Well, it's been an... interesting week for sure. I found myself incredibly busy and unfathomably distracted from my normal activities, to the point where I don't think I watched more than an episode or two of anime at all (even from series that I'm sort of invested in at this point). I also threw a Halloween party, which as usual turned into an incredibly over-the-top spectacle with tons of food and a ton of guests. I was awake until the next morning, 5am, and managed to destroy my sleep schedule for the next few days (because apparently I'm still 19 years old in my mind). Then, an unexpected marriage proposal on my favorite television series sent me into an internet fandom spiral which I'm still attempting to crawl out of as we speak (don't look at Tumblr... no more Tumblr...). Irresponsible? Yes, yes it is. But sometimes I just need a break from the constant adolescent drama of anime fandom.
That said, here I am ready to continue with this series, which I'm noticing is much more enthralling upon a second viewing (which I'm sure I've mentioned before). I'm sort of a sucker for slow-burn series that save their climactic moments for the second half. Shiki is a good example of one; Dennou Coil is another. They're the kind of shows that frustrate a lot of viewers because by nature their stories discourage the impatient viewing so inherent in anime fandom today. But that's a discussion for another time.
Episode 8 is available on Youtube HERE.
Episode 8: The Maiden Whispers in the Moonlight
Kiriko develops the film left in Jin's camera, and she and Hayato gain some more insight into the situation. Kiriko spends some time at Yoshio's church, and becomes friends with Maya Kuroshio, while Hayato reconnects with Nami, a friend from his childhood. Maya reveals the friendship to her family, and her mother scolds her for hanging out at a "heretical" church. There is talk of Tatsuo Kagura, and whether or not he still lives as the phantom killer in Otomo City. Hayato and Kiriko go to retrace Jin's steps and discover a familiar face has beat them to it, from whom they learn some juicy details about an abandoned dig at the bottom of a dam-formed lake. Mr. Kuroshio encounters the real Skull Man and his minions, who offer a warning. Nami undergoes a ceremony at the White Bell compound, to be "purified" of her sins.
Discussion: Unsurprisingly, the show this week pulls back a bit and unfolds as a really slow-burn, though in my opinion the tense undercurrent gives it a feeling of impeding action that the first half doesn't quite achieve. The knowledge that the "false" Skull Man is gone, that Mr. Kuroshio is involved in below-the-surface dealings, and that the White Bell Society exerts a more extensive influence of the town that may have first been assumed, gives the unfolding mystery a little jolt of life.
This week we visit with Father Yoshio Kanzaki a bit, a character who's shown up briefly before and who seems as if he ought to be playing a more central role in the story, judging primarily on his connection to Hayato and his shifty reactions in a few scenes. In this episode, he becomes visibly evasive when asked about Kagura Pharmaceutical's connections to the military; even though there's nothing said, there's enough subtlety in the animation and acting to indicate that he knows more (probably a whole lot more) than he's letting on. Like some people are fond of saying, it's always the quiet ones who turn out to be trouble in the end (and I'm beyond certain that this is some sort of character trope).
The most interesting part of the episode for me was the story Maya told about the two lovers who could not be together because of strict village rules. In the story, the two lovers make plans to meet, but the man is struck dead before they can run away together, though his love transforms him into a white dove that flies away to be with his love, who also becomes a dove. Based on what we already know about Otomo City and the peculiarities of some of its residents, this could probably be interpreted to mean quite a few different things. The White Bell Society appears to have its share of very strict rules; just judging by Sara Kuroshio's reaction to Maya's friendship with a "heretic," there appear to be some strong taboos alive and well within the church. Physical transformation certainly isn't a foreign concept either, judging by the creatures that roam the streets after darkness. Whether these elements are leading towards a similar sort of tragedy is speculation at this point, but there's a strong sense that this isn't a story with a happy ending.
As part of the briefly-glimpsed White Bell ceremony, Nami receives a bell in a shape that has now become quite familiar to those of us paying close attention. At least a few times prior to this, we've seen individuals wearing similar bells, and I seem to recall at least one of them breaking pieces from the bell before undergoing their mutative transformation. It would appear that these half-human half-monster hybrid creatures respond strongly to sound, whether that be the tinkle of a tiny bell or the "Voice of God" hidden in orchestral music. One might wonder if Nami, who appeared on the scene only a couple of episodes ago, is heading for the same tragic fate as many others before her.
Something called the "Gago" project is mentioned a couple of times during the episode, in what I believe is the first time. This is, so far, a mystery, but it seems like the sort of thing to keep in mind going forward as we learn more about what the military's actual involvement is. Mr. Kuroshio also mentions a name while being confronted by the Skull Man, which I can't quite remember at this point (Masaki?). This might also be worth keeping in mind.