If I ran the toll booth at the River Styx…
I am dreading how long this review will get. Because we still have a lot of unfinished business with this series that the show seems to want to move away from.
Central to this story, beyond the characters that are introduced, is the function and facilitation of judgments.
In the past weeks, we’ve tried to discern what the “rules” are supposed to be. For example, why does Machiko get sent to the eternal dark for sleeping with someone who wasn’t her BOYFRIEND (remember, they weren’t married yet, they had no “sacred vows” or anything), yet her husband, Takashi, is given a pass to reincarnate because he wants to throttle his WIFE.
Why does Miura and Mai’s game not feature any Arbiter dickery?
Why does Yousuke get reincarnated yet Misaki get eternal dark, when both were as sorrowful and regretful over their lives? Because Misaki hit Yousuke during the game? How is that different from Takashi literally BEGGING Decim to release him so he can “hit the bitch”? Maybe it’s because Misaki did it during the game, and the game is the only part that counts? No, wait, we see from this week that isn’t true either.
In short the judgments so far have been very confounding. Perhaps that is the point, but this set of episodes is going to behave like there are ACTUAL rules here. Rules that we REALLY should have an understanding of before the characters begin picking them apart.
Now we’ve understood the part about “drawing out the darkness” for some time.
But I always figured that it was a sort of “you don’t truly know someone until you fight them” motif. Lots of people hate that phrase, but I subscribe to it. Perhaps more eloquently, “you don’t understand the content of a person’s character until they are your enemy”. The difference between the “good ex” who parts amicably and you still talk to, vs. “the bad ex” who texts you death threats for weeks and weeks following your break up. That sort of thing.
I always felt that was what was at play here. Break someone down without social constraints restraining them, and see the true content of their soul when they have nothing to hide behind, no excuses to make. See what a person must do when they are entirely self-contained emotionally and see their sides emerge.
But this story seems intent that, no, the darkness itself IS the scale we’re using. Which is an entirely different animal. Not only is that the opposite of a method that exposes someone’s base nature, it obfuscates everything about their personality.
Even Mr. Rogers on his worst day might not pass this test. WHATEVER THE HELL IT’S MEASURING.
There’s a lot more to say, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Let’s examine the episode properly.
Decim receives a memory transfer, but something’s wrong. He calls Nona, saying that there’s a murderer among the guests, and he has no experience with these types of judgments. Nona dismisses his concerns, saying that humans are humans, judgments are judgments.
It’s obvious that our pet project is being set up for an all-or-nothing gambit. That the result of this judgment should be something spectacular that will prove Nona’s risk was worth it. Whatever that is, we don’t need the details but we do get the general message.
And it seems there is a procedure. Because one of the guests, Shimada, has a bloody knife in his bag. Now that we know these are dolls and recreated completely by the afterlife, it seems dubious that he has this item.
We know that Tatsumi, the older detective, isn’t given similar treatment. His attire is more like what he envisions himself as, a professional man, properly trim and dressed. When we’ll later find out that he was not dressed this way. I can’t help but feel this is indicating there’s a proper way to handle this outside the usual method.
Either way, Tatsumi says, in his experience as a detective, he knows Decim isn’t a killer. His eyes are all wrong. And he’s not a liar, either.
Well they go along with it, because otherwise there’s no show. It’s air hockey time.
So our first flashback is from Shimada’s perspective, and we find he and his sister were orphaned. He’s been working full time since high school, a big deal in Japan. For his part, Tatsumi admires his dedication to his sister, recognizing the sacrifice he made for her.
During a break, we’re given some ambiguity regarding Nona’s pet project. Tatsumi says he knows Decim possesses no human emotions. He’s a blank slate.
Now this might be unreliable narrator, but he is also an expert in his field. So who really knows which way this goes.
Time for a big flashback. Tatsumi remembers his wife was murdered. A revenge killing from someone Tatsumi put away.
Ah ha! He’s the murderer!
But now time for Shimada’s big flashback. We see back to when his sister, whom he sacrificed his future for, was raped while he was away at work.
Kurokami wants to see. She demands to see the memories of the guests. Because we can do that. I guess. No I get it, they have to get the dolls the memories somehow.
When, dun-dun-dunnnn, they’re BOTH the killer! …Wait.
So, I have to say, I do love the way this episode plays with perspective. When we first meet the pair, Tatsumi’s look scream psychopath, and trying to outthink the show, we say “Oh, that must mean Shimada is the killer”, but then they show us the bloody knife, intending us to draw the other conclusion, leaving us guessing which way this goes.
But my main criticism remains, there’s not a lot to do with the “Game” portion. The darts? That was great. It was a game where someone’s intention to betray the other is made clear. The video game was also good. The game itself, kind of meh, but the way Misaki “played the man not the game” made it interesting. But this judgment is much like the bowling one, there’s absolutely nothing here except two people shooting the shit while they play. The only difference is that our players here had much darker lives, so their back and forth takes darker tones. If anything bowling could have worked here, but that seems more like a game when someone is “hiding” something from the other. This air hockey thing…what’s the point? Just to see some organs bleed when they score, I think. There’s nothing really interesting here.
Episode 9 begins with Shimada’s murder. I mean the one he does, not…you know what I mean.
We see him flashback to his sister squeezing his hand, telling him there was more than one, that the friend “just watched”.
Tatsumi gets a flashback, too. He avenged his wife. Shimada is unsure whether to proceed after the violent memory unlock, but Tatsumi says he must. He doesn’t mind being sacrificed (they’re still under the impression the game will kill the loser) if it means Shimada can do away with a bad person.
I want to compliment this as the first moment the game was interesting, but this could have come from any kind of death game.
Shimada scores again, sparking Tatsumi’s final memory. He goes Japanese Batman on the guy Shimada was stalking, finding him dead.
Yes, they both killed each other.
Shimada is horrified though. This is Tatsumi! His buddy! His vigilante bro!
But Tatsumi doesn’t really seem to mind. He’s more offended to have the rapist’s blood in his body from the knife than anything.
Now let’s take a left turn into Death Note country. Tatsumi reveals he was watching him rape Shimada’s sister. He had to, as he puts it, “prove for sure” that he was a bad guy. But his litmus for this is that, “he might have stabbed her with the knife”.
Only…we’ve established that Tatsumi felt his crimes were so great, he deserved to be killed. I could maybe -understand- his line of reasoning if he was saying “Rapists don’t deserve execution, but murderers do”. But that’s clearly not what we’re seeing here.
This is all muddied more because the show is trying to conflate Tatsumi with the Arbiters. It makes this affirmation feel more like a flimsy pretense more than a soapbox.
Shimada wants to kill Tatsumi, and Decim obliges. You can’t exactly kill anyone here, but because of the game, you can inflict horrific pain upon his organs!
Kurokami breaks down now, saying this is all stupid. She says everyone has darkness, and that the arbiter tests are just ways of proving that its there, not ascertaining the level. Which I don’t think is true, as we saw from Takashi’s case.
Isn’t this the same? Takashi wanted to beat his wife, but that didn’t count against him. Isn’t that supposed to be because his wife “wronged” him by sleeping with someone else (before they were married *cough*), so he was “justified” in how his pupils dilated and he screamed at the top of lungs that he wanted to “hit the bitch”?
How is this much different?
Do you see what I mean here? The show wants us to take this plight seriously. You can call this overanalyzing if you want, but I’ve been quite forgiving of the hiccups in logic over the past weeks if I do say so myself. Like the knife. It makes zero sense from the presentation. But I don’t give it a lot of crap because, whatever, it wants to tell me its story. And so far it’s presented it very well.
This point, though, is different. It’s the central premise of the story at hand, and arguably going to be the driving force behind the climax of the series. IT NEEDS TO MAKE SENSE.
Kurokami says that all arbiters do is draw up darkness and say “There it is! Like we expected! Guilty!” …Only that hasn’t seemed like it at all. Dickery abounds in the games, but in no way does this seem to be the SOP for the arbiters. This is all very disconnected. It’s only made worse by the fact we still don’t know, in the slightest, what these tests are ACTUALLY measuring. Is it as Kurokami says? Because if so they’ve been doing a really shitty job of it. The writers, I mean, not the arbiters. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t delivered that this was a big “shock!”
Ironically, we get an interesting insight into how silly the whole game business is in this show. Tatsumi wonders aloud if Kurokami’s objections and her attempts to talk Shimada down are part of the test. So he responds accordingly, loudly proclaiming his philosophy of culling the wretched and sacrificing a few pretty things.
See, that’s something I’ve wondered about this show. Why NOT just tell them they’re dead? I mean, that could be a way to get your information, right? Tatsumi responds here how he THINKS kami WANT him to respond. And that in itself is a very important measure of a person’s personality. Because he shows what HE believes to be truly divine.
And admittedly, the credit sequence as Shimada breaks down and takes his revenge is well done.
…Someone open a window though, that smell of Death Note hasn’t left the room yet.
Kurokami does make good after-credits points, I’ll hand her those. People can be simple, and they can get worked up over little things. A judgment over the span of 20mins seems silly if, as they claim, they aren’t REALLY getting a lot of information from the memories. Which seems to fly in the face of what Nona said about them being “necessary”.
But this is all new information to us if true. This trial was masterfully executed, but horribly planned.