Periodically you get an anime episode that simply gets everything right, from the first frame to the last. Some are more ambitious than others but a perfectly executed ep is a unicorn indeed, and something to be marvelled at and treasured when it does happen. Kiesijuu is an ambitious series in terms of the story it’s telling, though quite direct and straightforward in the way it goes about telling it and every episode so far has been no worse than very good. But this was the week when the series really lifted its game to another level.
In terms of what it set out to do, I would say this ep was functionally perfect. Taut, tense, gripping from start to finish – and you’ll never see exposition handled any better than it was here. This was obviously an important chapter for the series because there’s a lot of drama happening, and the relationship between Migi and Shinichi is functionally changing. At the same time both of them are changing as well, which is really the point – the beauty of Iwaaki’s writing is that both of them maintain their individual identities, yet the line where one stops and the other begins grows blurrier all the time.
I was a little skeptical of how Shinichi would survive what happened at the close of the last episode, but the solution Iwaaki crafted was quite believable in context. The heart is a very complicated organ indeed, and effectively turning himself into an artificial heart while organizing Shinichi’s cells into a healing brigade (and nursing him) would certainly be enough to knock Migi out of commission for a couple of days. Of course one might be tempted to ask why Migi could do what he did to the heart and not the brain, but the truth is that as complex as the heart is, the brain is exponentially more so – and in the end Migi didn’t replace Shinichi’s heart, he repaired it (and it’s safe to guess made it stronger than ever). Trying to take over his brain in the same fashion simply wouldn’t have worked.
This, then, takes us to the end of the OP – to this new and improved Shinichi. One take-away from this is that in all likelihood Shinichi and Migi probably were being subtly changed by each other even before, but the process was obviously speeded up exponentially by this emergency. The first clue for Shinichi is that he no longer needs his glasses, but over the course of the episode we see suggestions that this syndrome goes much deeper – this Shinichi is better, stronger, faster. His hearing is more acute. He can run faster, jump higher. But Migi has been changed, too – he now needs “true” sleep for four hours a day, a sleep where he won’t wake even if another of his kind is present. But if that’s the change we know about, might there be more that we – or perhaps even Migi – don’t?
The implications run deep here, obviously. And the purely practical ones start to reveal themselves when a phone call from the hospital where his father is recuperating finally wakes Shinichi after what seems a few days (Migi is still unconscious at this point). This is where things start to get really tense, as a haggard and gaunt Shinichi embarks on an agonizingly slow journey by ferry to Sakurazaki, the island where his parents were vacationing, knowing full well that his “mother” could figure out where his father was at any time and come to kill him. While on the ferry Shinichi’s obvious distress catches the eye of seatmate Maki (Serizawa Yuu), a genki (middle?) schoolgirl who will factor into the episode later on.
The situation Shinichi faces is a real mess, to say the least. The police believe Nobuko is alive because she returned to the hotel, and the doctor tries to convince Kazuyuki that he dreamed the nightmare scene he described. Kazuyuki repeats this fiction to Shinichi when he arrives, but it’s clear that even he doesn’t believe it – he’s trying to spare his son the terrible reality he knows is true. Shinichi, of course, still can’t tell his father why he knows what he said on the phone really happened. And all the while Shinichi has to deal with the very practical reality that his father’s life – and his own – could be in terrible danger at a moment’s notice.
From the start Kiseijuu has presented the parent-child relationship splendidly, with great realism and depth of feeling. And the agony father and son are feeling in that hospital room as they lie to each other is gut-wrenching to watch. Fundamentally only one thing really matters to Shinichi – he’s lost one parent and he’s desperate not to lose the other. And once he finds out about Migi’s new weakness, that threat becomes all the more real. He’s found an inn close enough to the hospital to be inside Migi’s “sensor” range – an inn that happens to be run by Maki’s family – but has no choice but to personally keep watch during those four hours when Migi is offline. Shinichi reasonably concludes that broad daylight is the best time to do that as it’s the least likely time for “Nobuko” to show herself, but when one of Migi’s kind does just that, Migi is the one who points it out to Shinichi. Was he not sleeping after all?
The episode certainly leaves things in a fascinating state. Shinichi is going to have some serious explaining to do with Maki, but that’s not the main issue. The creature Migi sensed was clearly not Nobuko, but they’re still going to have to be dealt with. More than that, this new Shinichi and Migi dynamic is even more fascinating than the old one. Not only is Shinichi physically enhanced, but he’s emboldened by the drive to avenge his mother. And his feelings towards Migi have clearly softened after what Migi did for him – and I would even venture that Migi sounded a bit wistful when delivering his assessment of what Shinichi thought of him (a nuisance and an enemy). This relationship appears to be growing more symbiotic all the time, both in the physical and emotional sense, and that can take the story to some spectacularly interesting places.