I had some forewarning (not through any choice of my own, mind you) that the Kud arc was going to be a pretty dramatic tonal shift from a series that’s already proved itself capable of some jarring ones. The extent to which that was true started to become apparent last week and even more so this, as Kud’s arc came to a generally satisfying conclusion.
In a way Kud’s arc had to do some serious heavy lifting, because while I know there were earlier hints that will seem obvious if I re-watch the series after the second season, this was the arc were the work of rolling out the “secret of this world” really started. Among the things that seemed odd this week:
- Haruka and Mio were back with the group at the start of the episode, as if nothing had happened. I refuse to believe their disappearance (this has happened twice with Mio that I’ve noticed) was a coincidence.
- On a related note: the comment that Kud had used the Little Busters as a way to adjust to her new world, and “If any of us were missing, that world would cease to exist.” I don’t know exactly what it means, but it means something.
- Kyousuke’s comment that “terrible things don’t just happen in places that are very far away.” He could have been talking about events along the lines of Komari and her brother – or then again, he might not…
- Kud, while chained in prison, said very specifically that she had to get back “to help Riki and Rin”. Why help Riki and Rin specifically?
- The more I consider Riki’s statement that his comment to Kud about not running away was “really talking to himself”, the more I think he’s referring to his narcolepsy being a form of running away from reality. I have no proof, but I can’t find any other obvious connection either for the statement itself or the narcolepsy.
It does seem that Kud is somehow more directly connected to the secret of the world than any of the other characters who have been in focus thus far – she’s certainly had more suspicious conversations with Kyousuke than anyone else, and he’s obviously in the know – but her own arc still provided probably the best drama of any thus far. To say it was a stylistic change from the rest of the series would be a massive understatement – we jumped directly into civil war. Automatic weapons fire as a lullaby, mortal shells exploding, and prison – Kud chained half-naked in an underground cell by the rebels who saw her as a symbol of the regime they loathed. LB obviously didn’t go deeply into the politics of the thing – this isn’t that sort of show – but the issue of ethnic tension between native peoples and the Russian descendants who retained power after the collapse of the Soviet Union is a very real one in many former Soviet Republics.
I don’t think there’s any way to describe Kud’s escape without using the term Deux ex Machina – a psychic connection between she and Riki using the gear from her mother’s ship, which magically teleports from Riki’s hands into hers? Well, this is Key after all and magical realism is the not-so-secret of any Key world. And I get the sense that this sort of thing is going to prove to be par for the course once the cat is out of the big and we go into magical mode at full-speed, not to mention that this development presumably was taken directly from the VN. It’s a bit of a head-slapper but it does raise the rather charming notion that there’s a special thread connecting Riki and Kud-o. I couldn’t help but notice that when she arrived back in Japan, it was Riki who she went to immediately.
We have two episodes left of this season, and presumably an announcement about what form S2 will take will come shortly thereafter. Episode 24 appears to focus on another mysterious letter tied to a cat’s tail (you really shouldn’t do that, seriously) but being able to do more than guess, it seems unlikely to me that LB is going to undertake anything really major in these last two episodes as far as the larger mystery is concerned (of course the letters are obviously connected to it, but so far those stories have been pretty low-key on the “secret” front). I could be wrong and the season might end on a major revelation or cliffhanger, but it feels more likely that the Kud arc was the dramatic peak, with the final two eps more about a soft landing and stage setting. I’m also curious to see if anything is going to develop with Kengo, whose role may be the most mysterious of all in that, as of now, he doesn’t really seem to have a compelling reason to exist at all. I haven’t figured out yet if he’s somehow the lynchpin to everything or we just haven’t gotten to his storyline yet, but there are enough extended shots of his sitting at a distance from the rest of the group to really make me wonder.