Yuki and Yuno start their first day at their new school, and much to Yuno’s irritation, Yuki almost instantly gains new friends: Hinata, Mao, and Kousaka. They set out in a group to survey crime scenes of a serial attacker, but Hinata runs off on her own and has her arm bitten off by a pack of feral dogs with metal jaws. The rest, along with another kid, Akise, seek refuge in a glass pavilion, where Yuki directs them on which windows to lean up upon to absorb the impact of the pouncing dogs. When the dogs give up, Mao puts a knife to Yuki’s throat, and a very alive and two-armed Hinata reveals she’s the holder of the Breeder’s Diary, and she’s after Akise’s Future Diary.
This is an episode full of…interesting choices. First of all, Hinata’s scheme to corner Akise seems awfully roundabout and random; you’d think there’d be a more elegant way than pretending to get your arm munched off then setting a pack of dogs on him. We’re to understand her grandfather is actually the diary holder, but passed it to her, and we assume she’s trying to win the game that will net her godhood. Of course, before we knew this, she just seemed like a cute, friendly, outgoing girl who has a moe friend, gets away with belly-baring shirts in school, and reacts very slowly to having her panties exposed. But just ’cause somebody pretends to like him for an afternoon, Yuki reveals his deepest secret? That’s idiotic even for him.
The episode tried tossing red herrings like Akise – who’s probably also a nutso killer too, just not as immediate a threat as Hinata – and Kousaka, who somewhat inexplicably gives Yuki a hard time for running from the school bombing, then makes nice later one. But as usual, Yuno’s suspicions are our suspicions. Anyone who is friendly to this little pipsqueak probably has unsavory plans for him. That includes Yuno, but Yuno’s never done anything but protect him so far, so we’re not ready to believe smiling moe faces over her judgement. Lastly, what the heck is up with Yuki’s get-up? He’s enough of a weenie as it is without dressing like some Oliver Twist muthaf***a…Yuno, get that boy some damn regular clothes.
At a formal soiree intended to gain support for his case, embattled tycoon Kanou is suddenly murdered. A gaggle of detectives are on hand to begin investigating immediately, among them the “defeated detective”, Shinjurou Yuuki, and his companion/boss Inga. With his deductive skills and her power to make someone answer a single question, they solve the case, revealing Kanou’s wife as the murderer.
A cool, confident start to what looks to be one of the cooler, more confident series this fall. This is a noitaminA piece, which means only eleven episodes; and we’re hoping it turns out better than the last one, No. 6, which just flat out ran out of time. If it can stick to a case-a-week format, it should be able to tell a lot within its alotted time. This episode didn’t waste any time at all, throwing us right into the mix, introducing a huge case of characters, and wrapping up the case with a neat little bow.
Animation is above-average, the OP and ED are both phenomenal, and while we kinda just did the detective and funky muse thing, we’re looking forward to some clever mysteries, and also to learning a little more about this funky Inga character. Like Dantalian, there’s a supernatural element to this show, and it also takes place in a postwar world, albeit in the future. The director’s also done good work (Gundam 00, Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka seveN, Eva), so I’m expecting more of same. The game’s afoot!
When Nemoto, a yakuza, threatens to raise the rent of an arcade the NEETs frequent, they convince him to take part in a bet. If the NEETs beat him at baseball, the rent stays the same. To their surprise, it’s a real baseball game, not a video game, they have to participate in. Nemoto also fields ringers and is himself a former ace pitcher. To beat him, Alice and Narumi need to know what kind of player he was.
I have a soft spot for baseball episodes – even DS9 did one for crying out loud – especially when they bear some resemblance to the sport of baseball. This episode did, somewhat. You had your signs, your uncaught strike three, your out pitch, et cetera. Baseball is every bit as much about brains as it is about brawn, and considering the NEET team had more than a few capable players, I wasn’t that outraged that they won. Whether Narumi could actually hit a home run off of Nemo just because he knows what’s coming is a stretch, to be sure. But as an in-between episode it wasn’t bad.
The arcade at stake is apparently where the NEETs spend a lot of time; the owner calls them regulars. Yet nine episodes in and I believe this is the first time we’ve seen them there. Usually they’re just in the alley behind Min’s ramen shop. It was hard to care about the stakes considering this episode was the first time we learned of the arcade’s existence, and Narumi & Co.’s fondness for it. Still, I liked how they still needed to do some detective work to “solve the case” (win the game). And Alice actually going outside and participating in athletics? Unprecedented.
Moyako arrives in Tokyo, tagging along with Koushiro and Kirio, and hangs out with Kyohei, Utao and Hibino. The next college term is starting up, and Kyohei reflects on leaving the village. Aki remains at large, but is actually crashing at Kuuko Karahari’s house. Her dad the detective is snooping around everywhere, and she herself has discovered Kurakami village. Finally, a new character is introduced – Mahiru, who instantly attaches herself to “Kyohei-sama”.
Not a ton of earth-shattering stuff this week nor any action at all (save a brief flashback) but still a very solid episode all-in-all, full of great character interactions. Kyohei struggling with his worth and his feelings for Hibino, Utao nervous about Karahiri, Kuuko teasing Aki, Kirio making nice with Utao – good stuff, all. Mahiru (finally revealed in the ending sequence as the shadowy figure) looks to add an interesting dynamic. Also on full display was the series’ attention to setting detail – the stonework on the ground at the West Shinjuku station promenade and the park next to city hall were great to revisit in anime form.
Considering this is Tokyo, I’m not that surprised the growing group of sekis can’t locate Aki, though it might do them some good to pay another visit to Kuuko’s, if he goes back there. She’s an interesting wild card. For his part, Aki is sick of the person he’s become, and believes the only way out is to utterly destroy Kurakami village, thus avenging his lover and his beloved pet. That’s a big task, but he does have a kakashi and gobs of angst – I have no doubt he can get it done if no one stops him. Kyohei won’t be able to stay on the sidelines if and when Aki tries something.
With Sou in the hospital, Narumi inherits the captain’s chair of the Hirasaka group. With this new power, he does what he’s done all along: con others for a good cause. Narumi has no business running a gang, but he does so anyway, by the seat of his pants. He even tells them that the fact they got Renji’s location right after Sou was injured spelled a trap. This wasn’t any proven theory; it was a hunch, plain and simple. But is was true; there would have been a nasty battle had he let them go. As Alice notes, this Narumi is truly a mysterious cat.
He has the Feketerigo concert proceed as scheduled, keeping in contact with both the NEET crew and his minions. Renji’s crew blends in with the crowd. Meanwhile, Narumi has set a trap of his own for Renji, who takes the bait as expected. This sets up a confrontation between Renji and Alice/Narumi, wherein Alice drops a bomb on him: Hison is still alive. His treasured shirt that Hison made was embroidered in the same way as Narumi’s Feketerigo shirt – and by the same person: Hison, or as she’s now known, Yoshiki. As a condition of being allowed to live (and being paid off), she had to give up her womanhood. Harsh.
Sou shows up to exchange a few punches with Renji, but ultimately Renji’s rage and thirst for revenge dissolves once he learns the truth. The concert is a success, Renji ships off for Osaka, and with the Fourth still alive and kicking, Narumi returns to Alice’s side. Alice, for her part, is overplaying her hand vis-a-vis not liking having him around. For somebody as logical and empirical as she is, it’s a bit silly for her to constantly deny what’s plain to a dimwit. Good tea. Nice arc.
And now for something completely…alternate.
This week we take a break from the trials and travails of Huey Disward and Dalian and follow along a brand spankin’ new duo of bookish detective and bratty library-maiden. They are Hal Kamhout and Flamberge. Hal looks like he could be an officer in Fullmetal Alchemist, while Flam reminds me a bit of Tycho Science from Diebuster, only with the voice of Holo from Spice & Wolf.
There’s is an adversarial but clearly effective working relationship here, although they bury their mutual respect for one another behind slightly more vicious teasing and insults. Hal keeps Flam locked up in chains, even in the heat of battle, and when he unlocks the library within her, well, let’s just say he’s not as gentle as Huey is with Dalian. Aside from the new faces, it’s another open-shut case involving a town full of enchanted dolls, repopulated by a female cop after a bombing raid killed most of the town’s population.
Unlike Huey, who is just kinda muddling through with his role, Hal is a full-fledged “Libricide officer” complete with knowledge of baritsu and possession the Staff of Surtr (kinda a mini Lance of Longinus?) whose duty is to find phantom books, take them out, and “burn away” the evil parts of the people who use them, if they can be redeemed, as the cop could. Nice diversion, but I still think I like Huey and Dalian more.
This week was a very talky episode, but a lot was revealed about Sou and Renji’s past, and the question floated: what’s more important, friendship or truth? Narumi is running every which way, carefully extracting tidbits of information, risking dire bodily harm, and trying to piece together exactly what their beef is, and why Renji wants to destroy Sou so badly. All this while checking in intermittently with Alice and arranging all the PR for Mika’s upcoming concert, which hasn’t been cancelled.
Turns out they used to live together with a third roommate, an illegal immigrant named Hison. They both loved and protected her – you could say she was the glue that held them together – but she was no saint herself, working at the bar of a rival gang, and was its leader’s mistress. When the leader’s wife found out, she ordered her killed – even though she was with child. Sou tried to stop it, but couldn’t. These very crucial blanks were filled in by none other than one of Hiro’s conquests, an eyewitness to the incident.
All these years, Sou has been content to keep the truth buried, and loathed anyone digging into it. Renji believed Sou used Hison as a human shield, knowing nothing about the mistress or pregnancy angle. Renji has a gang of misfits working for him and many years of rage for Sou stewing. But whether he think Renji killed her or simply didn’t stop her from being killed, it will be hard to dissuade him from his vengence. In fact, in the episode’s cliffhanger (long arc, this), Narumi gets the message that “Sou is down”, signalling that it may be too late for peace negotiations – the war may have already begun.
This week Narumi settles into his role as Alice’s manservant. As I mentioned last week, he’s surprisingly gung-ho about it, considering how it disrupts the ordinary life he was having. But unlike Huey and Dalian, this isn’t even close to a relationship of equals. Alice’s powers of observation and deduction are vastly superior to Narumi’s.
Narumi’s strength is his heart, his kindness, his courage, and his inoffensive and harmless presence. All of these skills serve him well as Alice’s assistant. He even surprises himself when he ignores Souchiro’s warning to stay out of what could end up a very bloody Yakuza case. He can’t, because he promised the client – Meo – he’d help her find her father.
Everyone has something to do this week, and despite the serious case involving the rogue money launderer and his unwitting Yakuza-bait daughter, there are still moments of levity. Ayaka and Meo invade Alice’s “cave” to wash her hair, while the reason Narumi ends up at Souchiro’s is to fix the PC his underlings filled with pr0n and malware. Hiro, Major, and Tetsu all do their jobs.
They aren’t bothered that their lives are on the line – and, Narumi has learned, that’s the case with him too. The client comes first. Rating: 4