Since Season 2 is upon us, I’ve gotten fired up in finishing this thing.
Mostly, I got stuck in the wonderful episode that is episode 8 wherein Kumiko and Reina’s interaction finally took center stage. Even at this moment, with some time and distance as well as watching the whole series again, I can’t still pin their relationship exactly.
Just take this date, for example, I can’t in good conscience say that its just a normal “friendly outing” even if I know perfectly well that Kumiko and Reina have no amorous intention (that they know of anyway ^^).
There is just a certain gravity, a natural chemistry in Kumiko and Reina’s interaction that pings my senses. Combined with the framing and the atmosphere it tantalizes and leaves you as breathless as the protagonist had been.
KyoAni really did a good job in the direction of this episode. Its through their framing that the chemistry within Reina-Kumiko bloomed. So much so that it would not be a hyperbole to say that it is the direction and the technical side that really carried this episode.
Thus on this blog post, I’m mostly going to talk about episode 8’s direction and how they subtly influence the mood of the show. As well as tackle the two confessions we saw back to back. ^^
In any case, let’s start with how Kyoani framed the Agata Festival.
When the festival is starting there is a downright romantic mood in the air. Soft violin music with evening descending causing a more subdued and softer palate…. its the best mood for love as they say.
Not to mention take note which scenes have long air time at the beginning of the festival:
- Goto and Riko meeting up for a date.
…. With Riko showing up in a pretty kimono causing Goto to quietly blush to his ears.
Before I go on, I would like to take a moment to say that I really like this short sort of scene. It gives even the side-characters some depth and goes to show that they are living life even when Kumiko isn’t on screen. Something that Hibike nails every single time.
Also, subtle characterization for the win. Riko showing up in a kimono shows her girlish side and how much preparation she made for their date. Also, note Goto’s earblush when asked for how Riko showing how much he likes it. This couple has an understated relationship, but this sort of scene sealed their attraction and love for each other quite well.
- Hazuki getting ready with her date with Shuiichi.
Midori: <putting a flower hair decoration on Hazuki’s hair> All set, Hazuki-chan!
Hazuki: Really, I don’t look weird?
Midori: You look super cute.
Hazuki: I’ve never worn a skirt other than my uniform…
Hazuki’s clothing seems to be quite average compared to Riko’s kimono and Reina’s elegant dress.
Still, her conversation with Sapphire does show that Hazuki really dressed to impress Shuichi. Hazuki’s dress sense might be leaning on tomboyish. But, on this date she’s trying to up her feminine charm with the skirt and a flower hairpin decoration.
That said, I’m glad that even with a skirt on, she still kept her tomboyish charm. The jacket tied to her waist is perfect accompaniment; adding a sort of roguish appeal even if Hazuki is trying for a more feminine charm.
- Reina dressing up to meet Kumiko
Finally, directly after we see these two scenes, we see Reina meeting with Kumiko in an elegant one piece dress. Remember what I said about framing? While the studio and the director does not make any statement regarding why Reina decided to meet Kumiko in a one piece dress, the inference is kinda obvious when we take the previous two scenes together.
Considering the last two scene that it closely parallels have a romantic undertone, its quite easy for the watcher to add such a similar undertone to Kumiko and Reina’s scene. Added with the way that Kumiko and Reina dressed which I’ve already talked about here and their increasingly interesting conversation which I also thankfully talked about in another post as well, it makes for a very stimulating and intriguing chemistry as they go up the mountain.
I’m not going over Kumiko-Reina talk again as much as I want to. But, I think that it’s interesting that we cut to Shuichi-Hazuki, the moment that Kumiko-Reina was able to break the ice to speak. I think it’s important because in this episode Shuichi-Hazuki wasn’t able to reach such an accord and break the wall between them.
You see, like Kumiko-Reina, we see the beginning of small talk between them, but Hazuki’s straightforward nature is her Achilles heel right there.
Hazuki’s just confessed her feeling just like that, which kinda made the date awkward from them on.
On one hand, this is very refreshing for me as an audience. No beating out of the bush or anything. No dragging it out for god knows how long. Just Hazuki saying that “I like you.” from the start. On the other hand, I can’t fault Shuichi from being a bit blindsided and being awkward from the moment on. While it is very flattering to be a recipient of a crush, its an uncomfortable situation to be in if you can’t return it back. An interesting dilemma for Shuichi considering its the exact same place that he put Kumiko through, in the earlier parts of the episode.
Still, I can’t help but give positive man points for Shuichi for straight up telling Hazuki that he has no feeling for her.
You have to admire such a straightforward honestly like that.
You can feel Hazuki’s heart breaking when Shuichi uttered “Gomen”.
That long pause. The change in melody to a more melancholy tune. Those blinks on Hazuki profile which implies that she’s shedding a single tear. That single, “suka”.
Its a very powerful scene conveying Hazuki’s heart literally breaking.
Perhaps even sadder is when Hazuki rallied herself and said that she’ll play wingman for Shuichi in trying to win Kumiko’s heart. While she’s acting cheerful, you only have to look at her lost face when Shuichi said that “there is nothing between us [Kumiko]”, and you know that Hazuki is forcing herself.
Hazuki probably has a bad case of “I want my beloved to be happy.” Considering the questions that Hazuki fielded to Kumiko earlier this episode, its more than likely that she is aware of Shuichi’s crush. This with Reina’s expression later makes me think that Shuichi’s crush on Kumiko is incredibly obvious.
That said, being aware of the possibility that your crush is in love with your close friend doesn’t make the rejection sting a little less.
Urg. With one confession shut down, thankfully, the second confession is better received.
Remember when I’ve said that early Hazuki-Shuiichi scene has this awkwardness within their conversation? as if the two of them have not yet “connected”?
In many ways, the Kumiko-Reina pair interaction is the reverse of it. As the two of them talk, you can feel a growing connection. Though, unlike the straightforward Hazuki-Shuichi relationship, this one is ambiguous as hell from start to finish.
Seriously, I don’t know if even Kumiko or Reina truly knows what the hell is going between them. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s look at the two confessions.
“Tsukamoto…. you know, I like you.” – Hazuki
“Its a confession of love” – Reina
The first one made by Hazuki is befitting her personality. It is simple and uncomplicated. She’s romantically attracted to Shuichi. The end.
Now, regarding Reina’s confession…. if you watched Hibike while this episode is airing you know that there are a lot of opinions bandied about. No one seems to know what to make of Reina’s statement. For me though, this confession isn’t an expression of romantic attraction. Considering the context that it happened wherein Reina is listing Kumiko’s “bad traits.” It’s more of an expression of how Reina liked Kumiko’s personality despite those bad traits or perhaps BECAUSE OF THEM.
Reina doesn’t believe she is romantically attracted to Kumiko at the time of this confession. For Reina and for Kumiko, this is an outing between two near strangers who want to be closer to one another.
And yet, as I’ve said before, even when I know perfectly well that Kumiko and Reina does not have any conscious romantic intention to one another, I cannot say that their relationship even at this early stage is a perfectly platonic relationship.
Because whatever their intention are (which I don’t really believe Kumiko-Reina really thought about), there are a thousand and one little things that Kumiko and Reina subconsciously and repeatedly do that shows that there might be something “more”. To be frank, sometimes I feel that I’m watching two dense people that are attracted to each other but haven’t realized it yet.
Seriously, just in the ending mountain scene, we have these scenes:
- When Reina commented that the scene at the top of the mountaintop is “pretty”. Kumiko’s eyes are inevitably drawn back toward REINA at the word. This occurrence is actually quite common in this series. Note that this happened in an earlier episode when someone mentioned the word beautiful and Kumiko’s eyes strayed to Reina’s form.
- When Kumiko answered that there is nothing going on with her and Shuiichi. Reina has this tiny delighted secretive smile on her face.
- The way that Reina just freaking invades Kumiko’s personal space and the way that Kumiko just lets her. That finger-lip touch is seriously intense.
- Kumiko’s inner monologue regarding Reina – “At that moment, I felt like I wouldn’t mind losing my life”.
- Reina decided that their duet on the mountaintop should be the “THE PLACE I FOUND LOVE”. <Really? Out of all songs, you chose that lol>
Its these little things and more that makes Kumiko-Reina’s relationship ambiguous and beautiful at the same time. Right now, I feel that its balanced precariously at something not quite friendship not quite romantic thing. And there is a certain beauty in that.