Ch 22 – The Old River / Ch 23 – The New Year
After last week’s gut-wrenching moment centered on Rei’s emotional collapse, I needed something — anything — uplifting to happen to Rei. Thankfully, that’s just what we received. Ah, yes, the deadly one-two combo of March Comes in like a Lion; small, intermittent joyous moments to soothe you over, just before you’re socked right in the face with another fistful of feels. Is it bad that I’ve grown fond of this punishment? Luckily, March Comes in like a Lion took it easy on us and only gave us all of the joy without dishing out the pain. I more than embraced this week’s surprisingly heartwarming episode.
Episode 11 starts by almost fooling us into thinking it’s going to follow on the back of the recent strings of depressive episodes. After Rei’s emotional collapse, he develops a fever that leaves him bedridden for a long time, leaving him to fend for himself at his apartment. As his fever worsens, he has a nightmare where he slowly goes up a very long escalator leading to a white room he can’t leave. I took this to be quite symbolic of his current state as his depression causes him to withdraw into the solitude of his apartment — he inevitably reaches a place where he thinks he can’t get out of — the self-imposed white room prison of his own mind.
Except, what we begin to see this episode is that his fears are slowly washed away, but it’s not before we’re shown how altruistic Rei can be. Rei, for fear of not worrying anyone, takes his fever upon himself thinking that he’s doing everyone a service only to find out he’s hurting everyone — including himself — more. He realizes far too late that he’s biting off way more than he can chew, but just when he was about to feel the throes of despair from his nightmare, he awakes to the Kawamato sisters knocking on his door to save him yet again. This episode was all about Rei realizing he’s not alone, and nor should he ever feel that way. The Kawamotos have shown that they will always be that shoulder he needs to lean on.
At the Kawamoto’s home, we see yet another compassionate moment between Rei and the Kawamoto family, as they all take turns in caring for him as he recovers from his fever. I loved every moment of it. Akari leads the charge, asking Rei if he’s called his home. I’ve grown rather fond of the interactions between Rei and Akari. This moment was particularly poignant as it leads to Rei’s realization that he’s been a fool all this time. Akari urges him to check his cell-phone, showing Rei a whole log of missed calls from his father. All this time, Rei had thought that moving out on his own somehow detached him from his family when really, his father still cares for him just as much as he always had. If that wasn’t enough of an epiphany for Rei, Akari clues him in to just how important he is to her, making him realize in turn just how important she is to him. This scene was rendered so perfectly, I swear. The melancholic harmony of the music, Akari’s and Rei’s glazed over sorrowful expressions, and the beautifully vibrant color palette surrendered itself to a wonderfully heartwarming moment. I seriously can’t get enough of these.
I loved the inner monologue that followed for Rei: “I had been distracted by my own loneliness, that I failed to recognize someone else’s loneliness. To my foolish self, the New Year’s bells fell upon me gently.”
It’s as if Rei’s fever is a physical manifestation of everything holding him back, and to me, I took this quote to symbolize his healing process as the slow purging of his old self as he moves into the new year with those that helped him find his way. What a great episode.