend, and Asakura commendably resisted doing so as she discussed what they'd do with the "new Nagato." And this whole sequence of mutual reasonableness was topped off by their decision to actually go to a doctor, and openly admit what had gone wrong. Particularly for a show that's had as many cliche conflict beats as Nagato Yuki, it's nice to see these characters just directly confront their issues, and even react to trying circumstances like actual human beings.

The rest of the episode was dedicated to showing this new Nagato adjusting to life playing the part of the old Nagato, attending school and interacting with her clubmates and generally trying to avoid causing trouble. It was lighter than last week's, but perhaps even more fundamentally sad, as the fear and lack of self-worth defining this new Nagato were clear in all of her actions. She constantly turned to Asakura for approval of her choices, constantly apologized for anything she did that might jeopardize the fortunes of the friend that they actually want to replace her. This Nagato is in a painful and tenuous position, and this episode managed to make her insecurities clear and relatable within a mere handful of scenes. She establishes early on that she initially hid her nature because she was afraid of being rejected, and the constant refrain of “I'm sorry. I won't cause you any trouble” (along with the ways she consistently self-corrected to be more Nagato-like) made that fear very tangible.

The show in general continued to execute on a much higher level than its earlier episodes. The music and sound design kept up the sense of melancholy and slight claustrophobia, while the recurring shots of Nagato's eye and reflection played nicely into the core identity questions. Conversations felt more human, with the conversations between Asakura and Kyon feeling more sympathetic and grounded than the earlier romcom fluff. Even the episode's one silly Nagato face served an actual narrative purpose, since it demonstrated the point where Asakura began to see this new Nagato as a real person. This episode wasn't quite as striking as last week's, but it continued the conflict established there with thoughtfulness and grace. Nagato Yuki surprises me once again.

Rating: A-

Disappearance of Nagato Yuki chan is currently streaming on Funimation.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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