Hotaru lives only to serve Hime, so she’s going to do whatever it takes to fulfill her promise to return to her side when needed. This week we learn more about why, as Airi attempts the close the gaping hole in the sky and Hime desperately holds off wave after wave of humanoid Unknown.
Hime didn’t like the idea of being put into cold sleep in separate shelters, but Hotaru promised it would be okay. It wasn’t; when Hotaru awakened, she had “lost herself.” For ten years, she served as an elite assassin, until her last target was her old friend, who never stopped believing she’d come back. She did, and they’ve remained the closest of friends ever since.
When it looks like Airi isn’t going to be done closing the hole, and Hotaru isn’t going to be able to get to Hime before she runs out of gas, Hotaru enlists the help of Kasumi, Aoi, and Asuha to fashion a sky bridge out of frozen Unknown carcasses. As Hotaru mentions, it’s a great bit of inventiveness from Kasumi, who feelings aside knows full well how boned they are if they lose the Kanegawa head.
The lonely battle Hime fights as everyone while to help her grows increasingly tense and frought, as one small slip-up could mean her sudden heartbreaking demise. Indeed, she seems only a split-second away from having her head crushed when Hotaru finally arrives, keeping her promise by rescuing her.
Not long thereafter, Airi successfully re-activates the barrier, the hole starts to close, and the Unknown retreat. If things had ended with a couple of tender lines between Hotaru and Hime on their way home, this would have been a great wrap-up to a solidly 8 episode.
But that’s no what happened. The end of the battle marks only the beginning of…something else. Airi notices Hime’s vitals throwing errors, and Hime tells Hotaru “something’s not right”, stopping her from defeating the last Unknown charging them.
Hime asks Hotaru to trust her before shattering the Code on her neck, the way her’s was shattered moments before. And just like that, the door to a huge new Pandora’s Box creaks open, as we see from Hotaru’s POV that something is, indeed, not right at all.
It’s made clearer than ever that these kids are not living in the real world, but an artificial one, governed/regulated by their (admittedly vulnerable) Code chips. By episode’s end, Hime, Hotaru, and Kasumi have been released from those chips, and see the world for what it really is.
The former two also allowed themselves to get swallowed up in the big Unknown, and now they’re “gone” from the world they knew. Perhaps they’ll end up where Canaria and the other “dead” kids went.
This is a huge development; the show is confidently headed exactly where I hoped it would ever since it showed that seagull disappearing, and I’ll be watching with great interest to see what comes next.