Boku dake ga Inai Machi episodes 5 and 6: Birthday Beats

Of all the ways I could have chosen to start this post, of course, I just had to go with the least tasteful one.

To tell the truth, the real reason behind why I didn’t get to writing about this had about as much to do with my dwindling enthusiasm for this series lately as it did with wanting to finish last week’s Macross post. That said, I still have a fair bit to say regarding what has transpired in these last couple of episodes. We’ve been going through a bit of an “intermission” period ever since Satoru found Kayo’s mittens being thrown away by mom and from this we know a bit more about how time travel mechanics work in this world. Satoru is working with a universe that adheres to the idea of the butterfly effect, but on a smaller scale. His actions did manage to have noticeable results, like how Kayo died a bit differently this time around and Airi having a different last name, but since he didn’t accomplish anything huge, everything else just sort of fell into the same place. He’s still a scrawny nerd on the run for murder with an extremely supportive coworker at his side. That’s all well and good since it supports the idea that all Satoru really needed to do was push much harder to retcon the terrible events stemming from 1988, that doesn’t change the fact that what we saw in this version of 2006 wasn’t terribly engaging compared to what I’d hoped to see from this story. First of all, the visual oomph of previous episodes hasn’t really been here since episode 4 (word on the grapevine is that these last two episodes were outsourced) but my issues extend past this and into other areas, unfortunately.

There’s no real way to get around the convenient “because the writer said so” nature of these time-leaps. With such an ill-defined mechanic being  ever present it’s hard to really get invested in the drama. This is one of the main reasons why I find exploring the past a lot more interesting than what we got with this episode. In 1988, we can be fairly sure that he won’t be given any opportunity for a redo within a redo. in 2006 however, we’re just waiting for the shoe to drop so that Satoru can get his inevitable second chance. This would all be easier to forgive if the events of 2006 were a bit more interesting. Airi is a part of the problem here. The script really went out of its way to try and make sense of why someone like her would risk abetting a “criminal” like Satoru despite not having any concrete evidence to back her faith in him. In doing so, we got this rather tenuous backstory with her dad’s life going to shit as a result of that chocolate bar incident that broke up her family. This resulted in that scene with Airi’s mom allowing her daughter to run off with Satoru since apparently wanting to show that you’re willing to trust your family means you should let them help some dude you don’t know who’s been suspected of murder escape the police without question. Suuuuuuure. I guess that moment at the hospital was supposed to be a tender moment, but now that Satoru has gone back in time and will possibly retcon this nonsensical family drama, who cares?

These last two episodes have been exceptionally bad with regards to subtlety as well. Not this show has never had any moments in which it dropped too many exclamation points for it’s good, but when you saw the Red Eyes of Evil on someone like the killer or Kayo’s mom, it was just a stylistic choice to further imply what we would be able to understand about them either way (that they are the Bad People). Using such an effect on someone like Sawada, who we wouldn’t otherwise have any concrete reason to suspect as a Bad Person just gives us a pre-emptive spoiler that really shouldn’t be there. The moments featuring the killer don’t help much either, mainly because it doesn’t help keep the mystery alive if the dude they’re trying to obscure has the same build and voice (albeit slightly more gruff) as an already established character.

Even with all that said, this series is far from being down-and-out with me. Now that we know Satoru can indeed go back and redo his redoes (that’s the direction we can assume that cliffhanger  is aiming towards) it does somewhat neuter whatever impact Kayo’s death might have had, but Satoru now understands he can’t prance around the root cause of these tragedies and has to tackle them head on. He might have an infinite amount of opportunities to save Kayo like this, but the series has made it abundantly clear how good this killer is at clearing people out of his way. In order to get the results he wants whilst having the show maintaining any sense of excitement as a thriller, Satoru’s going to have to risk getting one BAD END he can’t do over.

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