So you can’t hurt The Stalled (people who cannot move within the world of Stasis) or else the big, bad tree monster is gonna come after you. To outsiders, the big, bad tree monster is known as The Handler. To the cultists, however, the big, bad tree monster is The Herald, a creature foretold in the Great Circle Scriptures except that the real thing is apparently smaller than expected. Either way, it’s less of a monster and more of a protector. Seeing as how I was hoping for more of a horror-themed anime, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed by this revelation. I also find it weird that this is the first time these guys have run into the monster. If it always shows up when you break one of the unwritten rules, that would suggest that the bad guys haven’t broken any rules up until last week’s episode. But let’s move on for now. Thanks to The Handler/Herald, none of the cultists can hurt Juri’s nephew. It pops one of the bad guy’s head before fading away.
This means Juri and her grandpa are good to go, right? Not exactly. Even though the old man has teleportation magic, he cannot use it to save Makoto. In the meantime, he can only escape with Juri. In fact, they left Takafumi behind. At this point, the show’s pacing slows down considerably as Grandpa painstakingly reveals everything he knows. As a result, we mainly see both characters casually take a stroll through the neighborhood as we are spoonfed bits after bits of exposition. Did you know that The Handler might very well be one of their ancestors? If you get stuck in the world of Stasis, you might become a tree monster too! Hey, can she learn to teleport like him? Nah, she can’t. But she might get a unique ability of her own later on! I half expected Juri to be in a state of shock. After all, she not only just saw someone get killed in a gruesome way in front of her, she saw some strange, freaky monster. But other than one brief moment where she looks ill, the girl quickly moves on. Huh.
The cultists don’t fare much better. Like our heroes, Sagawa and Shibata mainly stand around to discuss their next moves. Majima Shouko is finally introduced to the story, but she’s on the bad guys’ side for now. Apparently, she’s been helping them collect information on the Yukawa family. They’ve been wanting to get their hands on the Master Stone for a while now, but it wasn’t until Shouko showed up that they finally knew where to look. Beyond that, we catch a quick glimpse of her past, but not enough to really tease out anything interesting about her character. The same goes for the rest of the bad guys. What exactly is Sagawa and his cult after? Something about creating a world of their own, but that’s horribly vague.
At some point, one of those weird bundles of wiggly strings emerges from the dead man’s body and enters Tsubasa. I think Grandpa referred to them as jellyfish. In any case, Tsubasa is suddenly no longer one of The Stalled; he can now move about freely in this world. He might also have gotten some special ability like Grandpa’s teleportation, but he wouldn’t know that yet. In the meantime, he’s freaking out over Makoto, because again, he doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know where he is or what’s going on. All he knows is that the kid’s heart isn’t beating — and in Stasis, why would it? — so he’s going to go look for help. This is the most interesting part of the episode for me.
Grandpa and Juri decide to split up. Since he has teleportation magic, he’s the best person to go after Takafumi. They need to save him first before they can leave Stasis. Once they leave Stasis, they can hopefully reenter it in a later moment in time where the cultists aren’t active. This hardly feels like a foolproof plan, but I guess they don’t really have any other options. Upon infiltrating the cultists’ headquarters, however, Grandpa realizes that splitting themselves up is exactly what the bad guys wanted. In fact, they’ve been keeping tabs on his family for quite some time. Juri walks directly into a trap when she tries to retrieve the Master Stone. Even worse, they don’t need her alive, so they intend to rape her before ending her life. Next week’s preview suggests that she’ll also unlock some special power.
All in all, my excitement for the show has died down considerably. There’s nothing egregiously bad about this week’s episode; it’s just clumsily executed. All of the tension from last week’s cliffhanger dissipates as soon as the characters start walking about, detailing the mechanics of the game. It’s just not riveting. Also, for a cult leader, Sagawa is oddly deficient of any sort of charisma. I expect someone in his position to have a way words and be a genius at manipulating people. Instead, he just comes across as this sleepy-eyed guy in the background who talks as if he’s two steps ahead of everyone. That may very well be true, but he’s not bringing much to the story. Anyways, now that we’ve gotten much of the dry and boring exposition out of the way, hopefully next week’s episode can back to furthering the plot or developing the characters. Hell, why not both?