Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 12-14

It’s the end of the road for KimiNozo, and there’s a lot to talk about, but can I start by saying it’s just like Takayuki to end episode 11 whispering Mitsuki’s name to nobody, then start episode 12 by whispering Haruka’s name to Mitsuki. Wouldn’t these final episodes have been so much simpler if he could just manage to do those in the right order?

So, the big development in episode 11 for Mitsuki’s side is her breaking up with Takayuki. And the hell of it is that, even at the beginning of this episode, Mitsuki still seems to have had some hope left. As she herself says, it’s the fact that Takayuki doesn’t get mad at her having slept with Shinji that seems to be the final straw. If Takayuki can’t even show an emotional response after she’s gone that far, then what is left of their relationship? But what Mitsuki doesn’t realize is that Takayuki doesn’t get mad because he feels he no longer has the right to. He knows that he’s the one who pushed Mitsuki to this point. It’s a tragic scene, where both sides know they’ve done wrong, and are merely waiting for the other side to get mad. But the relationship is dying, because neither side feels they have the right to make the first move to save it.

This would be the point where Takayuki would try to escape the reality of the present-day by going to Haruka to immerse himself in the past, but he can’t even do that anymore, so it’s back to the Sky Temple for him. It’s clear by this point that the Sky Temple is another place for Takayuki to escape from reality, and Shinji calls him out on it in this episode, but there’s more to it than that. Did you ever notice that while at the Sky Temple, Takayuki engages in a lot of arguing and banter with a loudmouthed, long-haired girl, while being kind to and taking care of a clumsy, short-haired girl? No less than the game’s creator himself, Kouki Yoshimune, pointed that out on his live stream once – somewhere deep inside, Takayuki subconsciously behaves at the Sky Temple the same way he did in high school. Much like visiting Haruka at the hospital, his job at the Sky Temple makes him feel like he’s returned to the past, when life’s problems could be resolved with a simple punchline, and he doesn’t have to deal with the issues waiting for him outside. So although the Sky Temple setting can sometimes feel superfluous, it actually furthers the show’s central metaphor of nostalgia and yearning for the past.

Speaking of the past, over on Haruka’s side of the story, Haruka manages to wake up again, this time fully able to understand the amount of time that has passed since the accident. Throughout the series, Haruka has represented the past – everybody who interacts with her must return to the past and shut out the true events of the present. Over time, our lead characters, Takayuki and Mitsuki, become trapped by the past due to Haruka’s presence. In a way, then, by awakening this time with full awareness of the present, Haruka becomes the first of the three to break free of the past and begin to move forward.

Moving ahead to episode 13, then, the first thing I notice as the episode starts is that we’ve completely skipped over the moment when Takayuki first meets Haruka after her awakening – we begin the episode with the two of them already talking. That seems a little disappointing, since the entire show seemed to be building up to the true reunion between the two, without having to hide the truth. In fact, what strikes me on rewatching this episode is how much I wish we had gotten to see more of this version of Haruka. We really only get this one episode, and maybe half of the final episode.

I’ve mentioned before how only Takayuki and Mitsuki seem to be real characters in the story – Haruka, lying in bed and unable to understand the truth, doesn’t have enough agency to drive the story in the same way. Now that Haruka is fully aware of the true passage of time, we’re finally getting to know Haruka as a character. She slaps Mitsuki when Mitsuki reveals the truth of their relationship, she shows her strength in going through therapy, and then she shows her weakness that night while lying in bed. That final scene is honestly the first time we get to dig into Haruka’s hidden emotions – and it only appears in the show in order to further Takayuki’s story. It really drives home the fact that this is truly Takayuki’s and Mitsuki’s story – developing Haruka into a character in her own right is simply not a priority.

Let’s talk about that slap a little. There’s a similar slap in Mitsuki’s route in the game, but the context is completely different. Most importantly, in that version, Mitsuki is actually the one who slaps Haruka, for insinuating that everybody else had it easy while Haruka is the only one who suffered. In the anime, Haruka slaps Mitsuki for confessing that she and Takayuki had been dating – and, I think, for trying to shift all of the blame onto herself. What I think is most interesting about the contrast between the two is that in the game, Mitsuki was still strong enough to stick up for herself and Takayuki. She’s clearly had a rough time of it, but even so, she was still on speaking terms with Takayuki at that point. The Mitsuki of the anime has clearly been brought down far lower than in the game. I think that may be the reason the anime switches things up – it’s almost impossible to imagine the Mitsuki of the anime slapping anyone at this point.

And that, then, brings us to episode 14, the finale. The finale is basically broken into two halves, a final scene between Takayuki and Haruka, and a final scene between Takayuki and Mitsuki. And what I want to touch on here is that the anime actually swaps the two scenes around. In the game, Takayuki goes to Mitsuki first, to get back together with her for good. Only then does he go to Haruka, to tell her what he’s decided. The anime starts with the Haruka scene, and moves the Mitsuki scene to the end. I can see why the anime does it that way – it’s because they want to end the series with the climactic reunion between Takayuki and Mitsuki, which is a much more dramatic finish than ending with the Haruka scene.

The only issue I have with it is that a number of people seem to have interpreted this new order of scenes to mean that Takayuki had still not made up his mind when he goes to see Haruka, and it’s only when Haruka says goodbye that he returns to Mitsuki. I don’t think that’s true – I think, even in the anime, the subtext of the scene makes it clear that Takayuki is here to inform Haruka of his decision, and it’s only once Haruka recognizes that that she proposes to say goodbye. But the idea that some people may interpret the final episode that way makes me a little sad, because it’s critical to the story that Takayuki make that final decision by himself.

Throughout the story, Haruka has represented the past, and Mitsuki has represented the future. So, dealing with the show’s central metaphor, choosing Mitsuki at the end is the only ending that makes sense. The story simply can’t end with Takayuki choosing Haruka, because the entire story has been about the dangers of becoming so obsessed with the past that you begin to neglect your future. The game has numerous routes, and it doesn’t explicitly label one as the “true route”. But thematically, Mitsuki’s route is the true route, which is why it’s the one that Akane Maniax and Muv-Luv follows. Some visual novels are written broadly enough to support multiple endings; KimiNozo is written, from beginning to end, solely to support Mitsuki’s ending. You can also see that in the fact that it is only in Mitsuki’s route that we learn the contents of the picture book, Mayauru no Okurimono – its contents are tailored specifically to Mitsuki’s route. That may be a major reason why the anime ends up working so well for a visual novel adaptation, because unlike many visual novels, KimiNozo builds cleanly to a single endpoint rather than multiple endings.

So with that, all that’s left is a few items to note from the show’s epilogue. A recurring subplot through the series has been an offer for Takayuki to become a full-time employee for the Sky Temple. As I mentioned earlier, the Sky Temple is another metaphor for the past, so it only makes sense that Takayuki turns down the job at the end of the show. In fact, when Takayuki turns down the position, he explicitly says it’s because of Mitsuki. This entire subplot is yet another anime-original addition to the show, which I suspect was added to bolster both Takayuki’s story and the importance of the Sky Temple location.

As some people may know, the epilogue features cameos from both Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu and Muv-Luv – Yayoi Isumi can be seen cleaning Takayuki’s apartment after he moves out, and Chizuru Sakaki can be seen cheering Akane on sometime in the future. According to director Tetsuya Watanabe, though, Yayoi’s cameo wasn’t planned at first. Originally the script simply read that the character was to be some nondescript landlady. However, Age informed the anime staff that the landlady of Takayuki’s apartment was, in fact, an existing character, something that the game does indeed establish, although we never see her in the game. So it turned out to be just a coincidence that the anime staff’s plans for the scene happened to incorporate a KimiIta cameo.

So how does the story actually end? Some find the final moments, with Haruka standing under the tree, then turning around and smiling, to be ambiguous. But pay close attention to the final shot of the show – it depicts the four characters of Haruka’s book, reunited under the tree. And it is a reunion, not a flashback, because the tree is now fully grown. By placing this final shot after the shot of Haruka smiling, the show clearly implies that this final shot shows what follows in real life as well – that after many years, our four leads have managed to put the past behind them and come together once again as friends.

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