She’s still sitting there, but is Rikka slipping farther away from Yuuta?
Three weeks have passed since the night of the bonfire, when Rikka took off her eyepatch to reveal that the Tyrant’s Eye had left her. And we start this episode with Touka leaving for Italy. But things are wrong. If there was one word that described this episode, it would be exactly that: wrong. Touka admits to Yuuta that she feels glad that she can leave with Rikka acting better, can leave with him looking out for her, but the world around them is gray, lifeless. And when we see Rikka for the first time, that same feeling of wrongness permeates her. Her eyes are dead, soulless. Her manner subdued. Maybe she’s upset that Touka’s leaving. Maybe she’s worried about her mother coming. And when she’s interacting with Yuuta, it seems to be a little better. Some spark returns to her eyes, some excitement in her voice, some emotion – embarrassment, playfulness, the slightest bit of whimsy. But as soon as she’s confronted by Sanae, that all goes away, like she has to force it down, make a conscious effort to subdue her interest.
Yuuta helps Rikka clean, but wonders if they go too far.
We actually do get a motivation for it: She wants to keep her mother from worrying about her. This is actually an admirable goal. Thinking of others is not a bad thing. But has she gone too far? And even though he can’t actually say the words, Yuuta is wondering if it’s really ok, if she’s really happy with this, when it’s obvious she’s not. And even though it’s been three weeks, it seems like the pace of whatever change is increasing, as things seem to come to a head in the two days that this episode depicts. Rikka packs up the artifacts in her room, with Yuuta’s help. But she admits that she doesn’t know what she can keep and what she should get rid of. And in her indecision, she ends up getting rid of almost everything with Yuuta’s encouragement.
A wonderful scene, no words needed, just time.
And Yuuta is in a strange place as well. He partly believes Touka, that helping Rikka continue with her unreal overlay of the world is “irresponsible”. But he also sees the same things we see, that that spark she always had before is now fleeting, flickering but never flaring, and always quick to recede. He obviously picks up on the wrongness here, and openly wonders if he’s doing the right thing. It’s like he knows what you *should* do to stop being a Chuunibyou, and if this were the beginning of the school year, they would likely have gone through this together, or at least in parallel. But Yuuta’s changed since then, mostly because of Rikka. She has shown him that he doesn’t really need to give it all up, that he can still find things cool and interesting. But Rikka’s going past that, and denying everything she used to think was cool. I definitely don’t think she doesn’t find those things cool anymore, but she’s afraid. She’s afraid her mother will worry, and most of all, she looks afraid of disappointing Yuuta. After all, they both confessed to each other, and now he wants her to change herself. Indeed, she repeatedly asks him for advice, for guidance. And every time, Yuuta makes the same choice: move away from the chuunibyou past. But even he starts doubting whether that’s the right way to go.
This picture makes me cry 😦
And a major source of that doubt is Shinka. From what Rikka says, it seems like Shinka was initially supportive of her efforts to change (giving her advice on talking like a high school girl, among other things), but we see in this episode that Shinka is starting to think it’s gone too far, as Rikka is changing more and more. While the rest of the class applauds Rikka’s effort made in asking the other girls if they can be friends, Shinka looks on with a look of worry. She questions Yuuta, more than once, about whether he thinks this is the right thing. But she hasn’t come out and said it, openly: They have gone too far, and Rikka has changed too much, and she’s not happy. But Shinka’s best moment comes after Sanae has tried to reignite Rikka’s interest with some magical stones, and after some initial delight and wonder, Rikka shuts down, the rational part of her, the part that’s trying to un-chuunibyou herself at all costs, taking over. And in the midst of Sanae’s pleading, Shinka pulls her out of the room, kicking and screaming, and won’t let her go, until the two of them end up in a touching embrace, Shinka comforting Sanae over the person they both have seemingly lost. And Shinka does feel like something is lost. Why else would she question Yuuta if they’ve gone too far? Why else would Shinka have stayed in the club for that long unless she considers Rikka to be a friend, even perhaps a touchstone for her past.
She knows it’s not real, but that doesn’t mean she wants it to end.
But the person affected most of all is Sanae. She has seen her “Master”, the person she looked up to most, change completely, to the point of discarding almost all that she previously held dear. And in that change, she sees not a happier person but a person who, again, seems flat and lifeless. Sanae tries as hard as she can to revive Rikka’s spirit, her wonder. She picks a battle with Rikka, but as the first blast from the Mjolnir Hammer approaches Rikka, it washes past her with no effect, and the “Battle Dimension” is dispelled. And as the end of the episode, as Rikka is waiting for the train to take her to her grandparents’ town and who knows what ill fate, Sanae appears again to make a last stand. But her attacks again fail, and as Rikka leaves on the train, Sanae asks Yuuta why he let her go, and why he let her Master go. She explains how happy Rikka was with his support, with the presence of the Dark Flame Master, with the presence of a person she came to love. And now that’s being lost. Yuuta counters that none of that was real, and that what is real is that Rikka’s father is gone, and life has to move on. And in full honesty, Sanae responds that she knows it isn’t real, and also Rikka knows. But it was fun, and it was helping, and a big part of her.
Where Rikka should be next to him is empty railroad tracks.
And just to put a cap on the wrongness of this episode, of these happenings, as Sanae runs off, and Rikka rides away from him, Yuuta breaks down. That’s not what he wanted to say to Sanae. He hasn’t been saying what he wants to say to Rikka. Rikka’s been looking to him for guidance, wanting to please him, wanting to please her mother, wanting to please everyone but herself. And in this effort, has she made herself miserable? Has she changed who she is irretrievably? As they’re waiting for the train, Yuuta asks, haltingly, if she’s coming back. Trying to put a brave face on. And Rikka answers that she will… because she has to go to school. The omission stands there, the silent elephant in the room: She doesn’t say she wants to come back to him. Will she rediscover her delusions while away from him and run away? Or does she still love him, when he’s pushing her to be something she may not want to be?
I also have to say that KyoAni has done a tremendous job with Rikka’s mother. She’s had a total of what, 20 seconds of screen time this entire series? Yet she’s gone from a big villain to a very sympathetic character, to a major source for Rikka’s motivation. Unfortunately, so much of that motivation is guilt for how she treated her.
The mood of this coloring sucks all the fun out of what should be a great occasion.
There’s one more episode of this great series. Halfway through, I thought it was sliding back, from stupendous to ‘merely’ very good, a show that would have been great in other seasons, but in this one couldn’t compare to the likes of Sakurasou or Shin Sekai Yori or PsychoPass or (my favorite) Girls und Panzer. But in these last 4 episodes, they put the hammer down, and really brought the game up. Last season, KyoAni did the same thing with Hyouka, and finished with a beautiful, nearly perfect finale. I have to say that I’m hoping for the same thing with this finale.