I don’t think it’s a surprise, but we’re at the point now where we’re going to find out if this series can be as effective a drama as it was a straight-up comedy. Mind you, there’s still some humor there, but things are getting quite a bit more serious – which was always a strong possibility, given the premise. My early answer would be “almost” – I haven’t enjoyed these last two eps as much as the first two, but they’ve still been quite good. I think the foundation has been laid well-enough with character and plot that Hataraku will still be engaging even when it’s primarily focused on telling what looks like a modestly complicated story.
One reason I haven’t been quite as enthralled with these episodes, to be honest, is that Emi’s importance has continued to grow. I don’t dislike her but I simply don’t find her as likeable or interesting as the other leads. We got plenty of backstory (which was inevitable) this week, and it’s not as if I don’t understand why she acts the way she does towards Sadao – it’s perfectly justified. It’s just that watching her act that way is pretty boring compared to what’s happening the rest of the time. It’s all stuff we’ve seen in anime a thousand times before.
Speaking of inevitable, there were no surprises in Emi’s backstory – it was pretty much as it had to be. Satan razed her village and killed her father during his rampage of terror, and she was the only one who could fight back – given her special powers as the child of an Angel mother and a Human father. Predictable or not, it does sort of force the viewer to confront the reality that Sadao – who is pretty undeniably an extremely likeable and considerate guy as we’ve known him – is actually responsible for some terrible things. It’s nothing we didn’t already know but it’s easy to forget – and it’s nice to see that Hataraku isn’t pulling its punches on this the way Maoyuu Maou Yuusha and other series have done. The Devil is bad, and he has a lot to answer for.
Given that the disconnect between the Sadao we see and the Satan that was – and Emi dealing with it – is the primary underpinning of the series, this was certainly an important episode in setting up the rest of the series. It remains to be seen just how much charm their relationship will have, but it’s not going away so I hope it can hold up its end. What’s undeniable is that Sadao is playing the role of the nice guy with impeccable consistency and he seems 100% genuine – he did indeed save everyone at the cave-in, and he even shows concern for Emi afterwards despite the fact that she has nothing worse than a little boo-boo. Ashiya, meanwhile – like Samon from Zetsuen no Tempest he seems incapable of not being funny, no matter what else is happening – is devastated by his inability to protect his Lord, both from Emi and from the disaster than struck the underground shopping mall in Shinjuku.
In the aftermath, Emi and her work pal Rika (Nishi Asuka) have a very interesting conversation as Emi stays overnight at Rika’s apartment. They discuss the Kobe earthquake after Emi overhears Rika’s Kansai-ben in a call from her family, and Rika goes on to speak in some detail about the disaster. She also makes a comment about how everyone has an angel and devil inside them, arguing about what they should do, and that sometimes people even become angels or devils. The whole thing was quite conspicuous to the point of suggesting a much deeper connection, and I’m beginning to suspect there’s no coincidence to anything that’s happening in Sadao and Emi’s new lives.
That impression is further solidified by the revelation that it was the spell Sadao cast on the two cops in Shinjuku when he first arrived that impacted Chiho – the daughter of one of them – and made her a conduit for the Idea Link. It strengthens even more when the boys’ landlady stops by – just as Chiho is fleeing in tears after finding Emi inside (having fallen down the stairs after paying Sadao back his 1000¥). The emotion in the room was strictly a result of Emi’s distress as Satan’s continued kindness to her, but Chiho doesn’t know that – and the landlady reveals herself to be someone with a great deal of knowledge of all concerned. She strongly implies that it’s the powerful emotions Chiho is feeling that are causing the earthquakes – either directly or indirectly – and urges him to go after her.
The last big reveal of the episode is the fact that there’s a new devil in town – Satan’s top general Lucifer (Shimono Hiro). He’s in the guise of a teenaged boy and he’s obviously the one who’s been behind the attacks on Satan and Emilia, and he just as obviously sees Chiho – riven by hormonally-fuelled turmoil as she is – as the perfect vehicle for his offensive against the two of them. What’s his motive for turning on his former master – is it simply disillusionment over what The Dark Lord has become? We’ll see – and we’ll also see what role two humans from Ente Isla on their way to modern Tokyo themselves are going to play in all this. The plot, as they say, thickens…