ZOMG. What a dramatic episode.
The accident eight years ago that claimed the lives of Rin’s parents and Kaede’s mother shocked Kaede and she lost the will to live. To save her, Rin claims responsibility for the accident and Kaede returns from the edge literally with a vengeance – her newfound purpose in life is to make Rin’s life a living hell. Rin’s dream in Ep 5 was part of a memory when Kaede told him that he should just die for killing her mother. After years of abuse, Kaede finally realizes the truth via an old postcard and tries to atone for what she has done by becoming Mahoro.
But with Rin finding happiness with Shigure Asa, and that she has never seen him so happy before, her atonement project – the foundation of the third phase of her life – slowly but inexorably crumbles. And with it, her self-restraint. This culminates with her wishing death on Asa using the exact same phrase that she cursed Rin with. Asa, who is in the midst of a serious attack, collapses spectacularly – almost as if in response to her curse. Coming to her senses, Kaede is horrified – it seems that, in addition to Rin’s parents, she’s now killed the girl he loves.
Kareha is always so funny when doing her "Ma-ma-maa!" set though this is the first time I’ve seen her love junkie aura being dispelled. Couldn’t understand the part when Rin asked Asa about the rumour of Kareha working at the cafe – what was the rumour about?
Again, Asa uses her usual tactic to deflect attention from another attack of her illness – first with a reason that suggests it’s just exhaustion from over-exertion and second by making light of it – in this case, saying that she doesn’t want to get up because she likes being held, like a sleeping beauty princess, in Rin’s arms. I wonder if Kareha suspects the truth behind her illness? Also I liked how the onset of her attacks are cued with sound effects like heart beats and the sharp discordant electric guitar-type sound.
Asa tries not to worry her mother by appearing strong in front of her but Ama-san isn’t fooled and even gently chides her for trying too hard, saying that it will worry Rin. Who is worrying away about her at home. Ama-san’s victory signs to Asa after the latter succeeded in asking Rin once again was quite cute.
Another sequence that just screams "Poor Kaede!" – right down the contrast in colours. Rin and Asa have bright cheerful colours to complement their mood while Kaede’s scenes have a dull, greyish tone to them. Although I’m an AAA member, I did feel very sorry for Kaede. But only up to a point. Ep 5 already hinted at how unbalanced Rin and Kaede’s relationship is (Kaede’s total dependence on Rin for validation of self) and Kaede’s need to serve Rin is now shown to be pathological. Living for the sake of another is a very noble thing but anything taken to the extreme is not healthy – in this case, it really places a demand of unlimited liability and responsibility on the person that one is supposedly living for. I do hope that Kaede gets the character growth needed to be achieve that very difficult thing of being happy for Rin and Asa.
Poor Primula – it must have been terrifying for her to see her Happy Family implode like that, not least compounded by a sense of helplessness. Very Raymond Carver. While Blank Stare Empty Pot Kaede assured Primula that as long as Rin was happy, it was all good that was belied by her actions (defacing Asa in the puricura stickers and trying to get Asa to leave her house) and her words (begging Asa to return Rin to her and wishing death on her).
R: Cue obligatory Sadako/The Ring joke.
I was so tempted to make a yuri joke about Kaede confessing to Asa but it just felt so wrong.
I was very surprised by the ferocity of Kaede’s assault on Asa as it was entirely different from the game. Though I should not have been so surprised given that in the first part of the episode, Kaede has what police profilers would call "a history of violent behaviour". The parts about physical assaults on Rin were also mentioned in the game (cf. the 9/7 entry) but my command of Japanese was not sure or confident enough to finger Kaede as the active perpretrator. And now I have confirmation that she did attack him with a knife – in the game, Rin offered to show Asa the scars. Part of the contributory factors behind her anger perhaps included how she feels Rin has abandoned her, how Asa – supposedly a close friend unlike open rivals like Lisianthus and Nerine – had betrayed her?
Another question I’m pondering is if the severity of Asa’s latest attack was related to Kaede’s physical push (unlikely), her curse (more likely) or the psychic reverberations of Rin and Kaede fighting (some indications). Based on game spoilers again, this suggests of a link with Asa’s origins, the magic inside her and the theory of control of magic through emotions as per Primula. Like Matthew, I’m concerned for Asa but the preview shows that she’ll be ok. And it looks like Asa’s backstory (and Ama’s) is being kept for the last burst of fire.
I agreed with Omni that Rin and Asa’s quick (and off-screen) reconciliation was slightly jarring. But after rewatching the conclusion of Ep 18, it bothers me less now as Asa has clearly stated the terms for future dates ("Ask me out when you, and not anyone else, want to.") and Rin’s voiced determination to do just that. On the other hand, I was happy with how Rin and Kaede reconciled in middle school – due to the postcard jogging Kaede’s memories of what really happened. The basis from the reconcilation (beyond a simple "Kaede found out the truth") wasn’t so clear to me in the game – probably because I couldn’t understand the Japanese and perhaps it was in the Kaede thread which I didn’t play.
So where do we go from here? Omni and Kurogane have speculated that Asa is currently still in the lead. I agree. Omni pointed to how Asa appears to be the victim. In addition, the way the whole confrontation was set up and timed simply makes Rin even more concerned about Asa. Omni has also posited that, in the end, Rin might end up with Asa or none of the girls. I suggest another possibility i.e. he could end up with all of them. This is hinted at by Lisianthus tells Rin, right at the end of Ep 17, to remember that the Shinkai practices polygamy. In the Asa thread of the game, Eustoma and Foebeshii also propose this solution to Rin after finding out that he is seeing Asa (i.e. he marry Asa, Lisianthus and Nerine under Shinkai jurisdiction) . While this might have comic potential, I sincerely hope it does not happen as it is is a cop-out solution that would just make the hard choices now seem absolutely farcial.
SHUFFLE! has been my favourite show this season but this episode has solidly entrenched its position. And it has risen in my H-Games Turned Anime ranking. If it delivers a strong ending, it’ll be tops.