This continues to be the most consistent series of the season in more ways than one, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to figure out. Starting with the fact that I’m not yet 100% sure if this is a full-fledged dark story or just a really good supernatural comedy/thriller with very dark undertones. And then there’s Yukine. Am I missing the writers’ point by feeling sympathy for him when I’m supposed to be hating him, or are all the viewers who hate him the ones missing the writers’ point?
There’s no question that the Yukine problem would have been quite a different situation if there’d simply been better communication all-around, and I can see where that might frustrate a reader/viewer. The weird thing is that Yato seems to have a good grip on the nature of the problem – in fact he sums it up perfectly in saying that Yukine is “at a difficult, dangerous age. And he’s stuck there forever.” So why is it, then, that he hasn’t made more of an effort to try and communicate honestly with Yukine and make him understand his reality? Is it a pride issue? Instead, there’s a strange sort of disconnect where he and Hiyori play good cop/bad cop parent roles and Yato slowly succumbs to the blight Yukine’s impure thoughts cause him.
The flip side of that, of course, is that even “normal” families biological and otherwise the world over suffer due to rotten communications between adults and teenagers, so there’s certainly nothing unrealistic in this situation. If this episode was supposed to be a condemnation of Yukine’s behavior, it had the opposite effect on me. Seeing him confronted with the emotions being inside a middle school brings to the surface just makes his situation seem that much more tragic. Yukine doesn’t even know how he died, but he knows that he was a part of something like this once – and he has enough primal memory to make him realize how much he longs for the normal life which he’s doomed never to have.
The impetus for the trip to the school is a job for Yato – a request from a middle-school boy named Manabu (Murase Ayumu) who’s being bullied by a trio spurred on by a ringleader (Hanae Natsuki, who’s everywhere these days). Yato takes the boy’s ¥5 but his solution to Manabu’s problem is an interesting one – he gives him a box cutter (actually two) and effectively tells him to figure things out for himself. Naturally, there are voices in Manabu’s ear (the sound direction in these scenes continues to be spectacular) spurring him to succumb to his baser impulses and cross to the other side. Manabu shows the fortitude to stand up to those voices in the end, but while Yato claims to have been ready to stop things before they went too far, the entire confrontation between bully and victim has an extremely ominous tone to it.
Meanwhile, being inside the school is a brutal experience for Yukine, who’s more aware than ever of how alone he is, and how much he’s lost that he can never get back. The contrast between Manabu and Yukine’s situations is stark – the one still has time to change his fate, but not the other. Yato’s advice to Manabu is to forget about making lots of friends and try to find one unique person that can be a true friend, and he confides to Hiyori that he’d “like one myself”. As this is happening Yukine is succumbing to his rage and going on a window-breaking spree, which has a predictable effect on Yato, accelerating his blight to the point where he loses consciousness. As always Hiyori’s impulse is to follow Yato’s instructions and seek out Kofuku and Daikoku, but not before she reveals the truth of what his thoughts are doing to Yukine and angrily orders him to come along.
It seems pretty late in the game for Yukine to be finding all this out – he knew that his thoughts were linked to Yato but clearly not the extent to which they were damaging him. I’m not sure it would have made any difference to his behavior – but then, I suppose we’re about to find out. Daikoku’s reaction when the trio arrive is ample proof that things are mighty bad indeed, and it seems that for better or worse this whole situation is going to be if not resolved, at least confronted a lot more directly.