There are certainly times where my views diverge from mass opinion when it comes to anime, and it’s beginning to look as if RDG may be one of them. Considering the amount of consternation I’ve seen in the early reactions, I was frankly pretty worried coming into this episode. But the show is still working for me. My biggest worry is still that this is too big a story to fit into one cour, and we’re already seeing some side-effects of that in the unnaturally rapid character development. But in terms of having a compelling premise and executing it, for my money the series is of to a pretty good start.
To confront it immediately, is Miyuki’s conversion unrealistically complete? Yes and no. I look at his character as someone who’s major issues weren’t with Izumiko, but with his father (and apparently with good reason). He’s an adolescent, and since he wasn’t really able to take his frustrations out on Yukimasa he peevishly took them out on Izumiko. Not only was she handy, but also conveniently symbolic of everything Miyuki was angry about – having no control over his life, his father’s domineering nature, and a system that’s based on heredity rather than merit (and we see subtle signs in this episode that Miyuki is still troubled by this aspect of Izumiko).
Seen through that lens, I don’t think Miyuki’s change in attitude is a major problem. Should it have happened over five or six episodes instead of three? Yes, in an ideal world – which with only one cour to work with, P.A. Works isn’t living in. Especially when you consider the fact that they had a near-death experience in Tokyo (or so it seemed) to bond over, plus the age-old thing teens have always united over – a shared anger at an adult – I think it’s believable that Miyuki would accept his responsibility and suck it up. Your mileage may vary.
Whatever any of us may think of that, we are where we are – and in this new phase of the story Miyuki and Izumiko are allies. That, in fact, presents quite a problem with Wamiya. It was obvious from the beginning that something was off there (and I don’t just mean KugiRie trying to voice a middle-school boy) but I was surprised by just how off it was, and how quickly the shit hit the fan. Turns out Wamiya is actually a God, perhaps a familiar of the God of the Mountain (for Yamabushi, that means everything) given form after aeons of formless existence by Izumiko’s desire for friends. And he’s not too happy to see her change her views on Miyuki, who she originally said she hated. Looked at from Wamiya’s perspective it’s easy to see why he’d be pissed off – he was willed into existence by Izumiko, and now she’s had a change of heart?
I think the final scenes between Wamiya, Izumiko and Miyuki are quite enlightening in many ways. I think the word I would use to describe Wamiya here is “capricious” – and that’s the way Kami are genrally portrayed in anime such as this one. For him, the lives of humans are a trifle, a blink of an eye – and thus of little consequence if snuffed out. Izumiko shows that she does have some steel when cornered, standing up to Wamiya and trying to show him the illogic of his thinking – if he was created to make Izumiko happy, how can that be accomplished by killing her, as he threatens to do by wiping out the Shrine with lightning? And Miyuki, clearly, is nowhere near ready to face a God – “I haven’t been trained on that yet!” is his only answer when Nonomura-san calls on his to try and exorcise Wamiya.
I’m not sure what Wamiya meant by asking Izumiko to do a Kagura dance in order to “release Wamiya Satoru” but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts we haven’t seen the last of him. It seems we’ve pretty much reached the end of the prologue at this point, as both Miyuki and Izumiko – for their own reasons – decide that the only way they can move forward is to follow their fathers’ wishes. The story skips ahead six months to Houjou Academy in Tokyo (though clearly not Central Tokyo) where Izumiko has joined Miyuki, and we’re introduced to her roommate Souda Mayura (Yonezawa Madoka). It’s all happening very quickly, I can’t deny that, and that remains by biggest worry going forward. Hopefully Shinohara Toshiya being such a vastly experienced director will pay dividends for Red Data Girl, because it’s going to be a challenge to keep the story coherent and grounded if it continues to advance at this pace. If he can do that, I think the potential is there for something quite excellent.