Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hitohira 08

We have reached the day of the performance. Mugi has to go on stage as the star. This week's episode is tenser and has a different rhythm than we are used to from this show. It doesn't flow in the same way. Everyone is close to their emotional edge.

The episode starts with Mugi's voiceover: "The day of destiny."

In the school courtyard, a member of the Drama Club is powerfully declaiming publicity for their play and for the competition between the two drama clubs. Kai watches from a second-floor window, dressed in a waiter's outfit for the maid cafe their class is putting on as part of the school festival. Mugi is behind a curtain being helped by Kayo to change into her maid's outfit. She is embarrassed by the short skirt. Kayo asks Kai and he very much agrees that it looks good on her. "Good job!"

Standing outside the classroom inviting customers to the maid cafe, Mugi thinks Kayo is getting into it too much. Kayo thinks Mugi has to put more into it. Some guys come by and think Mugi's cute, but Kai comes in and "protects" her from them. Everybody's amused at their obvious intimacy. Nono and Risaki come by, dressed as a tiger and a witch and drag Mugi and Kai off to watch the Drama Club's performance.

Title: "You're not alone."

In the theatre, Mirei and Chitose are on stage, acting a powerful scene of a woman shooting her younger sister. Mugi thinks Chitose is great. She thinks: "I am going to act on that stage?" When the applause starts, she feels frightened.

Katsuragi has been sitting watching. The others stood because they were wearing costumes and might have bothered people. Katsuragi could be there for the whole thing because his class made an exhibit. The tiger and witch costumes are because Nono and Risaki's class were doing a fancy dress cafe. Katsuragi says the tiger costume is moé, and Nono launches a "cat punch!" at him.

The club is in the dressing room getting ready. Risaki comes in saying that there is a bigger audience than she expected, that the poster of Mugi drew them in. Mugi doesn't respond, and when Kai goes over to her they discover she has fainted sitting upright. Mugi apologizes for having no confidence. Risaki says: "Okay. Do you want to run away? It's very simple: just go out that door. But that would mean that even the pleasant memories of this past half year would be turned into painful memories.

Nono says that if she gives it her all, she can turn even the painful memories into happy ones. Mugi thinks of all the things that have happened, good and bad. She says: "Before I joined the Drama Study Group, I didn't have anything I wanted to work hard at." Kai says it's all right, that Mugi isn't alone. Katsuragi says that they have practiced together and Risaki says that if anything happens she'll be there. Risaki calls for them all to put their hands together, and Mugi thanks everyone and says she'll do her best

Then they realize Mirei has come in. "Why are you here," says Nono. "To increase the pressure," says Mirei. And the flames of conflict rise around Mirei and Nono. Katsuragi tries to calm them, saying that Mirei came out of concern. Mirei denies it.

Katsuragi suggests they should think about what to do if Nono's voice goes away on stage. Risaki sugests they have to come up with filler, but the problem is what happens after that. Katsuragi suggests Nono should leave the stage. Nono refuses. Mirei says: "Nono, you're not a child. Making this play succeed is what's important." Mugi hesitantly but firmly says that Nono has worked so hard for this and shouldn't leave the stage, that they will somehow come up with ad libs. Kai agrees, and Katsuragi and Risaki give in. Risaki says that if Nono's voice goes, Nono will come up with gestures that will work. Mirei leaves, but Nono goes out to her, and surprises her by saying; "Thank you."

In the theatre before the performance, Chitose is with three other Drama Club members. They say Mugi's voice doesn't seem special, but Chitose says it's not her ordinary voice, they just have to watch and see. They tell her to remember which club she's in. Mirei sees Kayo at the back of the hall, worrying about Mugi. Kayo tells her she worries what will happen if Mugi loses her confidence on stage and the performance fails and the club is disbanded. Mugi will lose even more confidence. Mirei says that she should have confidence in her, that that's all they can do.

The curtain opens, and Mugi is alone on stage, in the spotlight. Unfortunately, she speaks with a small, uncertain voice. The Drama Club members comment with some satisfaction on how nervous she seems, and Chitose gets angry with them again. Mugi wishes hard that her hands would stop shaking. Mugi's lines are to the effect that life has no meaning, and she collapses, having attempted suicide.

In the next scene, Mugi's character awakens in bed, surpised that she is alive. Risaki and Katsuragi appear as fairies. Risaki says: "What's so bad about being alive?" Katsuragi: ""Life is wonderful." Risaki sits by Mugi and takes her hand, saying: "You're not alone." Mugi realizes with thankfulness that Risaki is trying to help her. Risaki says her name is Shuriya, points to Nono and says she is Mariye, and says that the one over there (Katsuragi) is Romano. He blows a kiss at her. Mugi is glad he is there, too. Risaki says they are just spirits there to help bring her to happiness. Mugi feels that things are okay, because they are all there.

Katsuragi says it is strange that this human can see them and isn't scared of them at all. Mugi says her next line with a stronger voice, screaming and calling for help. Next, she expresses doubt that they are spirits, but Risaki shows her wings. Nono and Katsuragi are looking at a picture of the boy whom Mugi's character loved and wanted to kill herself over. Katsuragi says he looks like a good man -- but not as good as him. Mugi tries to get them to stop looking at the picture and they realize it is the person she loves. Mugi tries to grab at them, but her hand goes right through them. Katsuragi says she can see them but can't touch them. Together, they say that only unhappy people can see them, that they are the spirits who can carry unhappy people to happiness. Mugi says in a less hesitant voice that she has no friends, that she's worthless, that it doesn't matter if she lives or not.

There is a long pause. Kai, offstage, and the others gradually realize that Nono has lost her voice. Nono slowly walks toward Mugi and comes up with a gesture, in place of words: she slaps Mugi. More long pause, as Mugi recovers from her shock. Mirei, in the audience, realizes what's happened. Mugi actually steps out of character and quietly asks Nono if she has lost her voice. Everyone is shocked, and Mirei says: "You fool." Mugi remembers that she said they would come up with ad libs, but she can't think of one. In the audience, Chitose is unhappy for Mugi, but thinks that she has to deal with anything that happens on stage as if it was intended.

Risaki comes up with an ad lib, saying that Mugi's character's unwillingness makes it impossible to hear Nono. Chitose and Mirei are impressed. Mugi is weeping, unable to think of anything. Risaki comes over and says, in character, that she shouldn't be worried, that they will show her how to be happy. Risaki is hoping desperately for Mugi to come up with something. Mugi's mind is totally blank.

Nono walks across the stage, thinking: "Why couldn't this have happened in an hour, rather than right now?" Nono thinks of Mugi, who thought that if anyone might forget their lines, it would be her. She thinks of Risaki, who is so cheerful, but gets angry with her easily. Of Katsuragi, who is always supporting her. Of Kai, who is always complaining, but who is obviously a kind person who understands people's feelings. And of Mugi, who is so worried about being in front of people, and gets so nervous she can't speak, completely unsuited to being an actor. But who is a good girl, so honest. She has worked so hard and is now standing here on stage. The four of them helped her stay on stage. She says to herself: "Mirei, I love acting. After coming to this school and acting with you, I wanted it to continue forever." Mirei is crying and gets up to leave. Then she hears Nono struggling to get out some words. It makes her feel even worse.

On stage, Mugi thinks it is her fault that Nono is trying the impossible like this. She thinks it's up to them on stage -- up to her alone, at that moment -- to support Nono. She clenches her fist, takes a deep breath, and out comes that huge voice: "Okay, let's try it." Mirei is amazed. Chitose says: "Here it is!" Kayo is delighted. The actors on stage feel great now. Mugi goes on with the script, in a strong, voice and with definite gestures and expression. She really seems to be a different person: "I can't stand being like this. If you can change me with your power, go ahead and try."

I was shocked by Mugi's big voice. So were many posters on 2channel. It doesn't sound like the same person at all. But I and most of them came around to really liking this episode. We are talking about a complete change of personality -- at least that is what Mugi is aiming for, when she has her determination with her. I am now very eager to see the rest of the play, and what happens afterward.