I’ll admit, I was a bit worried after the last episode. With such a lackadaisical climax to this meta-textual Aqours reunion, I wasn’t sure what we would do with the remaining episodes. I mean, a big old-fashioned idol performance with the whole cast seemed like the capstone to this spin-off, yeah? Little did I realize I had been lulled into dropping my guard so Sunshine in the Mirror could sneak up and suplex my emotions straight through a folding table.
Fitting enough, Yohane also let her guard down with the (apparent) conclusion of her big magical destiny. She’s found friends, forged bonds, discovered her voice via the metaphor of magic, and pulled off a big show for the whole village as punctuation. So the question for her (and, by proxy, the show) is: Now, what? Now that she’s seemingly achieved the comfort and companionship she initially craved, what does she want to do with herself? Will she go back to the big city and try her luck again? Will she stay here in the comfortable community she’s finally become a part of? These are big questions about her future, and Yohane handles them the way any teenager would – by staying in bed for a week and sleeping so she can pretend they don’t exist.
Of course, there’s one relationship that decidedly wasn’t capped off last week, and that’s Yohane’s big, fluffy “sister” Lailaps. So, there’s at least one more interpersonal lesson for our heroine to internalize. With everyone else, it was about learning to put herself out there, risk vulnerability for the sake of expanding horizons and forming bonds. With Lailaps, she has to figure out that the big fluffy dire wolf has a life of her own, feelings of her own, and shouldn’t be taken for granted just because she’s always willing to help Yohane. All relationships, even (or especially) those you’ve had your whole life, require care and attention to maintain. Figuring that out is a huge step in maturity.
This is still Love Live!, so there are of course some wacky shenanigans thrown in when Lailaps goes “missing” and the entire town turns into a search party for their favorite fluffy friend, but the real showstopper of this episode is far more subdued. When Yohane and Lailaps are reunited, reminiscing on how they first met and what they mean to one another, that’s when the show starts to pull on heartstrings in earnest. It’s very sentimental to see these two share how much they mean to one another, but what sells it is that imposing sense of dread that only Lailaps seems aware of.
Even before the doggo’s non-answer to Yohane’s declaration that they’ll be together “forever”, you can tell something is weighing on her mind. From the viciously unsubtle cuts to a patch of Forget-Me-Nots to the way the editing refuses to show her face when she’s speaking, it’s clear that Lailaps is hiding a secret that she can’t quite bring herself to speak. The real kicker, though, is Lailaps’ forlorn loneliness when the rest of the girls arrive. It should be lovely to see Yohane so at home with other people, joking and conversing with friends in a way that was inconceivable at the start. Yet to Lailaps it’s a sign that her sister is outgrowing her, and sometime soon that tipping point is going to arrive. At the same time, she knows that these new friends are what Yohane needs, and seems resigned to it.
It’s a surprisingly melancholy way to close out this episode, but it speaks to just how well this central relationship works. Like, sure, I’m a mark for sad pet/animals stories, so 22 minutes of Love Live! showing me this music video was always gonna take a 5-iron to my heart. Yet there is more here than just a sad-looking dog. Beyond the larger magical implications (it sure does seem like Lailaps can only talk thanks to some errant magic from Yohane) Lailaps represents a part of Yohane’s life that she’s on the verge of moving past, and while that change is largely a good thing, it could mean losing – or irreparably altering – her most meaningful relationship.