Maybe I’m watching this wrong, but I find the family aspects of A Galaxy Next Door much more fulfilling than the romance plot. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the budding relationship between Ichiro and Goshiki; I like that they’re forging ahead without beating about the bush. If their relationship doesn’t feel entirely earned at this point, with both of them confessing, it’s at least also not the instalove trope. Of course, the swiftness of their couplehood may be a deliberate statement on their line of work –we know that Goshiki bases everything she knows about romance on shoujo manga, and that’s something that could come back to bite her. Similarly, Ichiro is struggling with the romantic component of his own shoujo work, so falling into a relationship with Goshiki may be an offshoot of that. None of this means that they don’t have actual, genuine feelings for each other. But they may be charging ahead at full speed because that feels like how it’s “supposed” to work.
Fortunately, they have the kids to help bring them together in a way totally divorced from manga. This episode revolves around Machi, and it really gives us a good idea of how family events have impacted her life. She’s presented as more adult than she ought to have to at her age, and this week that gets driven home by the plot. She goes from acting very age-appropriate when she’s excited to go to the zoo and see baby giraffes to chillingly mature when rain spoils their plans. We see her make a conscious effort not to look upset when it turns out that they can’t go, brushing off her older brother’s attempts to make up for it. Ichiro’s willing to buy what she’s selling because it’s easier that way, and also very likely because he’s grown so used to Machi’s apparent maturity that he no longer worries about it in the front of his mind. He clearly knows that she’s still a little girl, but if he worries about everything, he’ll never get anything done. It may not be the best plan, but he, too, is just trying to get by.
That’s where Goshiki comes in. Although she has limited life experience and an unhealthy tendency to rely on shoujo romance as an authoritative source, she is aware that Machi isn’t happy on this particular rainy day. She doesn’t have an ulterior motive when she says she’ll play with Machi and Fumio; she truly wants to spend time with them and help them to cheer up. She also quickly realizes the significance of the Tarot cards Ichiro made Machi and that the younger girl is heartbroken when one card rips, no matter how Machi tries to brush it off. It may also be significant that the card appears to be The Fool; among other things, that card can indicate new beginnings and trust in the future. The card tearing in half therefore could symbolize Machi’s current outlook – she’s trying, but is having trouble believing in a hopeful future for herself, a possibility supported by her words to her older brother about her career path later in the episode.
The act of remaking the Tarot deck is therefore the restoration of Machi’s hope. Both Ichiro and Goshiki are equally active in it, with the latter rushing to the library in the rain to get sources and both of them working on the art. Together they help to bring Machi back to a better emotional place, creating a sense of security for both her and the ever-watchful Fumio. I may not love how their romance is being developed, but it’s hard to deny that the two of them make a charming couple. But really, the story is only partly about the two of them – it’s turning out to be equally about how Goshiki fits into the larger picture of the siblings’ lives. It doesn’t need the supernatural angle, because what makes this work is the emotional give and take, and that only needs people who are willing to show that they care.
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