After the ending to the last episode of After Story, with Ushio collapsing through illness, it was pretty apparent that this wasn't going to be the most cheerful of episodes, but boy was this penultimate episode of the series proper depressing even by those standards.
As we'd half-expected, Ushio's illness is confirmed to be the same mysterious disease that afflicted Nagisa, leaving Ushio entirely bed-ridden and meaning Tomoya ends up giving up his job to care for his daughter (leaving us with a scene where I thought I was going to well up just from the exchange of screwdrivers, bizarrely).
Things really don't get any better as far as Ushio's health is concerned as the episode progresses, but the only thing she wants to do is take a trip with her Dad, a request she repeatedly makes until Tomoya finally acquieces and tries to take her on said journey. Cue one of the hardest scenes in an anime series I think I've ever had to watch, with Ushio stubbornly trying to walk alongside Tomoya despite her health failing and her breathing becoming more laboured by the step, pressing onwards despite the onset of snow until she simply has no energy left. What happens at this point to either Tomoya or her daughter isn't clear, but of course it all ties in to the goins on in that "other world", and the episode closes by returning us right back to the beginning of the series, and Tomoya deciding whether or not to talk to that crazy girl that just shouted out "anpan!" for no reason....
With just one episode proper to go (extra instalment notwithstanding) it appears that we've reached a point of climax in After Story, a world of absolute misery which can only be turned around by whatever rabbit is pulled out of a proverbial hat right at the close. I'm really not sure what ending I want out of the show now, as this particular episode has just left me feeling pretty thoroughly miserable, with not a single light-hearted or pleasant moment to show for itself. This truly was a tough one to watch, between Ushio's struggles and Tomoya's cries for Nagisa to save her - In a sense it's almost masterful in that it's left me desperate to any kind of happy ending to cling to, no matter how far fetched, something which I would wager I'm now going to get this time next week.