Last week we set off on our journey into the dark world of The Skull Man. The first episode introduced us to a few of the anime’s main players, though thus far we haven’t seen very much of the titular anti-hero. I think normally in series of this nature, the crime-fighting vigilante would be front-and-center to the action, but so far he’s spoken about in hushed whispers and vague rumors. It may be a while before we get a good handle on who this man actually is, but this week we’ll learn a bit more about the time, place, and people who flesh out this anime’s setting.
Remember to check out the previous week’s discussion for a good summary on some of the things worth noticing in the first episode, because it’s only going to get more dense from here. The second episode is available to watch on Youtube HERE (I believe it’s behind an age checker, so you’ll have to sign into an account to watch it.
Episode 2: The Man From the Past
Hayato wakes up to find himself in jail, a suspect in the murder the previous night. A word from Gozo Kurushio (with some help from Kiriko), however, and he’s back outside. The death of the man that Hayato witnessed is ruled an accident by the local media. A memorial is held for recently-murdered actress Hitomi Tachibana, and they hear mention of the “White Bell Society,” a new religious sect that has cropped-up recently in the area, while also learning that some blame the existence of the Skull Man on the revenge of Tatsuo Kagura – who, with his father (a local business owner), was killed in a fire ten years earlier. After Kiriko blabs some choice information to a rival reporter (the old man who rode the train into town with the two of them), they dissolve their partnership. After nearly getting into a fight with some thugs, Hayato visits Yoshio Kanzaki, a childhood friend and priest at the local church. There he sees Maya, Mr. Kurushio’s daughter, who volunteers at the orphanage there in secret. Hayato returns home to find Kiriko there, who provides him with some intriguing photographs.
Discussion: All right, to begin with, I’ll recap the new characters and important new discoveries that we’ve been exposed to this week (in no particular order).
- First we meet Maya Kurushio, a young, sheltered and sickly woman who’s the daughter of Hayato’s wealthy benefactor. She sneaks out from her house to visit the children at the local church, and seems to have a very sunny opinion about children in general. Whether her father is simply being overprotected, or whether she has other reasons to keep her actions secret from him, isn’t clear at this point in the story.
- Yoshio Kanzaki is the priest of the local church and was acquainted with Hayato when Hayato lived in Otomo city. He appears to know a bit more about the incident that supposedly killed Tatsuo Kagura then he’s letting on; he refers to it as an “arson” before brushing it off as rumor. The newspaper shown earlier in the episode refers to Tatsuo as “missing” rather than “dead,” so perhaps there’s more to this story than there appears to be at first.
- We also learn a bit more about the old man who almost seems to have been tailing Hayato and Kiriko. He provides them a little bit of background information at the café where the two are eating. While we still don’t know exactly who he is, he does mention that he’s after a much bigger story than the Skull Man, which in turns suggests that a much larger story actually does exist.
- Finally, there’s the skeezy-looking doctor character who we see speaking to a member of the military(?) on the telephone earlier in the episode, and who appears to be monitoring the goings-on in the background. He also seems very intent on becoming part of a “project” for which his expertise has been tapped before.
Beyond that, perhaps the other big revelation in this episode is the discovery of the local religious cult, the White Bell Society. We certainly don’t know much about it yet, besides the fact that it has some relatively well-known adherents (including the recently-deceased Hitomi Tachibana), and seems to connect other members of the town to one-another. While we don’t actually know much else at the moment, just judging by the manner in which creepy secretive cults manifest in most other forms of media, they can’t be up to anything wholesome.
It’s interesting to me that this series spends very little time actually showing its titular character, at least during the first few episodes. The only glimpse we get of the Skull Man occur in Hayato’s flashbacks to the previous night. The bulk of the character’s airtime thus far has been through mention; most of the characters don’t seem to think he actually exists. I’m lead to believe that this isn’t the case with the manga, which was originally a prototype for the Kamen Rider live action tokusatsu series, and find it very fascinating that the anime production team chose to take the series in this direction. It should surprise no one that the Skull Man’s real-life identity becomes a real hot-topic as the series goes on. In this episode, we’re presented with a likely candidate – the missing heir to the Kagura fortune, Tatsuo Kagura. I don’t think that it’s a spoiler to say that other candidates are bound to start popping up out of the woodwork soon enough, so it’s a good idea to pay attention.
Lastly, I think it’s worth it to talk a little bit about Kiriko. It came up in the comments last week that she’s kind of an obnoxious character, which is something I won’t argue with. Her immaturity often seems counter-productive to the accomplishment of Hayato’s goals (as evidenced by the fact that she can’t keep her mouth shut at the diner). She’s often overly-dramatic. I won’t deny that she can also seem out-of-place in this series, which mostly has a very somber tone. I think, though, one of the more interesting aspects of the show is that she still manages to form an integral part of the story. That may seem a bit hard to swallow at this point, but even if she isn’t the most likeable person in the cast at this point, I don’t think that anyone who follows through with the story will be able to call her extraneous by the end of the series.
This part of the series is still in the “slow burn” phase, but I’m sure there are little bits and pieces of interesting information that I’ve forgotten to include in my summary, so let’s discuss them in the comments!