As we enter the fourth episode, I want to take a moment to reflect on the two extremely different Yomi Isayama’s we’ve seen so far. In the first two episodes, a savage killer with no remorse, taking down her former allies with a mad smile of glee. Then, in last week’s episode, a nurturing and selfless young woman, who’s primary goal was to rebuild the shattered heart of another.
As I said last time, Ga-Rei Zero really is all about Yomi and how she goes from this kind hearted person we meet to the monster we’ve seen. The themes inherent in that are all about how far a person can sink, when pushed in a corner, and given no other choice..
By contrast, the show is also Kagura’s story, as she makes the journey from the almost shell shocked child we met last week, to the capable warrior and skilled Vanquisher we saw in the second episode. The theme there is about how strong we can become, again, when given no other choice.
Most of the series revolves around the relationship the two have, and how those very lack of choices drive each of them to become the people we met in the second episode. From strangers, to friends, to sisters, to bitter enemies. This is the nature of the tragedy, the taking of something wonderful, and twisting it into hate.
For now, however, we are still building to what happened to Yomi, so let’s dive in and take a look at episode 4: The Cause Of The Duty.
We start at Kagura’s school, as two of her friends, Chizuru and Miku, both characters that are important to Kagura’s story arc by way of being her link to a normal world and life, realize that neither of them have the notes for an upcoming test. Miku because she was home sick and Chizuru because she’s kinda lazy. Realizing they are in a pickle, they turn to Kagura, who’s fallen asleep in class.
Surprisingly, Kagura has managed to due to her homework, and loans it to them both so they can bone up for the test. They get interrupted when the call from the previous episode comes in, and she heads out, meeting up with the rest of the Disposal Team in the Humvee. This leads to a recap of the Many Faces of Kagura collection, before giving us the opening credits and theme song, for the first time.
Yeah, four episodes in and we finally get the opening. They were pretty serious about keeping any potential spoilers for what was coming to a minimum during the past three episodes. Which is cool, as the opening we get is Paradise Lost, a fitting theme considering what we know the show is about at this point.
As the team heads to their next case, they discuss how active things have gotten. Before it can get too serious, Yomi tries to snag the last Pocky, but Kagura ends up popping it in her mouth, leading to Yomi trying to steal it. This, naturally, leads to the two all but making out, much to Kazuki’s enjoyment.
At least, until Yomi kicks him in the face for watching her make time with her adopted sister. Yeah, no matter how I write that, it kinda sounds weird. Regardless, Yomi and Kagura are clearly pretty close. While we do know Yomi is actually engaged to Nori, it makes one wonder.
Kouji tries to get things back on track, but Kazuki isn’t having it. Demanding to know why Kouji gets to watch the girls make out and he doesn’t, Yomi reminds him that Kouji is gay. To emphasize the point, Kouji tells Kazuki to sit down, because his ass is distracting. Kazuki finds he can sit down and ignore the girls rather well at that point.
While it is played slightly for laughs, and on the surface, may even seem slightly homophobic, let’s stop for a second and take a closer look. Kouji, the obvious leader of the team, and as we already saw, a major badass, is openly gay. That’s actually something, and a damn impressive something to boot. His teasing of Kazuki is exactly that. Teasing. Remember, Kouji is a professional, and he’s been trying to give them some info on what they are heading into, but everyone else keeps goofing around.
With a single comment, everyone shuts up. Sure, Yomi and Kagura are snickering at Kazuki, and I’m sure Kouji enjoyed his discomfort more than a little, but the real goal he had in mind here was to get everyone to settle down. He accomplished that nicely, while also having a little fun at Kazuki’s expense, so I chalk that up as a win for the gay guy. Besides, I really love the shit out of Kouji. He’s tough, smart, and never acts in the stereotypical fashion we usually see from gay male characters. I’ll take his teasing of Kazuki as the good natured fun it was intended to be, not as an insult, because it isn’t.
Anyway, moving on…
Nori and the Nabuu boys are already on site outside a bamboo forest. Nori’s pipefox spirits are tracking a Cat B Earth Spider, a massive one. Yomi decides to head in with Rangurren to destroy it, with everyone else acting as backup. Kagura whines a little about being put on backup duty again, which Yomi counters by letting her know she can fight specters once she’s mastered the Michael 12. Insisting she has, Kagura gets only a smirk from Yomi, who tells her that she’ll have to prove that claim to her.
Summoning Rangurren, the two head after the Earth Spider while the rest of the team spreads out. The battle is not long, as Rangurren unleashes the energy attack we saw back in episode 2, called a Roar Wave, and eventually manages to crack the critters shell, allowing Yomi to finish it off.
However, a woman on a nearby bridge the Spider was heading for saw the entire thing. Apparently, she has latent Second Sight, and the remains of the Earth Spider was headed right for her, leaving her paralyzed with fear. Fortunately, Kagura is there to finish it off, saving her life. Yomi is still a little miffed that Kagura risked herself, but Kagura is pretty proud she saved a life.
Koji arrives as the woman on the bridge collapses, admitting she saw the Spider. The team explains what’s going on, confirming that specters tend to be drawn to people with latent psychic abilities such as Second Sight. Apparently, the bridge is also a popular spot for suicides, which draws even more specters, looking for people they can easily take control of.
Yomi figures it out, taking a huge bottle of sleeping pills from the woman’s purse, encouraging her to not carry through with her plans. Things are not as bad as they could be, all things considered. At least, not bad enough to end her own life. The woman is somewhat humbled by this, finally agreeing with Yomi. With that done, the team packs it in and heads out.
The next day, Chizuru and Miku bring Kagura lunch as thanks for letting them borrow her homework. As they eat, they ask a few questions about her home life, with Kagura being vague about her mothers “illness” and her dad’s job, as well as Yomi’s. Despite the seemingly tragic nature of her life, her friends think she’s awesome for being able to juggle it all so well, something Kagura takes with a bit of uncertainty, as she doesn’t think she’s that amazing. Especially since she measures herself against Yomi, who I’ll admit, is pretty damn awesome.
After school, Kagura heads home, hanging out in the Isayama training room, cleaning and purifying her sword, the Michael 12. This is something she clearly does on a regular basis, as her comfort with the practice is obvious.
At least, until this guy shows up.
Kagura sprays him in the face with cleaner, several times, because why would she not? Except, it turns out after Yomi arrives, that this is Michael Kohara. If you’re guessing that his name and the swords name are somehow connected, you’d be right. This is the guy who made not only Kagura’s sword, but every single piece of equipment the SDCD uses in the battle with specters.
I guess government contracts in Japan work differently than they do in the U.S.
Anyway, crazy naked genius man is here to inspect all the gear. Apparently, fighting specters takes a toll on all the toys, and he periodically needs to take them back to his workshop for maintenance. Which is why he hauls off with the Shishio.
Remember that woman from the bridge? Apparently things couldn’t be worse. We get a brief interlude where we see her step in front of a train.
Kagura and Yomi have a conversation about what Yomi’s going to do without her spirit beast, with Kagura wishing she had one so she could pick up the slack while Yomi’s is in the shop. Yomi blows it off, asking if Kagura has heard form her dad. Admitting she hasn’t, Kagura suggests that she should probably move back home all the same, figuring Yomi’s tired of having to babysit her all the time. Yomi laughs that off, calling Kagura adorable and insisting she’s going to adopt her one day.
Oh, yeah, all of this happens while the two are taking a bath. After the bit of making out earlier, I’m thinking Yomi and Kagura have a different idea of what “Sisterly Bond” means than the rest of us do.
No time for that, though. We’re off to the SDCD headquarters, where Michael has hauled off with almost their entire arsenal for maintenance. Ayami accepts it as just the way things are, suggesting to Kiri that if something bad happens, they’ll just have to ask Kagura to step up. Kiri thinks she isn’t ready, but Ayami doesn’t seem to agree. Combat is the most effective form of training, after all.
Damn, Ayami. She’s a real toss ’em in and see if they sink or swim type.
While they discuss Kagura’s future, the rest of the team is discussing Michael. Specifically, why he walks around all but naked all the time. Kagura doesn’t know how he avoids getting arrested. Kouji chimes in to let her know they’ve had to bail him out plenty of times. Nothing like having your master weapons maker being on the sex offender list, I guess.
The gang decides to check into the back up arsenal, but this is less a collection of epic spirit fighting weapons, and more a bunch of junk. There’s an iron. An actual iron. The chainsaw is kinda nice. Of course, the boiler is more or less useless.
Yomi settles on the iron, asking Nori if he wants to play house. He begs off, which actually irritates her, but he explains Kazuki promised him a rematch, so they are heading out. Kagura wants to get in some practice, so Yomi decides to hang with her instead.
Uh, just a bit of relationship advice here, Nori. If you don’t want you girlfriend to get a girlfriend of her own, stop ditching her to play darts with your bud. Hell, even Kazuki knows this, and he’s an idiot. Actually, joking aside, the reality, as we see during the dart game between Nori and Kazuki, is that their engagement was arranged. Neither he or Yomi had a say in the matter. While he cares about her, he wishes their engagement had been their own choosing.
Which explains a lot. If that’s how he feels, you have to wonder what Yomi thinks of all this. We know she’d do anything for Naraku, even marry someone she didn’t love, but she must resent it a little. The brief exchange between Nori and Kazuki sheds a lot of light on not just his relationship with Yomi, but Kagura’s.
Anyway, while those two are off playing darts, Yomi is getting the hang of iron hurling, which I hear may one day be added to the Olympic Games. Yomi is making the best of a bad situation, until they get a call from HQ that there’s been a rise in spiritual energy, sending the two into action.
They find themselves at the train station we spotted earlier, the one where the woman from the bridge was taking her own life. The two are attacked by some critters, with Yomi’s iron actually doing some good. However, the two are quickly surrounded on all sides. Kagura makes short work with her Michael 12, while Yomi is struggling with the iron, eventually getting captured. Kagura saves her quickly.
Then, the woman from the bridge shows up. She’s become a zombie, and she’s got a shit ton of friends. While killing monsters is one thing, Kagura has a hard time dealing with zombies. They were once human, after all, and the idea of attacking them makes her hesitate. While some might call this a weakness, it goes back to what Yomi said to her in the second episode, about how her kind heart would take her down a bad road.
Truth is, Kagura struggles with hacking away at them because they were once people, with lives, families, hopes and dreams. While they are now dead and controlled by Latchers, it doesn’t change the fact that they were people, who are likely missed by their loved ones. Having to bash away at them with a sword is hard for her, mostly because of her own loss. At least her mother’s body was returned. For the loved ones of these people, due to what’s happened to them after their death, there will never be any answers. They will go the rest of their lives wondering what happened, and never getting closure.
That’s rough to think about. For Kagura, it’s even rougher to be a part of.
She doesn’t get to debate it long, however, as a Phurba, or Buddhist Dagger, comes sailing in, taking out the zombie that’s menacing Kagura. Turns out it was her Dad. The zombies instantly turn to him as he unleashes Byakuei, and sets it on the zombies. The dragon devours them whole.
With the zombies dealt with, the three head up. Poppa Tsuchimiya seems less than pleased as he takes Kagura’s sword and instructs her to hold out her hands, which he then whacks with the sheathed blade. Kagura flinches as Yomi looks about ready to go off on Daddy Dragon Wielder.
Garaku questions his daughter, asking her if she knows the duty of the Vanquisher, which she admits she does. After a second whack across the back of her hands, he tosses the sword down, turns his back, quietly instructs her to grow stronger, and walks away, as we go to the closing credits.
The thing is, Kagura has grown stronger. We’ve seen it. While it’s basically been three years since he has even spent five minutes with his kid, all he can do is act disappointed that she’s not better than she is? Wow.
Of course, considering what we saw in the second episode, his words may have a totally different meaning, as she wasn’t strong enough to defeat Yomi.
While this episode has some much needed comedy, it does touch on a number of things that are running under the surface. Yomi and Kagura are clearly way more attached to each other than just “sisters”, while Nori and Yomi’s arranged marriage is putting strain on their friendship, something even Kazuki can see, and that guys an idiot.
All of these factors play a role in what is to come.
Which is one of the things about Ga-Rei Zero that I really admire as a piece of fiction. There is no wasted motion. Everything that happens, even the most minor of interactions, has a greater purpose to the story being told. The random suicidal woman on the bridge, lead to the train station, to the zombie battle, and was the key aspect of Kagura hesitating. They had saved that woman, and now, they had to put her down anyway.
Whatever we see, or even think, of any of the characters, is not always what we think it is, and as the story progresses, it pulls back the layers, revealing new aspects and dimensions to every character. yet, it’s done with such a light touch, with such subtly, that we don’t really noticing it happening, until we get deeper into the story.
We’ll see more about Nori and Yomi’s difficult relationship next week, though, in Episode 5: Obstinate Feelings