By Noel Kirkpatrick
Episodes 32 and 33: “Pride, and the Final Meeting” and “Fly High”
Original airdates: Mar. 29 and Apr. 4, 1992
What the hell, show? No one can be happy, is that it?
Following the events of “The Bad Apple”, all of the senior members but Lady Medusa resign from the Sorority, and the petition picks up speed as some of those resigned members add their names to the growing list. Things are getting dire for Miya-sama’s standing, and still she does nothing, behaving as if everything is perfectly fine. But the truth is that she’s ultimately resigned to the dismantling of the Sorority. Fiery, blue-tinted dreams of the “peasants” storming the Sorority house drive home the sense of revolution pervading the school and bring home Rei’s nickname’s connection to the French Revolution.
Abolishing the Sorority, however, isn’t leading to the peace Kaoru hoped for. Girls are still turning on each other, particularly the Sorority members. Some are caving to peer pressure by leaving so their classmates will speak to them. Others are leaving only so as to have a position of power in the post-Sorority Seiran that will likely have Kaoru filling Miya-sama’s spot as headgirl. It’s the unintended effects of challenging the pecking order, and one Kaoru never expected.
But it’s also not the focus of the episode. “Pride, and the Final Meeting” brings a conclusion to that particular arc, and what would seem to be an end to Miya-sama’s overall arc. She’s gone from clinging to power as a sense of pride to realizing that the pursuit of pride and dignity is what gives you those things, not social standing or the ability to deny people membership to a club. And it frees her, as Rei hoped it would. And while it clearly tormented Rei to do this, she was, for once, taking a proactive stance towards helping someone (and her own emotional state). The end result is a lighter, happier, more cheerful Miya-sama.
In fact, it results in a happier, more cheerful everyone in “Fly High.” Rei, calling Nanako late in the night, summons her to a small playground and tells her the whole truth: Miya-sama and Rei are actually full sisters, not half-sisters. The Ichinomiya family had whisked her away from their mother and raised her as their own. While I never doubted Rei’s devotion to Miya-sama when they were known as only half-sisters, the depths of that devotion become all the clearer as a result of their shared mother, and the promise Rei made their mother before the woman drowned herself in the sea.
Nanako is, understandably, overwhelmed to learn all of this, but it also signals the closeness that she’s long desired from Rei. As if to solidify that connection, Rei invites Nanako to watch the sunset with her at her favorite spot, a tiny train station away from the city. And so it becomes a day of preparing. Rei is in such high spirit that she drinks from her fridge, vacuums, and even calls Kaoru after finding a book that belongs to her. There’s a lightness to her being, and nary a pill in sight. Nanako, meanwhile, dolls herself up, complete with makeup and parasol, and makes Tomoko hang out with her until it’s time to meet head to the train station. Nanako is coy and cute, made all the more enjoyable with Tomoko’s exasperation at her friend’s secret nature.
And then it all comes crashing down. Dropping a flower no doubt intended for Nanako over the rails of a bridge, Rei falls to her death, struck by a train. It’s not the show’s most poetic moment, oddly, as it falls into cliché with Nanako waiting, unknowing, and Miya-sama receiving the devastating phone call. It’s still an emotional moment, to be sure, but the accidental nature of the death robs it of some of the impact. This isn’t to say that it’s completely empty, but it’s just so sudden and so random that it seems more like punishing the character for achieving happiness than it does anything else.
I don’t know what happens next here, as the girls who have been touched most by Rei—Kaoru, Nanako, and Miya-sama—will likely have to deal with this in their own, solitary ways.
We’re closing in on the home stretch of Oniisama e…, so I wanted to get the gears churning about what’s next. There’s three weeks of coverage left, which will close out my things in mid-December (if I’m doing the math right). After that, I plan to take two weeks off, and then starting on Jan. 1, 2013, I’ll devote a month’s worth of coverage to the original Astro Boy, in honor of the show’s 50th anniversary.
In addition to the episode reviews, I’m going to read Fred Ladd’s Astro Boy and Anime Comes to the Americas and Frederik L. Schodt’s The Astro Boy Essays. Feel free to read along with me, but I want your input about which seven episodes to cover over the course of January (the first episode is a no-brainer). I’ve seen a small chunk of the series a number of years ago, but not all of it, so I want some assistance. You can offer terrible episodes, interesting episodes, favorite episodes, whatever. I just want some suggestions.
And speaking of suggestions, also let me know what you’d be interested in reading about starting in February. It needs to be animated, but it doesn’t have to be anime. It does have to be legally and readily available in the United States, and I would prefer streaming, but that’s not a deal breaker. Leave suggestions for the future show, and the Astro Boy episodes, in the comments, or tweet them to me on Twitter.