After this week’s first act, I’m convinced this show excels at getting us to underestimate Asai Kei, at least as much as his adversaries do. Last week Eri Oka seemed to be holding all the cards, but it turns out Asai isn’t trapped in the photo for more than a few minutes.
Even though that buys time for Eri to mess with Haruki, Asai has Murase in place to mount a rescue. A rescue that occurs after Eri tries to plant false memories in Haruki, which not only doesn’t work (thanks to a little device in Haruki’s ear with Asai’s voice) but restores Haruki’s Reset ability.
It’s a great little turnaround, flummoxing Eri, who retreats for the time being. And having Asai and Haruki back together underscored how much anxiety I felt when they were apart. Of course, I’ve seen all their interactions thus far, but it’s important to remember Haruki doesn’t remember a lot of them.
That’s why she’s not keen to immediately reset; she wants to remember what Asai did for her. So instead of resetting, she saves, and Asai returns to the Sasano case, apparently confident Eri won’t be bothering them for a while.
The next morning, Asai receives a message to “come see someone”, and three photos, one of a woman on the beach, another of a blossoming cherry tree, and the third, Souma Sumire at sunset. Asai assumes it’s the “Witch” who is summoning him, so he goes to the beach.
There, he takes what he learned from his encounter with Eri, enters the photo, and converses with the Witch in her younger form. Because her ability is knowledge of the future, she knows what she’s going to do, and when she’s going to die, and wants to escape the bureau to see Sasano before that happens.
To that end, she used both Asai and Eri, but presents Asai with a choice: he can stop Eri, possibly leaving the Witch to die in confinement, or save the Witch another way (a way she may already know he’ll implement, mind you).
Asai gathers Sasano, Haruki and Murase, and head to the Bureau, Scooby-gang-style, and wait for Eri to get them inside. Sasano, armed with a Polaroid, takes photos of the building’s interior, one of which proves useful in getting one of the Bureau guards “out of the picture.”
This infiltration of the Bureau is only preparation for the next infiltration, when the actual rescue of the Witch is to take place. Asai has Haruki reset, sending him back to when they saved on the beach. He then jumps into one of the photos they took of the Witch’s room and asks her to call him.
The photos are still around because Murase had them, and her power negates reset, while his communication with the Witch of the past reaches the Witch of the present because she knows the future. It’s a complicated metaphysical labyrinth, but it checks out.
Before pulling it all off, Asai meets with a surprisingly chipper Eri, who accepts her loss but isn’t ready to give up on beating him, thus proving he’s weaker. Asai, meanwhile, knows that she won’t hurt him as long as he’s “defenseless.” Considering this is a long show, Eri is sure to be back; we’ll see whether she poses a greater threat at that point.
As expected, Asai gets a call from the Bureau, who bring him to the Witch, who asks him the same questions about “loving a stone” she asked Haruki, to which Asai answers he’d still love the stone if it was the girl he liked. But is that girl Asai…or Souma?
Regardless, Asai gives the Witch the photos she needs to escape and knock on the window of her boyfriend, just like the story Sasano told her when they were far younger. All these years, the Bureau has kept her under lock and key, fearful of her power. But after a time, or maybe all along, it was a power she never seemed all that interested in having, let alone using.
That’s why she decides she’ll leave Sakurada, forget about her power altogether, and live out the rest of her days—all seven of them, by her reckoning. But before she does, she indulges Asai by telling him his future: he will be involved in “something big”, something involving her “successor”, whom Asai correctly identifies as Souma. The Witch tells him he’ll run into her again. I certainly hope so!
Whew, what a ride. This mini-arc contained the most complicated ability machinations yet, and it was downright exhilarating watching all the pieces be carefully maneuvered into place before being set into quick, decisive motion. On top of that, we got confirmation Souma isn’t totally dead (though whether she’ll merely exist in that photo or not, who can say).
By not forgetting what Asai did for her, Haruki’s affection for him continues to grow. Murase is proving to be useful as “muscle” (i.e. putting holes in things or neutralizing abilities) while Eri has vowed to come back at Asai, insisting he should “be afraid.” One thing I’m not afraid of: losing interest in this unapologetically bizarre, engrossing show.