In this weeks episode, we are going to tackle a subplot that has been simmering just under the surface since the second episode. Namely, Kagura, and whether or not she is fit to be a Vanquisher. While this has little to no bearing on her skill with a sword, there’s a larger issue that has not escaped anyone’s notice, except possibly Yomi’s, and judging by where this subplot kicked off, I’m guessing she was always aware of it.
Back in episode two, when Yomi and Kagura clashed in the utility tunnel, Yomi told her that her kindness was a weakness. That her good heart would lead her down a painful road. While at the time, this could easily be taken as a distraction, and probably was, it’s also the truth. One Yomi wasn’t willing to face in the past, for a lot of reasons, but her transformation into a villain made apparent to her.
Kagura is strong, at least, when it comes to wielding a sword. She lacks strength elsewhere, however, and this week, the focus is turned to just how lacking Kagura truly is, not just as a Vanquisher, but as a person.
First, though, a brief scene of her father, Garaku, unleashing Byakuei on some zombies in a bamboo forest. Both of these things will play a large role in this weeks episode, but for now, it’s just a reminder of what a cold as ice Vanquisher Garaku is. We’ll deal with his poor parenting issues soon enough.
After the opening credits, we join Yomi and Kagura in an empty street as they search for a specter, with little luck, at least, at first. About the time they start to get a bead on it, a truck pulls up behind them, the driver blowing the horn and yelling at these two school kids to get the hell out of the middle of the street. Which, when you think about it, is probably the most normal thing either of them have had happen to them in a while.
The specter, a Category B called an Echoer, homes in on the sound of the horn, and the driver yelling, to initiate a sonic attack the girls only barely avoid by Yomi summoning Rangurren to shield them, as every window in a several block radius shatters. Apparently, an Echoer is exactly what it sounds like, a specter capable of manipulating sound waves. Mind you, it’s got a few other tricks up its sleeve.
Yup, it can copy people, and mimic their moves. Nasty little fella, this one.
It can also absorb and reflect Rangurren’s Roar Wave, which it does before escaping. This leads Kagura in pursuit as Yomi tries to recover, and boy, does Kagura show off her skill with the Michael 12 in the pursuit.
Battling the Echoer atop a parking garage, Kagura finds herself unable to overcome it, and gets cut across her leg just before Yomi arrives and banishes the specter. However, it wasn’t alone, and a bunch more appear, imitating both Yomi and Kagura. Uncertain how to react, they brace for a fight, when Mei shows up and instructs Yomi to use Rangurren’s Roar Wave, directing it as a area burst. This shatters a lot more windows and sets off a ton of car alarms, which prove difficult for the Echoers as the noise is a discordant cacophony, making them unable to hold a single form.
The three finish off the specters easily while they are distracted. Yomi and Kagura offer their thanks, but Mei acts like the shithead she is, and talks down to them both with condescension and venom practically dripping from her voice. From Yomi’s reaction, it’s particularly cutting, as she is only an Isyama by adoption, not birth, like Mei.
Something else is suggested by Yomi’s reaction, and while it’s difficult to confirm, it is rational. Yomi looks up to Mei, in much the way Kagura looks up to Yomi. Again, as an Isayama by birth, Mei is more or less everything that Yomi is trying to be, and seems to seek her approval, as well as her friendship. Of course, we know from last week, she’s never likely to get either, but it seems to be something she craves.
Mei heads out, after doing literally everything she can to make both the girls feel like amateurs at the whole ghost hunting thing.
Back at the SDCD Headquarters, Ayame and Kiri discuss Mei, and her refusal to work with the SDCD, most of which stems from the fact Yomi does work there. They seem to be well aware of how things stand, even if Yomi herself is too blinded by her desire to be accepted by Mei to see it.
Kiri fills Ayame in on human dependent occurrences, the Category D’s we’ve seen before, Latchers, that drive the living to murderous acts, or turn the dead into zombies. Seems there’s been a rise of appearances, and no sign of it stopping. Ayame suspects they are being gathered by something else.
This turns their conversation to Kagura, and whether or not she’s really strong enough. Ayame feels Yomi mothers Kagura too much, while Kiri just figures she’s not ready to be a Vanquisher. Both of them, though, are addressing the same topic. Kagura is too soft for the line of work she’s in, emotionally.
Back at the Isayama house, Garaku has arrived to visit Naraku, and the two talk a bit about Kagura as well, after Naraku chastises Garaku for putting his wife’s killer ahead of his own daughter. While Naraku genuinely cares about Kagura, who has been living under his roof for three years now, he sees it as it is. If anything happens to Garaku, Byakuei would fall to her, and she is too frail of body and mind to control the spirit beast. For his part, Garaku seems to already be aware of this, but doesn’t appear to care for someone else pointing it out.
At school, the subject of everyone’s debate, Kagura, is sitting by the pool watching her friends Chizuru and Miku take a few laps, and looking as forlorn as always when Yomi isn’t around.
Mmm. Homoerotic. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right.
Kagura is reflecting on snotty ass Mei, and looking glum, when her friends ask her to come swim with them. She points out she isn’t on the swim team, which they aren’t either, leading to Chizuru splashing her, which kicks off a splash fight. This leads to Kagura visiting the school nurse to change the bandage on her leg from the injury she got fighting the Echoer, what with it being soaked.
Sexy Nurse asks what happened, and Kagura makes something up about walking into a glass door. Miku and Chizuru bring up the shattered windows from downtown, with Sexy Nurse explaining that the signal jamming that had been taking place, threatening day trading, and as such, the economy, ended about the same time. Kagura looks quietly pleased with herself for having helped keep the world safe.
Miku misreads that as Kagura enjoying Sexy Nurse playing doctor with her leg. Kagura argues it way harder than was necessary. Again, you thought I was exaggerating the homoerotic overtones present in this show. When will you ever learn to trust me? This show doesn’t flirt with lesbian suggestion, it wallows in it.
Back at the SDCD, Kiri brings news from the observation center about dangerously unstable spiritual energy fields. Ayame orders everyone to high alert, trying to figure out what’s going on, as a swarm of blue butterflies make their way across the city.
Remember the blue butterflies? Yeah, they’re back!
Later, Yomi and Kagura are shopping for dinner. Which, apparently, Kagura is going to make, as she is the lackey. She bemoans how Yomi use to cook for her. As they shop, Kagura expresses concern over what Mei said, but Yomi blows this off. Mei has her opinion, and Yomi has hers, which leaves Kagura to decide which one she values more. Obviously, it’s Yomi’s.
This calls back to what Ayame said a bit ago, though, about how Yomi mothers Kagura too much. While much of the show so far has given us their perspective, and been focused on their bond, it that single line of dialogue, Ayame’s concern is proven out. Yomi hesitates to push Kagura harder to improve, out of love.
When they get home, they learn from Naraku that Kagura’s father is back. He suggests she go see him, and reluctantly, she does. Upon arriving there, she finds him trying to bandage his own injuries, and offers to help, which he stoically accepts before launching into a long winded explanation, apparently for the thousandth time judging from Kagura’s expression, of her duties as a Tsuchimiya, and a Vanquisher, as well the dangers inherent in controlling a spirit beast such as Byakuei. There’s a lot of talk about control, precision, and the soul being ripped apart and devoured.
It’s kind of a dark conversation to have with your kid after you haven’t seen them for more than a couple minutes at a whack over the course of three years, but Garaku is not going for any father of the year awards, so I guess this is what he counts as father/daughter bonding time. His lecture done, he leaves her alone, with the parting words, once again, of “Grow stronger.”
Now, as much as Garaku is a terrible father, his words begin to take on a different tone as we have visited other people, and their concerns for Kagura. Is it possible that, in his own way, Garaku is actually trying to be a good father? Time will tell on that one.
One thing the conversation does touch on is that Garaku uses a Banestone to bind Byakuei to himself. Now, where have we heard about a Banestone before? I’m sure it’ll come back to us.
Later, the Disposal Team fights Latchers all over the place, an entire swarm of them sweeping through the city. Even Mei is helping out, which I’m sure is taking time away from her brooding at pictures of Yomi with the eyes cut out. Her issues aside, she does realize that the surge of Latchers is likely covering for something else, something worse, being on the move. Deciding to track that down, she leaves the Latchers to the SDCD, as outside Sexy Nurse’s office window, a Latcher appears.
Splitting up with Yomi to cover more ground, Kagura notices that her school is showing a hot spot on the recently updated spiritual energy map she gets on her cell phone. Man, I tell ya, these SDCD guys have an app for everything. Worried, she heads off to deal with the matter alone. In no small part, her desire to work alone is to prove Mei wrong, and show everyone that Yomi’s faith in her is well placed, as well to prove to her father that she has grown stronger. Neither of these things are going to work out well for her.
Still at school, having decided to get a few more laps in at the pool, Miku and Chizuru are hitting the showers before heading home. Chizuru steps on a hairclip, though, sending them in search of the nurse’s office to get a bandage for it. Chizuru tries to freak Miku out by talking about horror movies and student suicide, and she’s doing a pretty decent job of it, until they notice blood splatters leading down the hall, ending at a body. That gets hauled out of sight for a moment, before being thrown back, sending them running.
Elsewhere, Mei is still looking for the source of the surge, when she encounters a swarm of blue butterflies. After waving them away, The Boy emerges, attacking her with spikes, which she dodges easily. Slightly impressed with her reflexes, he gives her a hairy eyeball.
Turns out, our boy blue has a Banestone of his own, one that draws spirits to him. Mei figures, fuck this, and stabs him with her spear, but he isn’t impressed, and just walks up to her, sliding along her spears shaft as he does, acknowledging how strong her lust for power and greed are. Mei is, understandably, freaked out, not just that he didn’t die, but that he can see right through her. He pins her to the spot with some spikes as butterflies begin to swarm over her, telling her that he knows evil when he sees it.
Pulling out her spear like the creepy calm little fuck he is, Mitogawa impales her with it, killing her. So much for Mei.
Back at school, Miku and Chizuru duck into an open classroom and hide in a locker, but Chizuru’s injury leaves a little trail of it’s own, drawing whatever right to them. It beats on the locker to get the door open, and just before it succeeds, Kagura arrives, lopping of Sexy Nurse’s arm. Sadly, she has been taken over by a Latcher, and Kagura has no choice but to kill her.
This is easier said than done. All the talk we’ve had this episode about Kagura being weak comes to the fore as she grapples with the decision. Her previous encounter with the zombies in the train station was part of this, as well. While destroying inhuman specters is one thing, fighting someone who is, or was, a living person is a lot different. Considering who it is she must kill this time, Kagura freezes up, begging the nurse to make her do this.
She is no longer home, though, and steadily advances, intending to kill Kagura. Repeating that her duty is to rid the world of spirits that defile the natural order over and over as a mantra, instinct finally takes over, and Kagura cuts her down. Dropping her sword, she collapses, and vomits, as Miku and Chizuru emerge from the locker, trying to understand what happened.
The focus of this episode, as I mentioned at the top, is on Kagura, and her weakness. While she can battle things without batting an eye, when the enemy looks human, or worse, like someone she knows, she can’t handle it. While this might not generally be considered a weakness, in their line of work, it most certainly is.
More than that, however, is that much of her weakness is caused by Yomi trying to shelter her. It’s understandable, given that Kagura lost her mother, that Yomi would do so, too. She wants Kagura to be happy, to smile, more than she wants her to be strong. So much so, Yomi seems determined to act as her shield against how cruel the world can be, rather than let Kagura face it. Admirable though that is, from the first two episodes, we already know how horribly it will go wrong.
The return of Mitogawa, A.K.A The Boy, to the narrative is also heavy with portent. A bit back, we learned that his father was an expert on Banestones, but the entire family is thought lost in a plane crash. Somehow, Mitogawa survived, and now has a Banestone where his eye should be. Whatever his goals in all this, it leaves us to wonder just what happened to him, and why.
Likewise, learning that Garaku controls Byakuei through a Banestone, and that it allows him to heal from injuries faster, is a bit ominious. Whatever the Banestones are, they can clearly be used for good as well as evil, though this tells us nothing of Mitogawa’s goals in all this. What we do learn, however, is that Garaku is right about Kagura. She needs to grow stronger.
How, though, remains a mystery. One we’ll see a bit more about next week, in episode seven, Chains Of Blame. See ya then!