Maiden Train Arc
Touko’s adventure starts out rough, with her vomiting and passing out, no doubt due to the fact she’s never been on a moving vehicle. When she wakes she’s greeted by two kindly women, Hotaru and Benio, who are also getting a ride on the collection truck, to be married off.
Hotaru and Benio are resigned to their fate, which is the result of their villages believing sending them away will lift curses. But a third bride-to-be, Kaho, is manifestly not resigned and not taking it in stride. A shot of her right next to a window makes it obvious: if she finds an opportunity, she’s going to run for it. The forest may be full of fiends (and various ruined artifacts from before this world’s fall), but not an unwanted husband.
Unlike the brides who are confined to their car, Touko is given a brief tour of the truck and given toilet-cleaning duty. It’s hard work and it stinks, but Benio would prefer work to being cooped up and twiddling her thumbs. The episode is full of vividly-rendered postcard memories to accentuate certain scenes. When Touko is back in the brides’ car for lunch, Benio shows a growling Kanata who’s boss by basically asserting that she wont put up with his continued hostility.
That night, Kaho comes to Touko’s bed, telling her she’s talking and groaning in her sleep, but also to give her something he dropped. It turns out to be a spirit stone with her adoptive sister Rin’s name carved into it. Touko’s happy reaction to his indicates it was Rin’s intention, despite her harsh words, to send Touko off with a good-luck talisman, and the mask she wore was indeed to conceal her sad face.
Lightning in a Bottle
Nighttime is a good segue back to the Capital, where Koushi walks past unhoused orphans huddled together in the rain. Koushi may be apprehensive about his future with his mother dead and his father away, but this little shot is a good reminder that he is a lot better off than most.
Koushi makes his way to the ornate mansion of Yuoshichi, who knew his father, Haijuu—Haijuu, of course, being the fire hunter who was killed saving Touko’s life. Yuoshichi feels firmly indebted to Haijuu, and following the death of Koushi’s mother has decided to welcome both him and his little sister into his home, not as a servant or factory worker, but as members of his family.
Yuoshichi would rather Koushi focus on his studies, and begin research on the skyfire his father had collected over the years. The moment Yuoshichi mentions that the current government is on its last legs and that skyfire can be used as both a fuel and an explosive, I knew his intentions vis-a-vis Koushi weren’t entirely altruistic. When the winds change, he wants to be ready, and Koushi is key to that.
When the collection truck stops for “fuel”, the fire hunter onboard conscripts Kanata to work beside his own good boy, Izumo the hound. He doesn’t bother asking Touko for permission, and Kanata tentatively follows. When Hotaru reports that Kaho has gone missing and must have left the truck, Touko also exits to go look for her.
She finds Kaho in the clutches of a black beast that the fire hunter and dogs are in the midst of hunting. It’s a chaotic and frought scene of multiple perspectives all captured on the screen at once in the battle’s climax.
In the end, Kaho and Touko are fine, as are the dogs, and the truck has ample fiendfire from the slain beast. But Sakuroku tells Touko that her leaving the truck is unacceptable. He summarily decrees that he can no longer keep her on the truck, and will be dumping her off at the next village along with one of the brides (though which one isn’t revealed).
If Sakuroku doesn’t change his mind (and something about him tells me he won’t), it looks like Touko’s journey to the capital—and rendezvous with the son of the fire hunter who saved her—will be delayed. There’s also the possibility the village won’t accept her, or try to betroth her to someone.
In any case, this episode did a lot of heavy lifting showing how despite the apocalypse that has left the world in this state, humanity’s innate bad habits of using one another as currency and tools have not abated.