The son of Episode 1.
Yep, back to back! And how. Night and day, cats and dogs, Englishmen and Frenchmen…uh…poetic antonym #47.
Spring 2014 is turning into the season of second pilots. This episode was completely unlike anything in the series so far. Actually, scratch that, this feels like it follows naturally from Episode 2. There’s meta plot, there’s character development, and the interpersonal politics are starting to show. Best of all was the atmosphere, where there really are some exciting fights and thriller moments. It did a great job of selling the dread of Haru and Tokaku against the world with no allies to turn to, in a sea of ruthless murderers who are after Haru’s pretty little head. Episode 8 works because it’s about what Akuma no Riddle was supposed to be about in the first place.
In short, this show is ACTUALLY entertaining for once. It’s just a shame it took us so long to get here.
Isuke is on the phone with mother, Eisuke. And if you’ll remember Episode 2, her mother is a man. He’s in the middle of a job, and as we surmised, it’s a family business, even casually shooting people while he’s on the phone with Isuke. Effective is that Isuke is shy of admitting Tokaku outsmarted her once, saying her poison was lost, rather than wasted. This flies in the face of what she used to badger Haruki for, saying family was stupid and pointless. But I don’t think it’s character inconsistency, it’s sold more as a blind spot that Isuke either doesn’t notice or want to admit to.
And after her display of insight last week, I’m even willing to entertain the possibility her lazy sociopath valley girl (but I repeat myself) personality is just a front she wears to keep others off balance.
After credits, Nio is speaking with the Chairwoman, or Organizer, we’ve never really pinned down a title for her just yet. Point being, she’s now speculating on who will attack next, Banba or Isuke. This is a good move because it sets up an audience expectation that it both fulfills and subverts in the same pass, and I’ll admit I wasn’t looking too terribly closely yet because of this show’s history. She speculates that Hanabusa will be last, “due to the content of her wish”. So it will probably be Isuke or Banba. Isuke wants money, and it’s implied she wants to use it to set her parents up comfortably for a leisurely retirement, but being Isuke we really can’t be sure.
What does Banba want? “NASINGU!” Yes, she’s not even here for a reward, she just wants to…kill Haru. I guess. It’s a trump being held in the show’s back pocket, though I have a theory what went down with it I’ll explain at the end.
The Chairwoman speculates that Haru (or Tokaku…she never DOES specify) will make a good candidate for “Queen Bee”.
“How long did your Black Class take, Chairwoman?” “Six days.” But if the Chairwoman was assassin, or target, we’re not told.
Haru and Tokaku are enjoying the bath, when Banba enters. And since we are at night, it’s the Shinya personality. There’s a bit of interaction, but my favorite bit is when she bids them goodnight and Tokaku sighs “Is she next?” I don’t know if this is the show trying to be clever and misdirect our attention, or a very self-aware jab at itself.
But then Haru probes a tender spot. She asks what Tokaku will do when the game’s over, but she has no answer, ushering her to bed.
We then get an internal scene in Banba’s head between the Mahiru and Shinya personalities, though I think this is meant to be more symbolic than a literal conversation. We get the impression that the Shinya personality is a tough screen to guard the far more fragile Mahiru personality, out of some love for herself, perhaps. “I will protect Mahiru’s smile” and all that. Because we’ve gotten the hints that Shinya does things for Mahiru’s benefit, half the time she refers to what “Mahiru likes” and “She should do this” rather than her own personality. She also says she will take care of the hard part, as she has always done. It’s a nice subversion, as it seems to be setting up that, at least among the pair, Shinya is the “normal” person, whereas Mahiru is the one with the homicidal urges, which Shinya only seems to carry out on her behalf as a way of making her happy. It’s contrary to our expectation and I appreciate the detail. We get a reinforcement of this as Shinya sits down for tea with Hanabusa.
Meanwhile, Nio is paying Isuke back for last time, observing she was on the phone, and surmising it was her family. While her wish was for money, Nio seems to have hit the nail on the head as far as what Isuke will use it on. I like to think this is her putting Isuke in her place, after a fashion, for her questions last week. Isuke seems to share my opinion, as despite all the questions being asked of her, she only responds that Nio shouldn’t assume everything will go according to plan.
…Damn, keep this up and we’re going to have a quality show.
Class the next day is out early, as a typhoon is approaching. Tokaku is mulling over her future plans though, unable to listen to the lecture. Or rather, her absolute lack of plans. She clearly thinks that she and Haru will be going their separate ways. There’s more Nio/Haru antics, which I still adore. But veiled within them is some information. Specifically regarding the occult. “it all exists,” Nio says in her usual cheshire-cat face, “Vengeful ghosts, curses, it moves without anyone knowing about it.” I imagine this may come into play at a later date. Or it could just be a throwaway line.
Haru opens her umbrella, and a note falls out. It’s addressed from Banba. More subversion! Even the credit bumper, is a picture of Banba’s twin personalities, but the text is about Isuke and Eisuke.
The girls are running, when they bump into Isuke…who lunges at Haru. There’s a pretty intense fight where Isuke manages to get the better of Tokaku, and Tokaku surmises that Isuke wrote Banba’s name instead of her own. Hey, no rule against it.
Admittedly, clever, though with the typhoon we had the golden opportunity for it to fall out of Haru’s umbrella and be carried off in the wind, leaving the pair in the dark about who was coming.
We get a little flashback about how Eisuke saved Isuke from abusive parents, though they killed her brother. He takes her under his wing as an apprentice and daughter.
Tokaku is barricading Haru inside a classroom, while she goes out to handle Isuke. What? No Haru standing around like damsel in distress?
Well she meets her, and Isuke can’t help but brag. She’s noticed that Tokaku purposefully avoids any attack that would mortally wound her enemy. Earlier, we had seen Isuke give in to mad laughter, and I imagine it had to do with her testing her theory. If she had been wrong, at that one strike, Tokaku would have killed her. But she bet her life and won, probably why she went into the hysterics.
But knowing this, Isuke can leave herself wide open while striking without worry of reprieve. However…she still has one serious miscalculation. She still thinks this is because Tokaku is afraid of killing. Meaning once the block goes, Isuke’s theory goes right out the window.
Meanwhile, Haru’s door is being bashed in. No, literally. It’s Banba’s sledgehammer with her note taped on the head. I rather loved that. But there’s a genuine feeling of panic in this scene. Haru will have to get out of this on her own, and from what we’ve seen…she’s kind of terrible at that. It’s suspense! I know!
Isuke taunts Tokaku as they hear the door get smashed from a different wing of the school. She didn’t expect Banba to be so reliable. Tokaku’s face as she realizes she’s been outmaneuvered is priceless.
Now, whether or not they both played their notes at the same time, I think it’s plausible that they agreed to work together. After all, Banba has no wish, what does it matter if she spends it on what Isuke wants? In such an agreement it even opens up the possibility that Isuke never actually used her note (though the show is inclining us otherwise). She might be the distraction to throw them off into this vulnerable situation so Banba can finish Haru off. Perhaps I just want this so we can keep Isuke around longer.
So, yeah. Consider me pleasantly surprised. I had all but given up on Akuma no Riddle, but now that the show is actually…you know…being the show it promised it would be, I am loving every second of it.