I'll post this separately also, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I've chosen the next book club selection. Starting Sunday, January 6th, we'll begin watching and discussing Sora no Woto. I'm hoping that the series will stay available on Crunchyroll during the time we're watching it. If not, I may try to come up with an alternate choice. I'm leaning towards doing Ghost Hound as a follow-up to that, but I'm still thinking about it. I'm trying to strike a balance between genres and moods while still choosing things that are available for people who prefer legal and inexpensive means of watching the shows, but the fact is that a lot of the shows I really want to talk about aren't available around these parts and probably never will be, unfortunately. Alas. I may start a "book club after dark" column at some point for that type of material for people who are willing/able to acquire it (many are out on Australian DVD, so there's always that option).
Back to the matter at hand, I believe we may have reached the point where some people have been put-off this series in one way or another, at least judging by the discussion participation, haha. Well, I'm certainly not going to stop blogging the series, because I'm finding it more interesting and easy-to-understand the second time through, but I'll endeavor to keep up with all the plot points so that those who are just reading along rather than watching can get a good impression of what's happening, in case they'd like to jump back in at a later time.
I'm not quite sure if I linked the episode last week, but you can watch episode 4 at The Anime Network's Youtube channel HERE.
Episode 4: The Ghost that Goes for a Stroll
Hayato and Kiriko are trying to get more information following the apparent double-murder of actress Yui Onizuka and her assistant Sayoko Karasuma. Hayato hits up his friend, priest Yoshio Kanzaki, for information, while Kiriko learns from the children there about an urban legend that revolves around a mysterious, ghostly monorail that appears at midnight. Almost as if on cue, a man is murdered during the night and his body hung from the monorail tracks. He was an employee of the local pharmaceutical company, and the police inspector has his own suspicions that another scientist, Akira Usami, may be to blame. Hayato doesn't have much luck questioning Usami, but Kiriko gets some interesting photographs of some high-profile members of the White Bell Society in the meantime. That night, Hayato tails Usami and ends up boarding the phantom monorail, where he's nearly killed by the Skull Man.
Discussion: Having not seen the titular character very much so far, it's refreshing that he's given some more screen time in this episode. The Skull Man is primarily being portrayed as an antagonistic force whose motivations are as of yet not understood by any of the other characters. In the previous episode, he seemed to be taking on the role of an "exterminator;" his target was an individual with the ability to mutate into a non-human being. However, he also killed a woman who, while connected to his target, did not seem to possess any special abilities, and partnered with two other individuals with the ability to transform. This time around, his victim was an employee of the local pharmaceutical company. It wouldn't be out-of-line to suggest some sort of connection between the two, but at this point it's a bit difficult to speculate without a bit more information.
There are some tantalizing hints, though. In one scene, Maya Kuroshio looks in the mirror and has a hallucination of the Skull Man standing there behind her. Clearly she's aware of his existence and it could probably be inferred from this scene that she feels she may be targeted. Thus far, though, there's been nothing to suggest that she might be doing anything that would mark her for death... besides belonging to a family who appears to be rather powerful within the White Bell Society. Through Kiriko's investigation, we learn that Sara Kuroshio, Maya's mother and wife to Hayato's benefactor, Gozo Kuroshio, appears to be a higher-up in the organization. What implications that may have to the story are not yet clear. Perhaps finally discovering the Skull Man's identity may help piece together this mystery, but it may be a while before that information becomes obvious.
In this episode we officially "meet" Dr. Usami, who's only been briefly shown in a few scenes prior to this episode. We know from previous episodes that he seems to have some sort of connection to the military, or at least has helped contribute some research information to a top-secret, outside project. In this episode, he speaks a bit about some animal experimentation, which appears to upset his superior somewhat. He's also shown listening to a mysterious audio tape with what appears to be only noise on it, calling it the "voice of God." If anything else, it sounds as if he's participating activities that most people would label as being of questionable scientific ethics. What this has to do with the Skull Man, the town, or any other strange happenings isn't clear yet. But why is it that Usami walked towards the monorail station, then seemed to disappear after Hayato gave chase?
The elderly inspector, Kyouichirou Tachigi, provides us with a more philosophical angle to ponder. He explains the concept of ressentiment, a French term used to explain the hostility one has towards the person one sees as being responsible for one's problems. More specifically, as explained by Nietzsche, ressentiment is the psychological assignment of an external scapegoat to one's own feelings of inferiority. What's not exactly clear is how this concept relates to the Skull Man himself. Though there have been rumors that the Skull Man may be out for revenge, conceptually this doesn't quite seem to fit the definition of ressentiment. On the other hand, Usami seems a bit power-hungry, having tried to talk his way into full participation in whatever project to which he's been making contributions, and he seems like the type to shift the blame elsewhere should his ambitions begin to get the best of him.
To this point, Tachigi has seemed like something of an oracle or wise man, popping in at convenient times to provide well-needed wisdom to Hayato. Last week it became more obvious that the man knows much more than he's letting on, and his motivation for wanting to lead Hayato in the right direction isn't clear. In this episode, he serves a much greater role, in that he appears aboard the train to rescue Hayato from being murdered by the Skull Man. This raises several questions, including ones regarding how much Tachigi actually knows, why he's actually in town, and how he managed to get on board the train without being seen. How much to Hayato's and Tachigi's goals overlap?
Well, that's all I've got this week. Did any other juicy details from this episode jump out at you? Be sure to discuss them in the comments!