Episode 9 – Lycoris Recoil


At seemingly the beginning of the end for Lycoris Recoil, this episode thus focuses on endings and beginnings. The news of Chisato’s impending heart-stoppage arrives somewhat abruptly, but that’s the sort of news that could never really be delivered kindly. The point that “Life doesn’t go as planned” is delivered in a significantly lighter framing, such as it can be, at the end of this episode, and that informs the tone of this entry, along with really the thesis of the whole series itself. How we choose to use the time we’re given, who we choose to use it for, has been the growing theme of Lycoris Recoil over the course of its run, and obviously that’s not going to change here. The strength of that idea simply reaches a crescendo, and reveals how strong the whole point of the show had always been even in its seemingly-irreverent moments.

That’s a lot, to start, but this is an episode with a lot happening. The revelation that Himegama effectively shorted out the charging port on Chisato’s artificial heart provides but an inciting incident for all the places this one goes, least of all a really blunt metaphor for living with a terminal illness, before the later revelation that cute lil’ baby Chisato was already living with an actual terminal illness. Of course, LycoReco has never been especially oblique with its various layers and metaphors, so making this idea clear as all the characters surrounding Chisato work through their own stages of grief fits with the show’s very on-its-sleeve way of articulating things. This extends to the in-story revelations as well. There’s no big, dramatic, revelatory moment to Kurumi and Mika figuring Shinji’s conspiratorial connections to Chisato’s situation and everything else; it’s instead presented as a more meditative Occam’s Razor-style realization. It’s smart, because this is something we in the audience have been made aware of for a while now, so there’s no need to draw dramatics from the characters at this point.

That said, there are some other little surprises lurking here and there through this one’s past-and-present narrative. There’s a delicious irony to the fact that Chisato’s enthusiastic insistence on helping people was borne out of Shinji saving her specifically so he could turn her into a killing machine. And while it might have been something of a foregone conclusion, the way Takina’s ultimate return to the D.A. turns out is a work of such supreme narrative satisfaction that it’s amazing it happens with several episodes still left to go in this tightly-composed little series. Chisato chooses to use the time she has left as a Lycoris to fulfill her new friend’s original desire, and Takina takes that on specifically for Chisato’s sake. It’s a beautifully-structured reflection akin to the show’s regular dual commercial-bumper illustrations, or its previous insistence on those episode-bookending gags. Like poetry, it rhymes.

And I think that’s the most impressive thing about this episode of Lycoris Recoil, as it reflectively makes clear just how deliberately-structured the show has been all this time, even in those parts that seemed more aimless. This show, like Chisato, was only ever given a short, finite amount of time, and had to make the choice of what it did with that. They could have gone for a more melancholy approach, like its aesthetic forebear Gunslinger Girl, but they chose to stick to a more regularly upbeat style, to bring us here as a demonstration of Chisato’s way of living. “It’s my style to enjoy times of trouble,” she says to Takina as they go fishing on their final cute little date together, that quote simply summarizing the whole dang series. Knowing now that Chisato has always opted to use her borrowed time for these sorts of simple pleasures infuses that much more meaning into them; It provides an opportunity to look back on all those previous fluffy cute-girls-doing-cute-things antics and realize it wasn’t simply a dissonant gimmick—it was woven into the fabric of the show’s ultimate themes.

Not that LycoReco has ever been shy about being about something, and it’s even articulated this driving concept in other ways previously, but still this episode gets me gushing about how effectively it emotionally climaxes that concept. It’s only a little amazing that it can turn something as tried-and-true as cute anime girls faffing about at a cafe into a tightly-scripted thematic narrative conceit, and still play it off as freewheelingly natural. That “Life doesn’t go as planned” thesis statement is delivered as a simple aside line when Takina and Chisato find that the aquarium from their date earlier in the series is closed, necessitating that fishing detour instead. As if the minds behind LycoReco weren’t calculating for such a scene from the beginning, same as their intent in drenching the flashback to Chisato’s adorable earlier days in optimistic golden hues, or deploying the snow Takina’s hoped for at the exact right moment at the end of their outing together. The characters are at the whims of the writers and directors telling this story, and all of them still choose to take time to simply mess about and enjoy life. Because even in this calm before the storm setting, with one of our heroes seemingly only having a couple months left to live, that is what they all see as the best way to spend that time.

More than anything, this was the episode of Lycoris Recoil that made me acutely aware that I’ll have to soon say goodbye to this show that’s become such an enjoyable fixture of my Saturdays, and how much I will miss it when that time comes. But like so many of the stages of grief that we see Takina and the others working through, this episode shows how each of those phases can be an ending unto itself. The way this one wraps, with Takina and Chisato each resolving to part and walk towards their own destinies, could nearly pass for its own ending to the story, in a particularly open way. Of course, it isn’t, and for all of us firmly invested in these good kids hoping things will properly work out for both of them, there’s still a tumultuous final arc ahead. But amid the painful endings this one begins with, it’s still a hopeful, optimistic note to lead to, impressively still feeling like something that deserves that cute ending-song fade-in. Yes, there’s still plenty of tension in the air as we question what will happen to Chisato and Takina now, but there’s also earnest hope that Lycoris Recoil will stick to its guns (loaded with non-lethal bullets) regarding what is best in life to the very end.

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Lycoris Recoil is currently streaming on
Crunchyroll.


Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.

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