Clione No Akari

January 6, 2018

Bullying seems to be rampant in all parts of the world. This includes the online portion. Japan isn’t excluded as well. Hate to break it to you but the land of the rising sun isn’t all sunshine and roses either. At least not that where we can obviously see. Clione No Akari centres around a girl who is bullied by her classmates. Making matters worse, she has some sort of illness and they are all elementary school kids. My, how unfortunate that even young children ‘naturally’ resorts to this whether it is for power, dominance, pure entertainment or out of peer pressure. A couple of her classmates try to befriend her but things seem to take a turn for the worse when she gets hospitalized and has been absent for months. No news or anything. But one day out of a blue, a mysterious text message was sent to them to meet at the summer festival.

Episode 1
Several guys are badmouthing Minori Amamiya as slow and rumours of her being seen dating older guys in town. Takashi Aoi wants to tell them off but I guess he has no balls to do it. As narrated, Minori has a weak body and spends most of her time in the infirmary. Her parents just passed away and her aunt to her in. Because she has no money and freedom, she became the object of bullying by others. It started with only a handful of people before spreading to the whole school. Even Kyouko Tsukihashi sympathizes with her but she too cannot do much if others gang up on Minori. During the test, Minori forgot her pencil case and nobody lent it to her until Kyouko did. Even so, everybody made fun of her and not heed the teacher’s warning to be quiet. That bad, huh? Later Takashi and Kyouko feel bad and guilty. They know Minori is being bullied and yet they couldn’t do anything to stop it. They feel weak and are cowards fearing something would happen to them if they side with her so all they can do is watch helplessly and worry.

Episode 2
The class is blaming the person on duty for the near death of their class pet goldfish. Guess who? And they’re making a big deal out of it to the teacher. After school, Takashi and Kyouko see Minori trying to console a puffer fish ride. It looks retarded and material for bullying since Minori thought it is a fish who ran away from the shop! When they call her, she responded. It made them happy because they wanted to see her smile. Kyouko says like the fish, all of them are running away from class. The trio start to become friends and hang out together. They try to get each other’s contacts and preferably each other’s mail address because kids are so advanced these days, whoever does outdated stuffs like mailing? Sure. Only a problem. Minori has no handphone whatsoever. She was told she doesn’t need one. So they give theirs first and in the event she manages to get one, please let them know hers. Minori starts crying not because she thought this was some sort of blackmail but rather she is happy they are so nice to her. Kyouko then hands tickets to the aquarium this weekend. Unless Takashi can cook seafood, his ticket is going to a seafood chef. Nah, just kidding. He can come along too.

Episode 3
The girls are wondering why Kyouko is wearing only 1 shoe and even so that shoe is not for indoors. They thought she is still daydreaming and leave her alone. She is actually hiding Minori. However Nanami Yukine sees this so Kyouko hopes she won’t tell anyone about this. Nanami sounds nervous about it but assures she will start supporting them. Kyouko notes that everyone started going with the flow watching Minori get bullied because they fear of being bullied themselves. Hearing what Nanami said give her the courage to do so. However she still feels depressed that although outside school she can call out to Minori easily, in school she is still a coward. It’s like being full of herself and it doesn’t make her feel any better. Takashi also knows that their situation isn’t as simple as giving Minori the courage to stand up to the bullying. They also have to respect Minori’s wish not to cause trouble to anyone or they will end up hurting her. As Minori rests at the infirmary, Nanami comes in to do her duties. She hums a song while drawing some health poster. Nanami becomes embarrassed knowing Minori heard that. But when her handphone rings and it sounds like a plethora of funny animal sounds, they start laughing. Minori confides in the puffer fish ride about causing trouble for Takashi and Kyouko despite their kindness. She starts to feel unwell.

Episode 4
The trio meet at the aquarium as promised. Kyouko makes Takashi the tour guide since his parents are marine biologists. They believe Minori likes puffer fish so that’s where they head first. The rest of the episode sees them really having fun watching the marine life (Takashi being the pro in explaining things) and watching the dolphin shows. If only fun times like this could last forever. Meanwhile Minori’s aunt gets a call to come to the hospital. Something about her niece that needs to be explained in person instead of over the phone about last week’s test.

Episode 5
The aquarium fun continues as the trio watch some mollusc called clione. They have no shells and swim closely to the surface of the water and it makes them look like mini angels. You know fun times won’t last forever because it’s closing time. Yeah, time just flew by that they spent the whole day there and now the souvenir shop is closed, Kyouko can’t buy any gift to commemorate this special day. On their way to the bus stop, they passed by a shrine but don’t remember seeing it on their way earlier. Minori then asks if they like the summer festivals because she hopes they can all go next week. So when it seemed like everything looks okay, Takashi narrates that they might have all just been doing this to ease their guilt of watching Minori getting bullied and saying nothing. Because, what exactly did change? For a while now, Minori stopped coming to school.

Episode 6
With Minori absent, the class is getting paranoid because they don’t know who will become the next victim. And it looks like Nanami because the pet goldfish almost died again and it was on her watch. She can’t take the pressure and starts crying. Kyouko had to console her so the bullying stops for now. Takashi and Kyouko try to ask for information from their teacher if Minori is in hospital or anything but she refuses to give out private information and just tells them to wait for her to tell them personally. If she ever comes back, that is. The duo then hang out at the aquarium. They thought they saw Minori but it is Nanami. She lives nearby and often comes here since none of their other classmates does. If that’s the case, she thought they should hang out with Minori here. We see Minori in hospital. She requests her aunt to give her old handphone. Takashi and Kyouko receive an anonymous mail talking about the festival in the next town. They believe it is Minori as attempts to reach that number resulted in undelivered mail. So when they arrive at the festival grounds, they see Minori waiting. Happy days are here again.

Episode 7
The trio are having fun at the festival. The girls fail their goldfish scooping so Takashi gets a puffer fish plushie for Minori by winning the shooting game. As the trio walk along, they pass by their class bullies who are working at a takoyaki stall. The cringe is strong when the bullies start rapping about them being takoyaki brothers! WTF?! They start mocking Minori looks well and is skipping school. The trio make a run for it but the bullies give chase. In a secluded area, the trio stumble into Nanami as she helps hide them. When the bullies arrive, there are also their other female classmates. They saw what happened so they tease the guys they left their stall unmanned. This means free takoyaki? Plus, they threaten to tell the teacher that they are working since school rules strictly prohibited it. The bullies relent and head back. Minori and co descend the steps to the beach.

Episode 8
Sitting on the dark side of the beach, Takashi notices a lone lighthouse shining in the darkness and equates it like Minori. However Kyouko gets mad at him for saying that. Minori then starts running towards the lighthouse while the duo try to keep up. She shows them the beautiful city lights from this view. Takashi then apologizes what he said and Minori the same too because she just wanted Kyouko to be good friends with him. As she is always getting bullied, watching them being friends made her forget all the bad things she felt. Kyouko is still dissatisfied they never did anything in the first place. But in Minori’s heart, they are like twin clione. Even in the cold icy waters, they could make you feel warm and happy. Kyouko cries and hugs Minori. They then thank her for the text she sent but hopes to leave her number so they could contact her in the future. However Minori claims she never sent it to them. Weird, right? And looks like Minori’s aunt has received the bad news from the doctors. Her hospital bed is empty…

Episode 9
Minori confirms she didn’t send the message but did write a lot of messages to them from her hospital bed. As she doesn’t have a contract as it will burden her aunt, she didn’t and couldn’t send them. When her illness worsened, she realized she cannot be with them like usual. She didn’t want to bother them but didn’t know what to do. So she kept dreaming all the things they would have done based on the unsent messages she wrote. It became her treasure box full of future memories that might happen for them. For some reason, she decided to delete them all except one. As it starts raining, Takashi and Kyouko rush back. For some reason, Minori just stood there and watch their backs. The duo realize she didn’t tag along, turn back to grab her hand as they take shelter back at the beach. Minori would love to watch over them for now and forever so Kyouko corrects her that it should be the 3 of them. Then they look at their shadows that resemble like tetrapods. It means no matter what big wave comes at them, they’ll be fine. Oddly, Takashi and Kyouko could sleep there till morning arrives. By the time the rain has let up and Minori is nowhere to be seen. Just her handphone left behind.

Episode 10
Takashi and Kyouko look around for Minori but she is nowhere to be found. Nice timing when the bullies pop up. However they are not going to give in and force them to help look for Minori. Because if anything happens to her it is their fault! Okay, okay. Kyouko also calls Nanami and the other girls to help search. In the end, a call from their teacher sends shockwaves to them. Minori had passed away shortly in a hospital before dawn. Kyouko is in so much shock she is still in denial and believes Minori is still around. They were just only together last night. Need to go find her. Takashi stops her and lets her know the teacher wants them to call Minori’s aunt as requested. The real story goes that Minori stopped coming to school because she was being passed from hospital to hospital as her illness worsens. She didn’t want to leave town but had to for a bigger hospital. Although she got a handphone, she had not contract so she is unable to contact others. Others thought she was communicating with her imaginary friends. Looking inside her handphone, there are no sent or received messages. Just a draft saying how she hopes to hang out with Takashi and Kyouko someday. Kyouko loses it and starts weeping uncontrollably. Nanami thinks the mystery text that was responded by Takashi and Kyouko was in actual fact they sent it to themselves. They don’t think so.

Episode 11
This episode Minori narrates her entire handphone log AKA diary. It starts from the first day her aunt gave her a handphone. Others include she bought a red and blue clione as a handphone strap as she views Takashi and Kyouko as so. She made friends with a little boy who is excited to go to elementary school and make lots of friends. One night, the nurses were in a commotion. Seems an old man who was kind to Minori had passed away. It made her wonder where people go when they die. Will we meet in heaven or just disappear? Minori also got a notice from her daughter that her stay at the hospital has been extended and it put a damper on her plans to go to the festivals. So she daydreams about having fun at the festivals with her friends and talk a lot about other things. Then she kept watching them till she disappears and nothing but her handphone is left behind. She slowly felt being swept away by the dark ocean. It was her grave. Then she had a dream in the morning whereby she saw an adult version of Takashi and Kyouko. Or at least they curiously look like them. That little girl might be their daughter. They were so happy together. Despite all the bad things that have happened to her, Minori still wants to go back to her town. Most probably her friends are waiting there. She wishes she could fly straight to them.

Episode 12
Everyone is in shock and doesn’t know what to do. They thought of visiting the hospital but she might not even be there. Even if so, how would they face her? Takashi and Kyouko thanks them and allows them to leave. So we hear their thoughts, the girls blaming the bullies for being the worst but they too blame themselves for taking advantage of that and are no better. It hits them hard about life and death. They want to say sorry but it’s too late. She’s gone. Nanami tells us she was a bully victim too. She knows how hard it is. She was terrified to be bullied again and became a coward. Takashi and Kyouko continue to bum around the beach. They still feel awful. They believe her handphone is filled with her memories and promise to keep it close to them. With so much crying and regret, suddenly time stops. Or they go into another dimension. They see a vision of a future Minori happy and smiling. They vow to write long messages and believe Minori is no longer alone. The 3 of them will always be together forever.

Keep Calm And Carry On Being Friends
Yawn… What a boring… Oh wait. The final episode was like trying to stir up emotions with all the friends regretting but at that point I am left confused with just everything. Because who the hell sent them the mystery text? They don’t know. How did her handphone ended up in their hands? Don’t know. Lazy writing. And what is that vision of Minori they have? Is Minori still alive? In the future?! Because I thought she died? And the ‘funniest’ as well as the ‘saddest’ part is that Takashi and Kyouko from my point of view seems to have lost it. They have gone crazy being in denial that Minori will always be around. Sure, in their hearts but from what I can see they are now treating a dead girl as their imaginary friend. If that is how they can carrying on living, well, whatever works for them.

While I appreciate this series trying to tackle the issue of bullying, I feel that this series is still overall boring. What am I expecting? Some sort of God-like intervention and miracle? Not quite. It is basically and mainly a couple of classmates feeling really bad for her and trying to not make her feel so isolated by becoming her friend. A big part of the series is like them trying to befriend and hang out with Minori. Oh, but the plot twist of her being dead and that time spent at the festivals with her could be her spirit or something. Thanks to that foreshadowing before the festival trip, I had expected this sort of twist and therefore it wasn’t a surprise. I mean, something needs to happen otherwise this series is just as boring as f*ck, right? A boy and a girl befriend a bully victim. Have fun together at a local summer festival. They become friends for life. The end. Happy ending. Doesn’t quite cut it, does it? Or maybe this could be all just a big dream… If that was true, worst writing ever!

Even with Minori being out-of-body experience thingy, I still feel that this part is still boring. Perhaps this show was intended for children so we can’t be too heavy on the twist. I mean, the trio have fun together that night and the next morning, Minori is gone without a trace leaving behind only her handphone. Now doesn’t that sound like some cheap horror story to frighten children?

As much as I want to sympathize with Minori, I just can’t. Maybe just a little. Okay, maybe I just don’t feel the connection, the heart strings the series is supposed to pull while showcasing Minori’s case. She might not be showing it upfront but from my perspective she looks to be handling it reasonably well for a girl her age. Of course bullying is bad and I don’t condone it ever.

As for Takashi and Kyouko, scoffing them off won’t be right either because I imagined myself in their shoes and what I would do if I were them. Probably worse. I’d ignore everything, turn a blind eye and pretend I didn’t see it all! Keep calm and keep walking away! So I understand why they sometimes feel like they want to be friends with Minori is for self-satisfaction. Ease some of the guilt for being an observer all this time. Now that they have the courage to at least be her friend, it is some form of atonement. They even admitted to this. At least these kids have some level of conscience. If they had never managed to become her friends and the bullying continued, I am most certain that Minori will return as a ghost and haunt them for the rest of their lives. And then kill them one by one… Yeah, this show will turn out entirely different then. Imagine Minori as the next Carrie… Chilling…

Same can be said for Nanami and some of the other classmates. You can’t blame them for being scared to become the next bully victim so it is only natural they would either join in the taunting or pretend to ignore everything just to save their own skin. It’s just basic human nature. Better somebody else than me. Eventually Nanami’s conscience also creeps up to her because I’m guessing she can’t sleep soundly at night knowing she has had a hand in bullying Minori and wants to atone but doesn’t know how or have the courage to do so. With Takashi and Kyouko bravely taking the first step, at least it was a start.

For the bullies who kept harassing Minori, it is just mind boggling to think what the adults are doing. Do they not know of this? Or they wash their hands off and because it is just kids ‘fooling around’, they don’t give much attention. You know how this would spawn even more bully victims in the future because the traumatized bully victim will grow up to be the next bully. Well, can’t call in the army each time a bully case is mentioned, right? As I understand the other classmates do not want the backlash and hence do not report to the teachers or even parents, do the teachers not see what is going on? You fail as educators! It shivers me to think the kind of upbringing and personality of those bullies’ parents.

Therefore when all of them suddenly have a change in heart in the final episode, I don’t really feel sad for them. Sure I pity them but with all those tears trying to make us change our minds that they still have a conscience, it didn’t quite get it there yet. Because I believe even though they are kids, it is in a way a befitting punishment and fate for them. They will carry on for the rest of their lives having this sort of guilt in their heart. The poor soul whom they tormented is now gone forever and they have no longer any way to make up for it. If it changes them to become better people and advocate against bullying, good. Or they may go crazy later in life. Either way, it stays with them and that is the most important lesson that we learn from this series. Therefore a bully and a bully victim are both cursed. So people, say no to bullying.

If the art and drawing feels a bit low quality, please forgive Studio Drop because this is their first debut anime. That explains why the characters look very plain and sometimes a bit cartoonish, like as though the show is intended for younger audience. Yeah, if they appeared in Pokemon, I think they might blend in nicely. It might be just me but I think Minori looks a bit like a retard. Not sure if her character design was intended to be this way. Oh, doesn’t Minori look like a kid version of Code Geass’ C.C.? No? Must be just me then.

Voice acting just feels average. Nothing special. Minori and Takashi’s seiyuu, Sayuri Matsumura and Shunya Ohira respectively, this is their first anime debut. So forgive them if they sound a bit like amateurs especially Takashi’s seiyuu who sounds a bit more obvious. Others include Natsuko Hara as Kyouko (Tokine in Nazotokine) and Rico Sasaki as Nanami (Kyouko in Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Girls). The opening theme is the same name as this series and sung by Aki. Sounds pretty okay. She also sings the ending theme, Sora Wo Tobu Kaze which is quite a beautiful slow piece and you can’t help feel sad in hearing this song. Even the insert song, Hyakunichi No Hana by Rico Sasaki also has this same feel. I guess these songs are the only parts of the series that made me feel some feels in the heart.

Overall, this anime is just one big drama of kids trying to befriend a bully victim. It lacks content for it to be interesting and that spirit thingy feels like a cheap twist. It is nothing ground breaking or earth shattering in a way that it would change bullying anyhow. At least it sheds some light and could be relatable to some. So be careful who you call ugly or bully during your school years. Because what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger and they will come back in the future with a vengeance. Who will be having the last laugh then? Once the bully is now the bully victim. Uh huh. Just an eternal vicious cycle of bullying. Sometimes I feel we should all just be a clione. Happily floating and shining around in the dark ocean while minding our own business.