“Time falls on us, like rain, it falls like rain until we drown in it, and sometimes, it’s like the drains overflow, and time just pools up, it seeps, it gathers in the corners.” – Michael Montoure, Slices
“All things pass… Perhaps the passage of time is a kind of healing, or a kind of salvation granted equally to all people.” – Mizuki Nomura, Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime
This episode was an amalgamation of so many feelings that by the time I reached the end of it, I was overwhelmed and almost exhausted. As good as a show Natsume is, it’s equally delightful to realize that sometimes it surpasses itself in-depth, insight, and painting all the different shades of life.
We start off as class prez Sasada indistinctly yet unknowingly points out the events to follow, both in Nishimura’s short-lived romantic fantasy and the youkai girl’s unrequited sentiments for the old man.
Following a scurry through the rain-soaked woods, Natsume finds himself with an old towel, a youkai asking for his help to find the owner of the same, and the dilemma of whether he wants to help her. But as the kindhearted person he is, we all know that he won’t refuse.
It appears this little youkai girl is looking for a very handsome person she’d once met at a bus-stop. But upon reaching the place, which looked desolate and unused, it dawns upon Natsume that the time-span they’re dealing with may be in decades.
The girl mourns as she thinks the man might as well have passed away by this point in time, considering how short-lived humans are, and that she might have lost the opportunity to return what was rightfully his forever, but Natsume, in his familiar introspective tone, raises an interesting point.
Ichi–go ichi–e (一期一会) is a prevalent concept in Japanese culture, mostly associated with tea ceremonies, and roughly translates to “one time, one meeting”. It conveys the idea of treasuring meetings with people, because no two meetings are alike, even when it’s between the same people and/or at the same place. It also alludes to the impermanence of all things precious. So touched was the youkai girl at the random act of kindness from the man on that fated rainy morning that she couldn’t resist the opportunity of meeting him again and returning the towel to show her gratitude. But like many other stories we’ve seen on this show, these little encounters are a one-time affair. Still, the girl didn’t give up. Soon her motivation shifted from returning the towel to just be able to meet him once more. She visited him at the same place, whenever it rained, hoping against hope maybe someday he’d be able to see her again.
This makes for a heartrending flashback sequence.
Luckily for them, they ultimately succeed in tracking the man through accidentally coming across her granddaughter, and find out that he’s at a hospital being treated for a minor illness. They attempt to meet the old man and give back his belonging. Natsume asks him in a roundabout way whether he remembers ever lending that towel to a young girl, to which he answers with-
And with that came the waterworks-
This makes for a poignant scene. No doubt, making him remember the event would have given the story a strong emotional punch, after all, she waited fifty years to hear him say this one thing, that the meeting meant just as much to him as it did to her. Isn’t it too sad that all that effort, all the yearning was apparently rendered fruitless? But I say ‘apparently’, because it doesn’t. Any other show would have taken the easy way out, but not this one. It knows better, it knows all too well the peaceful melancholy life gifts us with every passing moment, and that there’s very little we can do except silently accept it. And so we move on, thinking that at least we have the fond memories nobody can take away from us, until that too, crumbles under the passage of time.
“…but happily enough we still have much time, time to live, time to think, enough time for corpses to rot away and turn into dust. But that this time would come to an end was, perhaps, only a matter of time as well.” – Nisio Isin, Owarimonogatari
It is worth pointing out that for such a heavy episode, it has some good comedic moments, like when the youkai girl hid under Natsume’s desk, or when Natsume tried to squeeze out information about the old man from his granddaughter, and was misunderstood by her friend as if he was trying to hit on her. Moments such as these help lift the mood of the show while we appreciate the deeper meanings.
It is also quite touching to see Natsume ask his parents before leaving the house. He was scolded for not doing so in the previous episode. These are simple gestures but they showcase his loyal and loving heart towards his family.
Also, nothing fancy, just some beautiful scenic shots.
From next week’s preview it looks like we’re going to have a two/three episode long story arc again. And even though I love the episodic stories better, having both Matoba and Natori in it means more plot progression, so I’ll be looking forward to it.