Getting better, I’ll grant you that.
With the KILL la KILL post RIGHT there, this is an auspicious time to approach this episode. Because strangely, we find ourselves with parallels between Tokaku and Ryuko. And with about the same level of warm feelings coming from me.
We flashback to Tokaku’s birth, seeing her receive her name from her grandmother. It apparently means “impossible”, referring to the sensation she is to instill in her enemies when they see her strength. Tokaku’s mother and aunt are sharing how they want Tokaku to be free from the curse of the Azuma clan. They don’t want the next generation to be murderers like themselves, and we flashforward a few years to that scene we’ve seen so often about how “whenever you want to kill, think of this place”.
Back in the real world, Haru escapes Banba by…throwing her phone? Really? That’s what catches her off balance? I guess, if we want to be generous, we could say Banba isn’t really trying. She’s drawing this out as long as she can. And to her credit, Banba is laughing her ass off every time Haru manages to sneak by. It’s a very cat-and-mouse attitude towards this “assassination”. And, having seen through to episode 11, there may be other reasons that we’ll get to then. >.> But for now it’s still working.
But the good bit is that Banba’s taunting is matched with flashbacks of herself (supposedly the Mahiru personality) as a child pounding on a huge metal door to be let out, all with Shinya saying “You’ll never ever escape,” to Haru. Banba’s story isn’t going to be addressed directly, rather through these flashbacks, where we get to fill in the details. Admittedly, it does seem a little dark, very likely the child porn route. Eventually, Banba escapes, which is where she gets that scar across her face, by killing one of the men who was taking pictures of her.
This is a more subdued element of backstory. It is the halfway point between what we are used to, and the way Kirigaya exited the show with no insight into her life. And really these exist as a Chekov’s Gun towards the end of the episode.
Perhaps they felt really digging into why grown men would imprison a six year old and take flash photos of her to be too dark for the mood of this series. Which is, frankly, one of the serious problems here. This is supposed to be a pretty intense theme, self-aware or not. The fact we aren’t willing to breach that dark area and “ruin the mood” of our murder plot speaks volumes to the missed potential here. The theme may be dark, but we’re still rated PG after all.
…Another similarity to KILL la KILL…
But I do like the cat and mouse game. Haru gets away by the skin of her teeth several times.
Back at the ninja battle, Tokaku does get the better of Isuke, but can’t bring herself to kill her yet again. She runs off to find Haru, but Isuke recovers, and catching up to her, knocks her out a window. Luckily, Tokaku has this window and tree to break her fall. Sure.
The fights converge in the auditorium, Banba has Haru cornered, when the projector flashes on. This causes Banba to have a flashback to that prison room, and it sends her into a fit of screaming and weeping. Haru jumps up, pleased. When Isuke emerges from the light. She gives Banba a beating.
A theory. Banba is far more realistic than has been given credit. I stand by my statement that last episode was meant to be a more symbolic interaction between Mahiru and Shinya than a LITERAL conversation Gollum-style. And I feel this scene here backs me up. Mahiru and Shinya…that’s just how a little girl divided the bad thoughts and good thoughts in her head. Shinya is extremely deferential to the Mahiru personality. Whenever people ask questions about HER, intended towards the Shinya half, half the time she answers “Mahiru likes ___”. The line is not so cartoonishly applied as it originally seemed. The personalities aren’t a switch like a light, but rather a more real-world demonstration of a Dissociative Identity. She has a curious longing to be a single identity, and is likely where all this baggage of her past has been dumped, as demonstrated by the flashback with the blood running down her face with Shinya’s smile. This strong personality exists “in the dark”, away from flashing light. And her voice when Isuke beats the hell out of her sounds much more like Mahiru. Which might explain why she is the one active during the daylight. She doesn’t cope with the light well, she isolates herself in a very tangible way. It is the absence of that stimuli that allows the Shinya tendencies to emerge.
Mind, I’m docking you points for not making this an issue in episode 7, show, when those floodlights came on. Though if I recall Banba had just dived into the water…hmm…maybe you do get a pass…
Tokaku, dazed and concussed, is remembering the day her aunt was killed by her grandmother. Yep. We get this scene with Tokaku naked with her mother in the ether because…because science.
Basically Tokaku takes the agency away from that…hypnosis shrine thing…and says she will decide for herself from now on.
The big problem here is that, other than that first instance, this has not been shown to be a major problem. It hasn’t impeded her at all. You need more than the previous episode to get us to care about it. Just because you MENTIONED it once and never tackled it again doesn’t give you a pass.
And, I pull my quote from the KLK review: “I know I was fighting Life Fibers before (as my dad intended), but that was just happenstance. Now I’m CHOOSING to fight Life Fibers! (as my dad intended)” Tokaku pulls the same stunt here, beating Isuke but not killing her. Or, I presume not killing her. Would be pretty fucking stupid to tie up the hands of a dead woman.
I understand, on the one hand, the need of adults needing comprehension for morality to stick. We tell kids “you just do” when we haven’t got the language to explain complicated social issues to them in a way that satisfies their morality. As we grow older, we are then better able to see an issue from all sides, and make a moral decision based (hopefully) more on rationale, and not because “someone told us not to”. And sometimes, those rules break when enough people think about it on their own (see: the rise of gay marriage).
But, the untrusting, suspicious asshole that is your host has this to ask: How will you really know it’s your choice and not a way to manipulate your senses until you kill? That whole Matrix thing (which has roots in Second Foundation): If people think they’re making a choice, they’re more liable to go along with the plans you have scripted for them.
This episode, while an improvement, is still showing the serious flaws with this show. But this whole endeavor would have been much more interesting with more of these details. More assassins teaming up, more assassins taking out other assassins, more frantic chase scenes rather than the single “CONFRONTATION!” that we’re used to by now. And most importantly, more backstory handled in this subdued way. You’re not an ensemble show anymore, Akuma no Riddle. You’re about the story of Haru and Tokaku. Just wish you’d realized it sooner.