Girls get trapped in a Pure Illusion that’s like their own school. A spooky version of it.
Key Animation: Yuki Morikawa, Shouko Nagasawa, Minoru Morita, Yukiko Miyamoto, Takeshi Iida, Reio Komoto, Aiko Komagi, Takeshi Osame, Katsuhiko Kitada, Miki Sakaibara, Izumi Kondo, Takayo Mitsuwaka, Marumi Sugita, Yo Yamamoto, Kenji Kadoya, Hironori Tanaka, Mika Sawada, Mika Sugiyama, Yuki Igarashi, China, Yoshito Narimatsu, Tsuyoshi Kakihara, Keiichiro Watanabe, Shiho Tanaka, Kiyotaka Oshiyama
Now that was one atmospheric Pure Illusion. Instead of focusing on exploring a new world, the episode took our two protagonists back to their own school. That alone sounds quite terrifying; in the life of a student, being sent back to school in your own free adventure time has to be the worst nightmare. Now imagine being a student who is trapped in a nightmarish version of it that looks as if it came straight out of a horror movie. And by trapped I mean quite literally.
I think the episode was cleverly planned to air around Halloween. While it didn’t feature any of the usual imagery related to that particular festivity, the episode had many horror elements that we tend to associate with this time of the year. Unremitting rain, deafening thunders and candles being the primary source of light are the tropes that have been used in horror films since the birth of the genre. As girls explore this version of their own school in search for a fragment, they go through a series of typical cat scares – with Papika taking on the role of a cat – until they meet the other students. They soon get used to their unusual appearance and voices and get trapped in a time loop. To emphasize the effect, creators used another frequent horror trope – a creepy doll. As the doll turned around everytime the girls fell asleep, the narrative was hinting at the possibility that the doll is conscious. That was as you’d expect revealed to be true in the final act.
The theme this week wasn’t horror alone though, that much is immediately obvious. The idea that they are stuck in a loop is quickly established through shots lacking the 12th hour, and clock imagery becomes more prevalent as the episode progresses. And of course, the setting of the episode is a clear reference to yuri fiction; the all-girls academy reminiscent of the catholic schools in series like Maria-sama ga Miteru, the polite gokigenyou greetings often associated associated with the genre, the delicate atmosphere and refined club activities leading to notoriously charged moments, and of course the myriad of unquestionable metaphors. Who knows if the show’s undercurrent of sexual awakening is going anywhere, but that was one unequivocally gay episode.
Overall I thought it was very satisfying on a visual level. The layouts had good depth to them and Studio Pablo did a great job on bringing them to life with their background art. The color design was as deliberate as always. The animation itself was rather limited once again but had its highlights during the final showdown in the clock tower, and even some pleasantly elastic cuts here and there.
The episode was directed and storyboarded by Ryohei Takeshita, a freelance director whose biggest job so far was taking on a role of an assistant director on last season’s New Game!. Next spring, he’s scheduled to direct an adaptation of Eromanga Sensei, a light novel from the creators of Oreimo. Despite the episode being quite reserved on the animation side, the staff list was really huge. 2 animation directors, 3 assistants and 25 key animators isn’t a thing you would expect to see in episode 5 of a well scheduled show, moreso on a low calory episode like this one. Animation directors were both female. Sayaka Koiso previously worked as a regular staff member at the studio with the best logo ever, most notably as a character designer on Rokka no Yuusha. Ayako Takahashi on the other hand is acquainted with Studio 3hz, having worked with them before as a regular animation director on their previous project – Dimension W. The animation highlights happened in the clash between Yayaka’s team and our protagonists in the clock tower. Hironori Tanaka animated Yayaka kicking Papika and Cocona smashing the bell. The sequence of both teams running up the stairs also featured some nice movement.
Every week I end up thinking this show does so many things right. So why do I have that tingly feeling that there’s something missing? I’m not enthralled by the show as I should be but can’t really pinpoint what’s wrong with it yet. Nonetheless, I’m having fun following this show weekly and maybe that’s enough!
Yuri on ****
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