The prison mystery wraps up – sort of – in a mostly satisfactory and highly entertaining manner that plays something like a cross between 60’s sci-fi and early Hitchcock. I can’t help but wonder whether much was changed from Ango’s original story, or Ango was simply a remarkably visionary writer.
First off, I have to give full credit to the scene where Kazamori infiltrated the prison electronically in order to reach Shinjuro. It wasn’t quite as cool as The Spiral King’s master hack from the second Gurren-Lagann movie, but it was stylish and stunning in a retro-future sort of way. It certainly explained the strange message Shinjuro received on the library computer last week, but then this ep did a great job (perhaps even too neatly) of explaining pretty much everything that happened last week.
If you have the time, it’d certainly be an interesting experience to re-watch episode 7 in light of everything we were told today. It was especially fascinating to look back on the interpretations each of the three “actresses” (Toyosaki Aki, Takagaki Ayahi, Kotobuki Minako) took from the “We should’ve sucked off war more” dialogue last week, each a reflection of their real-life crimes – prostitute, propagandist, mother-turned-terrorist. As I surmised it was indeed The Novelist’s sidekick that Inga smelled last week, and now we know who she is – Bettneou, a black-eyed Kami that has the ability to change others’ perception of their reality. Whether she works for The Novelist or vice-versa is hard to say and we don’t know how they met, but this was certainly always the most logical explanation for what happened at the prison. There were other clues – the Frank Darabont films the “director” was looking at, for example – and some were quite subtle, like the missing number on the director’s keypad and the fact that Shinjuro appeared to be leaning on non-existent walls and such at times. The whole exercise was not just a play for The Novelist’s benefit, but a scam on the part of a prison guard to ensure the silence of a female prisoner who knew things he didn’t want to get out.
This was an episode where the side characters really got to shine. Kazamori proved its worth yet again, cleverly zapping Shinjuro into reality with shock handcuffs (perhaps an explanation will come later as to how Kazamori can seemingly create matter from the ether). Inga was uncharacteristically flustered in trying to deal with Shinjuro’s massive crowds of angry customers. It was interesting to see Seigen get his first opportunity to really participate (and for Miyu Irino to act a little) as he teamed with Inga to get inside the prison mystery once Rie and Izumi were caught up in Bettenou’s unreality. We saw the first signs of independent thought from him, too, as he seems to openly rebel against Kaishou’s tendency to hide the truth rather than shed light on it – I hope that’s a thread that’s followed in future episodes.
Indeed, in addition to providing a compelling mystery in its own right this arc did wonders to further add depth and color to the world UN-GO has created, and to set-up what appears to be a final arc building on the themes of war, freedom of thought and conscientious objection. Bettenou has fallen into the hands of the intelligence branch of the government, and given their track record and her powers, that’s a terrifying prospect. Shinjuro – as evidenced by his decision not to immediately leave the prison after the truth was revealed – has proved himself a complex and fascinating man, someone who holds deeply to his ideals and appears to be willing to pay the ultimate price for them. I get the sense that we’ve seen only the mild and smiling side of Kashirou so far, but we’re about to see some serious fangs there. I think the stakes are going to rise precipitously across the board, with everyone being forced to choose a side – a choice that will prove extremely difficult for some of them.