First of all, let me say I’m continually entertained by the willingness of this show to place serious discussions alongside characters lounging around in massage chairs. With that out of the way, the more pertinent comment; wow, did that episode ever floor me (in any number of ways, really).
This is the show’s second time entertaining a stable time loop, and it’s been just as interesting here as it was in the stand-around-the-barrel-and-debate arc. I can claim to have anticipated the major reveal this episode dropped, but only just.* It really was well-concealed throughout the series, while still being cleverly hinted-at. Add Mystery to the growing ranks of genre this show has managed to smoothly incorporate.
All of which makes me suspect whether or not this word will somehow end up being important
The first half showed off the series’ clever side, dealt with a number of practicalities of time travel, like Hakaze actually needing to make the trip to Japan in the six months she had left before the murder. It also did an excellent job of managing viewer expectations in regard to what’s been the big question throughout the series (Who killed Aika?). In the above-mentioned massage chair scene, the characters were well aware of and discussing the possibility that Hakaze might end up Aika’s killer in a stable time loop, thereby dramatically lowering the odds of that being the actual answer. Theories that Aika was killed by a random drunkard (ala Scenery of the End), or that her death were faked, were also discussed. This establishes that if the series wants to pull out a twist, it can do none of those things; it wouldn’t be a twist since the viewers have been openly warned. However, the show did drop one hint; in the same scene that Hakaze as the killer was brought up, she later joked that she might actually do so, upping the odds that irony would make her regret that comment. The uncertainty alone made this show a fun watch.
One question the show probably didn’t intend me to ask was how Hakaze is going to make it back to the present later. To avoid a time paradox, she needs to transfer back from the island, so she needs to have an offering there (she used up the one Samon left in getting off). The show made a not entirely minuscule deal out of getting one air-to-air missile prepped when the entire government of Japan was on their side, and she’ll need something equivalent for the trip back. It’s a non-trivial hurdle to steal one and get it back to the island. Unless of course the Tree of Genesis is going to pull something out of its ass for her again, of course.
The second half, a congealing of bits of cleverness big and small, is best described by the series of moments that transpired. Instantly after arriving in town with 4.5 hours to spare, Hakaze met Yuka. Cue a 30-second long casual conversation. Cue a natural Hakaze overreaction, getting her flustered and, after making a quick excuse, escaping into an alley and onto a roof. She used an empty soda can from the trash to make that jump, which struck me as an extremely clever throwaway bit – of course aluminum cans are part of civilization, even if they’re as mundane as it gets. Anyway, the scene immediately after that jump, with Hakaze monologuing while Yuka gets right behind her (which the birds see, but the viewers don’t), interrupting her monologue at just the right point, was absolutely killer, evidence of a Masahiro Ando on fire. Just a little drop of a hint to something that makes you think “oh nutbunnies” to yourself, that was juicy directing. The momentum in that scene just kept building, focusing on Yuka in a number of irregular ways as it becomes clear she’s totally in the know about magic, and zinged you with a flaming chainsaw sword. I loved every minute of it, and I ended up rewatching that bit 3 or 4 times to soak all of it in. Plenty of people will tell you how excited they are to see what happens next. I’m just thrilled with the sense of utter shock this show’s managed to build in the space of 2 minutes.
Expect to see me throwing around the phrase “poetry in motion” a lot, especially as I continue to follow this show
*This guess was mostly thanks to crunchyroll subs using the pronoun “her” to refer to the character in question. I’m not sure that was the best decision in this particular case, though it wasn’t an explicit spoiler.