Ah, yes, the Kitamura Goes Crazy arc. I remembered that this happened, but, as predicted, I’ve forgotten pretty much everything about how the events of the plot go. Kitamura’s issues aside (because they don’t really get revealed in this episode anyways), the biggest note for me here is how radically thoughtful Taiga has become in the days after the culture festival. It’s as if, after deciding she didn’t need support herself, she’s determined to support others instead. Of course, the lovely irony is that Ryuuji is always there, as if invisible, supporting her.
0:15—Are they actually friends? I can’t actually remember Ami really showing any sort of real affection for or interest in Kitamura?
0:32—Man, he is really out of it.
1:49—This little bit (including his echo of “everything” at the end) is overdone to the point of hilarity, but everything that’s come before has told use this isn’t funny.
4:06—It’s always interesting to watch the faces of the characters in this show when they think no one is watching. Minori looks more genuinely concerned here than she does after she sees Ryuujia and Taiga. She looks truly stunned.
4:49—THAT (Kano’s dismissal of Kitamura) got Ami’s attention, and it answers my question from the first screenshot: Ami does indeed care about Kitamura.
5:17—We get that again here, too, as the camera lingers in Kano’s point of view and we see that Ami is genuinely angry.
5:51—And Ami isn’t the only one who shows a deeper care for Kitamura than she lets on. Minori’s pretty upset here, too.
6:05—It’s fascinating how Ami instinctively understands stuff like this, but also logical because she’s the exact same way.
6:38—There’s some resentment there, like Ami wishes she could do the same, but doesn’t believe it would actually help. Is what Kitamura does better than just hiding, like Ami?
6:43—Pay attention to what Ami does, not what she says. Here, she stands in for Kitamura, filling in for him in a subtle, understated way.
7:44—This lighting could almost be romantic…
8:07—I think Minori and Ami understand each other at a fundamental level because they are incredibly similar people. Both make use of strong, strong masks that require enormous amounts of effort to maintain…and which come crashing down for brief moments.
8:30—Seriously, Minori knows so much about Ami.
8:55—At least, she thinks she does. She hopes she does. She’s looking for something certain. She’s very afraid that what she think she knows about Ami is actually just a fantasy.
9:13—She’s back to hoping against her lived experience. I don’t think Minori actually believes this. I think she desperately wants it to be true while simultaneously thinking that it isn’t. For Minori, this is yet another UFO, something she wants to see, but doesn’t think she ever will. Here it is: the fundamental tension of Minori’s character. She is someone who is eternally optimistic in the face of a life that has told her optimism has no place in it. I don’t really remember how much (if any) we get of Minori’s backstory, but I fully expect that if it comes, it will validate this interpretation.
9:37—It’s really sad how terrified she is that Ryuuji thinks she’s kind.
9:45—She’s terrified that someone might think her mask is real.
10:46—An off-handed line, but Kitamura wouldn’t be making this comparison if he didn’t have some sort of problem at home.
12:00—This is an interesting shot; it’s like Kitamura is visually being supported by them.
12:35—And I think it’s paralleled in this shot, with the moon in between Taiga and Ryuuji’s houses. Notice, the moon isn’t full.
13:07—Of course this would be important to Taiga. From the very beginning, independence has been a huge deal and point of pride for her. So, when she sees the boy she has a crush on getting weighed down by expectations and the demands of others, it makes sense that she would react violently.
14:11—Taiga sees Kitamura at his most vulnerable. With his back to the world, he’s cried himself to sleep. Such is often the case with those who present a strong face to the world; only alone can they allow themselves to truly express their unhappiness.
15:02—Taiga is now having the same revelation that Ryuuji did at the end of the culture festival arc. Sometimes, you just can’t help someone, no matter how badly you want to. So what do you do then? Ryuuji’s answer was to stand by her side. What will hers be?
15:30—GAH! Kitamura, she says, is her “last hope,” even as Ryuuji is the one wrapping her with love.
15:58—”Even though they look close those stars are actually really far apart.” This line changed the way I thought about the shots at 12:00 and 12:35, especially 12:35. The moon in that shot appeared to be close between Taiga and Ryuuji’s houses, but really, it was very far away. So, I think, it is with Kitamura. Taiga and Ryuuji are close, but he’s far away from them despite how close he seems to be.
16:27—Has Ryuuji learned? He’s asking here, trying to make sure he understands.
16:54—Just kiss already.
17:41—Happy Kitamura is still hilarious.
18:18—It’s that same shot again: Kitamura framed on both sides by Taiga and Ryuuji, physically proximate, yet somehow so distant.
18:53—Lol okay Kyon.
19:26—Taiga stepping up to hit the balls is a lot like when Ryuuji joined her in kicking the pole way back in episode 2. She’s physically empathizing with his frustration by making a similar action. It may not be the same as really knowing what he’s going through, but it’s a supportive shared experience.
20:27—Fun angles here, where the room aligning with Kitamura as he pulls away from Yasuko.
20:31—Dang, this is good stuff. My friends, I present to you an superior example of brilliant theme integration. Adults versus children has been an important opposition since last episode, and here it’s slipped in quickly, naturally. We haven’t yet gotten what this conflict means in relation to the character (is it responsibility, realness, fantasy, expectations?), but the foundation is being skillfully set each episode.
21:30—I will almost always support the decision to offer agency to someone else, rather than trying to absolve them of it.
22:07—So, Metal Taiga returns to give Kitamura the push he needs by presenting him with a choice. Now, he has to take back agency and take action. Either way, he chooses. And that’s what’s important.
I know this arc isn’t particularly beloved by the fandom, but while it’s perhaps not as emotionally resonant as the previous arc (really, what could be?), it’s thus far been a fantastic bridge between the emotional heft of Taiga’s family issues and the (assumed) growing focus on romance and drama between our five main characters. Taiga’s been given many opportunities to demonstrate the changes in her personality, Kitamura is being given some much needed nuance, and Minori and Ami continue to be fascinatingly complex characters. And Ryuuji, actually, kind of feels like he’s getting left behind as his friends all work to change.