Geez, I need to blog about this?
I’m noticing that Yorimoi has been exploring its cast in the reverse order of when they were each introduced. Yuzuki was the last girl to join the group and she’s the first character to get the spotlight while everyone’s at Antarctica. After that, we got to see Hinata’s own share of personal drama and now we’re back to Shirase’s arc. It wouldn’t surprise me if the last episode is primarily about Mari, especially since she hasn’t gotten her own episode for a while now.
Now I’ll just say it: this episode was quite the doozy. Yuzuki’s episodes admittedly resonate with me more (I really, really relate with that character) but this episode still carried a heavy air from beginning to end.
With the main base finally operating at full power, it’s time to go further inland to the second base the expedition crew originally set up. Our main characters are naturally thrilled to tag along, save for Shirase who seems hesitant to join. As it turns out, that inland base is where Takako was last seen and heard. Furthermore, despite having the most personal reason to go to Antarctica, Shirase has been struck with a serious case of ennui. In fact, she’s seemingly lost a lot of the enthusiasm she had early in the series, even forgetting that one time she screamed “In your face!” to all her detractors.
There’s a very humanistic quality to this bit of character development. It isn’t as though Shirase doesn’t want to have closure with her mother’s disappearance and presumed death. Rather, she’s afraid that the answer won’t meet up with whatever expectation and assumption she had in her mind for the past three years. That or there is no clue to find period and that would be just as disappointing and upsetting. There’s also just the manner of what will happen after the goal is all said and done. What will Shirase do with whatever new information she obtains? What will Shirase do after she has to come back to Japan. That’s always the tricky thing about aspirations and ambitions. What do you do once you do achieve your dream? Antarctica gave Shirase a lot of purpose and direction; it’s easy to see why she feels so listless as everything seemingly comes to an end.
It’s ultimately the other characters who carry Shirase through all this. Oddly enough, their first bit of help is by not demanding Shirase to tag along for the trip and instead giving her some space. It’s always tricky figuring out when you should step in and lend a helping hand and when it’s better to leave them be but I think Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki made the right call here. Letting Shirase reflect on her own leads into a really strong scene where Shirase recalls all the odd jobs she took and all the money she saved for her dream.
Come to think about it, Shirase ultimately didn’t spend any of that money. Kanae turned it down in Episode 2 and while it was almost used in Episode 6, the implication is that Shirase got it refunded. In the end, it was her chance encounters with the other main characters that got the ball rolling. One could argue that Yorimoi really is arguing that money doesn’t buy you happiness (and I am a little inclined to agree) but in the context of this episode, the money means something more. All the jobs Shirase lists off in this moment of self-reflection and the one million yen balance. It’s a testament of her willpower and ambition to see her dream come true, even if it didn’t come to use. And realizing how far she’s come, Shirase decides that she might as well see things to the end.
As the snowcats travel inland, we’re given a touching moment where Shirase and Mari can’t sleep and just chat together. This conversation does speak greatly to Mari’s wish to have a fulfilling adolescence but it also makes Shirase come to a realization. Closure with her mother is no longer the only reason she wanted to embark on this trip: it’s also just spending time with her friends. Perhaps that wasn’t a motivation when she was tackling the project solo but things did change and Shirase realizes that the trip became more fun and meaningful thanks to the presence of her friends. I especially love the montage that plays after that conversation. It’s a bunch of moe antics, sure, but it really advocates how strong this bond has become over the past twelve episodes.
Surprisingly, it’s actually Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki who go around the inland base in search for clues about Takako. Shirase is the one who insists on letting the mystery go. That stands out to me less as accepting that Takako is gone but rather that Shirase was still afraid that any more closure would only disappoint her. Fortunately, these girls understand each other to know when they’re tricking themselves and they do end up finding Takako’s laptop all perfectly intact.
And now about this ending…
I was actually 50-50 about Takako’s fate. Having her dead is certainly more realistic but looking for missing parents is such a common trope that I couldn’t help but wonder if Yorimoi would go in that direction. But then Shirase turns on the laptop, checks her mother’s email account, and sees her first message unread. And then she sees the second message unread. And the third. And so and so forth. Every single of them. Unread.
At first, I got teary eyed. Then as the credits rolled, the crying got almost as ugly as it was for the characters onscreen.
The implications here are so heavy. First, is the fact that the laptop being left in the base suggests that Takako risked her life to retrieve it. It wasn’t a simple power tool or a logbook or anything menial or superfluous. She tried heading back to base to retrieve her main means of communicating with her daughter. Then there’s the sheer number of unread messages in the inbox. We’ve seen moments where Shirase types messages for her mother but really think about that inbox number. 1,101. Shirase was emailing to that account every day for the past three years. And not a single one of them ever reached her mother.
This may sound strange but I actually found myself comparing this ending to that of Violet Evergarden‘s 10th episode. That episode gave a powerful message of how a parent’s love can reach their child via letters, even long after they have passed away. This episode of Yorimoi almost suggests the opposite. It doesn’t deny the importance of keeping open communication with your loved ones, but there’s acknowledgement to the fact that your messages could fall on deaf ears. Just that possibility alone is so haunting to think about and it’s a remarkably dark way to confirm Takako’s death. That inbox just says it all and it’s the reality Shirase must now accept.
I’m definitely curious to see how this show will end. You definitely need to follow up on drama like that but I still think the final episode could be about Mari. Considering that she was Shirase’s first friend, maybe Mari’s last foray of character development involves offering so much needed comfort. However this show ends though, this was one hell of a penultimate episode and I look forward to seeing the conclusion.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cry about that ending again.
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