What an episode! The more things start coming together, the more everyone starts falling apart. Everything is ready for Menma’s sendoff. The group’s main, tangible goal is within each but the thought of it finally being over is becoming too much for Jinta. And the need to talk about and come to terms with what happened years ago is pulling the others in stressful and even angry directions.
I’ve heard some like RabbitPoets and TheTangles say that this episode could be in their top ten episodes of anime ever. While I wouldn’t go that far myself, I’d probably include it in the top ten episodes that I’ve seen in the last one or two years. The timing was perfect, the dialogue was excellent, visual direction was straightforward but very communicative, and the music was used to great effect. There wasn’t any moment in the episode that wasn’t meaningful and packed with emotion. It’s a wonderful thing to see such forethought in putting an episode together and efficiency in executing it. This was such a dense episode, writing so much material and feeling into twenty three minutes so well is quite an accomplishment.
On to the episode itself, where things start with Jinta delivering a letter to Menma’s family’s house informing them about the launch of the firework rocket. Later in the day Menma’s mother is angry and upset about the group going through with it but Satoshi interrupts her and says that he will be going. And he implies, without any bitterness, that she’s missed part of his life because she’s been so wrapped up in her grief, and that Satoshi himself has grown up to be able to face this. She’s just more upset but her husband uses the opportunity to reach out to her and asks her to, if she still needs to grieve, that she do it together with him and their son. Elsewhere, Tsuruko fends off more Yukiatsu admirers but has become quite bitter about him and lets slip his crossdressing to them. For the first time Yukiatsu seems to be hurt by something she’s said but when he tries to catch her she cries and runs away from him. He had earlier called Naruko about meeting to discuss something earlier, a favor he has to ask of her, and Tsuruko apparently followed them and can see them together. This love triangle issue from the last episode lies behind her actions, and when she calls Yukiatsu she calls him a weakling for wanting to be around Naruko who is as hurt as he is by unrequited love. And this is just the beginning of things.
Showing off her Yukiatsu trivia to the fangirls.
And dropping the crossdressing bomb on her way out.
Meanwhile Menma does her best Nessa impression while she, Poppo, and Jinta prepare decorations for her sendoff party.
Always so angry lately.
While her child is the only one in the family to really try and move things forward.
He seems kind of happy about her misery, though whether it’s about having company while he’s miserable himself or if this was his way of making sure his plan for later would work is not completely certain.
This was cool. Now that they’re opening up more to each other Yukiatsu joins her in her trademark reflection shots like a thin reflection of himself, or the transparent ghost of himself that can’t move past Menma’s death.
The sendoff party that night turned out to be a very heavy scene. Far from having a jubilant party atmosphere, the atmosphere becomes tense and heavy with memories when Yukiatsu asks Naruko for the favor he talked about earlier. He suggests that they reenact that day from years ago. It will probably help them move forward, but it’s the kind of borderline dick move that only Yukiatsu would pull off. He still seems stuck between wanting to keep putting Jinta in agony and actually trying to move on throughout this episode. Everyone standing roughly where they were ten years ago, Naruko asks the question again: “Jinta, you like Menma, don’t you?” The others are shocked, aghast even, at this repeat of events. Jinta first tries to dodge the question, then gets pulled back by his memories of what happened last time and Yukiatsu’s urging. Then Poppo keeps quietly saying, almost chanting, “say it, say it” over and over again. Jinta actually does manage to confess his feelings for Menma in front of everyone but then tries running away, only to have Poppo intervene again and remind him that things won’t change if he just runs away again. The walk home for four of the characters is equally eventful as Naruko cries to Tsuruko and talks about her unrequited love, which finally gets Tsuruko to snap back at her and admit her love for Yukiatsu. She’s jealous of Naruko and angry because she sees Naruko as Menma’s replacement, but perhaps she will believe Naruko’s words that she’d never go out with Yukiatsu, that she loves Jinta. Menma and Jinta walk home themselves and Menma asks if Jinta really meant what he said. He repeats that he did but asks if she understands that he likes her more than as a friend, which she does in a somewhat childlike way. And then he cracks. He says that she can stay like this with him instead of leaving this world and being reincarnated. But she confidently says that she will leave so that she can be reborn.
Yukiatsu: somewhere between troll and desperate.
Tsuruko most of all seems alarmed by this.
Poppo was kind of scary almost with this. We’ve gotten a few more hints about his past with the group, that he was an outcast that they brought in, that he still felt like a bit of an outsider, but he never lets himself open up very much after hinting at things.
Poor Tsuruko. Menma tears the group apart as much as she brings it together.
He’s done it now.
Dear Madoka, he talks to it! Yukiatsu, retaining his super-creep status.
The next day is launch day. The group gathers on a hillside to help prepare the rocket for launch. This scene was another one of those THIS SCENE moments. Tsuruko shows up a little late, with her hair cut to how it was when she was little. Then Satoshi arrives to help as well. Menma runs to hug him and he can feel her presence in some way. Then some very weighty, sad, but not overdone, music begins and lasts through the scene. The music was an important factor in what gave the scene its impact, the piano notes carrying most of it in a way that was downbeat but still held tension. The rocket is prepared and all Jinta can think about is that he can still stop things. As they carry the rocket uphill each character has a moment for their thoughts but Jinta’s remain the same. Carrying the rocket together reminded me of a funeral procession, like they were carrying a casket together. I’m sure this was intentional as they were trying to send Menma off, to finally allow her to pass on and to come to terms with it themselves. They couldn’t face it ten years ago but now they have their own ceremony in a way. The rocket is set and everyone looks on and upwards…except Jinta. Poppo is getting teary eyed, Satoshi appears sullen, but Jinta looks down at the ground still thinking about stopping things. But the fuze is lit and before he can yell “stop” the rocket lifts off and detonates as planned. And just then Menma yells out excitedly about the display…she’s still there.
I loved how everyone had a line while carrying the rocket. Yukiatsu’s was especially determined. He alternates so much that it’s hard to say whether he’s determined to prevent Jinta from stopping things because he thinks it’s the best thing to do, or if he’s doing a good thing for the wrong reason as a form of petty competition with Jinta.
The shots in this scene were great, the best in the series so far.
This one especially so, for Jinta’s place in it.
Not much to say, just great reaction shots.
It was supposed to be the end…
Poppo getting teary eyed just makes me wonder more about him and his place in the group.
Yukiatsu has had a much more reflective look in his eyes when he hasn’t been wearing his troll face. Here and especially at the end.
While Jinta is looking panicked more than anything.
Yukiatsu looks like he’s about to collapse at this. It’s that more sincere look again and he seems like he’s gone weak in the knees at hearing that Menma is still there.
Final Thoughts: - There were a lot of things that needed to happen this episode in order to have enough time to wrap things up in the next one, and luckily the director, writers, and staff managed to make it work. And threw in another surprise at the end with Menma sticking around. Though I have my theory as to that.
- I’m thinking that it’s not actually Menma’s wish that needs to be granted, per se. It’s Jinta’s mother’s wish, as Menma attempted to carry it out before she died. The flashback to the hospital showed where Menma got her ideas about reincarnation, and Tsuruko’s phone call to Yukiatsu when he was with Naruko mentioned that Menma called the group together to do something for Jinta. So now it just remains for Menma or someone else to remember what Jinta’s mom’s wish was.
- I still think that I feel the most sympathetic to Yukiatsu lately. As RabbitPoets said in the post of his that I linked to, how is Yukiatsu supposed to move on when the past won’t leave him alone? He still has his petty moments and can be mean, but it seems more like it’s coming out of a desperate confusion about how to move on. The last part of the episode where he seemed so scared or in shock about Menma remaining with them was probably my favorite moment of the episode.
- Poppo is like some sort of priest for the group or something. He’s mentioned learning shamanic rites and other things, but he seems the most spiritual about all of this and the most serious about the spiritual aspect of putting Menma to rest. I like the role that he has in the group in this way, I just wish he’d open up a bit and give us some background on his past with them.