This episode completely entranced me for the first few minutes, then began to drag. But when I watched it again to write this, the whole thing seemed meaningful. I long to see next week's episode, to see what Mugi does. In this show, which does not settle into the anime norms, that is not a foregone conclusion -- although I do expect it to be fairly positive, despite the negativity of this episode, where we feel as if we are spiraling back to the Mugi who can't do anything.
In a private discussion, a teacher asks Kayo if she has decided. Kayo answers yes.
Then we see Kayo coming into the classroom before school. Mugi, Kai,and Chitose are already there. Episode title: "Always together."
Mugi's voiceover says that the Drama Study Group was disbanded after the school festival, and that it seemed as if they had been together for a long time. We see the Drama Club, which has elected its chair and vice-chair: Haruko (Ueda Kana) and Sachie. Mugi says everyone had returned to their own lives. We see Kayo with her camera, Kai drawing a picture of Mugi, and Mugi looking unsure. Mugi says the seniors were all busy preparing for the next steps in their educational careers. It was winter, and they had returned to being normal high school students. Mugi sees Nono in the hall and bows to her, but Nono keeps right on walking, with a smile on her face.
We get a wonderful wintry grey image of the bridge, with snow beginning to fall. In class eating lunch, Chitose asks Mugi, Kai and Kayo if they have any plans for Christmas. Mugi says no. Kayo says she'd like to eat Christmas cake, and Kai agrees with that. Chitose says why not invite the seniors to a Christmas party. Kai says he doesn't want to spend even more time with his sister. Kayo says to Chitose she's just looking for a way to spend time with Katsuragi. She admits it, but declares that she will definitely confess to Katsuragi before he graduates. She says if it's a choice between taking action and not taking action, she will choose taking action. She doesn't want to regret not having tried. And the group all goes to invite the various seniors.
Chitose runs up behind Katsuragi and hugs him. He doesn't know what is going on. Kai invites Risaki and she accepts, holding him in a headlock. Mugi goes up to Nono and can't get the words out. She finally does after she sees Nono and Mirei getting along so well, in their tsuntsun way, and Nono convinces Mirei they can both go, despite the fact they need to study.
At the party on Christmas Eve (which may be that very day), Mirei asks Chitose what they are doing using the Drama Cub room, and Chitose answers that the new leaders of the club said it would be a day off. Nono congratulates Mirei on being such a serious chairman. As Mirei goes crazy, Katsuragi comments how much stress they have been under. As Nono pours tea for her, Mirei says how worried she is for the kids that succeeded her. Nono comforts her that she did well.
Kayo keeps taking pictures and says what a good mood there is. Mugi complains that Kayo keeps catching her when she is not aware. Kayo says those are the best moments and they should catch as many memories as possible. Mugi tries to take the camera and shoot Kayo, but Kayo says why not have someone take a picture of them together, and Kai does.
Chitose sees snow outside and they rush outside to play. Chitose's snowball misses Katsuragi and hits Nono, giving Katsuragi a chance to show sympathy for Nono again. Kayo asks Chitose if she's not going to confess, but Chitose says she will find an opportunity and refuses to admit defeat. Kayo comments to Mugi how spirited Chitose is, and asks if Mugi is going to keep acting. Mugi says no, that even though she enjoyed acting more than she expected and was sad when the club was disbanded, she doesn't think she's cut out for it. Kayo says what a shame that is, since acting helped Mugi change to become more active. Is that so? says Mugi. Yes, answers Kayo, so much so that I felt things would be okay even if I weren't here. Chitose hits Mugi with a snowball and Kayo leaps to Mugi's defense. Mirei, Risaki and Nono are pleased that the four youngsters get along so well, despite the fact that they are in different clubs.
Kayo shows Mugi a set of pictures from the whole year. Mugi comments that all of Kayo's photos give a warm feeling, and says she really has talent. Chitose and Kai agree, and it makes Kayo happy. Mugi says she will let Kayo take any pictures she wants. She asks Kayo if she's going to take lessons outside of school in second year. Kayo ends up admitting she won't be going into second year with Mugi, but will be going overseas to study photography. Mugi is shocked and disoriented by the news.
Next, we see Kai and Chitose waiting for Mugi at a temple on New Year's Day. They think back to Kayo asking them to look after Mugi when she is gone. Then they see Mugi arriving. Kai notices that she has changed her hair. Mugi admits it was to improve her mood. Chitose prays for herself and Katsuragi to be happy together, and for her acting to improve, and for the seniors to succeed in their studies. Mugi can't think what to ask for. In their fortunes for the coming year, Mugi gets great good fortune, Chitose lesser good fortune, and Kai great misfortune [note: I got this wrong in last week's preview]. Kai is disturbed, but Mugi says he can protect himself against misfortune by tying the fortune to the tree. Then she remembers Kayo telling her the same thing when she got a bad fortune the year before.
Chitose asks Kai what he's doing during the winter vacation and he says just sleeping, that it's good to be at ease after being rushed into the Drama Study Group right after he entered school the previous spring. She asks Mugi what she plans to do now, and Mugi answers: nothing. Chitose says she and Kai should both join the Drama Club. Kai is noncommittal, and Mugi says she'll probably join no club. Don't you want to act? says Chitose. Mugi shakes her head. She guesses she'll just go back to being how she was when she entered school. Chitose says she's already changed, she knows because she's her rival, and she doesn't want to lose to her. That's why she prayed that her acting would improve, and why she will keep practicing hard. It would make her look stupid if Mugi quit now.
Mugi dejectedly says: But.... Chitose changes tack and says she should at least follow her own desires, even if they don't involve acting. Mugi says she doesn't have any desires, since the only thing she wants is impossible.... She and Kayo had been together since the beginning of middle school, and she had caused Kayo lots of trouble by the way she is. She wanted to help Kayo when she was in greatest need, but she wasn't going to have the opportunity. She remembers Kayo saying that she decided when she saw Mugi on stage that she too would make that same extreme effort and see what she could do. And that's why she hoped Mugi could support her. But Mugi couldn't tell her she supported her, since her head was just full of her own loss. What kind of friend am I? says Mugi. Mugi, weeping, apologizes, and says that the sweet New Year's wine they had earlier must have made her a bit drunk. She runs off, saying she will see them at school.
As she was walking out of the shrine area, Mugi heard Nono calling her. Nono was praying that she would get into university. Mugi is surprised that a good student with self-confidence, like Nono, would still pray. Nono says praying is for when you can think of no way to get what you want. They go and sit by the bridge. They comment on how amazing Kayo is, to be going after her dream. Mugi says that even after she has acted as the star in a play, and Kayo said she is more positive and optimistic, she doesn't feel as if she has changed.
Nono says Mugi was just playing herself, the petal (hitohira). She was a high school student who had hard times and attempted suicide.The three fairies made it possible for her love to come to fruition. When they were gone, she realized that there had been dear friends around her all the time, and came to enjoy life. Mugi weeps that she couldn't thank Kayo for what she had done. She just can't accept that she and Kayo won't always be together. Nono says: There is nothing that doesn't change, just as there is no play that doesn't end.
Nono gestures at the bridge above them: Eventually, everyone will cross this bridge and go. Mugi: But I just can't smile and wish Kayo farewell. Nono: So you'll just always be that Mugi who can't do anything? You can't stop the person who gets up on stage, but you can support her. That's friendship.
Mugi says angrily that Nono just doesn't understand what's between Kayo and her. But Nono says she understands, and embraces Mugi. And Mugi may even see the reflections of Mirei, Risaki and Katsuragi in Nono's eyes. Nono wraps her scarf around Mugi's neck and tells her not to catch cold. Mugi runs after her, calling after her, then she feels herself calling after Kayo and the others, pleading with them all not to go.