Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge – 05

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If anyone had expectations that Crime Edge would be easing up in any way, they’re going to be disappointed – this series is still turned up to eleven.

Dansai Bunri is a funny sort of show, above and beyond simply being a very weird one. The experience of viewing it is as visceral as any anime I’ve seen for a long-time – rather than watching what’s happening it seems as if you feel it on a gut level (or at least you do if the show is working for you).  It assaults the senses non-stop with gorgeous visuals (I take a ridiculous number of screencaps every damn week) and music, and is able to portray extremes of emotion and mood effortlessly.  The atmosphere is so alluring and powerful that I feel completely drawn in from start to finish, and the net result is that each episode is an intense and somewhat exhausting experience.

“Atmosphere” was the first word I really centered on when I talked about why the premiere of Crime Edge clicked for me, and it still seems to be central to much of what makes the series special.  A big part of that is that this show knows how to do suspense better than almost any other recent anime – suspense is really all about atmosphere after all, and many series and movies fall back on trickery to try and be scary because suspense is harder.  You really do get the feeling that anything could happen in this series, and the world it portrays is increasingly depraved and twisted.

What we saw once again this week is just how effective Dansai Bunri is at contrast.  The first half was the closest the series has come to being a conventional school comedy, and it handled that almost flawlessly.  The osananajimi relationship between Koutarou and Ubusato Nigi (Noto Arisa) has been a side-plot at best so far, but I loved how natural their interactions were, and the moment when Kashiko looked at them and uttered “They look good together.  Dammit.” in frustration over their lack of romantic interest was quietly brilliant.  Kashiko is another of those seemingly minor characters who’s carved out a place in the show’s persona – she’s an interesting person and you can tell she has an interesting story we haven’t heard the most interesting parts of yet.  That ability to make even the side characters seem like untold stories in their own right is a product of the quietly very astute writing when it comes to the series’ character dynamics.

One thing does become clear about Kashiko – she’s interested in Kiri for sure.  There are interesting implications for that, as we see when the middle-schoolers and high-schoolers take an orienteering trip to the mountains (the seniors ride the bus, the juniors get to hike for three hours, as part of what seems to be an institutionalized hazing ritual).  Being on a school trip presents an obvious problem for Iwai, and she and Kiri solve it by agreeing to meet in the woods at Midnight for a clandestine haircut (which got me wondering – just what do they do with all the hair he chops off every day?).  It’s clear that Kiri sees this as a romantic moment, and who can blame him?  His cabin-mates are happily looking at porn, and first of all – bananas?  Second, looking at porn right before going to sleep in a room with three other guys seems like a very bad idea for a middle-schooler, in so many ways.  In any event Kiri seizes the moment to sneak away to his moonlit rendezvous, Crime Edge in hand.

Again, we have a great display of contrast here.  The scene in the woods, ablaze with fireflies, is ethereally beautiful.  They share a deeply tender moment surrounding her unhappy memories of watching the stars alone.  It seems as though the bond between Kiri and Iwai could hardly be any closer (indeed, I’ve commented on how powerful that bond seems) and he’s about to seize the moment to make his feelings known overtly when she casually tosses off the remark that she wouldn’t have the first clue about who she’d want by her side for something like stargazing, if asked.  It’s very funny – just like the scene with the guys and the porn is funny – but it’s obviously genuinely heartbreaking for Kiri.  How could he – indeed, how could we – have read Iwai so badly?  She seems quite sincere, too – not at all playing coy – expressing that it’s her inexperience with other people that makes her unable to think about such things yet.  Kiri is quite gutted by the experience – who could blame him – and disappears into the night, returning to his cabin to sulk in his sleeping bag for the rest of the night and much of the next day.

Adding another – and very twisted element – to this mix are the President of the Student Council, Saiga Romeo (Nakamura Yuuichi – Grizzly-kun this ain’t) and Shihoudou Ruka (Hikasa Youko).  It’s another Author-Instead pair – he (as we find out in some rather clumsy exposition of the stop-the-story and explain variety, a rare off-note moment) the descendent of the Lord of Pigs, who kept people chained in his basement and starved them to death with some whipping thrown in for good measure.  We seem to have a classic S & M duo here, possibly the most revolting we’ve seen so far – we’re introduced to them in highly memorable fashion with one of the more disturbing scenes of the season in terms of pure ick factor.  Gossip has tipped them off that Iwai is the Hair Queen, and Romeo plans to off her on the second night of the trip while the students are on their stargazing outing – the first step in his plan to dominate the world, apparently – and Ruka is the trigger for the operation.  After being hit on by a group of boys (one of whom is played by Fukushima Jun, Manabe from Kotoura-san) before Iwai intervenes.  Ruka pulls Iwai along behind her and onto a rowboat to the middle of the lake.  There she calmly tells Iwai how she loathes men and all of them should die – and proceeds to push Iwai off the boat and into the cold water below.

The underlying truth of what happens next isn’t exactly clear yet.  Iwai wakes up in a bed inside the high-schoolers’ cabin, which is locked from the outside (the interiors are yet more gorgeous design work for the staff and art director Takahashi Mako, by the way).  After finding a terrifying note from Romeo she stumbles on Kiri.  But he’s clearly not himself, not speaking and grabbing her hair roughly in a way he never has, and she flees with his Crime Edge in hand, soon enough to be set upon by a group of boys who seem to be either drugged or hypnotized.  Their intent is quite clear, and there’s no denying the scene that follows is pretty rough to watch – one of them tries to force her legs apart, another pulls her sweatpants off as she tries to flee, she kicks another in the crotch and slashes one with Crime Edge.  It’s a disturbing scene and it’s meant to be, even if we can’t say exactly why it’s happening. It’s just possible that Nakajima Seigi – the Conditional Murder Author from last week – set the whole thing up by tipping off Romeo and Ruka, in order to push Romeo (or possibly Kiri himself) to kill, and thus to be judged.  In any event he’s certainly well aware of what’s happening, and watching with undisguised glee.

All in all, this is some pretty heavy stuff, and some of the creepiest and most suspenseful anime of the year so far.  It’s a wonder that the overall impact isn’t heavy and depressing, but it really isn’t – Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge is certainly unsettling, but it manages to pack every episode with moments of real beauty, genuine human warmth and very sharp comedy.  Again, it’s all about contrast – each element is so vivid that it makes the others that much more impactful.  And it’s also nice to see Iwai stepping up and asserting some real will and courage this week.  I was almost as surprised and dejected as Kiri when she blithely ripped his heart out – though given her truly bizarre upbringing I can sort of understand it – but apart from that moment she really stepped up her game.  The girl who wet herself in terror a couple episodes back kicked and slashed her way to freedom, and vowed to free Kiri from whatever chicanery has taken hold of his senses.  Hopefully in the process she’ll realize how much more he means to her than her conscious mind is willing to admit just yet.

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  1. A

    The newest pairing is repulsive indeed.

    Everyone would think it's natural for Iwai-chan to choose Kiri as her stargazing companion. I really feel for Kiri there.

    The later part of the episode was suspenseful and I hope it won't get any more disturbing than this.

    Couldn't wait to see Seigi meeting Romeo…

  2. K

    Am I creepy for loving how depraved this is capable of getting? Well, not that I enjoy watching the President and Vice-pres or seeing Iwai nearly get raped, but I just can't help but feel refreshed by how this series doesn't really care about alienating viewers. It just is what it is, take it or leave it, and take it I will.

  3. M

    Aku no Hana fits that description perfectly.

  4. E

    That thing can't even be called an anime.

  5. M

    Well, considering rotoscoping is an animation technique and anime is short for animation you'd be wrong there. But your comment remains hysterical nonetheless.

  6. H

    I actually thought this episode would go a really long way toward satisfying a lot of the complaints I'd been seeing about the show, mainly that Iwai has just been the 'damsel-in-distress' waiting for Kiri to protect her. Going from the scared girl who wet herself 2 episodes ago to this girl who was scared but took heart and strength to fight back from the thought of Kiri didn't feel contrived or jarring, just well done. And no matter what her motivation was, she didn't crumble or collapse or give up.

    I thought that Iwai just played it wrong with Kiri about liking someone, and he bailed before she got around to the part where she felt she could show interest. I think she really does have that kind of feeling for him, but she just doesn't really understand it, or know how to deal with it.

  7. I think she has that kind of feeling too (kissing Crime Edge is certainly a tipoff) but I think she was being honest in the moment. In her conscious mind, she wasn't seeing Kiri that way – because, as you say, she doesn't understand her own feelings well enough because she's always been alone. I don't think she just didn't have time to tell him she reciprocated his feelings – I don't think she was going to say it no matter how long they sat there.

  8. H

    Well, she did follow that up with "So, what are you going to do for the stargazing…?" That *could* have been completely platonic, but it seemed that there was at least an undertone that she wanted to spend the time with him, especially considering that she's hoping that her view of stargazing will change since she can do it with people she wants to be with (and want to be with her), rather than alone. Perhaps I've got the romance goggles on a bit much (something I'm prone to do), but I think she's leading up to that.

    There's still a long way to go in the series, and this one, if there's any sort of confession, will be a last minute one, I'd bet.

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