Inuyashiki – 04

Inuyashiki’s fourth episode opens with a ruthless, towering yakuza boss ordering his men to dispose of the naked body of an overdosed woman on his bed, then making another yakuza perform oral sex on him as a form of submission. So…not a good guy.

Then things switch gears completely to the diminutive but lovely Fumino and her boyfriend Satoru, who love each other deeply and agree to get married and have kids. As nice as all that is, I immediately suspected this was either a flashback, and Fumino was that body, or she’s the yakuza boss’ next victim.

The latter turns out to be the case, as Fumino is suddenly abducted while walking home, and wakes up naked on the boss’ bed. He immediately gets on top of her, telling her he’ll “make her his”, but Fumino fights back, getting away and even managing to slash the brute’s wrist with his own katana. While his men tend to his wound she slips out.

She manages to get all the way back to Satoru’s worried-sick arms, but it’s not long before the boss, named Samejima, and his henchmen break into their apartment. Satoru begs for his and Fumino’s lives, promising to pay any price, no matter what it takes, but his pleas fall on deaf ears, and Samejima picks him up by the throat and starts to choke him out.

Enter the Hero, Ichirou, who no doubt heard what has been transpiring and will not have it. After sending the henchmen flying, he puts Samejima in a bear hug, but “shuts down” when a clip is emptied in his head. When he wakes up, it’s just him and a nearly-dead Satoru.

When his magic body won’t heal him, Ichirou uses CPR to revive him, and then uses Satoru’s phone to locate Samejima, who is enjoying a meeting with other yakuza bosses at a luxurious inn.

While his initial encounter with Samejima was not fruitful, Ichirou has clearly gotten the hang of flying and forcing his way through crowds. When Samejima takes him aside, Ichirou does what he should have done the first time: sock the guy in the face.

The other yakuza respond by emptying clip after clip into Ichirou with automatic weapons, but it only stuns him. He activates his flight mode, targets everyone in the inn, and takes out all of their eyes with a fusillade of particle beams.

It’s wholesale justice; Ichirou laying down the law, and before leaving, Ichirou makes sure he properly verbalizes what he’s done: deprived all of them of the means to walk, eat, see their children’s and grandchildren’s faces, touch them ever again…or even take their own lives.

Rather than execute them, he hopes they’ll live long lives, in such a state that he hopes they one day feel remorse for the horrible things they’ve done. I for one am not that optimistic, but at least they’ll won’t hurt anyone—including his family—ever again. The cycle of dead bodies on beds has been stopped; at least with this clan. Obviously, there are many others.

After contacting those watching her with Samejima’s phone, Ichirou locates Fumino, apparently heals her of the harm done by the drugs, and flies her back to her love, Satoru.

I’ll point out that Satoru is nothing special in the looks or money department—indeed, he’s very much a young Ichirou—but love, like that yakuza scum, is blind. Satoru and Fumino have good and gentle souls, and I was bowled over with relief and joy to see them reunite.

Ichirou slinks off into the night, claiming he’s “nobody special”, but in reality, he was this couple’s savior. It’s good to see him getting better at this hero thing, especially not getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of evil in the world and the impossibility of stamping it all out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do as much as you can, and he will.

And so, Inuyashiki continues its M.O. of putting its audience through hell before showing them a glimpse of heaven. Whether it was the intro of Ichirou as a feeble sadsack or the stunningly awful but thankfully temporary twist in Fumino’s fate, the show has no qualms about putting characters and viewers alike through the ringer, but rewards us for sticking around by delivering breathtakingly righteous justice to evildoers.

Only Shishigami Hiro has escaped retribution…so far. But the strongest yakuza boss in the world is a cakewalk compared to Hiro. If Ichirou can’t defeat him and he can’t defeat Ichirou, they’ll have to figure…something else out.

Inuyashiki – 03

As soon as Hiro realizes the old man he killed wasn’t effected by his “air gun”, he bolts, and by bolt I mean launch into the sky and scream off like a fighter jet. Thus, the big standoff between him and Ichirou is postponed. But as he wakes up from a nightmare of the death he witnessed, Ichirou knows he’ll have to find and confront him sometime.

This boy is like him, but whether his powers have twisted him into a monster, or he was always a sociopath and only now has the means to do as he pleases, Ichirou knows he’s the only one who can stop him. Essentially, some whippersnapper needs an ear-boxing.

Hiro isn’t the first evil, nor is he the only evil in the world, or even in the vicinity of Ichirou’s home and work; far from it. You don’t need to be killed and reconstructed by an advanced alien race to be a dickbag that doesn’t care about anyone or anything, as evidenced by the kids who attacked a homeless man, or a group of athletic young toughs who plan to kill a man for daring to tell them to wait in line.

Like any and every great hero, Ichirou doesn’t buy into a world where the strong unrelentingly prey on the weak. Why should he? He may be one of the two strongest beings on the planet. No, with strength comes not carte blanche, but noblesse oblige. Just as Hiro was a bad person before getting reconstructed, Ichirou was always a good and just man.

It’s only now, like Hiro, that he’s able to act on his kind and virtuous nature. When it looks bad for the poor man surrounded by much larger ones, Ichirou takes out the trash. But he doesn’t kill anyone, nor is there any malice in his actions; only a desire to stop a great wrong from being committed, and ensure the safety of those who cannot ensure it themselves.

Once his “Grampy-sense” detects a family struggling to escape a house fire, he wills the machinery within his back to come out and propel him to the danger in time to save them. He does so by singing the theme to Astro Boy.

At first, his built-in jetpack is a little too much to handle; he screams bloody murder as he’s flung every which way, a scene that’s as awesome as it is frikkin’ hilarious. In a show that gets as intense as this one, it’s nice to know we’ll always have some moments of levity.

He gets the hang of it pretty quickly, and manages to save not only the crying children’s father, but their grandmother as well. Instead of thanks and praise, he asks that they not mention him to the authorities, and having just been miraculously saved by him, one hopes they would respect his wishes.

Ichirou is an unconditional hero to all, not because he can, with his wondrous new powers, but because he feel he must. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he stood by and did nothing when his actions can make a positive difference in the world. Compare this to his pre-transformation, when he was just trying to maintain, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer for his trouble. A man of inaction, no longer is he.

Hiro, while a monster, seems to remain tied to his humanity through his best friend Andou, whom he finally convinces to come to school, promising to protect him. He is, or at least is trying to be, a hero of one…unfortunately for the rest of the world, not to mention Andou.

When the bullies return to Andou’s desk and threaten him, Hiro wastes no time taking the wrist of their strongest and squeezing it hard enough to make him cry, apologize, and insult himself and his friends.

I can’t tell whether Hiro is using laser-sharp precision to apply just enough pressure to the guy’s wrist, or struggling as hard as he can not to squeeze to hard, snap his arm off and expose himself at school. I like how there’s uncertainty in something like that.

Hiro takes Andou to the roof where the bullies initially told them to meet, but they already left with some girls. Hiro gives Andou some binoculars and starts pointing out into the distance and saying “BANG.” Eventually, Andou pans to where Hiro was “shooting”, and finds the four bullies dead, all shot in the head with invisible bullets that leave no trace; the scared-shitless girls having no idea what just happened.

It’s too far. Andou is a gentle soul; he can’t take this shit, and wastes no time rejecting Hiro and warning him to stay away when Hiro refuses to turn himself into the police. All of the things Hiro did to that point to impress Andou—humiliate then kill bullies, boast of his ability to nuke China with US missile, steal thousands of dollars from the ATM—only serve to disgust Andou and push him further away.

Their friendship is over, but Hiro reacts the same way he does to everything, save his brief encounter with Ichirou: calmly. Too, calmly, if you ask me. Without Andou to provide even a semblance of a tether, Hiro’s monstrous acts may only increase in scale and scope.

Inuyashiki likes to punch below the belt, as when an adorable mama cat and her kitten walk past a charmed Ichirou, only for the mom to get hit by a car right in front of him. Exhibiting uncommon goodness that makes one’s eyes well up, he takes the cat into his arms, even though he can’t do anything for her…then learns that he actually can.

Ichirou scans that dead cat and fixes her right up, and she and her kitten stride off like nothing ever happened, giving Ichirou the one thank-you he wished he always got: no thank-you at all. Ichirou is overcome with joy and gratitude for the gift he has been given, and immediately stops by a hospital to heal as many people as he can.

And yet, as he’s been going around left and right saving lives, his opposite Hiro is out there taking them, as if the universe itself were maintaining the balance from suddenly having two such immensely powerful beings in such close proximity. If both were evil killers, humanity would be toast, but Ichirou is as good as Hiro is bad.

Witness the ending, in which the camera mercifully doesn’t follow Hiro inside another house for another routine family-killing. It just stays there, frozen, and we realize just how goddamn quickly Hiro purges the house of all life before walking out, spotting two passing boys—clearly friends—running past, and thinks long and hard about killing them too.

By holding his fire, was he trying to prove to himself that he can control himself when he needs to even without Andou? Perhaps he still has a degree of restraint, owing to the same sense of self-preservation that induced him to escape from Ichirou. But that restraint can’t last.

The first two episodes introduced our characters: the third explored their powers further and illustrated how far they can take those powers—in both moral directions. Hiro seems to be on the path to ruin; Ichirou, on the path to sainthood. But in a universe of balance, perhaps neither will ever reach their destination.

Inuyashiki – 02

Last week I watched with intense interest and wonder as Iyunashiki suddenly received a new lease on life out of nowhere; this week we get to know the other person who was killed and reconstructed by the alien ship: Shihigami Hiro. Ironically, he’s not the hero, but the villain, as is made quite clear by the end of this episode.

With a calming, pleasant lilt to his voice (he is excellently voiced by live action actor Murakami Nijirou), and on a mission to convince his recently beat-up friend “Chakkou” to come back to school, at first Hiro doesn’t seem that bad…but when he mentions there’s a slasher who’s killed eight people, I knew immediately he was talking about himself, well before he opened his face to show Chakkou what he’s become.

Hiro demonstrates his new powers to a shocked, amazed, and slightly freaked-out friend: he kills a bird by pointing at it and saying bang; then makes all the TVs in an Ikebukuro electronics store broadcast porn. Harmless fun, right? Well, no…harming animals for no reason is a telltale sign of sociopathy, which  I’m willing to bet our lad had before his transformation.

The only thing that’s changed is that with his new body, he now has the ability to make his twisted impulses a reality. He can make dozens of cars crash into each other, and he can kill anyone by pointing at them and saying bang. He’s like a far more efficient Yagami Light, only without even a hint of justice.

His only glint of humanity is that he considers friends and family off-limits (at least for now), even if he couldn’t care less about anyone else, and offers to kill the one(s) who beat Chakkou, which Chakkou, not being a sociopath, obviously doesn’t want. Unfortunately, he has little choice in the matter; Hiro is a force of nature now and his appetites are formidable.

Case in point: in one of the grisliest, most fucked-up scenes I’ve seen in an anime in a long time, Hiro randomly picks a house and goes room-to-room executing its occupants: a mother by the stove, a father bathing with his young son (his body pins the boy under him so he drowns in the bath…just awful), and finally, the teenage daughter upon coming home.

The father and daughter have time to beg for their life, but Hiro gives them an order they can’t obey—don’t cry or beg for your life—and punishes them with death. First, he asks the girl his age if she reads any manga, and is momentarily excited that she likes One Piece and has a favorite character he approves of.

The casualness with which he carries out his rampage leaves no doubt: Hiro is an irredeemable monster that needs to be put down before more families suffer his wrath.

But with that body and the weaponry and defenses it contains, there’s only one person who can be the hero to slay this beast: Iyunashiki, the titular “Last Hero.”

Upon coming home, Ichirou can hear the last screams of the daughter Hiro is torturing, but the fact he still doesn’t have much luck is demonstrated when he gets stuck in traffic and is too late to save her. Clearly, he hasn’t explored the extent of his own abilities yet, or he would have, i dunno, run really fast or flown to her aid (unless his body doesn’t actually allow that).

In any case, upon inspecting the house and the family of victims, Ichirou discovers Hiro is still lingering there. Hiro assumes he’s the grandpa, and shoots him in the head before leaving, but Ichirou isn’t the grandpa, and while he was knocked down, the bang didn’t seem to cause any other damage.

I’d hope that with our hero meeting the villian, the slaughter of innocents will cease…or at least slow. But who am I kidding? These two are, at worst, equally matched, and with Ichirou’s clumsiness and Hiro’s give-no-fucks attitude, quite a bit of collateral damage will be in order. Hiro believes he’s a god. He won’t give that up easily. But neither will Ichirou.

P.S. While I love the visuals of the OP, the rap metal theme (which may owe a bit to Rage Against the Machine) and its English lyrics is a bit cheesy. Ah well. 

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 11

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Last week really wiped the show’s slate clean, as I truly had no idea what was going to happen after seeing Satoru about to drown in a freezing lake. Part of me expected another time-jump, but unlike the last time it happened, young Satoru was in mortal distress. He couldn’t very well jump back to his future self if his past self was drowning.

But at some point between then and this week, Satoru survived Yashiro’s attempt on his life. In fact, it seems to be Yashiro who saved him, because no one else was around. However, when he presumably returned Satoru to his mother, he was fast asleep, and when we rejoin him, he wakes up for the first time in fifteen years.

Wait…what?

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Satoru’s generally excellent physical condition in spite of that long slumber is credited to his mother, who spend four hours out of every day keeping him clean, well-fed and exercising his joints and muscles, all while making ends meet with a convenience store job. If I didn’t already consider Sachiko a Super-Mom—before this act of selfless devotion and hope absent any indication Satoru would ever wake up—I sure would now.

However, when he wakes up, Satoru’s memories are scrambled, and he has no idea what put him in the comatose state in the first place, though he does remember Kenya and Hiromi, and wastes no time trying to walk again as a young cancer patient watches. However, Satoru can’t shake the feeling (as his older self narrates, suggesting even this isn’t the present day of the show) his old friends are being kept from bringing up certain things, perhaps at his mothers’ request.

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I harbored pretty neutral feelings about this situation, and the fact that Yashiro may have well let Satoru live only to wait for him to wake back up so he can finish what he started. But for some reason, it just didn’t sit right for me when an older Kayo appeared with an infant in her arms, and we later learn she married Hiromi and they started a family while he was asleep.

Satoru takes this a lot better than I do, and I say that knowing it was silly to think Kayo and Hiromi would put their lives on hold—the way Satoru’s mom did—in the off-chance he woke up. But it still stinks—a lot—that Satoru missed his shot with Kayo because he saved her, and that she ended up with one of the other two kids he saved. An unavoidable but still raw and frankly pretty disappointing deal to the shipper in me.

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But Satoru, happy he was able to save Kayo and Hiromi (along with Aya, the older version of whom we don’t see), is content to be the honored hero, and knows he still has vast stores of motivational power for the young cancer patient, Kumi, who is as amazed by everyone else by his quick recovery.

Satoru proves he’s his selfless, loving, heroic mother’s son, by offering Kumi advice on how to have courage: starting with simply picturing the people you care about in your head.

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Then Yashiro shows up, and it’s only a matter of time before he says or does something that triggers Satoru’s memory of who he really is and what he did to him fifteen years ago. I’m not that sure why Yashiro befriended Kumi (another victim?), but he actually seems to enjoy how his relationship with Satoru returns to the way it was, if only briefly.

Satoru seems to recall everything when Yashiro starts tapping the handle of his wheelchair, and now we’re right back where last week left off: a virtually helpless Satoru all alone in the clutches of Yashiro. Only in this timeline, Kayo had no choice but to pass Satoru by and choose someone else. Not saying that will be undone, but I wouldn’t rule out another time-leap back to the past now that Satoru is conscious and knows the score.

Nor would I mind such a development. I know, one shouldn’t push their luck, but surely he could create a future where he (and his mother) don’t have to sacrifice a significant chunk of their lives and happiness so that Kayo, Hiromi and Aya could be saved. But first thing’s first: Satoru has to somehow survive his latest encounter with Yashiro.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 10

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With Kayo safe in her new home and Hiromi hardly ever alone, Satoru has successfully taken two of the serial killer’s potential victims off the board. All that’s left is Aya, who Satoru confronts with Kenta and Hiromi.

When Kazu jumps in to defend boys’ hideouts it only seems to make things worse, but turns out he charmed her enough for her to come visit them not long after their first meeting.

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Aya befriends the boys, Kazu in particular, and suddenly she’sno longer alone, making Satoru 3-for-3. But when Hiromi notices Misato (the girl Satoru blew up on for accusing Kayo of stealing) is now a class pariah and often alone, Satoru catches up with my thinking last week: depriving the killer of his original choice of victims will make him seek out a substitute.

In his thought process, Satoru is careful not to make it the same thing as Yashiro-sensei using candy as a cigarette substitute. Little does he know at the time that he’s on to something with that comparison, and that I was on to something with all those nagging suspicions about the young educator.

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Satoru follows the lonely Misato to the hockey rink, pondering how to approach her (which will be tougher since he’s could be considered partly responsible for her ending up ostracized). When she goes to the bathroom, and takes a little too long, Satoru starts to worry.

Then Yashiro appears from the back door, sucking on a lollipop. And that was it; I knew something was wrong, and there’d be no more explanations that would dissuade me from the truth: Yashiro is the killer. Satoru finds out far too late, after he’s already willingly in Yashiro’s car, having asked him to follow Yuuki’s father’s truck, believing Misato was kidnapped by him.

Before the truth hits Satoru (and boy, does it pack a wallop), he and Yashiro have a somewhat innocuous conversation about the nature of Satoru’s recent acts of heroism, and how they “fill a hole” in the hearts of those he helps, as well as his own. He’s doing—and done—something he’d always yearned to do: fix things from the past that were broken and haunted him since.

The discussion then turns a bit darker when Yashiro says the essence of good and evil deeds is the same, and that he and Satoru share the need to fill a void in their heart; to make up for a defect in himself. But “evil” is the operative word here; Satoru is good; Yashiro is not.

Satoru finally gets it when he sees Yashiro tapping his finger on the steering wheel more and more forcefully, and reaches for the glovebox to get him some candy…only there’s no candy in there, only laxatives he gave to Misato, who he used to bait Satoru into entering his clutches willingly.

Once they enter the tunnel and reddish flashing lights adorn Yashiro’s true face, it’s as if Satoru is in the presence of the devil himself.

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Satoru taking the bait was the last thing Yashiro needed to confirm they were enemies. And yet, Yashiro is amazed and impressed, not bitter or angry, that Satoru managed to anticipate his thinking and destroy his plans for Kayo, Aya and Hiromi. Of course, he’s also driving Satoru out into the middle of nowhere, so it’s not like he’s just going to let him go.

After the wheels start turning in Satoru’s head, he laments he couldn’t see the glaringly obvious. It’s just that he let both his past, present, and future trust in Yashiro blind him from all of the factors that incriminated him. I too was kept in a state of ambiguity about Yashiro in the end, since the various evidence was never incontrovertible until this week. It was only hinted at through little gestures, glimpses, and asides.

As we’re given glimpses of the fruits of Satoru’s labor—his mother alive; Aya and Hiromi with friends; Kayo in her new safe home with her grandma—the only thing left for hi to do was to find and stop the killer. Yashiro simply got to him first, exploiting his blind spot to the hilt.

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So just like that, by trying to go beyond saving the three original victims, Satoru ends up in the clutches of The Killer. The man who not only killed those three kids in a previous timeline, but also murdered his mom and framed him for it. The same carefulness is on display here in 1988 with his multiple cars and fastidious preparation.

That preparation leads them to a half-frozen stream at a campground, where Yashiro uses a basketball on the gas pedal to send the car into the drink with Satoru strapped inside with a seatbelt that just won’t become un-stuck. Yashiro concedes defeat in terms of the the kids Satoru saved, and the peace he won for the town. But he’s still going to kill Satoru; by “my hands and for my sake.” And then he’ll go to another town and start anew.

Even when Satoru tells him he can see Yashiro’s future, Yashiro doesn’t jump in and pull him out of the car. The episode ends with Satoru, as far as we know, drowning, and there’s a finality to the fact that even the abstract visualization of the various timelines shatters and breaks down. Of course, everything can’t be over for Satoru yet, since this whole show is from his point of view, and there are two whole episodes left…right?

Regarding the unambiguous confirmation that Yashiro is the show’s Big Bad, in all timelines: On the one hand, I’m a little sad now that one the central mysteries is over. On the other hand, I’m glad that it was the most logical choice based on the evidence provided. Anyone other than Yashiro would have been too far out of left field.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 09

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This episode was very good, as is to be expected of a show where even its off days are very good, but it couldn’t avoid the feeling of a bridge episode. Much of the very goodest-ness comes in the first half, which resolves the standoff with Kayo’s mom, Akemi.

An enraged Akemi takes a snow shovel to Sachiko, but the wound is thankfully superficial, and Satoru’s mom stands her ground. The trap has already worked; social services are right there, and Akemi’s inability to do anything about her missing 11-year-old daughter for three days is sufficient evidence to take Kayo away.

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Akemi tries to paint herself as the victim, grabbing Kayo and shuffling off to the police, but her estranged mother (whom I imagine Yashiro managed to contact) stops her in her tracks. It only takes a few moments for our abject hatred of Akemi to soften–just a little–when we learn that she too was a victim of abuse by her now-ex-husband after all.

Neither Kayo nor Satoru are as forgiving; after all, two wrongs don’t make a right. But Akemi’s breakdown and glimmer of the life she’s led at least makes her actions understandable. She’s not the sociopath I though she was; but took her frustration out on Kayo because it was easy,unlike so much else in her life.

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Akemi also accepts her mother taking Kayo away to live with her; it’s clearly better for both of them. Sachiko wants to believe even Akemi feels, at times, love for her daughter, and one could either call her acceptance of the handover proof of that love, though no doubt part of it is relieving her of a burden she clearly couldn’t bear on her own.

With that, Satoru and Kayo quietly part ways (with Kayo being borne away in Yashiro’s 4WD Toyota Sprinter Carib, AKA Tercel Wagon), with Satoru confident Kayo now has a future where she can make her mark. He saved her from her mom and from the killer.

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At this point, I thought he’d be sent back to the non-letterboxed present, where perhaps he could track down a lovely 29-year-old Kayo! But hold on now, there’s still two more victims to save: Hiromi and Aya. Satoru wastes no time starting his investigations on the other two, taking careful notes of their daily patterns.

The switch to “new cases” is a little jarring in its abruptness, but then again I guess there’s no rest for the weary (whose come from nearly three decades into the future to save three of his peers from a serial child-killer).

I also appreciated that the somewhat shut-in Satoru, even 29 years old, isn’t any better at knowing how to properly approach a girl than his 11-year-old version would be. Perhaps the older Satoru is even worse, considering he has a lot more on his mind than a kid would.

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One night, his Aya-following is cut short when he bumps into his mom, over-laden with discount groceries. By a second coincidence, Yashiro’s in the vicinity and offers the two a ride. Satoru rides shotgun, and notices Yashiro’s nervous steering wheel tapping.

When Satoru pulls at something sticking out of the glovebox and it bursts open to reveal a treasure trove of candies, for a second it felt like the show was selling–and I was buying–that something was very, FREE CANDYly wrong in Denmark Yashiroland.

Rather amazingly (and hilariously), the excess candy is excused away by Yashiro’s confession that ever since he quit smoking he’s satisfied his oral fixation with candy. And yet, I wonder what the show intended by giving me such a momentary fright!

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As for Kenya, who notices Satoru is at it again (it being super-heroics for another kid’s sake) and wants in, I’m 99.9% convinced he’s not a bad guy or a fellow time traveler, just a very bright and perceptive kid who will continue to be a valuable ally in Satoru’s efforts.

When Satoru tells him his suspicions about a serial child-killer, Kenya is 99% sure it’s all in his friend’s head, but he doesn’t discount the 1% possibility Satoru is telling the absolute truth (which he is) and is committed to believing his friend, just as Airi was in the present. Even Hiromi wants to believe him, though he doesn’t see the need to such excess caution where his personal safety is concerned.

When Satoru asks Kenya and Hiromi to accompany him “somewhere” after school, I’m guessing it has something to do with Aya. I imagine Satoru is eager to kill two birds with one stone, but knows that if he takes his eye of one would-be victim too long he risks losing the other.

But the lingering shot of Misato (the girl who accused Kayo of stealing in the previous timeline) also suggested that maybe Hiromi and Aya aren’t the only ones Satoru needs to watch and protect. By saving Kayo, did he inadvertently condemn Misato?

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 10

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Unlike the last two episodes’ cold opens, which could have stood alone as masterful short films, this week’s doesn’t even feel necessary, since we already know a concerned Touka is rushing towards CCG siege on Anteiku. On the other hand, it’s only 55 seconds long…because there’s shit to get done this week.

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While the Mall and Prison super-battles felt larger in scale, this one brings more emotional and dramatic weight, because this time it’s Anteiku, which has always striven to live and let live, and the battle isn’t going well, because the CCG are bringing it.

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Koma and Kaya are ready to make their last stand tonight, fighting beside Yoshimura, who brought them together in peace, and going out in a blaze of glory, or at least with one last good fight. Koma and Kaya don’t get their wish, as Kaneki arrives just in time to save them from the finishing moves of the Doves attacking them.

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A lot of the glory this week goes to our two favorite white-heads, Kaneki and Juuozu, who both show just how terrifying they are when they’re serious. It’s kind of a shame that they don’t meet or cross blades this time, but I can see why the two sub-battles were separated. Koma and Kaya were able to be saved by Kaneki because Yoshimura is attracting all the CCG heavies, Juuzou included.

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Even with Shinohara, Iwa, Juuzou, Ui, Houji hacking away at him all night in varying states of coordination, Yoshimura is one tough sonofabitch, which seems to almost work against his plan to pay for his sins and pave the way for the future by all but letting himself get killed. He can’t help but fight back, and his status as the Owl means even if he doesn’t lift a finger in defense (and he very much does), it takes a good long time for him to go down.

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That emotional weight I mentioned? It comes in a flurry of flashes as Yoshimura remembers all the various people in his life he either saved or was saved by. The last thing he sees is his beloved Ukina, the human who accepted him and even bore his child, who is now out there somewhere. You want to hope now that he’s paid for his sins with his life at last, he’ll be able to rest in peace with Ukina in the hereafter.

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Unlike Kaneki, who saves Koma and Kaya, Touka takes no action in the battle. This was probably a good move on her part, as I imagine she would have been outclassed here. Still, she doesn’t particularly look happy about sitting this one out. As for Hide, he’s somehow able to suit up as a CCG grunt to watch, which…well, that doesn’t exactly reflect well on their security procedures, now does it?

As for Kaneki, he isn’t able to simply walk away after dispatching the Second and Third CCG divisions. The Fourth still stands in his way, led by a particularly focused-looking Amon. I don’t imagine he’s in the mood for talk. And while Amon is the underdog in a fight with Kaneki, he’s got friends, and he hung in there versus an admittedly more unstable Kaneki at Cochlea, so he won’t be a slouch.

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Finally, as soon as Yoshimura is defeated, the other Owl, his daughter, arrives on the scene, ready to rumble against the by-now exhausted Doves. Yoshimura’s last request to Kaneki was to not squander his unique status as the one person who bridges the gap between ghouls and humans.

He also told him to try to save his daughter. With Kaneki and Eto about to enter into fierce battles of their own, prospects for either of those things happening seem pretty bleak.

9_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 09

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Last weeks long cold open told Yoshimura’s tale, and it was a stirring one. This week’s even longer cold open focuses on the Doves, how on the eve of their impending raid on Anteiku, are obligated to fill out their last wills and testaments prior to going into battle. But it’s not just a formality this time. You get the sense some of them really won’t be coming back.

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The various Doves, those we know well and those less-so, regard the duty, and cope with the prospect of their imminent doom, in different ways. Takizawa visit his mom. Akira visits graves, then tries to kiss Kotarou, who covers her lips with his hand. Hey, if there is no tomorrow, somethings need to be said and/or done.

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Takizawa, by the way, shows that without any specific vengeance in his heart like Akira’s or Kotarou’s, he can’t quite cope with the enormity of what he’s about to get into. All he can think about is how much he doesn’t want to die. But when going up against Yoshimura, everyone knows dying is a distinct possibility.

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On the other end of the spectrum is Juuzou, who turns his will into paper airplane, which speaks not just to his chaotic nihilism, but to his confidence he’ll come out of this like any other battle; with nary a scratch. What’s chilling is that I believe it.

In a nice bit of character connection across sprawling Tokyo, Ken spots Juuzou’s airplane and watches its flight, leading his eyes to a TV screen announcing the impending battle in the 20th Ward. It’s the same broadcast Touka is watching from a safehouse. Ken and Touka are the only two non-doves in this cold open, alike in the fact they’re both meant to sit this one out, despite how much Anteiku means to them.

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In one final powerful sequence, all the Doves we’ve watched separately are all assembled under the command of Washuu. They’re all there for different reasons and for different people, and despite the fact they’re about to set out to kill our friends, I just can’t see them as the bad guys. It speaks to TG’s fierce devotion to showing us all facets of its characters. In the field of cold opens, TG is locked in; in fact, if this episode were just those first eight minutes of change, I’d probably still give it a 10 despite getting only half the runtime I expected. It’s moving, masterful work.

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But we weren’t cheated. This episode benefited both from some fantastic character moments and some fantastic action. That action is brief, but effective, as we finally see Koma and Kaya in action (at least I think it’s the first time. I don’t recall if they were in the mall battle). They’re pretty badass when it’s just the two of them punching and carving through legions of CCG troops, but then they reveal they have their own ghoul factions fighting for them, this time on the same side, as it’s implied Yoshimura brought the two formerly bitter enemies together.

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Yoshimura himself makes a pretty fantastic entrance, complete with smoke, cloak, and a cool speech about how everyone is evil, because life is a succession of sins, i.e. people taking from other people. I don’t quite agree with him, but he’s right that there is evil in everyone, human and ghoul, and the answer to a peaceful world isn’t “Kill All Ghouls” any more than it’s “Kill All Humans,” as much as either side may want to make that happen.

Yoshimura, Koma and Kaya are fighting, in part, to punish themselves for their sins, but also to protect their younger members who will take their place. I imagine Yoshimura hopes for a time when those successors will find common cause with the Doves the way he was able to broker peace between warring ghoul gangs.

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But it’s clear those people, be they the remnants of Anteiku, members of Aogiri, or both, are a pretty long way from that point, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll be spared the same suffering and loss that poisoned the previous generations of both sides, and the generations before that.

How can the cycle be broken when Touka won’t simply sit on the sidelines and let the old guard be killed? Touka manages to escape Yomo’s “protection” by pointing out that she too is guilty of sins. She wants to be punished too, even if it’s a futile attempt to hold onto the things slipping away from her. She’s lost enough. But her approach may only lead to losing more.

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Ken doesn’t intend to sit out the battle, either, but he’s not necessarily seeking punishment or revenge. He’s seeking to validate his strength and his agency. Far too many of his friends died and suffered to protect him, and now it’s his turn, come hell or high water. In the only character beat that fell somewhat flat, Ken rejects and defeats a ravenous Shuu, whose desite to eat Ken has driven him even more batshit crazy than he was originally.

Shuu may be a bit of an eyesore, but even in his crazy-ass obsessive state he’s at least pitiable. And in any case, Ken also has a great talk with Nishiki, who plans to honor the ones dying to save them and stay alive, which to him means running.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 08

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This is a different kind of episode of Tokyo Ghoul, made clear by the fact the cold open is over seven minutes long, comprised entirely of the sad tale of the “One-Eyed Owl” as told by Yoshimura to Ken, who is curious about him. These seven minutes are a masterpiece of form and emotional resonance.

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The last time I can remember being as moved, transfixed, and enraptured in an opening as I was here was in the flawlessly spellbinding beginning of Pixar’s Up. Unlike Carl and Ellie, Yoshimura and Ukina are able to successfully conceive despite being Ghoul and Human.

But they are pursued by other ghouls, and Ukina is killed. Yoshimura sets his infant daughter aside to avenge her mother, but when he returns she is gone. And that infant grew up to be Eto. And now I know their connection!

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Honestly, that cold open was about as good as a cold open can get, especially considering how much it opens up the formerly closed mystery that is the owner of Anteiku. The rest of the episode, almost halfway-done, boils down to the Doves’ continued interest in the cafe and in Yoshimura in particular.

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There’s a pall over Anteiku as the Doves, who are always cropped out of the frame to accentuate the fact that they are out of place and a looming threat. Watching Nishio and Kimi, acting like ordinary people, being watched closely by anonymous Doves, sent shivers down my spine.

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Yoma becomes aware of the increased surveillance, so Yoshimura does what he feels he must and sends Touka and Hinami away into the snowy night, to protect them from what could be an impending CCG raid. This entire sequence of events is subtly and impeccably handled, as it should be for someone of Yoshimura’s past and vast experience. Yes, he’s an incredibly badass ghoul, but he’d rather not bare those fangs, for it was over-exuberance that contributed to Ukina’s death.

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Just as Touka and Hinami are out of the picture, the Doves descend on Anteiku, but only one enters: Shinohara, who arrives not as a conqueror or oppressor, but a humble customer. The rapport between him and Yoshimura is steeped in old-school respect and decorum. Neither of them spout a single word of the reality of the situation they find themselves in; they both play it so very cool.

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But the reality is, the CCG now considers Anteiku and its proprietor as ghouls, which makes them a threat to civic peace. The encounter we witness is only the calm before the storm. Yoshimura knows it; Shinohara knows it. Even if Yoshimura was able to connect with a human and even allow her into his heart, such a thing cannot be replicated in the current, volatile environment.

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Kaya and Koma, Yoshimura’s loyal soldiers, make all the preparations necessary before this impending storm, and are both rewarded with cups of Yoshimura’s sublime coffee, every bean of which was treated with the utmost respect and care; a fact Yoshimura attempts to expound upon Shinohara as a symbol of how Doves should deal with ghouls and vice-versa. It isn’t a black-and-white world; there are bad Doves and good ghouls. But perhaps there’s also too much bad blood for that to matter.

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In a dark courtroom, permission is granted to launch an assault on Anteiku. CCG’s instincts aren’t all wrong; Eyepatch did recently visit. One of Ken’s hopes was to protect the cafe and everyone who worked there, but that seems increasingly unlikely after this week. That being said, the people who made Anteiku all remain alive and kicking—for now—so he can’t declare total failure quite yet.

9_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 07

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Rather than thrust us headlong into anothe multi-part dove-ghoul battle, this week’s TG goes the route of more character development, establishing just what it is everyone seems to be after, while getting us even more emotionally invested in what becomes of these people before all hell breaks loose.

Ken was in a bad way last week, and we see why: in his nightmares he’s being eaten by Rize and Jason; by eating other ghouls and humans, he’s become little more than a wretched tool to provide them with nourishment. And yet, this all seems to be part of some kind of training, because Eto seems to be guiding him, and seems pleased with his progress so far.

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The show’s gaze turns back upon the new but somewhat somber normal of Anteiku, with Hinami gazing intently at a news report she knows is about Ken, before making sure Touka doesn’t catch cold at her desk. The next morning she cheerfully opens the place. She’s trying to be strong but wants to do more for him.

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Shuu sets her down that road, where over a cup of coffee and a quick lesson in floriography, he lists all the ways in which Ken is a sweet osmanthus, with the bits about “first and true love” betraying Hinami’s feelings.

While he’s in the bathroom, Takatsuki Sen slips in and offers her two very blunt cents: unlike Ken, Hinami has always come from a place of warmth and love; Sen doesn’t see Hinami being able to do anything for him the way she is now. Because we know Sen is Eto, there’s an interesting complexity in her words; this isn’t merely advice for her new friend, but in a way, it’s staking a claim. Ken is hers; Hinami can stay right out of it.

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Shuu, meanwhile, has a very intimate moment with the hanky stained with Ken’s blood. Shuu is after Ken too, but for his flavor, not his love. Or heck, maybe he demands that those most exquisite things he eats love him, or something. In any case, it’s good to see the ol’ Gourmet hasn’t been completely neutered by his recent playing nice with Anteiku. On the contrary, this establishes pretty clearly that Shuu is a potentially unstable an element as ever, and only in this for his own interests.

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Sen, meanwhile, is a busy little bee this whole episode, buzzing to CCG headquarters and happening to meet Shinohara and Juzo. Since they’re both humans at the end of the day, they have no spidey-sense for ghouls, but Juzo still regards Sen very wearily, and that’s not just his usual shyness. Perhaps a personality to bright and loud as Sen’s seems threatening to him?

Whatever his issue is, Sen is there to plant two ideas in the good doves’ minds: that ghouls can be artificially created from ordinary humans, and that there could be something fishy about a certain cafe in the 20th ward.

Sen kind of steals all of he scenes, and not just because of her distinctive appearance (Juzo still has her in that department); Sakamoto Maaya’s precise and ethereal yet casual voice is a delight to the ears. She’s got the dorky eccentric author down pat.

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From there, the episode really surprises us when Ken steps into the Anteiku doorway, to speak to Yoshimura. When Hinami learns he’s there, her first instinct isn’t to run to him, but to Touka. And when she arrives at the library out of breath and says “onii-chan”, Touka knows exactly what’s up and she breaks into a sprint.

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The entire “will she/won’t she get to him before he disappears” is a well-worn device, but it’s perfectly executed here, as is the moment they finally come face to face on a pedestrian bridge. The scene is so gorgeous and quiet, but it’s a silence bursting with emotions trying to break out.

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Ken puts on his angsty shonen face, telling Touka he can’t come back because he’s not strong enough to protect everyone, and Touka can’t stop herself from attacking him, which is simultaneously hilarious (because he dodges every acrobatic blow), but also profoundly sad, in a “it’s come to this” kind of way. Ken drops his guard momentarily when Touka tells him never to come back, and she lands a few more blows before returning home, where, after she calms down, she realizes how silly she was on the bridge.

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She wants him to come back, but everything she said and did on that bridge will only serve to make it harder. It’s a classic case of someone unsure of quite how to express their love in a way the other person will understand, and so resorts to ambiguity and/or violence out of frustration.

Still, the smile we see as she gets back to studying means that no matter what Ken is doing and whether or when he’ll come back, he’s still alive, and he’s still Ken, and at the moment, that’s enough. Hinami sees her smile too, which causes her to smile in turn. This time she was able to help Ken by helping Touka meet him. Everyone’s spirits have raised…except Ken’s.

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The cherry on top of this awesomeness sundae? Shinohara obviously checks out Sen’s tip and pays a visit to Anteiku with Juzo, where Yoshimura personally serves them while answering some questions. It’s another scene suffused with tension, but not of the romantic kind like Touka and Ken (or Shuu and his hanky). Shinohara gets a familiar vibe from gramps. I should think so; he fought him in another guise back at the mall. And Shinohara’s quiet mention that he’ll be back sent a chill down my spine…but one I appreciated.

9_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 06

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A big two-part battle like Cochlea deserves to be followed by an episode that lets us collect our collective breath, and reminds us what motivates ghoul and dove alike, which, for everyone featured in this exquisitely characters-first episode, is essentially the same: victimhood; starting with Koutarou being raised and betrayed by a priest who turned out to be a ghoul.

Looking at the files of Kuroha and Nashiro, he can still hardly believe humans can become ghouls, but if it’s true, that means there’s a possibility, however slight, that the opposite could happen: that his beloved students and perhaps even Eyepatch can be redeemed. These are the thoughts of someone who’s life and career were shaped by his past trauma, but not to the extent he lost all empathy for the enemy.

Even in his horrifying kakuja form, Eyepatch’s tears are still able to affect Koutarou. Of course, he concludes that he may be overthinking things, even though this is just the kind of thinking needed to reach true peace and understanding with the non-violent ghouls.

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Unlike Koutarou, Juuzou, AKA Rei, never had the chance to retain his empathy, or even his humanity. He’s almost a ghoul in human skin after a childhood of torture and being forced to fight in battles for the rich and powerful ghouls’ entertainment. Shinohara freed the poor wretch and with a light touch, managed to tame him enough for Dove duty. In other words, while he’s still very much morally bankrupt, Juuzou behaves himself for his savior Shinohara’s sake.

Revenge isn’t on his mind so much as wanting to see the cross-sections of various living things. I used to admit I found Juuzou irritating when first introduced, but now that I understand where he’s coming from, I’m big enough to admit I was wrong; he’s a terribly wounded, compelling, and oddly adorable kid.

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Touka had a nice family situation going for a while there with her dad and brother, but then her dad left one night (and was turned into an arata), leaving Touka alone and the only one to protect herself and her little brother. We still don’t know the full story about the siblings, but obviously they fell into a dark place, and while Ayato continues to dwell in that darkness with Aogiri, Touka was more or less saved by Anteiku.

With Kaneki walking away from that, and her, all she can do is continue on, trying to live as human a life as she can, which means she has to study her butt off and not let the rumors about her friend swirling around distract her. In his roundabout quest to protect her, Kaneki has made her life more difficult.

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But from the start of the series, Kaneki was always the most overt victim; only now after he was subjected to treatment similar to Juuzou at the finger-cracking hand of Jason has he descended into villainy. He only wanted to go out with a pretty woman; it was Rize who set him on this path and continues to torture him from within.

He let her out of the cage for the mall and prison battles, but especially in the latter he didn’t even accomplish all that much for his trouble. If it was his intention to become stronger, well, now he’s paying a serious price in the form of uncontrollable kakuja fits. He can’t even enjoy a nice cup of coffee anymore; a powerful symbol of his ultimate allegiance to Touka and Anteiku.

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Holy shit, Koutarou got Akira to finally grab some dinner with him! Luck was on his side, as the timing worked out…not to mention the whole matter of him saving her life and staring down the Owl while protecting her. She kinda has to go out, and she knows it.

Unfortunately, the least interesting victim in this story, Takizawa, accompanies them, and after he gets a couple drinks in him he starts to mouth off about how he’s being victimized by having the valedictorian in the same ward as him. Boo-hoo, dude. If you can cry about the prospect of classmates advancing ahead of you, you can do your paperwork properly before getting lit!

But, somewhat awesomely (what am I saying…nothing somewhat about it) Akira reveals that she’s pretty sloshed herself, and says some (but sadly not all) of the things I wanted to say to him.

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The bottom line is, Koutarou is level-headed enough to be referee between the two young guns. But while Takizawa is a whiny punk (until we learn more about him), Akira is a legitimate victim of both tragedy and her own thirst for revenge, a product of her mom and dad falling to the Owl and Rabbit, respectively. It’s the generational vicious cycle Koutarou is best equipped to break.

When he leaves, Akira turns to her partner and superior, and wonders if, like Takizawa, he’s only concerned with advancement. She mentions her father didn’t care about promotions, but at the same time, he was never offered them, beyond Koutarou’s present rank of Senior Investigator. And Akira isn’t wrong that Koutarou has the ability to keep rising.

Akira then turns on Koutarou, going so far as to call him “the one who killed my father,” while also blaming herself for being the one Mado toiled to protect. Koutarou doesn’t deny that assertion, drunk as Akira is. He uses it as one more reason why he has to become even stronger, so he can protect Akira in Mado’s stead.

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After his declaration, and perhaps remembering everything he’s done for her so far, Akira softens…before straight-up passing out. Again Koutarou must bear her slight frame on his broad back, to take her safely home. When she comes to, he moves to leave, but Akira doesn’t want him to go. For a hot second it looks like something is going to…happen, but it doesn’t quite go in that direction, interesting enough as it may be.

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Akira, with no family save a fluffy, stuck-up cat, really only wants to not be alone that night, nothing more amorous than that. But it does indicate that she trusts him, and has accepted him not only as her superior, but her friend and family too.

Koutarou decides to battle through the awkwardness—and strengthen himself for future challenges—in a very Amon Koutarou way: Push-ups. All-Night push-ups; seven thousand of them. And you know what? With hissize and strength, that count is legit.

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In the morning, Akira wastes no time remarking how the wrong idea could be gleaned by Koutarou doing vigorous physical training all night outside his subordinate’s bedroom…but she’s only teasing; more proof she’s accepted him, along with the fact she makes him breakfast (and is very good at it).

The episode closes with Bureau Director Yoshitoki announcing a ghoul-hunt for the Owl he believes is the leader of Aogiri. The strength of Koutarou and Akira’s bond—and Koutarou’s push-ups—will soon be tested. But before that happens, it was really nice to simply have a meal and get drunk with those two.

9_mag

Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

8_brav

Psycho-Pass – 07

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Note: This is a review of the first half of the fourth “Extended Edition” episode; for all intents and purposes, the seventh episode of the original run.

Whoa…this show likes to talk! But when the stuff it chooses to talk about is so fascinating, who am I to complain? For most of the episode, we’re spending time either with Rikako or Makishima, chattering away like the awesome evil bastards they are. Their monologues are important keys into what makes them tick, as well as the stifling nature of society under the Cybil system. The likes of Makishima and the criminals whose crimes he facilitates is a direct product of Cybil.

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Why not, let’s toss some necrophilia in here.

Rikako would argue that the serenity Cybil provides is a pox upon the world; a false resolution to the fundamental human question. One must look no further than her own father’s plight: a “double death” of talent and soul by science, technology, and the society that embraced both. Cybil gradually eliminated most of the “bad stress” that led to pain, suffering, and despair, but also eliminated the “good stress” (eustress) that stimulates the immune system and serves as our “will to live”; without it, we become walking corpses and our organs eventually shut down.

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Makishima is enabling these, ahem, unique individuals in part because he believes humanity is fast regressing into a mass of walking corpses. As the other member of Makishima’s conversation remarks, mankind has gotten so good at taking care of itself, all the beneficial effects have come all the way around to become harmful and destructive; decreased life expectancy (not known to the public) is direct proof of it. Makishima’s chat reveals that Cybil has caused much more than segregation and subjugation among those of differing psychological make-ups – it is quite literally killing us all.

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As a member of a free society, I hate Cybil system. A certain arrogance can spawn from the belief of “knowing better” than most of humanity in Psycho-Pass, and it’s very unnerving that a lot of the problems with the world they live in, spewed by depraved villains such as Rikako and Makishima…actually makes a little sense. Still, there is a happy medium between total psychological sterilization and hedonistic chaos…or at least I hope there is. Wait…that’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Alright, enough talk…here’s Beethoven’s Ninth, brilliantly employed during these discussions.

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Poor girl was doomed the moment she decided to talk to Rikako…

Now let’s talk plot: Makishima is providing RIkako with the plasticizing liquid necessary for her sculpture. The cops have discovered two of her works, which combined with the four committed three years ago in the Specimen case, makes six total. The fact that the victims are from the same school give Gino, Akane & Co. a place to snoop around. It’s worth noting that Rikako, as “talented” as she is in her particular gruesome field, isn’t exactly a criminal genius, or she’d pick more random victims.

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She’s either confident of completing her father’s work before she’s caught, or getting caught isn’t even on her mind. Hey, she is staring into another dimension, after all! Finally, Gino takes Kogami off the case altogether, dismissing his cold case reports as “delusional”, and orders Akane to keep an eye on him. Of course, Akane obliges, but takes the opportunity to avail herself of Kogami’s insights, as well as apologize for prying into his past. That’s so Akane: the person closest to ourselves, here in the real world: keen to bridge the light and the dark.

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