As a 24-episode series, Blue Reflection Ray has a luxury a lot of anime series don’t have: the time to explore its themes and concepts thoroughly. And this is already becoming clear in the show’s second episode: an episode in which not a lot really “happens”, but which is nonetheless important to the overall context of what is going on.
In the first episode of Blue Reflection Ray, we were introduced to the show’s main character Ruka, a young girl who is clearly struggling with feelings of depression and a distinct lack of self-esteem. She doesn’t believe in herself, she ruminates on what she perceives as “mistakes” so much it causes her crippling anxiety, and she finds it unfathomable that other people can just, say, strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.
She is a direct contrast to Blue Reflection Ray’s other main character Hiori, who is confident, up-front and honest to a fault — and perhaps understandably, she feels like she could never be like Hiori. By extension, she feels that this means she will never be able to become a “Reflector” — a magical girl who is able to protect people’s emotional Fragments from those who would seek to do them harm.
In the second episode of Blue Reflection Ray, though, we get a few crucial things confirmed that were hinted at in the first episode. One of the most notable of these demonstrates that Ruka has a much greater sense of empathy for others than she perceives herself as having; in the first episode, we see Hiori rush down to comfort a girl who appears to be crying in the school courtyard, only to discover that she simply had something in her eye.
In the second episode, however, Hiori confirms that she only noticed the girl because Ruka saw her first and reacted subtly to her presence; Ruka clearly felt bad for the girl who seemed to be suffering, but didn’t know what to do about it — so Hiori followed through for her. This seems like the making of a good team to me — though Ruka is understandably hesitant to accept the fact that she managed to successfully empathise with someone, since she is often wrapped up in her own self-perception.
Blue Reflection Ray’s second episode also reveals some background lore to us that wasn’t present — or at least, wasn’t made explicit — in the original game: the fact that there is an organisation studying the phenomenon of Reflectors and the emotional Fragments they protect. So far in the anime, our sole contact with this organisation is the character Momo, who has been something of a mysterious, mentor-like presence in the background — though we also learn in this episode that she’s relatively new to the whole situation, too.
Looking back on the original Blue Reflection game, we can perhaps make some connections, however. Protagonist Hinako’s perpetual companions Yuzu and Lime know all about the Reflector phenomenon from the moment they meet Hinako, and are able to help her adjust to her new life. And we’ve had just a few little hints of their presence in Blue Reflection Ray — nothing concrete, but at the very least, a suggestion that they are keeping an eye on things.
From this, we can infer that Yuzu and Lime may have something to do with the “AASA” organisation to which Momo belongs, but we’ll have to wait and see at this point; it’s possible that they’re something different altogether, and that they relate to the mysterious origins of the rings that give the Reflectors their power.
We do know that Hiori’s sister had something to do with all this — while she disappeared from Hiori’s life prior to the events of Blue Reflection Ray, she left her Reflector ring behind, so Momo suggests it might be possible that the AASA know something about what happened. Doubtless this is going to be a recurring mystery over the course of Blue Reflection Ray as a whole — and it’s almost certainly going to involve the “red Reflectors” who have been positioned as the show’s antagonists so far.
Exactly what the red Reflectors are up to isn’t clear as yet, though we do see towards the climax of the episode — which features an admirably excruciating cliffhanger, it must be said — that they seem to be “stealing” emotional Fragments from those who are suffering from negative emotions. In this case, we see them attempting to draw out the rage and bitterness within Miyako, the girl whom Hiori saved from falling off the school rooftop in the first episode.
Miyako so far has been an exploration of a character who, to an outside observer, appears to be in a very privileged position. Her family is well off, which means she never really wants for anything, and indeed is quite happy to treat herself to, say, a sparkling phone case. This has a tendency to attract adoring fans to her, as we’ve previously seen, but we also get the distinct sense that Miyako understands they aren’t really her “friends”; they just want to get close to her as a status symbol. She’s beautiful and she’s rich; of course people want to be seen with her.
But there’s more to Miyako than being a spoiled rich girl, of course. Over the first two episodes, we’ve seen her struggling to feel accepted by her own family; her mother in particular dotes on her brother (whom we haven’t seen on-screen) and proudly displays all his trophies prominently in the family home. Miyako, meanwhile, discovers that a family photo she clearly valued was thrown in the trash, and this causes her feelings of detachment and frustration to go berserk; in the parlance of the original Blue Reflection game, this would be an example of an individual going “Rampant”.
In the Blue Reflection game, Hinako and her Reflector friends helped those who had gone Rampant by diving into The Common, a strange other world built from the collective unconscious of people. Once in there, they would track down the emotional Fragment causing difficulty and use it as a means of communicating with its owner; the solution to each situation tended to involve making the Rampant individual feeling like someone was actually listening to them, and that their problems mattered. Crucially, Reflectors never acted as a “magic bullet” to simply make those feelings go away; they simply accepted them, and that in itself allowed the individuals to start their own healing process.
In the second episode of Blue Reflection Ray, we see how the red Reflectors are doing things very differently. Rather than attempting to engage directly with Miyako, they attempt to forcibly extract the Fragment from her and keep it for themselves. While pulling out the problem at the root — a phrase I use deliberately, since the Fragments are represented visually as flowers — would doubtless seemingly solve the problem in the short term, it would also have a severe impact on Miyako’s emotional wellbeing. One cannot say what the effect would be if you were suddenly “missing” a feeling that had been important to you for a long time — even if that feeling was a negative one.
To put it another way, while Miyako has doubtless been feeling intense frustration at the fact she feels unacknowledged, perhaps even unloved by her family, one can also use feelings like this as a springboard to better oneself, to prove oneself — if not to the people who spurn you, then at least to friends who end up acting as a surrogate family. Odds are good that Miyako will eventually find valuable friends in Hiori and Ruka — but it seems there’s going to be some sort of violent magical girl clash between the blue and red Reflectors before that even has a chance to come to pass!
In isolation, Blue Reflection Ray’s second episode might seem like mostly filler aside from its climax — but in a series so concerned with interpersonal interactions and the feelings we hold within our hearts, these quieter moments are extremely important in establishing the characters and the world in which they live.
This episode provides a considerable amount of clues about the fact Hiori is likely carrying around a fair amount of sadness within herself, for example — and it’s entirely possible that the strength of these feelings is what allowed her to awaken as a Reflector. Doubtless before long, she and the much more openly sad Ruka are going to find a means of connecting with one another on a much deeper level than just being able to get along as roommates.
And when they stand side by side as blue Reflectors for the first time, I am 100% there for it!
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