This show hasn’t always been even. The episodes in the present time in particular were somewhat lacking, in tension when the tension was paramount, and in small and comfortable moments when the show veered more in that direction (in the second half), which made sense, since Kayo was stuck in the past. Thankfully, last episode was pretty small and comfortable and good, and this episode? This episode was great. It didn’t give me the same amount of smiles and tears as episode 8 did (Kayo’s highlight episode, and being brought into the Fujinoma household), but it was at least that level of great. Can’t think of a better episode of the show, and it’s always nice to end on a very positive note, isn’t it?
My write-ups for BokuMachi have always focused on the themes of the show, and this episode, as befits a finale, not made use of them all, but also tied them all neatly together, so let’s look at some of them.
First and foremost, it’s all about trust. Now that Satoru is no longer a child, his mother manages to move forward, and head off the mistake she’s made in the past and was making now all over again – protecting her child so he could not grow up, could not move forward. What she’s done is actually trust in him, and his ability to handle the world. And what did Kenya tell us, and the helpful memory of Airi too? That you need people to believe in you for you to believe in them, and that people need to believe in others, and to be believed.
To live without believing in others is to live without having hope for them. It is to live always apart from others, because you fear they will hurt you. But everyone’s the same. Everyone’s afraid to be hurt, so people are wary of trusting others, before others trust them, while those others are waiting for them to make the first step. And so was Satoru, who in his first earnest discussion with Kayo admitted that he’s keeping a mask on, and keeping others at arm’s length. Which is why he had no real friends, no relationship he managed to maintain into his adult life in the original timeline.
And so, the 15 years he “wasted” weren’t wasted twice over. First, as Yashiro had promised, they had bought the life of everyone else, every one of his friends. Second, he didn’t really live in his original life anyway, did he? So it was easy to make that trade, especially when his mind did keep the memories of the life he hadn’t lived any longer, for a life where he’s willing to make the first step, to reach out, and affect others, and be affected in turn.
This is the way to note how Satoru’s life transformed everyone around him, as a true hero. Kenya became a lawyer to pursue the criminal, Hiromi went on to become a doctor to be able to help people like his ailing friend, and even Satomi went on to help those around her (and a nice and small way of rehabilitating her character in the final act, kudos). And of course, Yashiro hadn’t killed anyone for 15 years.
Yashiro is the perfect way to segue from “trust”, because the point here isn’t trust in and of itself, but the ability to feel as if others understand you, and believe you, and are there for you. It’s about the relationships you weave with your surroundings. It’s about filling the gaping hole in all of us called loneliness. Satoru’s words about how he’s the only one who knows what Yashiro is really like make one wonder if aside from filling the ennui, he wanted to be caught, just because it’d mean there’s someone else out there on his same wavelength. Of course, we saw the spider’s thread on his head at the end, because he too wished to find someone who’ll help him out of hell. He just wasn’t willing to trust. Well, and he was a serial killer, so there’s that.
Yashiro enjoyed living on the edge, enjoyed living with the torture of not killing Satoru, of waiting for the one person who knows the why of him, and the how, and knew a bunch even before being confided with to come back. I really liked how they interwove this scene with Satoru’s interactions with others, and also how not loud this scene was, full of soft lighting and people coming face to face with themselves. This was “post-reveal Yashiro” finally getting the Kayo treatment, of a person, rather than the “cliche villain” treatment, and the show and the scene both benefited tremendously from it.
And the way to finish the write-up, and the episode, is the same way the episode did, but a moment aside first. After Satoru said to his friends, “Believing is really a term for hoping to believe,” we’ve had the Yuki Kaijura violins, long-missing, finally make their return. This was the final thematic block by the show, put in place. Satoru wasn’t believed by adults, so he didn’t believe them, which meant he had no hope for the external world, for society, and for adults. So when he sees Airi (21 year old now), and the episode closes with “I never stopped believing,” what he’s really saying is, “I never stopped hoping.”
Now, a few small asides, and on the show as a whole.
1) The show as a whole wasn’t always even. It had some down moments. Thankfully, they weren’t more than 1-2 episodes long, and as the show traded away its tension, it gained in thematic clarity and depth. Both in the first return back to the present, and then later on with Kayo being saved, and what happened later. It does feel as if the show peaked a bit too early, as the show put all its drive in the Kayo arc, and sort of meandered, plot-wise, after. But the thematic keys were there, and this episode, which was a highlight, did tie it all together, especially the last arc’s worth of content. I do wonder how it’d have felt to marathon the show, with the high tension of the first 6 episodes (and especially the first 4), to carry us through all the way in one go.
I’d still give the show 8.2/10, because its highs were really high, showcasing a mastery of the format from a physical perspective, and the show at times had been at the height of tension, while at others it excelled at delivering small and precious moments. It wasn’t perfect, but the good always outnumbered the bad, and it delivered on multiple angles.
2) “Boys’ Flight” in the background alongside with “You’re blowing me away!” and “I love it when you take the bull by the horns, Sensei!” – How lewd :P
3) “‘Believing in someone’, that’s a weird phrase, isn’t it?” – For those who don’t know, I’m a Philosophy grad student focusing on Philosophy of Language. I’m going to nerd out a bit about this, so forgive me. “I believe you” isn’t a performative utterance, you believe in someone even without saying so, and you can say so without it being true, unlike “I forgive you,” where the utterance is the act of forgiveness itself, or if you wish to believe forgiveness is an internal thing, then “I pronounce you husband and wife,” is the prime example – the speech act is the act that does something. So it is not the same as the case I’m about to make, but I’ll start with it anyway.
Back when I was a teenager taking tennis classes, I once accidentally hit the instructor with a ball, it happens. After a few moments, he asked me why I didn’t say I’m sorry, and my reply to him was “You know I should say I’m sorry, I know I should say I’m sorry, and you know I know, just as I know you know. So we can just act as if I said I’m sorry even without me saying so!” But we still hold it has value, beyond politeness and social convention, right? It’s because the other side might not actually know we’re sorry if we don’t say so.
“I believe in you” isn’t the same as in “I believe in air.” First, because saying you believe in something isn’t about you not really believing in it, but about the possibility of you not believing in it, which is certainly true for other people. Second, because it has a social purpose, and here is where it’s similar to asking for forgiveness, but say in a specific situation, where two people argue, and both say things they wish they hadn’t. Saying you’re sorry here is taking the first step, it’s reaching out, so the other could reach back.
Airi believed in Satoru, but look how shocked he was when she said that to him. Not because he felt it was evident and thus didn’t need to be said, and not because he didn’t think she really trusted him, but only wantedto trust him (though that was also true), but exactly because that utterance changed his perception of the situation, because he’s not privy to her thoughts. Saying “I believe in you” has value exactly because it is not apparent, and not mandatory, because it’s an act of taking the first step.