I had a discussion with a friend of mine the other day about this series (he's been one of the more frequent commenters on the discussion threads for the past several weeks). I'd mentioned in a prior discussion post that I thought some viewers may be jarred by the appearance of the mutated beasts in episode 3. His response was interesting - he didn't find this unexpected because of his familiarity with tokusatsu ("special effects") series and their related tropes. It's true that, having seen things like Masked Rider or Ultraman does tend to put a series like this in perspective, but I got me thinking about the very limited crossover there is between anime and tokusatsu, two very Japanese forms of entertainment. Granted, the two exist as different responses to the problems of bringing fantasy elements to life on the screen - anime uses drawings to depict worlds and physical acts which may be difficult to film in live-action, whereas tokusatsu relies on explosions, tricks of perspective, and flashy costumes to involve the audience in the battle between good and evil creatures. As it is, there may be very little need for their storytelling techniques to bleed into one-another, and that's probably why this series seems to be such an oddity to me and why I was startled and a little bit put-off the first time I saw these somewhat over-the-top, goofy creatures involved in very serious combat.
There are a couple of other anime series that I can think of which combine these two philosophies and aesthetics; Astro Fighter Sunred is a comedic parody of the "super sentai" genre specifically, and Sadamitsu The Destroyer takes a more serious approach (yet still has a lot of the same over-the-top elements one would expect).
With that explained, let's move on to the episode. You can find it on Youtube HERE.
Episode 5: The False Blind Spot
Hayato meets with Usami, who refuses to say too much in public, but directs him towards a movie theater where he's willing to meet. Kiriko wonders whether he might be a possible candidate for the identity of the Skull Man. Hayato and Kiriko grab a bath at Yoshio's church, and Yoshio loans Hayato another Nietzsche book (while Hayato tosses-around vocabulary willy-nilly). Hayato finally gains the confidence to ask Kiriko about the photograph of a man she carries with her, but she isn't willing to give any answers. Detective Shinjou goes to the hospital to question Tachigi, who ends up doing most of the questioning himself. Usami remains cryptic during his meeting with Hayato, relating the divisiveness of Otomo City to the division between North and South Japan, but states outright that Tatsuo Kagura is alive. Kiriko discovers a familiar face among the White Bell Society's members. Usami's lab is forcibly closed, but he maintains that he's truly the one in control of something dubbed "The Voice of God." Later that night, Usami is confronted by the Skull Man himself and doesn't make it out alive. Hayato uses the key given to him by Usami earlier that day to retrieve a mysterious cassette tape.
Discussion: This episode marks a bit of a lull in the series as it works closer to a climax over the next couple of episodes, but there are some interesting things that come up which are worth mentioning.
One thing I found sort of clever was the parallel established between Usami and the (fictional) film, "The False Blind Spot," which is repeatedly referenced throughout this episode. Though very little of the film is shown, it appears to tell the story of a man who gains a bit of power from within a criminal organization, and who overestimates the extent of that power, leading to his own demise. The similarities to Usami should be obvious; he gains some knowledge which he believes gives him the upper-hand when dealing with his superiors. While he may certainly have been in a position to gain something with his information, he neglected to factor in a crucial element - the Skull Man. Usami is undone by his own arrogant carelessness, and all before revealing just what his "Voice of God" actually is.
How coincidental that Hayato should question Kiriko about the man pictured in the photograph she keeps hidden, right before she makes a discovery about a member of the White Bell Society. There are many clever things about this show, but that little piece of plot could have been predicted from a mile away based entirely on the timing of when it appeared.
Thanks to the newsreel footage that serves as a backdrop to Hayato and Usami's conversation in the movie theater, we learn a bit more about the current state of world affairs and how they might relate to the way things are unfolding in Otomo City. I find it sort of interesting that, in this universe, Japan is divided and its two areas endure a rather shaky, constantly-threatened relationship as a result (it kind of sounds like North Korea in our own version of reality). Otomo City is divided among many axes; night and day seem to oppose one-another more concretely there than in other places, for example. The Skull Man seems to be at odds with several factions, though because we don't yet know who he is, his motivations are unclear. Both Hayato and Tachigi seem to be after the town's secrets, but it's not yet apparent whether they're entirely on the same page or are threatening to become adversaries. All the different factions at work in the town turn it into a battleground of sorts, with the tension beginning to rise on all fronts. In Japan, the peace treaty between its two halves seems to be at stake, and the issues plaguing Otomo City seem poised to come to a head soon as well.
I try not to adhere too closely to stereotypes that revolve around iconic elements of character designs, but I have to admit I was a little bit bothered by Yoshio's scary shiny glasses. Like the explanation at the link states, hiding the eyes of a character tends to remove part of their humanity, and there's something sinister and threatening about individuals whose emotions aren't apparent in their face. There's also the interpretation that this is symbolism meant to indicate that the character has something to hide. Considering that he has a past with Hayato and has already demonstrated knowledge that he's not in any position to need to know, one may wonder whether this quiet, kind-hearted priest is perhaps not as kindly or innocent as he may claim. More humorously, playing the organ alone in a darkened church makes him look like a vampire.
We're about to reach a mid-series climax that ought to start answering some of the questions that have been cropping-up over the past several weeks, so look forward to no longer being entirely in the dark. Also, prepare yourself for some awesome animation. My body is ready.