There have been a lot of brilliant scenes in anime in 2016; Fango’s death in 91 Days, Reigen’s power inheritance in Mob Psycho 100, the empty children in Kiznaiver, the park scene in ERASED and around 50% of the scenes in Sakamoto Desu Ga? are all great examples of these, and if I were to go through every single one I’d be here all day. However, there are two complete stand-out scenes for me; in this article, I am going to look into exactly what makes these scenes as good as they are.
Kayo’s First Home-Cooked Breakfast (ERASED Episode 8—Spiral)
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi—better known by its English name ERASED—excels in a lot of areas including its excellent character writing, its use of lighting and colour and even simple stuff like it’s very strong concept. The show is a masterclass in good direction, putting most other A-1 shows to shame and showing Itou Tomohiko’s talent as a director for anyone who is willing to turn a blind eye to Sword Art Online II. This, in turn, means that it has many extremely good scenes scattered throughout the series. The most memorable of these is this scene from episode 8 after Kayo has spent the night at Satoru’s house after evacuating the abandoned school bus.
The scene starts with a shot of Kayo’s face as she is sleeping, with her left hand sticking out from under the covers, her fingers curled towards her palm and with her looking incredibly vulnerable; a large amount of emphasis has been put onto her breathing, and between the lines, shading and expression on her face it is difficult to tell whether she is fully at peace or not. She wakes up and looks very at-ease relative to when she was sleeping, which makes me think that she was dreaming about her past as she was sleeping and that waking up is almost like an escape from the world of her past. As the camera angle changes, the viewer’s line of site is still trailed onto Kayo, who’s upwardly-turned eyes then direct us across the room towards a now-upright Satoru. Kayo sits up as Satoru greets her with a half-asleep “ohayou” and she returns it, only for Sachiko to do so much more actively before inviting them out to breakfast. Satoru goes first, letting out a yawn as he steps out into the light, covering his eyes and then closing them to allow his eyes to adjust as he yawns, and he is quickly followed by Kayo. However, she does nothing as she steps out; her expression is preoccupied, almost as if she’s still thinking over what she was dreaming, and unlike Satoru she doesn’t seem to be fazed by the increase in light. She remains uninterested by the discussion about curry between Satoru and Sachiko as she walks over to the table, but her expression shifts as she sees the breakfast the latter has made her; her eyes widen and her mouth opens, surprised at the type of breakfast she had only seen on TV before, and the camera snaps to a shot of the food on her plate.
The shot of Kayo is taken as if it is from the viewpoint of the bowl of rice, and this gives us a good view of her face as she looks down at the food, and when the camera shifts we get a shot of a grand breakfast, which can be seen in the picture above. It then shifts back to her face, this time closer into the camera, and she looks almost bewildered at the thought of having something so grand. She blinks and so begins what is hands-down the most memorable moment in the entire series. We get three shots of what past breakfasts looked like for Kayo from her viewpoint (pot noodles, a slice of dry bread and two 100円 pieces); the pot noodles are on a wooden table with envelopes and paper strewn all over its surface, and there is an ash tray with multiple cigarette butts on top of one of the folders; the slice of bread is on a plate with the loaf to the left of it, still in its plastic wrapper, there is a box of some where the ash tray was in the previous shot, and there is a also a pile of paper with a pen on top; the shot of the 200? is zoomed in onto the coins and the rest of the contents of the table are not visible. These are separated by beautifully-conceived blinking transitions which wowed me at how creative they were when watching, and this combined with the outline of the eye which is visible when looking at the items improves over the same shot in the manga (which you can see to the left). It’s followed by a shot of her looking glumly down at these items, taken from the same angle as the first, and the colour pallet is significantly duller than in the same shot prior to the flashback. While in Satoru’s house there is a warm wooden ceiling with a central heating pipe visible along the top of the wall, in this shot there is no central heating visible and the wide ceiling supports look harsh in comparison, with a window visible near the top-left corner of the screen accompanied by a pully blind: further increasing the harshness of the building’s appearance and making the room look cold. The bleak appearance of the room combined with the amount of clutter present on the breakfast table suggests that the space simply isn’t liveable. The difference in attire is also noteworthy, as Kayo’s ugly, grey pyjamas create a very stark contrast to the pretty, pink pair Sachiko has provided her with.
The camera then cuts to a shot not present in the manga; it is of Kayo in the park wearing her iconic red coat, with a lamp post standing between her and the tree on the far right of the screen. This shot is excellent for a few reasons; Kayo is sat on a bench on the far right of the scene eating her sandwich. Nothing particularly abstract about that. However, notice that Kayo is not facing directly forward on the bench, instead opting to be rotated into a direct side profile relative to the camera. Had she been sitting the right way, she would be facing directly towards the tree on the far right, as that is where the bench is angled towards. This is a metaphor for her relationship between her and her mother. The fact that the tree is located on the far side of the screen from Kayo is indicative of how distanced they are as a mother and a daughter, and the fact that Kayo is positioned so that her gaze is averted from the tree acts as further support for this as it is showing that she is taking whatever measures necessary to separate herself as much as possible from her abusive mother. The lamp post acts as a barrier separating the two of them from each other, and its harsh grey colour blends in with the surroundings; this further strengthens the idea of Kayo doing whatever she can to distance herself. Kayo’s coat is the only item in the shot which is not a cold colour; given the series’ use of the colour red throughout its run repeatedly tying into violence the shot references back to the abusive relationship between the two, and the fact that the coat’s red is duller than the very harsh reds shown previously in the series it is very much indicative of the fact that this type of abuse has been going on for years and years; Kayo is safe from violence as long as this barrier sits between her and her mother. It is also worth noting that the tree in the shot is the same tree which was present in episode 2’s park scene, where it functioned as a barrier between her and Satoru in the same way that the lamp post is acting as one between her and the tree. If we assume that the tree is symbolic of Kayo’s mother in this shot, then the fact that the tree of all things was used as a barrier in episode 2 suggests that Kayo’s fear of opening up to people stems from the fear of her mother. I completely love how the show has managed to go six episodes and then continue the metaphor by both filling in missing info but also giving it increased depth and meaning and allowing us to understand just what makes Kayo such a spectacular character even more than we could see already.
The camera zooms in on Kayo’s face as she looks up at the vapor she breathes and the camera follows it off into the sky before fading out to white, and then the flashback ends and we are put back into Satoru’s house looking at her breakfast once again. However, this time the focus has shifted downwards to the base of her placement mat, where we see a tear drop onto the table. the camera shifts to Satoru, who looks up in Kayo’s direction before the camera switches to what appears to be a shot from his viewpoint where we see Kayo’s face. Piano begins playing in the background, and the camera pans up to reveal that there are great big tears along the bottoms of Kayo’s eyes, only for them to run down her face when she blinks and proceeds to turn on the waterworks on one of the most touching moments in any show which aired this year. We get a beautifully animated shot of her face as she begins to sob, and as she brings her hands up to her eyes they look much more young and delicate than they did on the bed. The camera moves to a wider shot with Satoru and Kayo with Satoru’s vision trailed onto Kayo as she continues to cry. He rests his arms and shoulders from the position they were in from him eating. The camera angle shifts to a still of Sachiko looking over the table before changing again to the angle showing Satoru from before, where he sits looking on, unable to help or console his dear friend, and during this time Sachiko has moved behind Kayo’s chair, where she stands with her hands on her shoulders to comfort her in any way she can. We get one last shot of the food before the shot fades to black and the next scene begins.
Even without considering the spectacular direction and use of metaphor, what ultimately makes this scene stick out to me is just how immensely powerful it is. The entire scene builds up to that one moment where Kayo begins crying, and it manages to work its way from a completely inconspicuous shot of her in bed before working through her past and touching on her relationship with her mother before completely hitting you with those tears. It has been around ten months since the episode first aired and this scene still completely touches me and makes me cry when I watch it (I let out some very manly tears when re-watching the scene to write this analysis). This overflow of emotion combined with just how immensely memorable and well-crafted the scene is makes it something truly special, and as immensely solid as it is on its own what really completes this scene is how it fits into the context of the rest of series.
If you want to watch ERASED, it is available to stream on Crunchyroll: http://www.crunchyroll.com/erased
Duel Under the Crystal Dome (FLIP FLAPPERS Episode 9—Pure Mute)
Flip Flappers is extremely good. Between its stunning art style, well-choreographed action, its total grasp of the concept of fun and it both having the best ED and one of the best OPs of any show all year, there is something which I am sure anyone will like about FLIP FLAPPERS; it has cemented itself as the best show to air all year in my eyes. While I am sure I could take any number of scenes from the show and tear them to shreds, and this scene especially has left a lasting impression on me to the point where I am thoroughly convinced that it is the single best fight scene out of all the shows I watched this year.
The scene starts with Yayaka standing off against Cocona and Papika briefly before firing off the weapons on her belt in their direction, and atmospheric strings begin to play separated crotchets as the fight ensues. The weapons wrap around Papika before slinging her up into the air before sending her crashing to the ground with an immense amount of force. Cocona gives Yayaka a look of disapproval before the latter yells her name and summons a giant crystal dome that completely shuts them off from the outside world and, consequently, the amorphous children and Papika—only for the former two say their six billionth unnerving line of the series. Inside the dome, Yayaka demands that Cocona transforms, and when Cocona shows any kind of defiance she fires her weapon at her and cuts her cheek before taunting her further. The fact that she is giving Cocona this opportunity at all hints at her reluctance towards what she has been ordered to do, and the fact she summoned a dome to deliberately shut Papika and the amorphous children off is likely to spare Papika from having to see it happen whilst hiding her reluctance from the incredible sense of perception that the amorphous children seem to have. Cocona chants “flip flapping” and initiates transformation, and as the transformation begins the camera shifts to Yayaka’s face; the movement of her eyes effectively confirms the aforementioned hint.
A brass fanfare plays over the string backing as the transformation begins, and Yayaka makes a charge for Cocona as the transformation finishes—zig-zagging as she moves towards her at a tremendous pace. Cocona successfully blocks Yayaka’s kick in a blow which creates a big, yellow spark, a large shift in the air and a hemispherical cloud around the point of collision, and as the latter jumps back and lands, a picture of herself as a child is made visible on every fractal of the dome. This is a completely stunning stylistic choice that sticks in your mind for a long time after watching the scene. Cocona, taken aback by the spectacle, drops her guard and very almost gets swiftly punished by Yayaka, who continues to force an attack in a well-animated sequence as the images on the dome begin to cycle through Yayaka’s memories of Cocona. The interior of the dome is made clearer during this shot, and it is shown that there are lots of pillars of crystal located around The camera quickly switches to the amorphous children, who are very easily restraining Papika and ask a question about mindset, tauntingly addressed to Yayaka and referencing back to the start of the episode. Back inside the dome, we get more shots of the walls—which are still rotating through Yayaka’s memories of Cocona—and our eye gets dragged off to the left as Yayaka charges across our line of site only for us to be denied a shot of fighting in favour of intense sound effects as we get more shots of the walls. More beautifully animated and choreographed fighting is shown and Cocona begs Yayaka to stop. Yayaka rejects her, continuing to fight and smashing her memories on the walls. She is running away from her past as a child assigned to keep watch over Cocona by doing whatever she can to reject it, so that it can give her the strength to fight. The memories of Yayaka and Cocona are replaced by one of Cocona, Papika and Bu. The camera focusses onto an individual fractal to show the image, and the shot is unsteady as if the camera were being held in one hand.
Yayaka lets out a battle cry and the camera shifts to a shot of her charging towards the viewer, surrounded by hundreds of individually drawn and animated shards of crystal falling through the air. Her expression in this shot is complex: a truly chilling amalgamation of terror, sadness, rage and madness. This is followed by a beautiful slow-motion silhouette as Yayaka defeats Cocona. She tumbles to the ground, transformation reversed, as Yayaka lands in front of her. The amorphous drops at Cocona’s side, and as Yayaka goes to pick it up she is reminded of the one present in Cocona’s leg by the amorphous children; she un-sheathes her knife and, as Papika begs her to stop, gets down to cut it out of Cocona’s leg. She raises her knife, shakes in terror and goes to push it into her leg before being interrupted by memories of her past. The music ends as she gives up and punches the ground in frustration—her mindset is weak, as the amorphous children so bluntly put in the following shot, and as they attack Cocona she goes to protect her in a flashing shot, dropping the amorphous in the process. We do not see the punch, but we see the amorphous girl charge in for it as well as the immense pain Yayaka is in afterwards, and as if that wasn’t enough already the second amorphous boy fires a rocket which explodes and fills the screen with a gorgeous, colourful flame. Yayaka collapses, the amorphous girl is holding the amorphous and Cocona regains consciousness. She sits up and a look of terror washes over her face, which is very quickly revealed to be the result of more rockets flying in their direction. Another technicolour explosion occurs, and the flames are cleared as Papika counter-attacks having successfully protected Cocona and Yayaka from the blast, and she successfully injures the male amorphous child—forcing them to retreat. Cocona shakes Yayaka—desperately yelling her name in an attempt to wake her up—and the credits begin to roll.
There is a lot which makes this scene brilliant; its sound direction, visual direction, scenario design, stylisation, animation and attention to detail are all completely top notch, and it is also immensely memorable. However, just like with any other scene, the way that it has been integrated into the story is what ultimately completes this scene. The way that Pure Mute is set up is designed with one specific goal in mind: to give a complete development of Yayaka’s character. The entire episode is focussed around her, giving us a lot of info into both the way that Yayaka thinks (right from the very first scene, where she comments on mindset) and into her past relationship with Cocona. Cocona is shut into a room with the amorphous children, and the only way she will be able to escape this room is to allow either Papika or Yayaka “into her heart,” so to speak. The scenario is designed in such a way that enough time can be brought by her internal conflict that the amorphous children taunt her into that Papika’s past with her is detailed, and the episode just builds up as time goes on until the fight is ready to begin, where Yayaka effectively lashes out and displays her frustration at her position. I was shaking after watching it because of how incredibly good it was.
If you want to watch FLIP FLAPPERS, it is available to stream on Crunchyroll: http://www.crunchyroll.com/flip-flappers