We’re a third of the way through RDG now, so I’m feeling pretty much pot-committed on watching it via the pre-airs at this point. I re-watched the first episode in HD just to bask in the all the pretty (P.A. Works visuals seem to be a love/hate affair, and I’m squarely in the “love” camp) and I plan to re-watch the rest, but I can’t quite bring myself to wait three weeks for new episodes when half the audience has already seen them – this is truly an annoying way to release a series. I did consider doing a more spoiler-free review for this show as a result of all this, but I’m going to trust that if you read my posts, you’ve either seen the episode or don’t mind being spoiled with details.
If my expectations for Red Data Girl hadn’t been sky-high going into the season – it was probably my most-anticipated series along with Shingeki no Kyojin – I think I’d be 100% pleased with the series. It’s only because I find it to be very good and not great than I feel any letdown whatsoever, but even at that I’m enjoying it a lot. There were some hiccups with the characterization in the first episode that the series still hasn’t totally overcome, but the premise is engaging and I think Shinohara Toshiya is doing an excellent job keeping things from feeling hopelessly rushed considering everything that’s already happened in only four episodes.
As this week’s offering begins, Izumiko is continuing to bond with her roommate Mayura and getting ready for her first day at Houjou Academy. Along the way Mayura introduces her to her brother Manatsu (Ishikawa Kaitou), a boisterous type who loves to take care of horses. Turns out that the siblings aren’t twins, but actually the surviving pair from a set of triplets, the third of which died very young (Chekov’s Gun has just been pulled out of the holster). We also meet Takayanagi Ichijou (Nojima Hirofumi), Wamiya-lookalike, top of the class, student council candidate, and purveyor of mystical advice via the website modoribashi.com, which already seems to have the girls in Izumiko’s class addicted. Izumiko originally assumes they’re talking about the famous bridge (“Ichijou” Modoribashi) in Kyoto when she hears the name – a bridge has stood on the same spot for 1300 years, and has been the site of executions, Hideyoshi’s famous punishment of Christian missionaries by slicing off their ears, and one incident where a corpse supposedly came to life long enough to bid farewell to the son who’d been late for his funereal – thus earning it the nickname “Bridge of Revival” and a reputation as a passage to the afterlife. Though I’m sure the name is just a coincidence…
What’s very clear is that P.A.Works has become something of a specialist at showing weird stuff happening at school, and this ep has some positively Another-like moments. Izumiko’s father has certainly chosen this school for a reason – the existence of mystical powers seems to be an open secret. Takayanagi has a golem working for him, in fact, and uses it to call out Izumiko after he realizes she can see that the Brazilian transfer student is actually his spirit puppet. Mayura has spiritual powers of her own, and she was already deeply suspicious of Takayanagi – so much so that she secretly observes the confrontation between Izumiko, Miyuki and Takayanagi in the AV room that results in Miyuki exorcising the golem and Takayanagi correctly guessing who the two of them are.
After an attempt to learn more by visiting modoribashi.com springs a trap and leads to Mayura being injured, Manatsu gets involved and reveals that he too has spiritual powers – and he and his sister use them to communicate with Masumi and ask for help. While that’s where the episode ends, it seems to be a jumping off point for things to get pretty strange. Masumi looks like an ordinary student, but she has the same family name as Manatsu and Mayuri – Souda – and is played by Kimura Ryouhei (though we don’t hear her speak yet). I’m not going to guess at why he might be playing the part, though it’s hard not to assume this is the dead sibling Mayura spoke of. In any event it can’t be denied that this is one weird school, where such things seem to be taken to a remarkable degree in stride.
We don’t see a lot of movement on the Izumiko-Miyuki front yet, though Mayura does make allusion to the fact that it’s traditional for spirit vessels and Yamabushi exorcists to marry. Whatever you may think of it Izumiko has clearly come to feel safest when in his company, as witness what happens when she takes off her glasses and as a result has another of her panic attacks. The glasses were a gift from her mother, and it’s obvious enough that they and her long hair were some sort of devices to help seal or contain her power. As she loses those one by one her connection to the Goddess who possesses her apparently increases, and my suspicion is that’s going to lead the story to some fairly dark places before too long.