Disappearance of Nagato Yuki chan Episode 9
by Nick Creamer,
You know, I was all set to dismiss this episode as another do-nothing episode in line with the last two. In fact, Asakura's behavior in the first half even had me readying a real scorcher of a put-down: “Asakura's behavior this week is making me miss the Asakura who just wanted to stab everybody.” But then the episode had to go and do things, and actually pull off a second half that contained a couple legitimately well-constructed character moments, and so I have to start taking it seriously again. You're on thin ice, Nagato Yuki-chan. You can't jerk me around like this!
As I said, this week's first half followed more or less in the style of the last two episodes - more slice of life shenanigans that lacked either the comedic punch or character heft to really justify their own existence. The activity this time was Old Maid, and the path towards deciding that activity contained several more of those small intermediary scenes (“what should we do,” “let's play cards!”, “what should we play?”, “how about this game?”, “I don't know that game!”, “how about this game?”, etc) that most shows would rightfully cut for pacing's sake. There were a number of silly Nagato faces during this sequence, but the actual narrative focus of this segment was Asakura's contradictory feelings towards Kyon and Nagato.
As Nagato moved closer and closer to losing and having to go get snacks as a penalty, Asakura's mind wandered towards an extended fantasy of Kyon volunteering to help her, Asakura deciding to tail them, and the expedition ultimately ending in (gasp!) holding hands and (double gasp!) a kiss. Promptly woken by the shock of this fantasy, Asakura found that she herself had lost the game. But the episode ultimately moved to seeing her disturbing fantasy realized, as Kyon and Nagato took Tsuruya's advice and headed off to go stargazing alone.
This attitude of Asakura's, that her friends getting together would be some shocking and terrible “step too far,” has been grating on me for a few weeks now. It plays far too much into anime's usual tendency to both scandalize and downplay any idea of intimacy between characters whatsoever. It feels juvenile, and in a season that contains both Sound! Euphonium and MY love STORY!! as far superior examples of teenage romance, it's even more frustrating to see a show leaning on such a stale, stasis-friendly trope. Fortunately, the episode's second half actually did some fine work in justifying Asakura's hypocrisy, as she ultimately revealed to Haruhi that her discomfort is based in a fear of Nagato moving further away from her as she moves closer to Kyon. This honestly isn't the freshest conflict either, but the execution of this moment felt honest and intimate, and the interplay between Haruhi and Asakura made the most of both of their characters. This moment felt real, and that sense of “these people are real enough to be worth caring about” is pretty much all I want from these conflicts.
The episode's final scene was also solid, as the whole group gathered to enjoy the stars. A nice vocal-driven track and light gags from all of the cast set the tone for a scene that ultimately really did move towards (gasp!) Nagato and Kyon holding hands. It's a very tiny step, and I honestly don't think this story is going to end up being bold or interesting enough to actually let Nagato and Kyon ever get together, but hey, it's something.
Anyway, enough mushy middle school romance stuff, it's time for drama! According to the post-credits stinger, Nagato's about to get (nearly?) hit by a car, which will likely get defused within the next episode's first five minutes, but still promises some kind of development. And that episode title, “Someday in the Rain,” recalling one of the first season's best experiments. It's probably not in this show's best interest to continually draw attention to its relationship with a show that was far more bold and interesting than itself, but we'll have to see where Yuki-chan goes with it. As for this episode, this was the first time in three weeks I've felt at all invested in these characters, so I'm considering this a win.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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