Izumiko patrols the Warring States Festival. Middle schoolers try to snatch her up for their parade, but she’s ‘rescued’ by Miyuki. She tells him she doesn’t like him talking about the Himegami, and he suspects that they might be one and the same. While investigating a haunted house making girls sick, Izumiko has another hallucination about the slaughter of Hachiouji. They’re surprised to find Yukimasa in the nurse’s office, who rattles Miyuki’s cage. When the parade ends, Mayura and Izumiko attend the festival director’s radio broadcast, and Mayura is nominate and accepts the position of ‘princess general’, leading the defense agains Takayanagi’s armies in tomorrow’s mock battle. Masumi pays Izumiko a visit.
Where there’s a school in an anime, more likely than not there’s going to be a school festival, and RDG is no different. Yet despite the rather unusual characteristics of the student body, this festival proceeds pretty much like your standard festival, with few surprises. Cotton candy, polls, haunted houses, etc. Those of you expecting the battle between Souda and Takayanagi, and everything that entails, will have to wait until next week.
We were a bit disappointed by how little happened this week, though what did happen was good. Many of the scenes with Izumiko and Miyuki merely reinforce that they’re slowly becoming more than just a priestess’ vessel and her trusty page. Yukimasa threatens to limit Miyuki’s exposure to Izumiko, but Miyuki promises he won’t avoid her. Whatever his dad says, when the battle comes, be it mock or not, he won’t shrink from his duty to protect her.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
- We liked how Miyuki noticed that both Izumiko and Himegami get jealous when he discusses the other, suggesting the two aren’t wholly separate beings.
- Izumiko has another “flashback” from the POV of the lady of the fallen castle, but the significance of this remains a mystery. (One shot in the dark: that lady may have once been Himegami’s vessel.)
- We’re not going to say we rated this episode a 7 rather than a 6 just because of Izumiko’s Epic Braid Buns…but they sure were friggin’ adorable.
- The brief final scene where Masumi returns and he and Izumiko talk about love also helped raise the rating. For some reason, a ghost flirting with her doesn’t really phase her that much as a living boy would, plus it’s cool that she uses him to bounce off thoughts she can’t necessarily discuss with Miyuki, because they’re partly about him.
Houjou Academy commences preparations for the school festival, the main theme for which will be the Sengoku (Warring States) period, including a combat game commemorating the bloody 1590 siege of the nearby Hachiouji Castle. Takayanagi asks Izumiko to side with him rather than Mayura. Izumiko has a strange hallucination and wakes up in the nurse’s office, where Yukimasa warns her of impending trouble.
After learning a simple self-defense spell from Miyuki, Izumiko models for traditional clothing, which requires her braids be undone. However, the Himegami appears after she has re-braided her hair, while Miyuki is scolding Izumiko. Now fully “synchronized” with her body, Himegami can come and go and do as she pleases. Miyuki takes her to Hachiouji Castle’s keep, where he tells her who and what she really is.
Hailing from a country with less than three centuries of history, we are easily intrigued and even astounded by the histories of far older countries like Japan. We are also, sadly, dreadfully ignorant of most of it, despite our interest. This episode was made richer by the historical background, especially when you consider the forces that be may be using the entire festival, and the impending battle, to decide which school faction will advance in the competition for World Heritage. A “not so safe” battle is coming, and Izumiko will have to choose a side.
Even more fascinating is everything we learn about Himegami: how she’s not really a god (though she is god-like), but was once just another human, who lost her body many thousands of generations, and indeed three timelines ago, and fears the fourth, the one in which Izumiko is her vessel, may be her last chance to avoid the annihilation of humanity. This episode has to feed us a lot of new and important info, but it never felt anything like an infodump. The stakes have been raised significantly, making the petty conflict between Souda and Takayanagi seem peripheral, even irrelevant…though it probably isn’t.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- When Izumiko hear’s someone screaming “Milady!” prior to passing out, we can’t help but think she’s inhabiting the memory of the castle’s lady, during the siege in which the lord wasn’t home and thousands of women and children died horribly.
- Dressing Izumiko up in a period costume wasn’t just random, but a potential plot by someone who may have wanted to bring out the Himegami.
- Himegami has some nice fish-out-of-water moments in Izumiko’s body, taking note of her “stifling” braids, her exposed legs, and her unfamiliarity with the legal drinking age
- Himegami can draw Wamiya out of Miyuki to protect Izumiko. That being said, Wamiya doesn’t much like him!
- After spending the better part of a day with Himegami, at its end, all Miyuki wants is for Izumiko to come back. The episode ends without her returning.
With his late brother Masumi’s help, Souda Manatsu is able to cow Takayanagi and his homonculi to avenge Mayura’s injury. Takayanagi takes down the website and withdraws from the council president eleciton, which is won by Kisaragi Jean Honoka. When Yukimasa joins the school’s faculty to protect Izumiko, Miyuki is angered and separates himself from her. But when Izumiko falls in with the “shadow student council” led by former president Murakami Hodaka, Miyuki comes for her right before she performs a dance for them. The Himegami speaks through her, imploring Miyuki not to let her come to life, or it may spell humanity’s extinction.
Thanks to Yukimasa, Izumiko learns the truth about where she is and why: she, like the other students at Houjou Academy, are members of an “endangered species” of humans who can communicate with the gods. If such humans were to become extinct, some say the human race would die out with them. We kind of like this concept: it certainly amplifies the importance of both Izumiko and her classmates. All are one of, and the last of, their kind. They must never forget who they are or what they’re capable of. Unfortunately, Yukimasa’s mere presence threatens Miyuki and Izumiko’s bond, at least until Izumiko is in potential danger and Yukimasa isn’t there to save her.
RDG is putting forth some of the trappings of an unlikely romance between Miyuki and Izumiko. It certainly hasn’t progressed very far, but it has progressed, and in a very organic and elegant way. One reason Miyuki likely hates Yukimasa is that he reminds him how weak and inexperienced and full of doubt he himself is. He hates himself because he doesn’t know what he should do or if he can do it, and Yukimasa showing up is almost a confirmation that he can’t be trusted with Izumiko’s safety. Yet his fondness and personal duty to Izumiko proves stronger than both hate for Yukimasa and doubt in himself. Regardless of any other considerations, he’ll stand with Izumiko. And she wants him by her side. Sounds like the makings of love to us.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
- Souda Masumi threw us for a loop: he’s a he who was just happening to assume the form of a girl.
- When she sees Miyuki speaking to Mayura, and Mayura’s hand on his shoulder, Izumiko seems to experience jealousy for the first time.
- Himegami’s warning to Miyuki sounds like a call for him to possibly go against Yukimasa’s plan, if Yukimasa plans to revive Himegami, that is. We don’t know yet.
- Her lips were really red.
Izumiko gets a new cell phone from her mother Yukariko in the mail and with it, an invitation to meet up in Tokyo. Izumiko and Miyuki use their school’s class trip to Tokyo to do so, but everywhere Izumiko looks, she sees dark, shadowy, threatening figures. Sagara surprises them by appearing, and telling them they won’t be meeting Yukariko after all. Crashing in an apartment for the night, Izumiko is possessed by some kind of divine being, and tells Sagara that Izumiko will probably be her last vessel.
As the OP helpfully points out, “Red Data” is a reference to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, or Red Data Books. Obviously, this suggests that Suzuhara Izumiko is a rare girl whose preservation is Sagara’s priority. Last week we saw a lot of what makes her different from ordinary humans, but that was just scratching the surface. As it turns out, she’s never been able to use cell phones or computers. This essentially makes her a culture of one: stuck several decades in the past and unable to avail herself of the technology that the rest of modern society takes for granted. A girl like this needs to be protected, and while Miyuki will follow Dad’s orders and stay by her side, it doesn’t mean he isn’t going to complain or question the efficacy of the task.
This week we fly to Tokyo (a very accurate Shinjuku, to be exact) with them, in hopes of meeting with her very busy mother (who works at the “public safety something”). But this meetup never happens. It’s almost as if Izumiko’s trip was a test to see what threats show themselves. In the end, Miyuki finds out what makes her so special, besides the technophobia and ability to sense creepy figures mixed in among the masses: this girl is a vessel; for whom exactly we don’t know. Moreover, the entity who inhabits Izumiko (imbuing her with an ethereal aura and gorgeous yukata) states Izumiko may be her last such vessel…endangered species indeed. While the nature and mission of this entity and her specific powers remain a mystery, there are parties out there who want that power, and Sagara fears his son alone is not sufficient protection against what’s coming.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
One morning, the shy, passive Suzuhara Izumiko decides to cut her bangs. At school, it gets mixed reviews, and when her class must gather info on the net using computers, she ends up using them as a conduit to video-chat with her father in America, then disables power to the whole school with her mind. A helicopter lands and Izumiko is taken away by Sagara, who turns out to be a mountain monk charged with protecting her. She learns that she is the “Himegami”. Sagara orders “reinforcements” in the person of his son Miyuki, who isn’t keen on hanging out with the dull Izumiko.
This episode starts off establishing the beautiful environs of a village in the Kumano mountains. We found out this was directed by Shinohara Toshiya, who also helmed The Book of Bantorra, but while that series was awesome, it was a bit lacking in production values; not so here. Like Tari Tari and the excellent Another, this series not only looks, but sounds and feels fantastic. Despite all the natural beauty, there’s a deep melancholy about the beautiful but unpopular Izumiko (appropriately voiced by Hayami Saori), which stems partially from her never having made a decision for herself. If her life is like the river in her village, she’s never once paddled against the current…until she decides to cut her hair and makes a stand about where she wants to go to high school.
What’s also engrossing about this series so far is that it doesn’t come out and explain exactly what makes her so special. We see an awesome sequence where she finds herself underwater in the computer lab, and then she knocks out the power in said lab when she snaps out of it, and we hear a lot from Sagara, but not too much. Like Izumiko herself, we’re still mostly in the dark about who the Himegami is and why she must be isolated and protected. But we certainly feel her pain. Sure, she has nice friends who defend her from bullying, but they don’t even have her phone number, and she doesn’t even have a phone. She wants to take control of her life, but isn’t sure how. Her dubious “manservant” Miyuki doesn’t have high hopes for her, but who knows: she may just surprise him, herself, and a lot of others when all’s said and done.
Rating: 8 (Great)