Apologies for the absence last week, I encountered a perfect storm of issues that kept me away from the website for more time than I would have liked.
Last time there was a bit of discussion about the police officer and his claim that, while the administration he was working underneath was corrupt, his fellow officers (namely, those who work the beat with him) are not. It’s an interesting claim to make, because one would think that corrupt overseers would prefer to hire those individuals who would maintain the status quo rather than work contrary to the desires of the upper echelon. I’m more of the opinion that most of the organizations in Otomo City are riddled with corruption throughout, and that this simpleton cop is perhaps one of the few exceptions. From his point-of-view, perhaps it seems as if he has allies among his men, but I’d be willing to bet that he’s just a poor judge of character.
Anyway, these two episodes dial up the intensity a bit, and manage to answer a few of our questions (while probably introducing several more!).
Episode 6 is up on Youtube HERE.
Episode 7 is HERE.
Episode 6: Banquet of the Grim Reaper
Kiriko wakes up early to stake out the White Bell Society, in hopes of seeing the familiar face she glanced briefly. Hayato remains at the apartment to listen to the cassette tape he received, but can’t decipher anything of value on it. Meanwhile, The Mayor, Mr. Kuroshio and other higher-ups from the town meet and discuss the events of ten years ago in which they appear to have been involved. It begins to rain, and Hayato picks up Kiriko. They happen to see the Skull man race by, and follow him, witnessing a confrontation between the Mayor and the Skull Man in which Hayato soon becomes involved. Hayato is shot by the Skull Man, who leaves the scene after murdering the Mayor. After being interrogated once again by Officer Shinjou, Hayato and Kiriko decide to infiltrate the White Bell Society in order to get some real answers. They’re soon discovered, and Kiriko comes face-to-face with someone from her past.
Episode 7: Master of the Beasts
Hayato and Kiriko are dumped somewhere far away from the White Bell compound. Kiriko goes off alone, and is met by a man named Jin, the man in her photograph and the one who she saw at the compound site. Mr. Kuroshio continues to play the good guy while dabbling in questionable military practices in secret – the sound referred to as the “voice of God” appears to be of more use than many expected. The placement of a facial scar casts suspicion on a possible candidate for the Skull Man’s identity. Kiriko makes plans to meet with Jin, but her plan is thwarted when Jin, dressed as the Skull Man, encounters a second Skull Man during a fight in the train yard. Jin ends up on the wrong end of gun barrel, and the identity of the true Skull Man remains a mystery.
Discussion: Talk about a departure (in pace, mostly) from the previous few episodes!
While I could probably spend a lot of time writing about each of the new little details we’ve learned during these past couple of episodes, I think I’d rather take a step back and talk more about the thematic arc of the series thus far.
Though this show contains plenty of mystery and a multi-level conspiracy that seems poised to boil over at any second, arguably the series primarily revolves around a man in a mask. As we learn this week, he’s a man about which we know frustratingly little, beyond his brand of vigilante justice. He’s represented almost entirely by his persona, concocted from hearsay, rumor, and brief glimpses. All we really know so far (at least as far as the “real” Skull Man is concerned) are the same tiny bits and pieces that we see from the point-of-view of the other characters.
Interestingly enough, this element of “masked personas” extends to quite a few of the show’s other cast members. Just about every character that we’ve met so far seems to have some sort of hidden agenda or secret double-life that isn’t evident the first time we meet them. We’ve just learned a bit more about Kiriko and her real reasons for tagging along on this ill-fated trip to Otomo City, and Hayato’s connection to the town still has potential to blossom into something much more, but the most interesting character to come to the forefront over these past two episodes is Mr. Kuroshio, whose kind façade seems to hide the mind of an opportunist and schemer. His mask of propriety helps him maintain alliances while participating in activities that have far-reaching ramifications as far as the town is concerned. It’s even revealed that he employs Jin (dressed as the false Skull Man) as a hit man to help put down the opposition.
The “mask” thematic motif even extends to the physical realm; beyond the Skull Man himself, the members of the White Bell society wear masks during their ritual practices (and perhaps more often than that) and there are obviously several creatures in town who have taken on the “mask” of humanity.
While the show is only at its midpoint and many of the people who’ve hidden behind their convenient masks thus far will be forced to show their true faces eventually, I think it might end up being surprising to some people how appropriate this “mask” idea really is.
Feel free to sound off in the comments on this idea, or any other juicy details from the episodes.