A Long-form Look at Sagrada Reset
I’ve watched Sagrada Reset at least once a year since it came out, which would make this the fourth time I think. It’s a series that means a lot to me for abstract reasons that essentially boil down to, “Souma Sumire”. I think it’s about time I sit down and actually talk about what the show means to me and the way I want to do that is by talking about each episode one at a time with the benefit of hindsight. It’s like an episode review except lengthier and spoiler-ier. There is no point to this. I relish that. The post was codified from a series of ~180 tweets I made in an effort to make this process as smooth as possible. The more I edit this the crazier I feel. I relish that.
Memory in Children (1/3):
The more I watch this first episode the more entranced I get. All three of our leads are set-up so perfectly here, and it's both visual and textual:
Kei lets the lay-up through the second time even though he knows it's coming, and Souma comments on his straightforward sense of justice. Haruki sees a little girl crying, not missing a beat as she resets and we explore her memories. And then there’s Souma. Any attempts to empathise with her leaves me a wreck. She's watching the play she constructed run its course and I can feel it eating her up inside. She spins tales of androids and hypocrites and it's all to mask the truth. That nothing she says matters. She is the android because she can only approximate what she should be feeling. She has othered herself. It's the only way she can justify ANY of her actions. It's heart-breaking, and it's a crime that seeing the truth in its entirety can only come on a re-watch.
I see her in the background, looking at Kei as he says the words she knows are coming; her perennial smile undaunted. Her sadness is not just this unrequited love. It's her role in it. It's masochistic yes, but it's important to remember that she thinks she deserves to be punished for the horrible things she's going to do. The price must be paid.
Back to Haruki's memories though. There's something innately hilarious about the line (paraphrasing) "imagine experiencing all the world's sadness as if it was personal to you," and meaning it so sincerely. I’d say that that sincerity is the thing drawing me to this series. Haruki especially is always the most sincere a person can be, even when she lies (which is something we’ll see later on).
It’s important that both Haruki and Souma have lost their sense of self at this point in time, Souma is just covering up that pain. She’s good at it too, even though Kei knows something is up with her, he doesn’t know everything and can do nothing but take her at her word. The gears turn.
Memory in Children (2/3):
No matter how much I prepare myself, I just can't get through this episode without tearing up a little. A mother should love her child after all.
The Swampman is, of course, going to get brought up again, but here it's the catalyst that sends Souma over that bridge. Souma discards her humanity and resigns herself to being the android. She drinks in one last hug from Kei, revelling in Haruki seeing her, although Haruki doesn’t understand what she’s feeling is jealously at that point.
Asimov's laws come up and as they build, it seems as though Haruki could be the android Souma was talking about. The climax builds and it turns out she isn’t. As the scene progresses there's this implacable feeling as if there can be no androids among humans. Then, as Kei explains the laws and how Haruki’s laws differ, we cut to Souma on the roof. It's...nauseatingly overt. Even more so posthumously (not that I mind being so direct, honestly it's fun).
Haruki is most assuredly human by the end of this episode as she turns to the camera two years on and smiles. The way Kei's relationship with Haruki builds (or more accurately, doesn’t build) in these early episodes is the reason everything happens the way it does. Here Kei sees a girl with no identity of her own, he sees her innate goodness in the way she acts for others with little regard to her own needs, and yet he also sees sadness pouring out from every fibre of her being. Her rules that govern her existence suffocating her. She is truly good but this true goodness comes at the cost of her happiness.
A world like that is too cruel for him to stand. Kei shoulders the burden of helping others with Haruki’s power not because he is a good person, but because he can't stand her being sad. Souma brought up the tale of Zen and Gizen (Good and Hypocrisy) in the last episode. Here the audience is supposed to ask which one Kei is. The answer given to us is that he's Gizen; a hypocrite. His actions speak so much louder than his words.
He talks about using Haruki's power to help others and then he erases their kiss because he determines that she doesn’t actually love him. The idea of Haruki being able to experience love is so antithetical to what he believe that he just does away with it all.
I've talked a little about Kei’s myriad faults here but suffice to say we're only getting started. He is a wolf in Gary Stu clothing after all.
Cat, Ghost and Revolution Sunday (1/2):
The weird jump from 2/3 to 1/2 really got me the first time, but with the last episode wrapping up so completely I think it's fine. All you gotta do is watch the preview anyway. Let's talk about hubris.
Kei's a little shit ain't he? Talking about wanting to be God. He believes in his own brand of justice, we're starting to see that. He decided that the life of a cat is the only important thing irrespective of Murase's motives. That's not a decision to be made lightly, especially so in the wake of Souma’s death.
Now seems as good a time as any to mention how cool Haruki's power actually is (relevant because of how Murase's works). Haruki has the power to remake the universe in the image of a single point in time that she's experienced in the past 72 hours. Pure insanity and one of the coolest takes on time-travel I’ve ever seen.
Let's talk about Nono. This is what a true cat girl looks like. It's like a horse girl but infinitely more subdued. So nothing like a horse girl I guess. Kei describing her as a cat-like girl that doesn't end her sentences in "nyaa" is not only true, it also makes for some great comedy. This presents the perfect opportunity to showcase where Haruki's head is at. Facing Kei and nowhere else.
Her feelings right now are far too ephemeral to pin down. Does she want to impress Kei? To infatuate him? To connect with him? Her goals are unclear and I think that’s a reflection on her own unsurety, but what IS clear is that she's working towards something more than what she and Kei are. Kei asks her to reflect on why she'd "nyaa" it up for him. He’s asking for her shame. Haruki should be embarrassed by her words and yet she isn't. She doesn't even understand why she should feel embarrassed.
I took particular note of their first conversation this episode. They talked about a wind chime and I found myself thinking that this had exactly zero plot OR thematic relevance. I was ecstatic. The conversation that lasted less than a minute and it's the most absurd thing. Haruki bought a wind chime and Kei likens it to a rainbow; a special thing that should be observed rarely as to preserve the mystique. It's not a conversation I could ever see happening in real-life and yet with these two characters I could whole-heartedly believe they'd be that mundane.
It does raise an interesting point though, here just three days into the future Haruki seems just a little more assertive. She's bought her own accessory and she's proud of her purchase. This is a far cry from her in the rest of the episode while they work the case, constantly pining for Kei's approval. She talks like a cat because he says it would be cute. She pries out of him that he likes red plaid miniskirts and wants to wear one for him. Kei disapproves of course, she should be her own person and yet.
It's been two years and how much has she really grown? If anything she's worse off now, having to hang off of Kei to feel useful. We'll see this explored more in Strapping/Goodbye is Not an Easy Word to Say, but that’s a while away. Sagrada impresses me non-stop. Murase T-Posed to get away. Based show.
Cat, Ghost and Revolution Sunday (2/2):
Sagrada has some very impressive episodes in my book, but the resolution to this conflict likely makes this the best. Kei is pushed into doing something terrible. Something unthinkable. Hurting Murase like that was so callous, and yet he claims it was done for a brighter future. In that name of reforming The Bureau. Hard to take his words on knowing that The Bureau was the catalyst for all this. Murase wanted justice at any cost, just like Kei did. Only Kei decided fighting against The Bureau directly wouldn't do anyone any favours.
Maybe he was right to think that. We never truly learn anything about how The Buerau operates. We know they have rules, and those rules, funnily enough, are entirely bureaucratic. Sterile. A mother made a copy of her daughter out of grief? Best to have her leave the town. An ability like that is immoral in the eyes of The Bureau.
That actually brings up the biggest through-line of the entire series. That these abilities are manifestations of desires. This is a world where wishes come true. It's there in the first episode, but it's much clearer now that we have a better understanding of Nono and Haruki. Haruki desired, more than anything, to help others and escape her prison of sadness. Nono desired, more than anything, to be a cat (the exact reasons why coming to light in One Hand Eden). So these things came to be. In a grand twist of fate however, these things happened exactly how a monkey paw wouldn't. Nono desired a cat's life, but she experiences it while she sleeps, sharing the sensations the cat feels. This is possibly the kindest interpretation of that wish you could ask for.
Haruki was granted the ability to turn back the clock while also forgetting all the terrible things she was doing away with. All the tears she erased came back of course, but then Kei came and wiped away that sadness from her. Her ability connected her to him and gave her a reason to connect with another human.
There's so much more to talk about here in this arc, I adore the interpretation of ghosts and just Minami in general, we don't get much of her but her vibrancy and average JK energy compliment Haruki so well. Kei and Hitsuchi talking about Minami's death was great as well. Just some understated compassion.
Kei's strength is his ability to see into people wholly and completely without judgement. He can say the exact right thing when it needs to be said. I think that's why he gets paired with Nono a decent amount. Because she has almost no interest in being told anything. She's untethered to the world like a cat. She just hangs around the shrine with all the other strays. Kei has nothing to say to her, so he can only reflect himself off of her. It's the only time he can be anything even approaching vulnerable. It's the only time he allows himself to. Vulnerability is its own reward. Sagrada Reset is its own reward. Marble World is next. I am excited.
Marble World and Candy Resist:
You did it! You boiled Kei down to his bare essentials! We see more of Tsushima as well, he was just a Bureau goon in Memory in Children, but here we see a different side of him. He's just as compassionate as Kei is, just wrapped in red tape.
So Kei's worldview is more or less explained in his entirety here, and it's basically "we shall never deny a guest, even the most ridiculous request". I mean that most sincerely. His willingness to accept everything about the situation without even batting an eye is admirable and it shows that most fundamental aspect of his personality: understanding.
He chooses to understand everything, it's not a right to him, it's a privilege afforded by his perfect memory. I talked yesterday about the powers in Sakurada being a wish granted. We'll see it next arc in much clearer focus, but Kei's wish was to burn the memory of these earth-shattering powers into his brain forever.
In obtaining that power Kei was granted something else as well, unerring compassion born from the way he discarded his past. His goal with the Service Club is both to help Haruki and to gain access to The Bureau's resources and help even more people.
It was clear last episode that's what he's doing and it's clear now how he wants to do it. By fixing one problem at a time as thoroughly as possible, understanding as much nuance as he can. It's an impossible task bureaucratically speaking, simply put, there's not enough hours in the day. Which is why Kei and Haruki together are so important in the grand scheme of things.
At least, that was what Souma was thinking. I see Souma as the beating heart of the show and Kei as the brain. Haruki, of course, is the soul. The first girl that Kei helped. I don't think it's necessarily a matter of what Kei should or shouldn't have done. Once he realises what he and Haruki can do together, he has no choice. In this play the role he was given and the one he has taken are one and the same.
I admire Kei. There's a lot to be said about his disposition. He's way too stubborn for his own good. But truly he's a good person. He wants to help people. It's not just regret driving him forward, it's compassion. Though it is both. Oka Eri appears next episode and I can’t wait.
Witch, Picture and Red Eye Girl (1/3):
Exposition episode! Exposition episode! We discover what brought Kei to Sakurada, we learn about Sasano's ability, and we meet The Witch. There's not a lot to comment on really, we only see the villain appear in the closing moments of the episode, but isn't that what makes a three part episode so exciting?
There's some brief glimpses of the bigger picture, Murase attempts to comfort Kei in the wake of what he did to her. Kei investigates The MacGuffin. But the real moments are those conversations with The Witch.
Future-sight is a cool ability. Too bad she ended up under house arrest because of it. There's never an explanation as to why she's not allowed outside, you can only surmise that The Bureau deem her freedom a threat. It's interesting though, because she's described as a "higher up", one of the big dogs as it were, and yet even within that structure her freedom is denied.
We've reset so I don't think any of the things that she talked to Kei about will be that relevant. It's Haruki's conversation I want. Haruki is trying her hardest to be a person. Any person. It's evident that she has feelings for Kei, but she's unable to express them. The Witch has now made this desire tangible. Explicit.
We suspected as much, but considering how unbecoming her emotions are...well it's best to confirm these things. The Witch touches on something vital to Haruki. The fact that she has all the answers within her. That she truly knows how to get the things she wants. But she's ruled by uncertainty. Marred by decision trees. Weighed down by the world. It's tragic seeing Haruki like this. At least things can only get better for our hero.
Witch, Picture and Red Eye Girl (2/3):
Oka Eri! Oka Eri! Oka Eri! What swift and beautiful justice is wrought by the hands of the one named Oka Eri. Kei's mistakes come back to bite him. We saw him at his best in Marble World and now we see him at his worst. Blackmail is not okay!
There was a small line tucked in there about leaking information that must not be leaked and that's just good world-building. One line and we can see how information is regulated within Sakurada and why the world hasn’t caught wind of the things going on in Sakurada.
Then there’s Kei's whole conversation with Fujiwara Eri. There's a cold calculatedness to him. As Oka puts it, here he's a villain. Kei attacked her problem without nuance. He chose the path that he thought served the most amount of justice instead of the path that would help Eri the most. He's come to the realisation two years later that that decision was wrong.
Yet he must reap what he's sown. There's a certain part of him that wants to atone for how he handled her situation but he knows that that atonement cannot come like this; by playing her game and by letting himself become the villain again. He wants to believe he's better than that.
Him giving up on top of that lighthouse isn't just a way to push Oka into a certain frame of mind, it's his definitive stand. His way of saying that the way he is right at this very second is the way he should be. I think we're better served addressing the notion of strength when we tackle the big bad, so instead let's talk about weakness.
Kei's weakness. Clearly it's supposed to be Haruki. But that's not exactly true is it? It's the people Kei has cared for. It's Murase and Haruki and Oka herself. Kei has decided that for these people he will move Heaven and Earth. That he will erase their tears. His weakness, is his compassion pitted against his hypocritical and selfish nature, because at the end of the day, it's never just him saving the day is it? Haruki is there. Murase is there. Souma is there.
He selfishly imposes his justice onto others and they give him everything they can in return. They know his compassion is real and that's the scary part. They've all seen him make the impossible a reality, and so if he needs them then it's good and right to help those dreams come true.
I spoke before about these powers coming from wishes and Oka of course demonstrates this very aptly. She has the most powerful ability that cannot physically affect Kei. These powers come from so deep within, and they manifest so absolutely. It's like the world itself is peering into the soul of every person and plucking out these desires. Oka Eri can't win against Kei, that much is certain. But we can only find out if that's really true next time, on Sagrada Reset!
Witch, Picture and Red Eye Girl (3/3):
Red Eye Girl you make the rockin' world go round! Don't be weak Asai Kei, be strong. Sagrada Reset is what you get when you ask for a realistic superhero story. I mean that sincerely.
You've got Kei right, and he believes absolutely in justice for the weak. He admires powers because they empower individuals and can turn sadness into happiness.
The Bureau regulates powers, they're a mythological institution that parents tell scary stories to their children at night. In reality they're just civil servants doing their duty for the community. They live absolutely and dogmatically by their principles. Their tenets. We know this because Tsushima was willing to tear Mari away from her mother despite his better (read: morale) judgement. We know this because The Witch was confined for 28 years and almost died never seeing her beloved again.
The purest form of villainy is to oppose the hero and that's exactly what Oka Eri does. It's not dramatic, people don't die. The world isn't at stake. But why does having superpowers mean it has to be like that? Small-scale human stories. That's all Sagrada is. There's no science here either, these powers bend the very fabric of reality. But why does that mean somebody is going to blow up the world? There's no reason to that.
Real people believe in small things. In a senpai that saved them when they were younger. In the person that wiped away years of sadness and gave them purpose. In their brother who did nothing wrong and yet died anyway.
I know I've seen this show many times, but I must say, I was dead on the money when I was talking about Kei's weaknesses. Caring too much is a legitimate weakness. Oka understands that, and she knows that he'll never stop trying for her sake no matter what she does. But he's her hero. So she must do that which does not want to do. Defeat him to make him stronger. Not that that's even possible, but eat your heart out girl.
People always want to talk about Superman stories like they're played out. Like nothing new could possibly ever happen. Sagrada, to me, captures the essence of those kinds of stories and proves why there's longevity in them. Kei is smarter than everybody in Sakurada. He always chooses the right path because he is smarter. And yet these paths are not free rides. He still has to work and work and work and one mistake will mean failure.
And what does that failure look like? It looks like people like Oka and Murase being thrown out of Sagrada for their mistakes. It means a lifetime of sadness for Mari and Haruki. Little things. Superman can save the world as much as he likes, but it's ALWAYS the people that matter more than the disaster that almost befell them.
Humanity and justice must always shine through, and that's the biggest burden that can be placed upon a single person. A true hero of justice appears next episode!
Strapping/Goodbye is Not an Easy Word to Say:
I think the thing I like the least about Sagrada Reset is that we never really find out that much about Ukawa. She's a hero of justice and really, that's all-we know. Makes me sad. What doesn't make me sad is her conversation with Kei. I do lament her lack of screen time, but in one conversation we do know everything we need to. She works part-time for The Bureau, she's incredibly powerful, and she's incredibly just. She imagined the-conversation going one way, but when it turns out she was way off base she didn't lament, she just learnt something new and moved on.
There's no way Kei ever jumps off that bridge himself, but I think Ukawa was right in thinking he might. This is the episode where Kei decides to revive Souma. Sure it happened two years ago, but when the past and the present are so inextricably tied like they are with Kei, it's not impossible to think that this episode was him looking back on his decision and reaffirming his belief. The belief that everything will be solved once he brings Souma back. The belief that his guilt will disappear and happiness will fall across Sakurada.
This is all happening while Haruki is soul-searching. Honestly the way she does it is beauty to behold. She's doing her best to be upfront and honest and yet she still lies to herself. Her realising that she was jealous of Souma is a monumental moment that can't be understated.
The true tragedy is that this character development is whisked away. Taken from her when she needed it most. The show doesn't make a point of it till One Hand Eden but this has always been the case. I think it first becomes apparent at the end of Cat, Ghost and Revolution Sunday when Kei apologies to her but she doesn't know why. I think that moment is so overshadowed by Kei's victory(?) that Haruki is sort of forgotten. I tried to not-make that mistake.
Memory in Children (3/3) is next, and I, for one, can't wait for the grand return of the (wo)man, the (wo)myth, the (wo)legend. Souma is one of my, if not the, favourite characters.
Memory in Children (3/3):
The tears have started already. The message that Souma sent herself. It's awful. It's no good. The affirmation that Souma is indeed the android comes in like a wrecking ball. Kei already suspects that he's not going to like the reason she died. So she hides it from him. Ever the clever one.
Kei selfishness rears its head again as he resets the fact he revived Souma from Sakagami and puts Haruki far away from the spot he's reviving her. Murase walks away immediately and immediately they're playing the game again. The game of Sakurada. Kei pushes and Souma pushes back. He's happy to know she's okay, but when she turns to him and tells him to decide whether she's real or not. That's a moment.
Aoi Yuuki is a blessing upon the Earth. She fills Souma's every word with a sort of far-reaching-effervescence. An implacable coy-ness that makes you rethink everything you know. It's becoming more apparent that Souma needs to speak in riddles because otherwise conversations would get too dull. Standard questions get standard responses.
When she asked Kei two years-ago, she knew he'd respond if she asked him if he was crying. Their conversation there was interesting and I have to wonder whether she was in love with him then. Surely she was, and surely she was also acting out a part. She fell in love with a poor player. Souma you break me.
Haruki-san on a Certain Day:
Logical! Well it's more like two separate days, but I can forgive the show because it's a nice title. The privilege of being inside Haruki's head is more than I could ask for.
We're almost at the finale so it seems pertinent to see where she's at since Strapping/Goodbye. I mean it was only like two episodes ago, but it was also 2 years ago. A lot can happen in two years. Clearly. Haruki made a friend. Haruki also already had a friend. Though I get the feeling Minami would be friends with everyone. As I said before: classic average JK.
We'll start with that conversation with Nono. Show is crazy. Nono is just the perfect character. She's so outside the world that she's a mirror reflecting your inner-self back at you. Sure she's her own person with her own sense of kindness but the way she draws a person's feelings out. Molto bene.
With Kei, the baring of the soul is because he knows she's unconnected to the world, that anything he says to her won't be said ever again. With Haruki however, she's just doing it because Nono asks. It's to become friends, but Haruki doesn't understand what that means. Haruki gives direct and honest answers because there's no reason not to. She has an inability to fall into the folkways of regular society. That's especially relevant considering the implicit nature of Japanese society.
The show eschews a lot of that with characters like Haruki and Nono who always mean exactly what they say, and reinforces it with Kei and Souma who always imbue their words with alternate meanings. Nono asks Haruki for kind words and Haruki gives her words in the form of hope. That's her kindness. Nono's words are those of understanding. That's her kindness. It's clear at this point that I adore the writing, it's the beautiful mix of serious moralising and hopeful optimism.
In the "practically" applying all these morale quandaries like the Swampman, and (later on) the Plank of Carneades, we see new dimensions to these problems. Outside of the vacuum of thought these problems are presented as surmountable.
When the impossible becomes possible, humanity must rise up to become the best version of itself. That's what Haruki represents and what Kei pursues. That was the first half of the episode.
The second half is where Minami takes the show home. Logical! A simple home visit while Kei is sick turns into an adventure. Minami sends vibes from the backline and refuses to let Haruki not visit.
Haruki faces innumerable decisions, yet she faces them all and makes the "correct" choice every time. Really this episode is about those choices. How she's making them, why she's making them. She's still bound by rules. By the "correct" answer. The “correct” answer is to not visit Kei so he isn't disturbed by her, but as Minami points out, that's not the right choice. The right choice is to reach out.
In Strapping/Goodbye Kei talked about the net-good of the reset action and that doing something, even though it might cause pain, to attempt to do good is a virtuous action. Haruki is starting to see what that means. What does a "net-good" action look like? Well it looks like taking some rice porridge around to a sick friend. Maybe you inconvenience them by getting them out of bed, but you feed them porridge which helps them get better. Perfect show.
One Hand Eden (1/4):
An Eden so small it fits in the palm of your hand. There's the overt subtext here with the white walls surrounding the world of the dream and the invisible line separating Sakurada from the real world. Herein lies a world where wishes come true.
Kei realises-very quickly that Ukawa is going to hate this world. She's a champion of justice, of course she will. Where is the justice in a world of "fake" happiness? "It was The Bureau's decision to label that happiness fake". That's certainly a bold stance to take. Intuitively speaking I agree, but I don't know why.
Can happiness on a stick be called true happiness? A world where my needs are met and I have a kind God that gives with that which I lack. I like the sound of that; existing is a draining affair.
Working for your own happiness is supposed to be better, but is it? Kei works so hard for Haruki's. Souma works so hard for Kei's. Do they feel happy? It could be argued Kei does (though I think that happiness is itself a façade), but Souma definitely doesn't.
Katagiri Honoka is a God who rejected Godhood. Her omnipotence became a shackle that she discarded. Presumably, she couldn't bear the weight. Just like Souma. Maybe that’s why Chiru-chiru and Souma have the connection they do.
I know how next episode opens and it's hands down my favourite scene, but without context it's sort of nothing. Which is why I love it so much. The meaning imbued by the context it exists in, but simultaneously the meaning imbued by Souma’s observation of that moment. I love Souma Sumire.
One Hand Eden (2/4):
And thus the antagonist of the piece appears. He's joking when he says he'll stab Kei to get rid of the things he knows. Well, probably. This is the first time we’ve seen Sakuin's ability as well. It's well suited to Bureau work. Lies and socks.
"Imagine the world contained within a box. Everything that is and was lives within that box. You need to move everything that has something wrong with it to a second box. After you've moved everything from the first box, move the correct thing back to the first box. That is, the thing you think is most correct. That is the most correct thing in the world."
How dreadfully obstinate. How absurdly opaque. How it makes me smile. Nono and the Old Man. The acceptance the he gave a younger Nono formed the base of her existence. Instead of being weird and unliked she became weird. Like I said before, she's unable to slot herself into society. She hangs out a shrine all day and sleeps with a bunch of stray cats. This old guy sits in his house all day while his hand writes out God's diary. Couple of weirdos.
Laplace's Demon is a mainstay of chuunibyou culture (think Darwin's Game) much like Schrodinger's Cat (which, hilariously, I don't think Sagrada even goes over). The Demon knows all, and can see all. The omniscience of The Script (not the band) is certainly something, and for Kei to just accept that...well he's a crazy person no doubt.
The Old Man's definition of happiness is something that's going to extend to the end of the show so it's important to take note of it here. "Happiness is the person beside you laughing."
One Hand Eden (3/4):
The first thing Haruki says to herself is "You hate me, but that's a contradiction. Since there's nothing special about you, you shouldn't even be able to hate someone," and man, she really went for the throat on that one.
Haruki hashing it out with herself-is a highlight of the show. She's introspective by nature, but she's constantly lying to herself about what she wants. Chiru-chiru exposes her here and she learns to accept that she wants things from Kei. She's finally ready to take the next step. Sure hope nothing happens in the next episode to change that. That'd suck.
Ukawa's powers are revealed here and she's the strongest person in Sakurada by far. If you can dream it, she can do it. Her exchange with Kei is telling, there's hubris in them both, they both think they're more righteous than the other. Ukawa threw in with Kei two years ago, but she's still working part-time for The Bureau. I said before we don't get much information on her, but the little we do get is always interesting. Ukawa is always a hammer and Kei molds himself into the right tool for the job.
I think it’s a bit too on the nose with the whole "the monster is the manifestation of her desires" schtick, but really it doesn't matter. I’d say the line works better in a written medium and leave it at that.
One Hand Eden (4/4):
There really isn't much to say about the end of One Hand Eden. Honoka and the Old Man find happiness in a new friendship. It's a sweet story. Sweet lemons came up a lot and I do have to say I prefer it to sour grapes. The lies we tell ourselves are always the sweetest. The lies we tell others though.
Haruki's lie was certainly bald-faced, but Kei had no way of knowing. I have to wonder what he would've done if Haruki had told him. She was never going to, which is why he reset anyway, but a man can dream.
Souma telling Kei what he erased and finally bring into focus how much resetting hurts Haruki. She's a devil, she's an angel. Boy, Girl and - (4/4) can't come soon enough. I don't know how long I could go on about that for, but I know it won't be a short amount of time.
Boy, Girl and - (1/4):
Curtains up on this finale in two parts. It's amazing that I never noticed Urachi use his ability on himself at the start of the episode until now. It makes sense considering we don't learn about his ability till the end of the episode (and 4/4), but still. It's the little things that make something great.
Souma's plan is coming into focus and from this episode alone you can figure out the path things are going to take. Abilities are going to be erased from Sakurada and for some reason Souma isn't lying when she says she isn't helping Kei. The reason she waited a month is crystalized, but we'll talk about that more in (4/4).
What's most interesting to me is that Haruki came to the same conclusion she had back in One Hand Eden (3/4) all on her own. It solidifies her capacity for self-reflection and her unflinching desire to become a person worthy of Kei (whatever that means).
Kei also realises how selfish he'd been being in not meeting Haruki halfway. He's been keeping her at arms length these past two years and it shows. Haruki has tried to be so many different things for him, and yet what has Kei tried to be for her? Despite his desires, he never let himself be more than a friend to her. That's a tragedy he wrote for himself.
Speaking of those...Souma huh. Suffice to say, both Kei and I will have some choice words for her when the time comes.
Boy, Girl and - (2/4):
Things are heating up in the Souma Sumire fandom. According to the timeline Urachi visited Souma one week after One Hand Eden, and well before he was allowed to look for information regarding the second witch. How delightfully devilish. From Kei's perspective we don't get a lot of information on Urachi, Kei has seen his ability, his plan and his disregard for the rules of the world. Broken promises.
Kei also figured out why Souma died. The moment he figures it out she brings him back into focus and reminds him why he's doing what he's doing. For Haruki. Once again telling him to accept the script she's written. Kei isn't sure if he can though. But he will.
Souma's conversation with Sakuin is enlightening. Two girls who hate their abilities talking. Sakuin confirms that The Bureau is as it appears: "Calm, collected and lacking in humanity". We learned about the three founders of abilities whose continued existence is the only thing keeping the world in order. The bureaucratic-ness of The Bureau makes a lot more sense now. If the memory of abilities reaches the world then there'll be chaos, but in containing them within this small town The Bureau has become convinced that the maintenance of this world is paramount above spreading the borders of this world. They've insulated themselves.
When we hit the back half of the finale I'll-talk about it more, but I've always seen Kei and Urachi as that old traditionalism vs modernity debate. That's my own thing though. We're ramping up spectacularly.
Boy, Girl and - (3/4):
...and then Kei said kill me you little bitch I dare you. Well not with those words exactly, but the spirit was there. This episode is sort of why I lamented Ukawa's lack of screen-time, because it's easy enough to accept her decision, but it's hard to understand it. It's characterised as Urachi says it is, Ukawa is a Champion of Justice and therefore must look after the weak, and who is weakest if not a man without an ability?
Kei's questions cut to the heart of the matter swiftly though. Abilities are something born, not-made, so how is it fair to rid the world of them because one man finds them distasteful, which is where I kind of throw my hands up and say I guess Ukawa in this situation could side with Tsushima.
The lack of information hurts me a bit, but I know it's there. I might've-cursed shortened production times, but really we're lucky to have gotten a full two-cour adaptation of this story. And considering the 7 novels comprise the entirety of this story there's not a whole lot of room here and it's evident that the spaces they did have (Marble World-and Candy Resist, Haruki on a Certain Day) are used to their fullest already (and probably already part of other arcs, but anyway).
The main takeaway from this episode is that due to Souma's interference Kei has learned everything he needs to about Urachi's plan. Urachi confirms this himself. There's a certain self-assuredness to him. It reveals itself at the start of this arc when he asks Souma two questions that, according to him, mean his plan is fool-proof. If a future-seer answers no to these two questions, then there's nothing but a goddamn W waiting for you at the end of the line is there?
I originally thought it was arrogance, but it's not that wild. It's controlled and focused. It's strength. We'll talk about that strength soon. For now, let us go into that beautiful night. Where teardrops fall and dreams crumble.
Boy, Girl and - (4/4):
It's here. I don't mind admitting I had tears down my face. I have them every time I watch Souma. It's a culmination of things. She's been waiting for this moment for so long. When she watched Kei and Haruki on that roof she said to herself, "I hate her she's the only one that doesn't have to suffer. She pushed all the painful parts onto me and is in a place where she won't get hurt." She's so cruel.
When you think about the grandeur of this sort of time-bending nonsense I always believe there's a better way. Kei even says outright that there's a better way. But Souma's story culminates at this point where there truly was no better way for her to have all the things she wanted. This is epitomized with her curry. A curry that can only ever be almost like a mother’s love.
To Souma there was no way for both Kei to be happy with Haruki and for her not to go over that bridge. It is a terrible thing that she felt she had no recourse but death. She acts like it was worth it, like her grand plan was so well-thought out and that Urachi's defeat is inevitable.
All the while Kei sits there, both knowing the truth and being unable to reconcile it. She died for me. I think there's a small-part of Souma that thought if she did this for him, maybe he'd run into her arms. That he'd be happy. That maybe when the moment she's seen a thousand times before finally comes, it'll be different.
Kei is of course, very angry, and yet that anger fades quickly as he realises why Souma needed to take a shower, replaced by sadness and a resolve to do the right thing. I talked about Kei's ability to understand people before and that's the lynchpin that keeps Souma afloat.
Souma looked ahead to the future and could never see anything but abilities disappearing. She couldn't stop it no matter what she did. Then she meets Kei, a guy whose conversations are always interesting no matter what she says. A guy who despite knowing nothing about her, can see deeply into her. She falls in love, maybe it happens in the future, maybe in the present, but she does.
She watches him and realises he could save Sakurada, he could stop Urachi. The problem is that nowhere in that future is she with Kei. Souma understands Kei better now and know what he wants, so he sets him up with Haruki. She plans and plans and plans and makes sure that before Urachi's plan is unfurled, Kei can have that moment of happiness she wants from him with another girl.
And for what? What does Kei's happiness mean if it's built on the back of her tears. She knows Kei would think that and yet she does it anyway. She's not afraid of being hated by Kei, though she knows he couldn't hate her.
A slice of happiness given to a girl she can't stand. A present, given in an incredibly roundabout way, taking far more time than a hand-knit sweater. What Kei most wanted.
It's an expression of love, but it's so warped by Souma's tendency to overthink everything. Everything is for Kei. She's a lot like Haruki in that way. They both define their lives in terms of him, and while Haruki is starting to ease off of that pedal, Souma is still pressing down onto it with full force. At the end of the day Kei is resolved to save abilities, but he knows there's more to be desired from this conflict than just stopping Urachi. That's why Boy, Girl and the Story of Sagrada (5/5) exists.
Nothing else in this episode really matters, we learn about Urachi's past and why he hates abilities. More ammunition for Kei. We learn that he's rewound Haruki to keep her out of Kei reach, and we see that Oka Eri has a choice to make. We finally get to see what she really thinks of Kei and the abilities in Sakurada.
Boy, Girl and The Story of Sagrada (1/5):
It's good to feel emotions. It's virtuous even. Kei's declaration that abilities are absolute really does fly in the face of every other narrative like this one. Haruki didn't reset because she was told to, she reset because it was right.
Was Kei exploiting her rules? Of course, but Kei knew that crocodile tears weren't the solution, what he needed to show her was genuine sadness. That's why he turned down Souma, that's why he saw his mother. Those tears that fell were a promise. A promise to Haruki that he would be the kindest master of abilities he could be, with a compassionate heart. No-one else saw that promise, but still he holds that within himself.
Those emotions he finally let out were the only thing left he had to give. He finally admitted that it was a horrible thing to leave his parents behind, that he loves Haruki more than Souma and that this whole time he's been running like a coward from these feelings. Kei finally steps into the role Souma asked him to bear.
The scene with Kei and Souma on the stairwell plays for the second time, but now it's context is fully realised. It is, as Souma puts it, a rejection, but it's also a promise. A promise to pay back the debt Kei owes to her for giving him the opportunity for a happy ending with Haruki. "What else was I supposed to do?" said Souma in the shower, tears streaming down-her face.
Souma was a regular girl in this ability-free world, she was so normal, her dreams and aspirations were normal, her love was normal. Everything about her screamed this is a good and proper world. Yet Kei rejects it. We'll see why in 5/5.
Boy, Girl and The Story of Sagrada (2/5):
Urachi's disgust at what Souma did was palpable. It's the sort of thing that drives home in his mind how right he is to be destroying abilities. Urachi is learning more about Kei and all he's seeing is a reinforcement of what he believes. That abilities cause unnecessary suffering. That these wishes aren't just. I believe that Urachi hates Kei.
It's interesting that we focus on Sakuin here as Souma goes over the railing. There's fear within her and both she and Urachi know that she may have just killed herself to stop Urachi's plans. Souma says there's only two people who would've gone over that railing with zero hesitation. The other person is presumably Haruki.
We find out Haruki's favourite colour, deep red. The opposite of Kei's transparent blue (and possibly a call-back to those red plaid mini-skirts). The revelation of why Souma fell in love with Kei is stark. "The future I saw through your eyes was sadder and sweeter than anyone else's." I have to wonder if Souma got her power as a child as a result of her having the power. From a wish made in the future.
Kei's reticence to see the Souma in the photo just to use her ability is telling. It's an acknowledgement of Souma's pain and him telling her he knows what she's trying to do. She wants him to think of her as disposable. If he can treat the Souma in the picture that way, why can't he treat her that way? Kei refuses to play her game and instead spends over half his time in the picture rescuing her and making sure that by the time he does the easy job of stopping Urachi, he can tackle the hard job of saving her.
Like he says at the end of the-episode. I'll make it so she can wake up happy and content. I'll shape her world so that she can be happy.
Boy, Girl and The Story of Sagrada (3/5):
This is very much a bridging episode, we end in the car with the stage set beautifully for Kei's victory. If you can call it that. Highlight for me was Kei admitting defeat to Oka Eri once again. She's far too predictable and has far-too much respect for Kei. I think it took a lot for Kei to say that what he did to Oka was strong. It was certainly just but there's a conflation of those two things for Oka.
She's told to make her own choice regarding abilities in Sakurada like everyone else, but the only two people in that room that needed convincing were Oka and Ukawa. Murase will always be 100% on board with Kei and Sakagami is...well his power is all about being useful to others so that's pretty self-explanatory.
Kei convinces Ukawa by demonstrating Urachi's lack of respect for justice. Urachi is perfectly willing to use The Bureau's rules against Kei, but concedes once they're used against him. This sort of hypocrisy isn't justice. At least not by Ukawa's standards.
It's so very clear that Urachi has no intention of letting Kei talk, he so believes in his own values; in his own strength, that to do so would be unthinkable. Urachi's inability to sympathise with those weaker than him, i.e. everyone else, will be his downfall.
He was disgusted that Kei could see through Souma's plan and he couldn't. Kei could see that because it wasn't a calculated chess move like Urachi expects from people opposing him (because that's how he thinks), it was an emotional move. The kind that Kei has spent his whole life empathising with.
Boy, Girl and The Story of Sagrada (4/5):
There's a lot here to think about, huh. The plank of Carneades is an interesting thought here, and it brings up the number one thing I've been driving home about this story. Realism. While Urachi focuses on the ethics of the problem, Kei focuses on something far more important. The real-world implications.
If there was a shipwreck and only two sailors survived only for one to kill the other so they might live, that's a tragedy. Instead of asking whether or not that sailor was right, Kei asks what can be done to prevent a shipwreck, and what can be done to make sure that those sailors that survive the shipwreck don't have to kill each other to survive.
The answer in our reality isn't that you can rewind time and make sure that shipwreck doesn't happen, but it is in the world of Sagrada Reset. It's a beautiful dichotomy, because here is the ultimate form of strength in the real world, Urachi, arguing that miracles don't happen and that the world is cruel and unforgiving and that you MUST be strong and face these problems head-on.
Yet in this town called-Sakurada, miracles do happen. A boy moves a flower pot and a little girl doesn't trip. Urachi believes so whole-heartedly in his own traditional view of reality that he can't see that the world has changed. Kei can control all the abilities in Sakurada, of that I have no doubt. Tsushima says to Ukawa in Boy, Girl and -, that children shouldn't have to bear the burden that Kei and Haruki bear. He says that just because Kei can do something he believes he has an obligation to, and that that is not a good and proper thing, but there Tsushima is also turning his head away from reality.
Convincing Kagaya being the true goal of Kei's plan speaks completely this mindset. Kei will face the reality of the problem, that being Kagaya's guilt over having to freeze Urachi's parents. Haruki being the one to deliver Kei's message to Kagaya is what brings everything together. Kei has absolute trust in her words, he knows that the things she'll say to him will convince him to pick up that phone.
There's something I haven't mentioned about Souma's ability till now because it completely slipped my-mind, but I'll put it here. If Haruki's ability is to rearrange every atom in existence into a state that she has captured within the last 72 hours then it's reasonable to assume that Souma's precognition works even through resets. So all that being said, she knows Kei will succeed. In a sense the script she's come up with is The Script. She says the future she sees is not absolute, but honestly I don't believe that. She can change the future through her own actions, but in a grand sense I think that she always ends up in the same place.
That's why she was so focused on that stairwell back in One Hand Eden. I said yesterday she wanted so desperately for this absolute future to change. For Kei to reject her script and tell her that this reality is right.
She remembers everything she did when that train appears in Sakurada and when she remembers that she dove off of that bridge for reasons that were equally selfish and selfless, she couldn't take it. It became so easy to lie and say none of it was for him, after all she deserved to be punished for such a sin. One more episode. This has been fun.
Boy, Girl and The Story of Sagrada (5/5):
Sagrada Reset, read: Sacred Reconstruction. What a beautiful way to end it all. Souma's declaration that the future Kei is going to give her isn't what she wants is heart-breaking. I've drawn several comparisons between Kei and The Doctor and frankly I stand by them.
I think The Doctor, viewed from certain angles can look like a Gary Stu, well the 13th is very much like a Mary Stu but I digress. I think both of these characters flaws have more to do with the reasons behind their actions than the actions themselves. I say all this because in the penultimate episode of season 9, The Doctor faces his own grief, culminating in his eventual acceptance that even when he's escaped his prison, his companion will still be dead, and he'll, one day, have to accept it. Souma faces that very dilemma.
Kei tells her that in 6 months, in a year, she'll be smiling even though they won't be together and the thought terrifies her. She's spent so long trying her hardest to be everything she can for him it's hard to be anything else. It's hard to see a world without him at her core.
She knows it will happen and that makes it all the more painful. The question she asked Kei so long ago in Memory in Children 3/3 weighs heavily on her. She is only Souma Sumire if Kei says she is, not matter what she hears, no matter who else tells her she is.
She is resigned to her role now, her role as Kei right-hand and her first order of business is to cure Haruki of her biggest weakness. She adopts her mask once more and becomes the Souma that sent herself tumbling over that bridge. She attempts to manipulate Haruki into resetting on her own so that she knows she can.
Haruki realises this at the last moment and the final vestiges of Souma's façade fall. They're both just girls fawning over a guy. It only occurred to me on this rewatch, but at the end Kei totally "tsuki ga kirei"'s Souma. He's a-terrible person. Honoka even says it out loud, his goal was to make Souma accept that she couldn't be with him. That's some cruel stuff man.
A point I want to highlight here at the end is, go listen to Haruki in episode one and then again to her talking with Souma in this episode. The differences aren't extreme, but they are noticeable. Haruki definitely shows more emotion. KanaHana puts in a beautifully subtle performance here, perfectly emulating Haruki's emotional journey through her voice acting alone. Both her and Aoi Yuuki knock these characters out of the park in terms of what can be achieved through voice actiong alone.
This is the end of the story, sure Kei goes on to run The Bureau and brings happiness to the world, but that's not important, is it? What's important are the two girls that help him achieve this dream.