Aoba wakes up from his fist nap face to face with Mink, leader of Scratch and the guy who punched him…only to get beaten again for protesting the situation. I was right there with Aoba in his combined confusion and rage: damn it, show, what’s going on here?
The show eventually relented, but only partially: Mink wanted information from Aoba; information he has now acquired. Mink agrees to help Aoba find Grams if Aoba agrees to do what he says. Mink is not the sort of guy you want to try to haggle with, and Grams comes first, so Aoba agrees.
Returning home to find a worried Clear and Koujaku, Aoba has to play peacemaker between Koujaku and Mink, which is fine; it’s not as if opposing gang leaders are supposed to get alng. When Mink discovers Noiz has the house under surveillance, they invite him to join them in the operation to save Grams.
The operation that follows is the first time the show has gathered so many disperate actors in a loose coalition, all helping Aoba out. Koujaku, Mink, and even Clear prove quite capable of dealing with the Morphine foot soldiers sent at them, many of whom are former members of Dry Juice.
When Aoba arrives in the parking lot where Grams is being moved, there’s another surprise: Mizuki is the one shoving her into a truck. He clearly isn’t himself from Aoba’s perspective. Things get a little bit weird when Aoba suddenly involuntarily enters a virtual world where the “real” Mizuki describes how Morphine betrayed him.
Then Aoba’s head starts pounding again, and an evil-looking “inner-Aoba” says “Destroy” again and again, causing Mizuki intense pain. Not sure what’s up with all that, but I will say this episode was never boring.
With most of the characters introduced, the plot gets a chance to thicken this week, as a mystery surrounds Aoba and Ren’s impromptu trip to Rhyme, and none of his elaborately-dressed buds can shed any light on it. There’s a ton of questions asked, but its slim pickings, answer-wise, which combined with the leisurely pace of this episode, made it more of a drag than the first.
The entire first half consists of a rehash of the Rhyme battle with that annoying bunny thing, which I really didn’t need to see again. Turns out the outdated Ren’s initial attacks are no match for the foe, but Aoba instinctively busts out some kind of orders that win the day. He wakes up where he passed out, is excused from work, and goes home to rest and repair his Allmate. Things are very slice-of-lifey.
That’s not a lot an awful of ground covered, by the standards of some of the better-paced shows out there, but it’s also arguably admirable the show is still keeping its cards close, preferring to show Aoba interacting with his friends and grams more and let subtle clues trickle out one by one. It’s obvious, for instance, that Aoba has played Rhyme before; he even has a handle: “Sly Blue.” The popularity of Rhyme is also sapping the ranks of real-world gangs.
But due to an unspecified “accident” a while back, Aoba’s memories must have been messed with, the same way the data in Ren was damaged. He also must have been a player of no small accomplishment, since he not only seems to have some antagonist on his trail, but also has an apparent fan who reverently calls him “master”—that’s Clear, the gas-masked fellow we thought was behind that first battle but turned out not to be. In any case, Aoba’s a popular guy right now, and there’s a lot more to him than even he knows.