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Mysterious Disappearances
Episode 12

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Mysterious Disappearances ?
Community score: 3.9


Oto was living not so much on borrowed time as out of time. I'm not sure any of us expected Mysterious Disappearances to be a stealth sequel to Grave of the Fireflies, but as it turns out, that river we saw Oto walking along in despair was the Sanzu, the river between life and death in Japanese mythology. And the reason she was there in the first place is that she's dead – she and the original Ren both perished in 1945, shortly after the end of the Second World War. (The date is printed on her train ticket.) Why Oto got lost along the riverbank while Ren appears to have made it to the afterlife isn't certain – or maybe the implication is that one of the adults we see on the train platform where he collapsed after burning his sister's body in a wicker coffin rescued him, and the real Ren is waiting back in the forties. But whatever the case, Oto's fear and emotional pain formed a Curiosity – the person we know as Ren Adashino.

That puts what we know about Adashino working to get his sister home in a new light. He seems to have been aware, at least towards the end when he offers himself up as payment for her ticket, that he's not “real” in the same way that she is. His musings about the digital tsukumogami also take on a different tone, because he's essentially an emotional version of the phenomenon, existing based on the strength of the emotions Oto poured into him. And that's what's behind his eventual ability to return to Sumireko: the feelings she has for him are what make him real.

The idea of wanting something so much that it becomes real is an underlying theme of this series. All of the Curiosities arise from human desires of one kind or another, with Adashino being the distillation of that idea. But Sumireko can't write another novel until she reaches a point where she really wants it, inspired by Adashino. Her work with the Curiosities essentially makes her able to believe in herself again, aided by her own personal Curiosity, which perhaps reminds her that age isn't the big deal society thinks it is. (After all, Oto is technically older than my parents!) Uname's brush with Curiosities helped her eventually get a grip on her tendency to see bullying everywhere, and Shizuku's allowed her to find closure. Those last two are things that they may not even have been fully aware that they needed resolved, but subconsciously yearned for – much like Oto eventually realized that Adashino wasn't her brother Ren, and that the person she missed was waiting for her at the end of the train tracks.

Oto's name may be indicative of that. Although we don't know the characters it's written with, it still conjures up images of Otohime, the princess in the Urashima Taro story. Otohime loses Urashima when he returns to the surface and opens the box, aging and fading away into nothing. This dovetails with Oto's own story, although she's the one in the box; still, the object, symbolic of death, separates her from Ren. We have to assume she's either reunited with Ren or finds peace in some other way, though, because of the note she leaves in the picture book Ren burned her with: “I am happy.”

My father always says that you remember things by how they end. This episode had some awkward attempts at humor, but overall managed to give us a finale that I think will make the show stick in my memory. Sumireko returning to the magic bookshop of her childhood, which in its second appearance reminded me strongly of Carlos Ruíz Zafón's Cemetery of Forgotten Books, brings her full circle, and the image of a yellow sign reflected behind her drives home the fact that Adashino isn't tied to normal human laws. It's not the ending I necessarily expected, but that somehow made it all the better.


Mysterious Disappearances is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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