The view from Igirisu:
This episode is a massive info-dump, and I am reliably informed by those who have read the manga that we are rushing through chapters and leaving out huge chunks of the story. The problem with that is the pacing becomes so fast that it is all a bit bewildering, and the lack of build-up to certain plot elements are insufficient to create the emotional kick that these huge developments should have.
There’s a lot to take in here, and also a lot of mysteries, and it will be interesting to see if everything gets resolved in the final episode or if any plot threads will still be left dangling. I’m still waiting to find out what Kazumi meant when she told Kana she can move.
We get our first encounter between the good guys and Ichijiku, and some insight into his psyche. He values his life only, and one other life, and considers everyone else to be insects. He functions brilliantly as the polar opposite character to Murakami, who doesn’t just argue for the opposite philosophy of life, but demonstrates it by laying down his life for Kuroneko:
“There will always be a life more precious than my own, always.”
Luckily Hatsuna is on hand to save him, at the cost of her own life, or so she says. This is an example of how rushed the story has become, because that comes out of the blue, with no explanation as to how she knows that it will kill her (after all, she can’t have tried it before and formed that opinion!) and a clear contradiction to what she said before about her invincibility unless she gets ejected. At the end of the episode those tendrils are doing their thing, so it looks like she is coming back. One of the most impressive things about this episode is how the plot twists and turns. You might have expected Murakami’s death to be reversed somehow, but probably not Hatsuna. It’s a rollercoaster viewing experience.
We also get the introduction of the Hexenjagd, who are such a last-minute plot convenience that they just add to the confusion, although their origins make sense as defected scientists (just how incompetent is this organisation? They’ve been losing scientists and witches at a rate of knots!) and I liked the reference to witch hunts, in both their name and attire. I also loved Murakami’s dismissal of them and their values:
“You can take your resistance and shove it up your ass.”
It was lovely to see Nanami again, if only in spirit, and she certainly had something interesting to say about Kuroneko and the third button. Kuroneko has some hidden power that remains a mystery, as does the nature of her relationship with Mako the Valkyria, who really didn’t want to kill her, the first time we have seen her express any kind of feelings for anyone other than Ichijiku. We also learnt about Ichikiku’s experiments, which are pure Frankenstein, although his single-minded obsession with his lost love added a layer to the character beyond the one-dimensional moustache-twirler. He’s basically a mashup of Doctor Frankenstein and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, broken by the loss of the only person he ever loved.
Less successful is the revelation of Kotori as number 1107. It doesn’t quite come out of the blue because there has been that whole mystery about why none of the other girls know her, and where she suddenly appeared from, but she has always been a less significant member of the harem, rarely contributing anything important other than the occasional use of her party trick, so this fails to have the emotional kick that it might have done with one of the other girls whose characters have been more fleshed out. Her predicament is terrifying, though, as is the idea that those aliens are going to hatch out of all the witches eventually, but there’s a bigger problem to deal with first.
“The switch that will destroy all of humanity is you.”
…and that switch has been well and truly pressed. The energy released from Kotori is spreading across the whole planet. The stakes don’t get much higher than that. RP
The view from Amerika:
You know, I am sure by now, Roger will have mentioned it – we may have said in the past, we do not coordinate what we will write about barring the episode itself; any observations are entirely our own – but the opening music that cropped up out of nowhere is atrocious. The original opening, after the first time or two, I would casually bypass to get into the episode (the music runs exactly 1:30) but this new opening, I don’t give a chance to play. And it’s weird, because it happened so suddenly and nearing the end of the series. What, 3 of the final episodes have it and it’s coupled with a bunch of images that don’t work well. But then, the show itself is sort of disjointed. Some episodes are great, some are weak. Some follow an arc, some are slice of life. Some have me loving certain characters, and then they may lose that chemistry and leave us with a lackluster thought about one of them just one episode later. But we’re in the penultimate episode. Everything has to come together now in a way that makes it pack the punch needed to bring it all home. How does it do?
I was actually disappointed. I didn’t expect that. It’s an exposition heavy episode with talk of Drasels (?) and the sudden arrival of the puritans (Hexenjagd) that seems so dangerous until they simply are not! They seem to be on a holy quest to wipe out a demon or an actual witch when in reality it’s an alien.. more on that in a second. 1107 is “Ms. Udders”, the one girl no one seems to have known from the lab, Kotori Takatori because she has something living in her that can destroy all life on earth. It seems, aliens seeded the planet. (This must have sat poorly with Roger, too, who is never a fan of aliens being responsible for all of our accomplishments… let alone life itself!)
The main baddie, Ichijiku, has no understanding of life beyond his own and his motivations are entirely unclear. He asks what life really is, which I was hoping would lead to an interesting discussion, but it’s just him looking at life like a thing to be studied. His lackey, Valkyria (whose real name is Mako) loves him, and even after she learns that he doesn’t care about her, she goes on loving him. I was thinking it would lead to a major change in loyalty! Ichijiku seems to have had some girl he loved that he removed her head from her body to give her continued life in another body, because ultimately, the essence is kept in the brain… I mean, it got complicated even for this lifelong science fiction fan and it felt like had it been a little less convolution, it could have made a far better story. (Sure, some of this may be related to the translation, but man, this was worse that anything Stephen Moffat ever did with Doctor Who… I think!) And speaking of Mako, she attempts to use her destructive power to wipe out Neko no fewer than 3 times, but fails each time. Mind you, this was a girl who could antimatter detonate an entire mountain before, but she can’t hit 5 people in a room now. Things that make you go “hmmm”! Her closest attempt rips half of Murakami’s chest off, and to my shock, he’s actually dying.
I think if this episode did anything right, it was killing one of the main characters and it had to be Murakami to really blow my mind. Thankfully, Hatsuna has the (previously unstated) ability to use her powers on someone else, which leads to an unexpected twist. I did notice right away that she didn’t melt to quite the same extent as the others do, so I had my hopes that she might still be alive. One small scene may have helped keep that hope alive.
And that leads to the last issue I had with this. Hatsuna has her harnest thing back. She sees it on the ground after she was ripped in half so I thought she was free of it. In the dubs, she says “The beacon… it must have come off when Valkyria hit me” and she rubs the back of her neck. So I thought she was the one person who was freed of the high-backed chair illuminati’s power. Yet in this episode, she has the harnest still. So… what gives? (And can I make a reasonable acronym out of that? HBCI people?)
I haven’t disliked this show, but it’s not been to the quality of the studio’s earlier work, Elfen Lied. The characters might actually be more likable, but the story is too disjointed that is just falls short. But, I have one episode left to find out if they pull it all out of the jaws of doom and give me a classic in the end. Roughly 22 minutes to find out. This is going to be a massive win if they can pull off everything they need to in that short a time! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 13