It’s no exaggeration to say I love Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge. It’t not perfect, but it’s special in so many ways. This is one of the most fearless series I can remember in that it seems willing to go almost anywhere thematically and try almost anything visually, in a medium that’s increasingly dominated by a play-it-safe mentality that mandates sticking to the marketing game plan. But it isn’t simply a messy jumble of incoherent but interesting ideas – it’s a taut, focused show with a relentless narrative drive and excellent pacing. Crime Edge both knows what it’s doing and does really interesting things, and that’s a rare combination.
I wasn’t initially keen on the introduction of Emily’s arc, and last week’s episode was probably my least favorite since the premiere. Frankly another loli who does bad things but is supposed to engender sympathy because of a of a tragic past (and how cute she is) feels pretty conventional by this show’s standards. But Crime Edge is one of those series (Zetsuen no Tempest is another recent example) that has a remarkable intra-episode pacing – for me the effect is that every ep takes a while to hook me in, but once it does the momentum is unescapable and the end, I’m completely engrossed. And so it was with this episode, which now appears likely to be part of a 4-episode arc to finish the series.
Just how much of what we see over the next two weeks is going to be manga canon and how much original I can’t say, as I haven’t read the source material. But while the indications are that Dansai Bunri could do at least decently in terms of BD/DVD sales, I would imagine Gokumi realized that a show this weird was unlikely to be a commercial juggernaut and thus planned for this cour to be all we get. So I expect we’re going to get some sort of ending and it’s going to involve Emily, and as her backstory was fleshed out it began to grow quite a bit more interesting (though more so in the scenes without her in them).
What do we know? Thanks to Iwai’s snooping around her father’s library – something she seemingly hasn’t done for years – we know now the connection between she and Emily. Iwai’s father (Nakata Jouji) plucked Emily off the streets of an undisclosed country in order to make her into a “Made-to-Order Author” in the hopes (supposedly) that she could cut Iwai’s hair. There are apparently a few of these about: “Knife, Gun and Poison” – she’s Knife – as a result of this being kind of a fad/experiment among the folks at Gossip (this info courtesy of Sumeragi). Sumeragi also tells us that Gossip “disposed of the incomplete ones”, which doesn’t do anything to repair their already dodgy status in my eyes. What’s clear is that for whatever reason Mushanokoji-san seemed very intent on finding Emily specifically, and that Emily is convinced that killing the Hair Queen will allow her to bring him back to life, a notion Violet Witchie does nothing to disabuse her of. My gut tells me it’s a lie and Emily is being used.
As for Kiri, he’s still in a bad way, the cuts Emily has given him refusing to heal. This is because she used the “Opener” ability on him, and this is brilliantly and disturbingly illustrated in a scene where Kiri falls asleep in the bath and the waters quite literally “run red with blood“. It’s not just his physical wounds that are troubling Kiri – he’s facing a serious crisis of confidence over his inability to fight Emily, and his relationship with Iwai is suddenly strained and tense to the point where he can’t even bring himself to ask about her hair. Eventually Kiri winds up going to the infirmary at school with Byouinzaka Yamane (who’s quite naturally on infirmary duty), which leads to one of those amazing set pieces that Crime Edge is so brilliant at. The practicalities are simple – Yamane gives Kiri some of her blood in the hope that her Author ability will enhance it, as it would a drug (seemingly it does). But the scene is so much more: sensual, disturbing, kinky, uncomfortable. Yamane is a peculiarly fascinating character, always dancing the line between psychosis and sympathy more perilously than anyone in the cast. There’s a palpable electrical charge to this moment, a dangerous sense that any number of things could happen. In the end Yamane succumbs to her own blood shortage, and Kiri declines her offer to sleep together.
The aftermath of this scene is multi-faceted. Kiri definitely feels better physically, but he can’t get the story Yamane told him out of his mind. She speaks of the genesis of her power, the dreams where the original Author in her line came to her, in terrifying terms – a story all Authors seemingly have in common (along with the side-effect of being emotionally stunted as a result of their transformation). All Authors except for Kiri that is, who obviously possesses the full palette of emotions and has never been visited by Grayland in his dreams. It’s a sign of how desperate Kiri is that he actually wishes Grayland would come to him – a dangerous notion indeed, it seems to me – in the hope that it will make him more powerful for a potential battle with Emily. In a welcome comic interlude at school Nigi the horror otaku gives him some background about the man – though she “forgets to tell Kiri one thing” (stay tuned on that one, for certain). Kiri seems to be forgetting for the moment (though Yamane isn’t) just how lucky he is to have control over his impulses most of the time and not to have to face the same inner demons the other Authors do.
I hope you stayed tune until after the credits, because Crime Edge again delivers an indelible moment. Kiri goes to visit the grave of Iwai’s father, looking for answers – though it’s not clear just what kind of answers he seeks there. What he finds instead is Emily, in a scene eerily reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. And it’s a scene that once again highlights the most remarkable quality of this series, its ability to juxtapose the strange and the beautiful to great effect (much, indeed, as Lewis Carroll did in the original). There’s little dialogue in this scene, and truthfully none is needed at all. The images of Emily dancing on Mushanokouji-san’s grave and Kiri watching speak for themselves, a perfect visual composition that both enchants and unsettles. It’s a unique method of storytelling, and it’s a perfect example of why Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge is so unique.