The anime wasted four episodes on dull slice-of-life scenes and formulaic storytelling to finally give us something interesting. So was it worth the wait? While I’ll admit that this episode was a far cry from what we’ve been getting, it also wasn’t mindblowing either. So to answer the question in this post’s title, I’m still going to have to say no. It’s like getting gruel for four weeks straight only to be served, well, meatloaf. Well, that meatloaf sure does blow the gruel out of the water, but it’s still just meatloaf. I like meatloaf fine, but I’m not going to wet my pants over it.
That’s what this episode is: meatloaf. Oh, the plot’s finally moving beyond plying the audience with needles of foreshadowing under a haystack of banality, but it’s not like this was a killer episode or something. But hey, if you’re a glass half-full kinda person, then I guess we might just salvage something out of this series after all.
Let’s go through how this episode distinguishes itself from the previous four. This won’t be an exhaustive list or anything, though. The first thing we see at the end of every episode is this shot:
The next screenshot is when we see Saya for the first time in this week’s episode:
Doesn’t it look familiar? As usual, we visit the cafe owner early, but Saya is not her upbeat self anymore. The cafe owner continues being creepy so that’s not much different, but instead of Saya singing her way to class this week, we immediately begin with a fight against a bakemono. Class doesn’t begin until after the fight. At first, I thought, “Oh dear, did they merely shift the slice-of-life part of the anime to the latter half of the episode instead?” Well, not exactly.
It’s raining this week, so we (thankfully) don’t get any riveting lunch chatter. Instead, we get ghost stories. What’s different in this scene is how the twins have stopped moving and talking in unison. One is excited to hear the homeroom teacher’s story while the other is not. When Saya faints in the middle of class, and wakes up at her shrine, only one of the twins show up to greet her. That’s when another bakemono appears and the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Every week up til now has had its mini-story resolved by the end of the episode.
So why point out the differences? Well, the disembodied voice that likes to narrate every single episode (as vials of blood float up and down in the background) talks about the confusion someone gets when they encounter something he or she doesn’t understand. On the surface, Saya’s getting visions (I’m told that her visions are of her old self, but since I haven’t seen the other “Blood” series, I have no clue what this means) so that’s something that she might not understand. Her foes have also been talking, repeatedly mentioning some covenant — another possible confusion for Saya. I’d like to suggest something different than these two ideas, however, and I’ll do it by naming a movie: “The Truman Show.”
“The Truman Show” followed a man whose entire life is a reality TV show… except he doesn’t realize it. Truman’s gone from childhood to adulthood living amongst actors. Nothing around him — his family, his friends, his job, etc. — are real. Inconsistencies begin to appear, however, and he eventually realizes that his life is a farce. Naturally, Truman went a bit unhinged at the start of this discovery.
Saya’s environment and daily routines seem almost as structured and uniform as Truman’s life. Even the people in her lives are peculiar. The cafe owner asks Saya not to hide anything from him, but so does her tall, dark-haired friend. It sure does seem like they’re all actors in some sort of play. Of course, the anime has executed the repetitive nature of Saya’s life rather poorly, but let’s put that aside for now. What I think bothers Saya is not just the visions or the cryptic remarks by either the bakemono or the people in her lives. I think what really bothers Saya is that her daily routine is falling apart — inconsistencies are appearing. Saya’s done the same thing every single day and she’s ended each night with the same convictions in her heart. If she’s betraying some covenant, however, what’s the point of her mission?
The visions, the rain, the covenant or even the way the victims stare at Saya — as if she’s one of the monsters — these all serve to shatter Saya’s single-minded routine. This is what she doesn’t understand. Now, if only Production I.G. would have pulled this off without beginning with four incredibly boring episodes….
At the start of the episode, immediately after Saya suffers from one of her headaches and blurry visions, one of the first things we see is a record player. This is an interesting association. Memory isn’t perfect; in fact, memory can be downright deceptive. People don’t always remember “what really happened.” Sometimes, people just remember what they want to remember. Isn’t that a lot like how a record player is?
Some audiophiles will attest to the superior sound quality of a vinyl record. They’ll say that record players produce a warmer sound, but is that necessarily true? Some experts attribute the “warmth” of a record player to the inconsistencies in the vinyl — the crackles, pops and hisses. Sometimes, these inconsistencies are soft enough that they are individually imperceptible, but together, they nevertheless form an aura of sound that just adds something intangible to the recording — a certain character, you might say. You could even call it “warmth.”
So who cares if the music produced from a vinyl record isn’t “accurate?” I like what I hear and I want to hear this. Maybe it’s the same way with memories. Are you telling me you’ve never had a red car? But I know what I saw, man — I saw a red car!
“Great story! Gets better every time you tell it. So you lie to yourself to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it. Who cares if there’s a few details you’d rather not remember?” — Teddy
In “Memento,” Teddy had to hear Leonard’s “Sammy Jenkins” story over and over. Of course, Teddy was sarcastic when he said the story got better each time he heard it. We’re seeing Saya’s story over and over and, likewise, it certain isn’t getting any better. Unlike Leonard, however, Saya’s starting to remember something different from the life she thinks she has always known. The question, however, is which memories of hers are fake and which are real? What doesn’t she want to remember? Or, perhaps, what doesn’t someone else want her to remember? What’s the truth behind her village, her world, or even her very existence?
• When Saya collapsed in the middle of class, it seemed like the twins and emo boy were the only one to move or say anything.
• It would really help this series if the bakemono didn’t look so damn silly.
The giant eye monster isn’t very menacing, but the real offender is the bakemono at the end of the episode:
It just looks like a giant, plastic toy.
• The choreography in the fight scenes are usually decent in this series, but there are some glaring ridiculousness. When the eye monster got the upper hand on Saya, it slammed the blunt end of its weapon into her stomach:
The next thing the eye monster does, however, is to try and stab Saya’s face with the sharper end of its weapon. Of course, Saya manages to avoid this fatal attack.
Why didn’t the eye monster start with the sharp end to begin with? This may seem like nitpicking, but I think this is an error that completely ruins the immersion.
• Saya’s dad didn’t seem too pleased to find the cafe owner stroking his daughter’s hair.