Love Apart

"Meteor Shower" juxtaposes Nagisa’s vacation at the beach with
Shizuma’s lack of vacation at Miator. While Nagisa enjoys herself with
her friends, and Shizuma rather resigns herself to her work, both of
them have the other very much on their minds. The things they associate
with each other brings the other to mind, so that both see a piano and
are reminded of when they played piano together, or see flowers and are
reminded of their time in the greenhouse together. Since the animation
jump cuts back between Nagisa and Shizuma when they are looking at the
piano and the flowers, the effect is to make it seem as if they are
thinking about each other at the same moment, in a perfect
synchronicity of love. They become so lost in thought about the other
that their friends will tell them what they thinking, and they will
agree not even noticing their friends had spoken, since what they heard
was really their own thoughts aloud. So Tamao tells Nagisa on the way
to the beach, "It’s too bad Shizuma-sama couldn’t come," and Nagisa
nods and says "Yeah," and then at Tamao’s next words suddenly realizes
she is talking and asks her: "Eh? Did you say something?" Nagisa hasn’t
really heard Tamao at all, but only what she was already thinking. We
see a similar effect in the dialogue where Miyuki asks Shizuma "She’ll
be back tomorrow, right?" and Shizuma, not hearing, replies, "Hmm?," to
which Miyuki says, in English, "Summer school" to which Shizuma
responds smiling, "That’s right." Her gladness lets us know she is
thinking about Nagisa coming back at the end of summer school even
though she has barely listened to Miyuki’s words.

As in the previous episode, Nagisa discovers through her friends her
own feelings. Chiyo-chan knows Nagisa is happy, because–as she thinks
to herself–she saw how happy Nagisa was with Shizuma, but Nagisa must
ask Chiyo, since it is not yet clear to herself, Later, when Nagisa
repeats the question, and asks Tamao why Chiyo said this, Nagisa relies
on Tamao to explain to her that she can ask the question only because
she is not happy now, because–but Tamao does not say this
explicitly–she misses Shizuma. Instead Tamao advises Nagisa to query
herself. "What you’re feeling right now, what you’re feeling while
you’re at Summer School, Nagisa-chan, you know all those answers."

Nagisa takes her advice, and looks within herself to realize that she
is lonely, that she misses Shizuma. The anime relates a beautiful
sequence of introspection, when Nagisa finally opens up her heart to
herself. The moment is extraordinarily moving; I will give it in
detail. Looking out the window, alone, up at the stars, standing in
space, Nagisa recalls Chiyo’s words "Onee-sama is happy right now,"
then Tamao’s: "Summer School…the feelings you have while you are
here…" Suddenly Nagisa hears the sounds of birds calling in the
woods. Everything goes dark, and she clutches her shirt in an
expression of vulnerability. Now she is given over completely to her
memories of Shizuma: she recalls the first time she saw Shizuma,
standing by the tree on her first day at school, and in the sadness of
loneliness she closes her eyes and bows her head. The anime jump cuts
to Tamao, sitting alone and depressed in her bath, and zooms to Tamo’s
face. Then the anime cuts back to Nagisa’s face, as she asks herself,
"Why is it…that I’m so…" But before she completes the question, she
returns to her memories of Shizuma, of Shizuma tutoring her in French,
and now a close-up of Shizuma smiling. Nagisa finishes the question
with the word "lonely…" The anime continues to memories of them
together in the greenhouse, with Shizuma laughing delightedly over
Nagisa’s crumbled cookies, and the two of them laughing with each
other. Nagisa concludes, with fine pathos: "I want to see her…"
Suddenly, she looks up, and sees the shooting stars in the sky, the
heavens themselves confirming this revelation to herself of her deepest
wishes. The anime cuts to others happily looking at the meteors: Hikari
and Yaya; Remon, Kagome, and Kizuna; Chikaru and Tsubomi; Chiyo by
herself; and finally, back at Miator, Shizuma and Miyuki. Oddly,
Shizuma refuses to be moved by the meteor-shower, and continues
walking. The anime returns to Nagisa standing by her window, her hand
on her heart, as she repeats "I want to see her…I want to see her
smiling face." The sequence closes as she closes her eyes, bows her
head, and smiles, her cheeks blushing even in the dark. How very
beautiful! Nagisa at last admits to herself her feelings for
Shizuma. The story of how Nagisa comes to learn that she is in love
reaches its conclusion at this moment.

It takes two to love, however, and there are signs that, as much as
Shizuma misses Nagisa, not everything is resolved in her heart. We
already spoke about her curious indifference to the shooting stars: we
shall have to be on the outlook to see if there is some association
with Kaori she is trying to set aside. Likewise, when Nagisa comes
rushing into the greenhouse looking for her, Shizuma is oddly slow to
turn around, which she does, not at the sound of Nagisa’s entrance, but
only afterwards, at her voice. If Nagisa marks her feelings for Shizuma
by addressing her no longer as "Etoile-sama" but "Shizuma-sama," what
does Shizuma’s unaccented "Nagisa" in response signify? It appears to
be a familiarity, as when Shizuma had said "Nagisa" in the previous
episode when she was about to kiss her, so perhaps this final moment in
the episode marks an open familiarity between the two of them. All the
same, there still is the relative distance of that "-sama" between
them, as yet not resolved.

Several side points about this episode. We learn that Tamao is a
full-class nut, when she frightens Nagisa during her walk in the woods
at night and tape-records her screams for later listening pleasure!
Likewise, we learn that Miyuki is a relentless jailer, as she minds
Shizuma and piles up a solid foot of correspondence for Shizuma to go
through. Both the putative rivals show their worst sides in the
episode, and would seem to disqualify themselves from acting as genuine
lovers.

Chiyo’s love and concern for Nagisa on the other hand is quite touching. She shows her
love by wanting Nagisa to happy, even if it is not with herself. She
even foresees prophetically Nagisa becoming an Etoile, like Shizuma.
Her reflections illustrate how the minor characters can rise up to
insight and moral depth, to illuminate the major  characters in the
light of an ideal. We shall have to look to see how far Nagisa or
Shizuma love each other measure up to Chiyo’s selflessness. Nagisa’s longing
for Shizuma’s "smiling face" may be just this self-less love. We will
find in the very next episode how far away Shizuma is from this ideal.

At this point in the narrative Nagisa has reached a certain conclusion
about her love for Shizuma. Going forward, she will adjust her feelings
in reaction to Shizuma herself, in terms of how Shizuma moves forward
(or not) in dealing with her memories of Kaori. The remainder of the
distance between them must be made up by Shizuma herself. And that
story will be difficult to tell in detail, since we will learn it for
the most part third-hand, through how Nagisa perceives Shizuma, and in
what people like Miyuki have to say about Shizuma’s past. That is what
we will be looking for as we go through the remainder of the anime.

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