Yeah I had a boss like that, too, Nona.
We open on Master Roshi-sama practicing his billiards game. He lays out the three rules of arbitration.
-First, Arbiters cannot cease giving judgments, that is their very purpose. Their dharma, if you will.
-Second, Arbiters must not experience death, because the experience would make them too Human. Arguably too sympathetic? Lose their impartiality? Or would such an experience give them bias of a different kind?
-Third, Arbiters cannot experience emotion, because they are dolls.
Kurokami stumbles into the book among the many books about alcohol that populate Decim’s shelf. Yes, that book. That one she has dreamt of and her mother read to her as a child, so the flashbacks would imply.
But Decim has no idea where the book came from. He guesses it to be the property of Quindecim’s previous arbiter. Sparking flashbacks!
We meet Quin, who is leaving the job. Decim will be taking over for her. Ginti and Decim are having a sort of orientation, similar to Kurokami’s in Episode 2, only they will be participating, having the buzzers which can cause mayhem with the game. We don’t see much about this particular arbitration, but they are playing billiards, a nice shout out to the original form of this series.
Decim makes up the drinks, and this convinces Quin that’s he’s perfect for the job! Oh Quin, I love you. Of course it’s very clear she’s overeager to be done with this job.
But Nona has a question. Why did Decim fail to use his device? Decim apologizes, he was too distracted watching the pair’s behavior and what they were thinking. Ginti laughs this off as Humans are idiots and even if you could discern their thoughts, it wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t change anything. But Decim thinks otherwise, and says he feels respect for anyone who has lived a full life.
Nona admires this, but as Decim was unable to discern their thoughts, she advises him to use their artificial means to create conflict in the future. It’s obvious she wants him to develop this skill, but she is the boss still, and needs a job to get done properly.
Quin offers one last piece of advice. Find something you treasure, no matter how small.
This segues nicely into Kurokami asking what Decim’s treasure is, so he shows her. It’s the room of mannequins from before that Decim often uses to scare people.
Kurokami, bless her heart, is confused as hell. And as Kurokami fumbles around trying to figure out his angle, as he neither enjoys it, nor thinks of it as a hobby, we see a doll that looks remarkably like Machiko, back from Episode 1.
Decim explains that with the numbers of memories he downloads (oh who knows what to call it) Arbiters frequently have their minds purged. They forget most of their past cases. And the Humans who come here are not people nor souls, but dolls. We saw an example of this last time.
And that is his hobby. He commandeers the Dolls that pass who fascinate him. So that, in some small way, the brilliant person that they were will live on. His collection is made up of his favorites.
While this is going on, Nona has been getting a little visit from Quin, now working for the information bureau, those fancy people who sort the recently dead and assign them to Arbiters.
Quin complains that the afterlife is actually falling behind the death rate of the Human population, doing a half cocked job at it. Which is an amusing little thing. 84,000 Hells sounds like a lot back in the day, but today, every hell still would have nearly a million people waiting inside it.
But then she asks about Nona, and she regrets things are “not well.” Quin says its to be expected, “he” (remember, pronouns don’t really exist) is a new Arbiter, and doesn’t really have doubts about judgments. Putting Human emotions into an Arbiter is a risky move.
But of course, who is she referring to? Decim, or Kurokami? The phrasing (and scene transition of the episode) makes it seem like Decim. But…we see a copy of that same picturebook in Nona’s possession.
And Ginti seems to have claimed a new house guest. His cat has buddied up to Mayu from last episode. She argues that the games are ridiculous, as people will typically look out for their best interests. That’s particularly true with a complete stranger, as some of these cases seem able to be. But that confounds Ginti, as Mayu sacrificed herself for her idol.
So, it’s up to you how you want to interpret this. Is Ginti taking in his own tagalong to see what’s so great that the normally proper, stuck up Decim would take on Kurokami? Did her selfless act trigger something in him that he is just naturally curious about, breaking his preconceptions about Humanity? Or is he just a slave to his cat, as all cat owners are? You be the judge.
Cutting back to Quin and Nona, and feeding that question “which one is the Arbiter with emotions?”, Quin seems to “change topic” to Decim. Nona seems to pay him a lot of attention, but as we figured out, she just likes having different styles of Arbiter around, and Decim seems particularly unique.
Meanwhile, God is watching you while you sleep. I have to say this episode’s humor has been spot on. But we do see through Roshi-sama’s drunken monkey act. He knows Nona is up to SOMETHING, and it’s likely he knows exactly what’s up. But she plays dumb regardless.
And cutting to the credits, we see her with her skull friend who assigns judgments. She sends Decim a particularly nasty case, even over the objections of computer lady here, saying that it requires a specialized Arbiter. But Nona pushes, and in the end gets her way. I rather like this aspect about the afterlife, or, Yama or whatever these guys are playing to be. It might be significant, but it’s still just a JOB to them. No sacred laws or binding holy contracts, just a filing that can be re-filed, and while a rule’s been broken it’s not any worse than skipping the security check when you need to rush and close shop, no one’s doomed.
OR ARE THEY!?
Next time we’ll tackle this set of episodes. What indeed will come of this? Hopefully its promising, because I don’t think we can take another change in format.
This episode was an effective bit of filler/exposition. It sets up the big final conflict while giving us context for all we’ve seen thus far, so while not particularly fascinating on its own, it does a great job of getting the business done, much like how all the filing in the afterlife may not be as exciting as the judgments, but it needs to happen.