The view from Igirisu:
“The outside world really is wonderful.”
Nanami might look innocent, but it’s pretty clear that we have met the most powerful witch so far. Her telepathic powers give her the ability to control anyone she can make eye contact with, implanting new memories into their brains in an instant. She can also wipe their memories of her, or regress them to childhood. That last one is quite shocking to watch. I felt no sympathy for the creepy guy who tried to hassle her and got turned back into a five-year-old, but it does seem like a nastier thing to do than killing somebody, and in fact if you think of a person in terms of anything other than a physical body then it is actually a form of murder.
Her powers are so awe-inspiring that it looks unlikely that she will become a regular member of the group, and not just because she’s not in the opening or ending title sequences. She potentially shifts the balance in their favour so much that she provides instant resolution to their problems. She could raise an army in minutes, or turn the government against the organisation that has been holding her captive. She’s a great character, but sadly I would be surprised if she’s around for much longer. The thought did occur to me that she might have an important job to do first though: could Neko be about to become Kuroneko again?
The extent of her powers also makes it hard to believe that she would be allowed out with just one minder, because she could single-handedly bring down the whole organisation, but then again these “scientists” are not known for their common sense. They have already allowed an extraordinary number of their test subjects to escape, so I suppose it would make sense that they would mess up their latest plan.
Nanami continues our running theme of girls who have been removed from society, getting to experience life in the real world for the first time, and learning about friendship. As always, it is Murakami who is the key to her salvation. He’s an old hand at this, immediately asking to be friends. It’s not enough to stop her from trying to mind wipe him, but it does play on her mind enough that eventually it makes her think about what friendship actually means, and in a very sad moment she sees a couple of normal school girls chatting away and says, “so those are friends; how nice.” There is depth in the characterisation as well. Writer Lynn Okamoto likes to go for shades of grey for his villains, which was a great strength of Elfen Lied and continues here. Nanami lobotomises her enemies without a second thought, and yet she gives the money she has just prostituted herself for to a couple of kids, to protect their friendship.
“Don’t waste time fighting. Friends should hold each other dear.”
There is some justification for the fanservice this week, although I’m not sure we needed to see what Nanami’s minder sees. I’m also not sure whether to give the writer a free pass on the skirt raising or not. It doesn’t actually function as fanservice as such, but it’s a little bit odd because the excuse is to get people’s attention so Nanami can make eye contact, and yet if she does that then her eyes are clearly not going to be what people are looking at. Perhaps she just needs a direct line of sight to their eyes herself, rather than having her victims look directly into her eyes, but it’s a bit of a clumsy idea, and as her minder points out it’s not necessary anyway:
“You’re very attractive. People will stop and stare even if you just stand there.”
Surely she could just shout something out to get attention, anyway. It’s all a bit unnecessarily pervy. Speaking of which, we get yet another bath scene, but Murakami’s reactions continue to subvert the trope to the point where it is almost justified by doing something new with the old cliché. He barges in, ignores all the skin on show, and just gets on with imparting his urgent information about Nanami. I don’t know of any other anime that wouldn’t pause the storyline at that moment for the main character to (a) get flustered, (b) get a nosebleed, (c) get punched into the middle of next week, or (d) all three of those things. Murakami continues to be a class above the usual harem anime protagonist, and also once again displays his remarkable perceptiveness this episode, figuring out just about everything about Nanami in seconds.
At the end of the episode it looks like trouble is brewing for Nanami, and Murakami’s promise to “find a way to help you” is looking unlikely to be fulfilled. We’ve seen them all fail to save a friend before, but if they can’t protect Nanami then this one’s really going to hurt… RP
The view from Amerika:
Having been left a little bummed by Murakami in the last episode, I was slow to start episode 9. I didn’t like his treatment of Kazumi and I wasn’t loving the idea of a girl who lifts her skirt and then wipes/reads peoples minds, so I wasn’t really as gung-ho for this story as I had been for others. Yet within seconds, I realize why Nanami lifts her skirt. It’s not to be pervy; she needs people to look at her so she can see their eyes. (This is verified within the first 10 minutes, but I was glad it dawned on me before it was spelled out.) I can compare that cleverness to going fishing: I’m the fish and I’ve seen the worm. Then the worm started to move which really caught my attention. That movement was the words this villain was saying. “I need a lot of sugar”, “The outside world is really nice”, “you won’t forget me, will you sir?” What sort of villain is this? I want to be her friend. And amazingly, so did Murakami! Suddenly I’m interested in both again and I’m respecting Murakami’s willingness to protect the weak, the freaks, and the friendless.
So what we have here is a complete 180 from the disappointing way Murakami treated Kazumi just one episode ago. His character is shown in better light and Nanami is more than we are lead to believe. She is a character who does what she does because she knows no other way to be. When she sees friends walking together, she looks at them longingly. She also gets hungry a lot, which I can completely relate to. I was disappointed that she tricked Murakami, but she was doing the only things she had been told and never had larger life experiences to tell her that what she was doing was wrong. That said, her manipulation of those around her was brilliant and I’ve never seen mind control done so well before in a movie or tv show. (Or maybe she wiped my mind and I just think that!) The sequence of her using all the people around her to help knock the glasses off her “leash” was brilliant. And even after her trickery of Murakami and Neko, her recognition that Murakami and the other witches actually do want to be friends is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I punched the air when Neko actually gave her a hug and she started to tear up. Damn, I’m a sap! Her comment “I’m so glad to be alive” just resonates so much and I think the show just climbed to a new level.
In fairness to Murakami, he is a pretty sharp guy, which actually makes last episode a bit more annoying. If he’s so dim around Kazumi, why is he so sharp here? Still, this is about episode 9, so I’ll stay focused: in this episode, he’s brilliant. He figures things out about Nanami as he’s standing there covering his eyes. Even after she thinks she’s turned him into a mewling baby, notice that there’s a pause. He doesn’t react until he knows what she expects. When she says he’s now a baby, he acts like a baby. It’s subtle, but it’s damned good writing.
Not as much humor this time around short of the naked bath scene. Someone took responsibility for massaging things, eh?. However, when Murakami returns, it’s actually amazingly well handled. There’s no awkwardness, because he has news and he must share it. Everyone is dressed quickly and they get on with it. Where it was a bit more painful was when Nanami sells a look at her body to the guy who has been her keeper up until now. But even then, there’s a casualness to it; even his reaction was noncommittal. “Well, that just happened.” The sex portion is treated as barely a thing; so nonchalant that they could have been eating ice cream! Speaking of which, Nanami got some ice cream and I desperately want some too. So I think I know what I’m going to do now, before I start episode 10… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 10