Some near-finales for you: Natsu, Ano Natsu, Last Exile Fam

We’re getting a lot of pre-finale cliffhangers this week, a lot of characters in crises of various kinds, some of more interesting than others. We start with Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, where our boy heads to his first home, but before he gets there he’s assailed by youkai and memories of the past.

Nyanko-Sensei comes too.

The two work together. He needs to pick up a key to the old place from a place he used to stay with a nice couple and their daughter who could not understand him at the time, well, none of them did, but little Miyoko was the only one unable to hide it. This would be a perfect place for Natsume to sit down, have some nice tea, and prove to everyone how happy he is now, but he forgot about the house’s other inhabitant.

This can get hard to watch. Natsume, in fighting off this nasty youkai, displays all the behavior that he used to, and again it’s Miyoko, willing to try again with this now grown up and kind of cute boy who’s paying his respects, who can’t handle it. After Natsume barely escapes the house in spite of the parents’ hospitality and concern she chases after him full of accusations, and we learn a little more about why he upsets her. He was an intruder into her household, and one that seemed to need extra attention, meaning she felt left out. The older, wiser Natume tells her “Don’t worry, I won’t take your family” (a line which perhaps also refers to the youkai), and we leave her thinking maybe about things SHE had forgotten about.

The plot twist at the end suggests that the youkai represents the old memories, at least the painful ones. It works with Miyoko, too; the monster is much bigger now after living under the same roof as her. Or maybe not. When it enters Natsume he can only think of getting home. But which home is he referring to? The original home, or the one he’s saying goodbye to? Next week I believe is the finale, and we’ll get our answer there, though it isn’t hard to figure out. I just hope we’re not done with Miyoko. It’s not good that in going to say goodbye and make amends he reopens old wounds.

The buildup in Ano Natsu de Matteru isn’t as quiet and mysterious as Natsume‘s nor as slam-bang as Last Exile Fam‘s, but it nearly the most compelling I’ve seen this season, and I don’t know how they’re doing it. Well, I have some ideas.

You know, like crashing on a No Contact planet and dating an alien ...

First, we have the love-string. Ichika-Kaito-Kanna-Setsuro-Mio, with Remon stirring the pot (or plot) out of what I thought was just boredom and spite, well, until this episode. We start with Emika, Ichika’s sister, come to rescue her and appalled that she actually wants to stay. After the shock of seeing Ichika dating that little guy, she Emika softens a little, but not so much that she can allow Ichika to stay. Ichika broke the Prime Directive, don’t you know. Our couple seperate, depressed. Ichika gets another reverse pep talk from Kanna, which I thought unfair. Ichika was still trying to sort things out; she didn’t need this sort of pressure. Meanwhile, Kaito works on Emika with little result except for that vague reference of trying to find something on this planet, the first time all episode needed its silly SF side to appear. And, finally, Remon makes herself useful.

And it's about time.

I didn’t think about this show very hard, but it had occurred to me that Remon always seemed to know too much. She befriended Ichika right away. She’s always around, even when you don’t expect her. And we still don’t know what she’s about, but she instigates our beleagered team’s counter-strategy: find the place on the maps that isn’t in the alien database. A first contact might have happened there, meaning the planet will be promoted and fraternization would no longer be taboo. Okay, she got Emika to help by supplying her with gadgets, but don’t tell me Remon’s normal after all the wild stuff she whips out during the chase with the spacecraft. It leads to a great few minutes. Suddenly, they’re all running, the music has picked up, it’s fun as hell to watch. Each character “sacrifices” themselves for our heroes in ways only they can as the tricked-out van rushes to The Place, until the last couple seconds … Well, we’ll have to see what the show makes of that next week.

Sara has every reason to look worried.

Last Exile Fam‘s pre-finale events are the most disappointing. Maybe because nothing really happened that you didn’t expect. No surprises. Luscinia kidnaps Sara and gets her to that cold lace where he unleashes an exile, or something, which blows up a lot of stuff, but it’s unclear exactly what’s going on. Meanwhile everyone back at the fortress is either sad about Lilliana dying or pissed off about the Federation, both, as it turns out, right things to concern oneself with. We Luscinia’s arrogant and single-minded concept of uniting everyone–under the Federation, of course, but we heard that all last week. And there’s no response from the good guys. Bleak bleak pre-finale blues. My guess is that Millia, who’s now got the power, is going to unleash some exile-mojo of her own.

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