Welcome back to "Saike on the rewind"! it's been a little longer since I got back to this than I would have liked, but life is a funny thing until it's not funny at all. Let's get right to it, shall we?
Chapter two! And yes, it's a series name drop right at the start. Though here it's not for a gratuitous cash in --rather it describes the chapter quite aptly.
A brief flashback to the chapter before that also serves as Saike getting his bearings straight on the situation. Not surprisingly, Saike seems to operate much better when he's able to think on his own. What is surprising is how quickly he's accepted the absurdity of time travel via drowning as an absolute. Of course there's a bit of story/logic segregation going on, but it also goes to show how important Mikan is to him. If he can save her life, then even something as ridiculous as this is fine.
Ah, something I ran into while translating is the weird name they call their teacher. "Nagitsuchiyo". So far there hasn't been anything in the series indicating what this means exactly, which I guess is part of the trials and tribulations of being a translator of ongoing manga. It doesn't sound like a normal name, and if it is, why are they addressing him so informally (without the "Sensei" part?) Maybe Fukuchi will give us an explanation at some point, but for now, Saike repeats his conversation with Mikan as he did in his initial loop.
He then comes to the conclusion that avoiding Mogura pond at all costs is the best way out of Mikan's oncoming fate. While it's understandable that Saike is in a hurry to save his friend, it's also clear that he's really bad at initiating contact. I can imagine Mikan being the one to start conversations throughout their friendship over even simple matters. He's straight and to the point, thinking that idle chatter is a thing that has to have a purpose. (Though again, in this case he's not wrong.)
To his surprise Mikan doesn't respond the way he thought she would. In fact she's weirded out by him suddenly initiating conversation. In fact this whole conversation seems very forced --like Saike's attempt to initiate conversation. The fact that he's always relied on her to do the talking puts a strain on them both. Saike tries too hard to get information out of her, and Mikan not used to being on the "defensive" so to speak leaves the conversation.
Now this is an interesting line. She says "I don't like it when you're like this". So he's been like this before? Though it's also a matter of Japanese language oddity. A literal translation of her line would be "I don't like this Saike". Which comes off oddly in English so I had to sort of work around it with a less accurate-ish line. In any case, Saike pushing too hard to change things between them has backfired --seemingly in a minor way for now. (I also love the middle panel where the two other people probably assume that he got dumped.)
Saike has completed his mission, so why does he seem so sad/wistful? The next few pages might shed some light on this.
Another interesting thing about this is the role of "God" in Saike's life. Now I'm not about to turn this into a religious debate, but it is intriguing how much Saike seems to deign events in his life to a higher deity, which in and of itself isn't weird, but he does so to the point of absolving himself of any responsibility, yet the choice of words on his part "I get to have an uneventful life" and "there was a bit of meaning in me being born" after being given this chance for a redo seems to imply that on some level he does understand that he has a role to play in this, even if he won't directly acknowledge it. It's this odd contradiction --he knows he should be doing more than he should, but blames/reveres God for not doing so.
And on the note of something more, Now that Saike has altered fate by chasing Mikan away, we see how this affects events around him as well. In the initial loop, he went to Mogura pond with Mikan, and therefore didn't see this scene unfold. This seems pretty innocuous to Saike overall but I do like that Fukuchi does follow up this modification with an actual plausible change.
And now the root of Saike's existential crisis rears it's ugly head. More than the power he was given by "God", He realizes he has another innate power --to change things by getting involved with others around him. It's a power we all have, and use without thinking about it for better or worse. Every interaction we have with someone else --even on a superficial nature changes them in some way even if it's unnoticeable. True, it's much easier to think about this on a bigger and wider reaching scale (Being a Doctor who saves lives or a dictator who takes them) But every little thing we do can indeed improve or worsen someone else's existence. In Saike's case, he immediately thinks that the only thing his involvement with anything will do is make things worse, and such he falls victim to the bystander effect.
Fukuchi's focus on this young man in the first two panels lets us know he'll be important later. One thing I like about Fukuchi as an artist is the way he knows what to leave as an understated detail, and what to point out to us directly. In short he's great at the "show-don't-tell". The guy has no dialog, yet his eye is on Saike who shouldn't be here. We know he knows something, but what, and more importantly, how?
It began on the previous page, but now Saike's existential crisis reaches it's peak. If "God" gave him a chance to change things, he can no longer blame outside forces for his inability to do anything, which means now he has to take that guilt and point it at himself. It's not an admirable trait, but I like that Saike pinpoints the problem in this set of panels. He's acknowledged now that he's simply running away, but stands at a crossroads of where to go from here. It's tearing him apart though, --guilt keeps him from ignoring the plights of others, and fear keeps him from being proud of it. In a sense what he's feeling is a microcosms of society --you have to be one thing or the other without any wavering in-between --either entirely selfless (which is unhealthy) or without morals (which is also unhealthy). A techinical note, but I like Fukuchi's choice of an overhead angle for the first panel as well as the marks to show Saike picking up speed as he tries to distance himself from that situation.
Now it's here that I have to actually agree with Saike a little bit, but not for the reasons he states. It really would be easier to live the way one feels, but we really cannot. Not because we're cowards, but because there are rules and laws for our --and others benefit. As such the best we can do is to live in a way that doesn't hurt others --which in some sense is what Saike is trying to do, but as I pointed out earlier, he's taking it to an unhealthy extreme. Not getting involved with anyone because you don't want to hurt them is impossible, because we innately desire to be with others, which is what Saike has yet to realize despite having someone he cares for in his life.
One could look at the traffic light being mentioned here as an allegory to his state of mind. "It'll all hurt less if I just stop thinking and move forward." If so, then Mikan's phone call is a parallel to how impossible that is because he does have an attachment to someone --and as long as this is the case he cannot completely shut himself out. Unfortunately as there is joy with finding happiness and solace in others, there is pain. Mikan has gone to the lake despite everything, rending Saike's effort's moot.
The practicality of having your phone completely charged! Sadly Saike doesn't and it bites him hard. He's completely unready for this development and in his rush to try and change things he blunders and falls, just like he did in the restaurant with Mikan earlier.
Even though time is running out, Saike still makes a desperate dash to the pond to save his friend. He is once again proactive. His expressions in the top panels of these pages really remind me of Danganronpa (which Fukuchi is a fan of.)
And the tragedy repeats itself. Saike asks if he did everything he could, but deep down he knows he isn't and hasn't really tried to. Even though his heart is in saving Mikan, he's still only doing barely enough to assuage his conscious.
But --that's beginning to change. Last time he fell into Mogura pond by mistake and was brought back by mistake, but this time --this time he willfully jumps in to save her, despite his thought that he has no idea if drowning again bear the same effect as the first time. For the first time Saike initiates action with his full intent behind it --he does something completely and utterly for the sake of someone else other than himself.
Luckily it does have the same effect and he is returned to the morning of the same day, and we can see that same determination from the end of chapter one in his eyes. This time however, it's different --this time he's willing to do what it takes.
And that's it for chapter two! If chapter one was "strong" chapter two was "phenomenal" although my initial question of when/why Saike became such an extreme introvert hasn't been addressed, the look into his mind and his rationalizations more than makes up for it. Not only that, we saw a marked change in his attitude that was carefully plotted out through the chapter. Often characters in Saike's position are of a specific trope that takes far too long or no time at all to change. Chapter two manages to find a balance between the two. Saike is still the same boy we met in chapter one, but it's clear by the end of this one that change is occurring slowly but surely. The fruit of this change is still ripening, and I hope you'll stick around for it! Thanks for reading!