In the first half, the episode follows new resident Kurumaki Zakuro as she finds her way around Sakurashin, encountering fellow half-youkai Kotoha and Shinozuka on the way and ending up at a memorial ground for the tuned. In the second half, Akina, Juri, Morino and Kohime visit the same ground, and are confronted by Enjin, who tries to steal Akina’s body. Elder Iyo and Shidare arrive and intervene, as Enjin is desecrating the memorial. Juri and Akina also fight him, and he eventually retreats.
Our first thought at the end of this episode was “Wow, what a scattered, disjointed, random mess!” But we did learn a great many things: Kotoha prefers going commando in the summer; Juri is descended from Frankenstein and wears pink panties; the elders use a kind of scientific magic substitute called “esoterism” to keep youkai in check. And once you get past the persistent and overt fanservice (from which even poor Kohime isn’t immune) and look back on everything that happened, there’s a method to the madness, and it’s this: the episode focused exclusively on half-youkai and humans, and their role in the coming trials.
It may have been random to focus on Zakuro, a character no one who hadn’t seen any previous YQ would know about, for half an episode but it’s also a very interesting move. Everything newbies needed to know was shown, not told, in the opening credits. We see that even those with horrendously violent pasts can live a peaceful existence in Sakurashin: watching her awkwardly adjust to that life with Rin, Kotoha, etc. demonstrates what the town is all about. And whether it’s esoterism, Frankenstein strength, or the powers of the dutybound, there are humans who will stand with their full- and half-youkai friends to preserve and defend it. It’s okay if everyone’s a “monster”, as long as there’s balance.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
Hyuuga defends Iwoto against Kongou’s attacks, buying time for I-401 to make a an escape while Takao engages Maya. Kongou senses Hyuuga and Takao are merely diversions, and once she detects I-401 she heads after her at full speed, enduring the punishment of the minefield set by Hyuuga. She admits to Iona that she too feels emotions, and says she hates her. She fires her supergravity cannon a second time, Hyuuga hacks her systems, and she misses I-401, who escapes at full burst. Takao reveals to Kongou that Gunzou entrusted her with the vibration torpedo and his crew, while Iona was only another decoy. All is for naught when I-400 and I-402 ambush I-401, sinking her.
With the previous week serving as a “calm before the storm” prologue, this week’s battle with Kongou was being built up as the biggest challenge to the I-401 yet. The fleet of Blue Steel is officially forged but suffers a difficult infancy, as Kongou holds no quarter. We’re reminded that Haruna and Kirishima don’t have physical ships at the moment, so they can’t participate in the battle. However, Hyuuga and Takao prove enough to keep Kongou and Maya at bay, and more importantly, grind Kongou’s gears. If they can feel emotions, so can Kongou, which means she can lose her temper and let it affect her judgement. Tired of all the delays and frivolous gum-flapping, Kongou goes straight for Iona with extreme prejudice, and ends up paying for it. It was a hell of a battle, replete with layers of tactics, obfuscation, momentum shifts, and the aforementioned psychological warfare.
Mind you, Iona doesn’t mean to mess with Kongou; she just can’t comprehend what her deal is. In their philosophical debate, one could see Iona as being just as guilty as Kongou of trying to impose her values on others. The major differences, of course, are that Kongou wants to kill all humans, and is acting out of hatred for Iona and the chaos she’s caused; Iona is acting out of unswerving devotion to—and perhaps love for—Gunzou. The battle may end with the I-401 safely away and Kongou beaten and humiliated, but after yet another new ED we’re treated to a harrowing post-credits sequence that sends I-401 out of the frying pan and straight into the freezer. To have victory so abruptly torn away and to see such ugly chunks taken out of I-401 by her sister subs made for a gut-punch of a cliffhanger, but whatever happens, Takao now holds humanity’s trump card.
Rating: 8 (Great)