OP2: “Out of Control” by Nothing’s Carved in Stone
It’s become something of a trend for Urobuchi Gen series to take detours to the past at seemingly odd stages in the narrative, and this episode is certainly one that matches that description. Smack in the middle of the most intense arc in the series – and coming off a two-week break for New Year’s – we get an episode that leaps three years backwards to give us the backstory on Kunizuka Yayoi, a character who’s barely registered as a blip on the radar screen in the first eleven episodes.
In principle, I think this is a good idea. It’s high-time we got a little background on Yayoi, who’s had remarkably little presence for someone who’s been as close to the action as she has. In practice I’m not so sure. It’s not as if the series was desperately in need of another strong character, and her relatively untapped potential would have been quite a tolerable flaw (though still a flaw). Is fleshing Yayoi out worth taking a week away from the simmering drama at the heart of the story? Especially coming on the heels of a two-week hiatus it seems to pose a real risk of draining momentum from the narrative (that was a problem with the second season of Fate/Zero). I suppose we won’t be able to ascertain the worthiness of this episode until we see what direct dividends in pays in future ones, both in regards to Yayoi’s character and the other elements it introduces.
Taken in a vacuum, I think this ep was a perfectly solid one – certainly not as good as the gripping run of episodes that led into the break. It turns out that Yayoi’s route to being a police dog ran through the clubs and warehouses of Kitazawa, where she was a journeyman rock guitarist for a band that played Sibyl-approved tunes while the real rockers plotted anarchic revolution behind the scenes. This notion of Sibyl and its relationship to art is the most interesting element of the episode for me. Gino remarks that “I hear that there are many cases where a person’s hue can become clouded when they’re deeply involved in their art. A strong passion such as art, something capable of moving people, can act not only as a medicine but as a poison.”
I don’t want to wax all poetical about rock ‘n roll here, but it’s simply not a form that can be managed and sanitized in the way Sibyl seems to try and do so here – and it’s symbolic of deeper flaws in the system. No matter how much packaged corporate rock the labels spew out there’s always an underground, a place where creative energy flows in opposition to “the system”. It all boils down to what Johnny (Marlon Brando) said in the “The Wild Ones” way back in ‘53 – when asked “What are you rebelling against?” he answered “Whaddaya you got?” No matter how many holes in the dam Sibyl fills with her enforcers and detectives, the water will simply flow somewhere else looking for an outlet – it’s human nature. And the brutal conditions under which the people preemptively imprisoned based on Sibyl’s intuition do nothing to reinforce the idea that this is a viable and desirable way to govern a society.
For Yayoi, it seems her hue got a little dark from mixing too much with the wrong element and she ended up in one of Sibyl’s rehabilitation centers, unwilling even to get a request for guitar strings approved. Gino and Kougami (still a detective then) pursue her diligently after Sibyl IDs her as potentially a useful dog, but it’s only when a whiff of revolution in the alleys of Kitazawa reaches The Bureau that Kougami shows up bearing the coveted strings as a bribe – and it’s enough to get the recalcitrant Yayoi to at least help with their investigation. That investigation eventually leads to Club 27 (though seeing Masaoka out of his element in the “Yellow Hood” was my favorite moment), where Yayoi runs into the singer she deeply admired (and probably loved), Rina Takizaki (Watanabe Akeno) and sees the truth of just what the free thinkers are Kitazawa are really after.
All in all I didn’t feel as if Yayoi’s story was especially moving or powerful, or provided any deep insight into her character – it was superficially interesting but not much more than that. Of greater long-term import, I think, are the glimpses it provides of yet another way in which Sibyl isn’t nearly as in-control as it thinks it is, and of a very important figure in the main storyline – Sasayama Mitsuru (Asanuma Shintarou). He of course was the enforcer that later died in the serial murder case, and whose death sent Kougami over the edge into a dark-hued abyss. He’s revealed here to be a somewhat reckless and arrogant chap – it’s that recklessness (which Kougami warns him against) which leads to Club 27 turning into fiery chaos and the coup-plotters (including Rina) escaping. That element of Sasayama’s character likely wasn’t introduced by chance – in fact, it could have actually been the real point of this entire episode – and I expect it to play a role on the story later on.
ED2: “All Alone With You” by EGOIST