Events continue to barrel along at a breakneck pace, but my suspicion is now that “that” has happened, things are going to slow down quite a bit – and we’re going to find out just how good a series Area no Kishi is. Or isn’t.
There are a lot of different ways an event like the death of a major character can be played, and in general I thought Suguru’s passing was handled pretty well. Considering the magnitude of the event – not just one of the premier figures of the first two episodes but a child at that has died under horrible circumstances – I think the understated tone Hirofumi-sensei and Shin-Ei chose was the right one. The emotions of the family were shown, but not lingered on. Most of what happened was off-screen, and we – like the characters – reacted to the news of it rather than the sight of it. Indeed, we never even saw Suguru after the accident – only what he left behind, physically and emotionally.
Probably the most interesting moments during the hospital sequences were those which featured the clinical psychiatrist Mine Ayaka (Ohara Sayaka). She’s the one who eventually tells Kakeru what we already know – that Suguru has died in the accident. Naturally he takes this hard, but I’ll have to check with my clinical psychologist Dad to find out whether slapping a juvenile patient who’s just had heart surgery is normal procedure. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of her though Kakeru has physically recovered (more on that in a minute). The other compelling element of the first part was the way it was cut through with flashbacks from the time before Seven moved away, where Kakeru was actually converting the passes from young Suguru (Kumai Motoko, young Goro from Major) and playing a two-forward formation with Nana. It was Kakeru who gave Seven her nickname – as indeed I suspect he’s given her new one, “Grey”.
Of course, it’s what happens now that Suguru is gone that really matters, both in terms of the characters and whether or not this series is going to work as an anime. It turns out that Kakeru’s heart was pierced by one of the steel rods from the truck that hit the boys, and it’s only because Suguru suffered a fatal brain injury in the accident that Kakeru received his heart, and lived. Kakeru doesn’t know this yet, and Mine-sensei is advising his parents (Tahara Aruno and Sakuma Rei) to keep the information from him. Problem is that Nana does know, having overheard their conversation, and Kakeru – having followed through on his plan to quit the soccer club – is displaying some odd behavior. That’s a very Adachi-like conceit, and we’ll see if Kibayashi-sensei is a good enough writer (and this is a good enough adaptation) to pull it off.
On that, I would say early returns are inconclusive, though trending positive. As I said, I think the events were handled rather well for the most part, and if the central conceit is somewhat oversentimental, there’s a fair amount of genuine cleverness to it and it could really work. But there were moments in the episode that didn’t work so well, including a scene near the end (which I’m led to believe was anime-original) where Kakeru uses his now apparently super-senses to detect an impending accident involving a little girl and her dog, and kicks a soccer ball in a gravity-defying arc to warn off the driver of an oncoming car. This felt genuinely odd and fairly preposterous, as did the follow-up shots of Kakeru with a distinctly “Suguru-like” angry-determined face and profile. I think the notion of seeing what the younger brother does with the older brother’s heart is an interesting one, but it needs to be played with – forgive me – Adachi-like subtlety, not the in-your-face bluntness of the episode’s conclusion. As I said, inconclusive – though I enjoyed most of the episode and I still think this has a good chance to be an emotionally powerful series.