I think one of the more interesting questions of Kotoura-san, to quote from Watergate days, is “What did Kotoura-san know and when did she know it?” There are several developments in this series that seem patently obvious to us an audience, but Haruka-chan – despite her ability – seems quite slow in picking up on them. But I think the mounting weight of evidence is that she knows everything she should, and proceeds knowingly to take actions that we as an audience might deem nonsensical – thus causing the misapprehension that she was really in the dark.
A perfect example of the above is the transparently selfish motives of Mifune-san. It’s been obvious from the beginning that while she might have some transient affection for Kotoura, her primary interest in her is as a tool to help her exact revenge for the way her mother was hounded to suicide by the public and abandoned by the police. The mask really came off this week, but the funny thing is, it’s becoming more and more clear that Haruka knew all along, and decided to play along anyway. It actually fits her personality perfectly – as someone who fundamentally denies her own self-worth and blames herself for all the ills of the world, Haruka-chan continually seeks ways to punish herself as atonement for the supposed sin of her own existence. We’ve seen it most explicitly with Moritani, but it’s perhaps even more insidious with Mifune, and that thread in this surprisingly subtle series really took hold this week.
Of course, there’s a prominent example where the above doesn’t seem to be the case and Haruka actually has no idea what’s really happening – and that’s the female detective Tsukino Aki (Watanabe Akeno). There were hints last week that she was the culprit responsible for the schoolgirl attacks, and that was effectively confirmed this week. Her “I just happened to see you when I was investigating” lie, the clear trap she sets up for Mifune (though I suspect it was intended for Haruka herself) her constant entreaties not to investigate – all point to her guilt. The interesting question, of course – aside from motive – is how she’s able to keep Kotoura-chan from reading her thoughts. Kotoura seems to have no idea that Tsukino is the culprit despite repeated close contact, yet can read her thoughts at a distance. It’s an odd dichotomy that I can’t explain based on what the series has already told us. As for motive, all we really know is that she’s lonely and has no friends – and given that there are rarely coincidences in anime exposition it seems safe to assume that’s the main driver. Perhaps the sight of happy, smiling schoolgirls is enough to send her into a revenge-fueled rage against them for daring to be happier than she was as a girl.
I think, overall, the cast of this series knowing more than they let on is a recurring theme. Muroto, for example, seems quite aware of what Mifune is up to yet he – like Kotoura – makes a decision he knows might not be wise. He’s sticking with Mifune through thick and think, out of loyalty to her and the hope that by doing so he can moderate the damage she inflicts on herself and others. As much as I enjoy seeing Moritani locked up it’s obvious she’s not guilty (in this specific instance) and Muroto-kun sagely cautions patience, and that she’ll be released once it becomes obvious to the police (as indeed it does, when Tsukino strikes again while Mori is caged).
Manabe doesn’t have Muroto’s calm and discerning judgment, but he does generally get things right – the difference being that he relies on his instincts and compulsively acts as they direct. This causes him to rebel when it becomes obvious that Haruka is knowingly allowing herself to be used by Mifune. This is an interesting dynamic, and I think it reflects a sincere exasperation on his part. Being in love with someone who constantly puts herself in danger and refuses to acknowledge her own worth must surely be exhausting for him – not to mention the fact that he’s the one person in the world who’s proved himself worthy of her trust, yet she rarely seems to trust him. Manabe-kun has his own agenda too, just as everyone else does – the only difference is that he makes no bones about what it is (the only time he’s ever kept secrets from her was when he was planning a party for her birthday). And it seems that, rather than reward him for his transparency, Kotoura punishes him for it – and places her trust in those who deceive and use her, even as she knows they’re doing so. It doesn’t make much sense – but I suppose human behavior (never mind adolescent behavior) rarely does, especially in a romance.
This is probably the central pillar of Kotoura-san in the end – her internal battle with her own self-loathing and self-destructive tendencies. If there’s to be a happy ending (and it’s worth remembering that the manga is ongoing) it would seem to be with Haruka realizing that it’s Manabe she should be placing her trust in. There’s still the matter of Kumiko-san and whatever role she’s to play, and it seems likely to be a significant one in the conclusion of the anime if nothing else. As for the current crisis, it seems as if Mifune has gotten herself into deep trouble (unsurprisingly) by taking Tsukino’s bait, and I’m not sure her partner Ishiyama Gantestu (Sugo Takayuki) is up to being the one to see the truth and bring this to a conclusion.