Of all the series that are ending this month, it’s hardest to wrap my brain around the fact with Red Data Girl – and not just because it only has one episode left. Because the series has told such a huge story and despite that fact, seemed very relaxed in the going about it this feels as if we’ve barely begun. I really have no idea what’s coming next week and while that’s by no means always a bad thing in itself, in this case it would be wrong to deny I’m a bit worried.
Nevertheless, the series continues its run of excellence – a run which started with a second episode that was significantly better than the premiere and has never really let up since. And one again we see the peculiar narrative style of starting an episode by disorienting the audience – giving us the sense that we must have forgotten something we’d seen, when it reality it’s simply that events have continued to progress while we’ve been away, and we’ve joined them at a later moment in the story. It’s become so obvious now that I almost wonder if it has plot implications, given what we’ve been told of Himegami’s ability to travel through time – though it’s far more likely it’s simply a stylistic choice.
A great feeling of unease and foreboding hung heavy over this episode, as the Sengoku Festival began in earnest, as if we were feeling the same oppressive presence that Izumiko was (and that’s darn good writing and direction, by the way). It’s been pretty obvious for awhile that Takayanagi was going to try something big – it’s pretty much the plot point the adaptation has chosen to make the center of the concluding episodes – but we found our proof in developments here. There was the spell buried behind the library, the strange balloon the Chemistry Club floated on the day of the re-enactment of the siege of Hachijouji Castle (this being Japan, it was pointed out that all necessary forms were completed) and the strange presence Izumiko, Masumi and Murakami-senpai all felt. Turned out that was the ghosts of the dead of the siege – I think Izumiko pretty much figured that out last week – brought to the scene for Takayanagi’s mysterious/nefarious purposes.
There were some huge plot developments this week, but the standout moment for me was a seemingly mundane one – when Izumiko was finally able to use a cell phone. Setting aside the implications of why she was able to this time, it was a very nice callback to the first episodes – but also a pretty heart-rending moment too. Especially when she told Sagara how happy she was to be able to finally use a cell like normal girls, and that she would “become more and more normal from now on.” That’s the real story of RDG, and it’s real tragedy – all either Miyuki or Izumiko really want is to be normal, and it’s denied them. It’s what initially drove a wedge between them, it’s what’s pulled them together, and it’s what drives them forward. Of course as soon as she said that you knew it was a doomed statement – that’s how drama works – but the earnestness behind the sentiment and her happiness at believing it could be true was incredibly pure.
I enjoy the chemistry between Izumiko and Miyuki very much – I know not everyone does. I really like couples where the bond doesn’t initially begin as a result of physical attraction but rather mutual dependence – there’s something to the way Miyuki worries over Izumiko and the way she takes comfort in his presence that’s as passionate as any more conventional attraction could be. But they’re not the only couple in this series, and it’s become increasingly clear that there’s more to the link between Mayura and Manatsu than simply being twins – and I don’t just mean Masumi. Mayura in fact goes so far as to tell Miyuki this week that she can “never be with anyone but Manatsu”, and I’ve really begun to wonder if part of what drove Manatsu’s actions in Togakushi was a realization that what existed between he and his sister – especially from her side – was unhealthy and bordering on obsession. The request by Mayura to have Miyuki pose as her fiancee to satisfy a visitor from home came out of left field a bit, but I think he did the right thing to refuse (as it’s strongly implied he did) – another layer of lies layered on top of the dysfunction already present could only serve to make things worse.
Though I certainly understood why she did it, Mayura’s request that Masumi “take over” if Takayanagi’s antics got out of control had a real “be careful what you wish for” quality to it. I’m not sure who the most dangerous entity on this campus is – presumably it’s Izumiko/Himegami, but Masumi is surely not far behind and Takayanagi is no slouch either. The capricious nature of Gods and spirits is not to be trifled with, and giving Masumi a “stage” on which to show off his power seems like a potentially very bad idea. That said it’s not as if Takayanagi isn’t a threat, and he proves this week that he’s actually able to use a geis on Izumiko to control her behavior, which is surely impressive given her spiritual power. I’m still not quite sure what his goals are in practical terms and what he intends to do with World Heritage status if he gets it – he mentions “sealing things away” to preserve the safety of the world, which implies a philosophy strictly at odds with Yukimasa and Izumiko’s sponsors. But I am sure that while he’s sensitive enough to realize Izumiko is a powerful force he wants on his side, he has no concept of the true scale of her power.
Takayanagi’s role in everything to do with Izumiko remains a mystery – there was another reference this week to his face, which lends credence to the notion that his physical similarity to Wamiya may not be a coincidence and that Izumiko and Himegami might in fact be the same person. Without question he’s seriously pissed her off, leading to the important development that we’ve finally seen Izumiko show massive power without turning into Himegami (again supporting the “same person” theory). It was the most human on things that triggered her explosive reaction, Takyanagi mentioning Miyuki’s name – which in turn brought the Kuji-in he’d taught her to mind and broke the onmyouji’s mind control. The cat’s out of the bag now – it seems likely that everyone will now realize the Souda vs. Takayanagi battle is a sideshow, and where the real power on campus lies. But apart from the sad reality that it deals a potentially fatal blow to Izumiko’s desire to be normal, it’s not at all clear where that leaves the larger story itself. I haven’t got the first clue on that one – I guess that makes next week’s finale an exciting if unnerving prospect to look forward to.