It’s been clear pretty much since day one that Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge was a dark ride, but in many ways I think the episode took it farther down that road than any previously (and that’s saying something). The normal rules don’t seem to apply here, and that means no one – not even annoying little moeblobs who call everyone “Onee-san” and “Oni-san” are off limits. And thank goodness for that, I say.
In many ways this series began when Kiri discovered the truth of his past, so it only seems natural that it should conclude with him confronting it. There are larger symbolic themes at work but in practical terms, it’s a matter of a boy discovering that there’s a beast inside him – and trying to stay true to himself despite that fact. But what if the beast is the true self? I think that’s the question Crime Edge has been asking all along, and this episode took us a lot further down that road, too.
I found one moment in the fascinating episode especially striking – when the wounded Kiri was on the edge of consciousness after falling from the cliff, reaching for Crime Edge. “I just want to be someone.” he says. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the hero or the villain – I just don’t want to be a nobody.” There’s something of the universal adolescent longing in that statement, which is one of the reasons adults typically find adolescents subtly terrifying creatures. They’re bursting with possibility (far more than adults, much to the latter’s envy) and along with that comes endless possibility for mayhem. They’re entities of rapidly developing power and usually a far less rapidly developing moral compass.
The “truth” of Kiri’s past is also a major theme of this final arc. Nigi reveals what she forgot to tell Kiri – that Grayland might just be a myth, that no one was likely capable of what he was rumored to have done. Yet Gossip (we meet a new associate of Violet’s, played by the unmistakable Ohtsuka Houchu) seem to have way too much interest in him for that to be the case. At the grave, though, Kiri continues to struggle in his renewed battle with Emily (for the first time a fight not seen through the sepia filter, bur rather bathed in a gorgeous swathe of deep-red sunset) – she’s one step ahead of him at every turn, and dismissive of his lack of a special ability. She, too seems to consider Grayland nothing more than a trumped-up two-bit killer who likely offed a couple of society’s outcasts but was built up by legend into a fearsome monster. And Kiri, wounded and demoralized, seems to believe her.
It seems likely that the reason Kiri hadn’t yet seen Grayland in his dreams was that he simply hadn’t been pushed close enough to the edge yet, but Emily’s attacks (and his fall) definitely did the trick. In a truly terrifying sequence Kiri gets his wish at last, and even as the developing horror of the moment grows, he can’t help thinking that it’s all worth it if it makes him stronger. Grayland leads him along a dark and dank subterranean corridor by lantern light, before finally they arrive in a room that seems to hold several of his victims, and Kiri possesses his body. At last here, as the truth reveals itself, Kiri rebels – yet he finds himself unable to stop himself despite the horrifying nature of what he’s doing. Grayland is no myth, it seems – he’s every bit the beast folklore has made him out to be.
Again, I think this comes down to the question of just what Kiri’s true self is. We’ve seen him be kind and selfless and determined to avoid becoming the horror he’s descended from, but when he wakes from his dream his power is truly unleashed. And that power is a terrible one indeed – pain augmentation, as Emily discovers to her horror. It takes a very special power indeed to reconnect an Author with their sense of fear, but this is the ability that can. In a flash the battle is turned, and Emily is rendered helpless and terrified as her wounds torture her – which is how Iwai finds her, when she comes to the grave after Kiri’s scream seemingly reaches her even in sleep, in her house.
Just what are Kiri’s true desires, the ones Sumeragi claims are unleashed when an Author is under the influence of their Killing Goods? That will be the defining question in next week’s finale, I would suppose, and that last episode remains quite a mysterious prospect. I don’t think Gokumi will hold anything back, as this will probably be it for Dansai Bunri in terms of the anime – this sort of series often gets an OVA or two but those rarely deal with the main plot, and I wouldn’t imagine a second season was ever considered a likelihood. If anyone can reach Kiri in his demonic state and bring him back Iwai is obviously the one that can (and likely will) but there’s no way Kiri can experience something like this and not be fundamentally changed by it.