The thing about Kekkai Sensen is that it’s like the weather in Chicago – if you don’t like it, just wait a little while and you’ll get something completely different. This is a series that’s danced to its own tune from the beginning – adapted from the manga but not constrained by it, employing an entirely unorthodox parallel narrative, possessed of an exceptionally broad emotional palette. You may like those things about it or not, but it seems very unlikely you’ll have ever found it predictable.
After a one-week detour for a recap episode (and by the way, there’s another one-week hiatus coming up before the finale airs) we get something I’ll be very surprised if anyone saw coming, especially as its completely anime-original – a show entirely dedicated to the William and Mary backstory and present circumstances, without a scrap of dialogue for Leonardo or anyone in Libra. This being Blood Blockade Battlefront it was often confusing and generally nebulous, but it did manage to at least suggest at where the story might be headed for the season’s conclusion (and yes, I’m cautiously optimistic).
I think the matter of whether spending the entire penultimate episode pursuing this theme is a good idea is an open question – I’m not sure how I feel about that myself, to be honest. But it’s also a separate question from the merits of the content itself, and on that score I’m settled – for my money the execution here was excellent (as this show’s execution normally is). I still wish BONES had gotten a different seiyuu to play William/Black, because Rie Kugimya just doesn’t hold up to the level of the rest of the material in this dual role. But apart from that I think the ep nailed it, especially the backstory portion (though I wonder if it might have been even more effective if it had come earlier).
Scotland indeed (I figured it had to be either that or Ireland) is where the Macbeth twins grew up. As we know, they’re the children of casters – but the blanks surrounding that information were substantially filled in. William inherited the caster skills, Mary did not – and she resented it, hard. She was the brash, bold one, and William timid and gentle. And after an early-childhood incident involving an exploding mudball, too scared to use his caster powers even when being bullied by muggles (which just pisses off Mary/White that much more). As for Ma and Pa, they’re supremely kind shepherds with perpetual smiles, albeit ones who periodically are summoned to go off somewhere and save the world (and we all know how that eventually worked out for them.
This dynamic between the twins isn’t one I’d call original, but it was nicely depicted. The atmospherics in the warm and fuzzy childhood scenes were excellent, and I love the little touches like Will’s voice being muffed when the camera is on Mary listening to him, and loud when the camera moves to him. Of course Black and White’s story doesn’t just exist as a parallel to the main plot, but a parallel to that of Leo and Michaela. In each case we have an older sibling giving up something precious to save the younger, but the story is even darker with the Macbeths – and indeed, the latter moments of the episode are some of the darkest in the entire series.
As to what actually happens in those closing scenes, as far as I can tell, after White gives Leo’s God’s Eyes to the King of Despair, the latter uses them to discern the nature of the barrier surrounding Hellsalem’s lot, and then destroys it. And it seems as though White was a part of the barrier, so he seemingly destroys her too – though there’s a lot of contradictory imagery there which makes it difficult to know with any certainty what really happened (not to mention the suggestion that she’s been “dead” since the early-childhood incident their father referred to earlier in the episode). Clearly the KoD’s soliloquy about “death being the privilege of the living” is crucial here, too.
Would I like a little more clarity here, especially given that we only have one episode left? Yeah, I would. But I think that obfuscation is kind of the price of admission with Kekkai Sensen – this is not a story that moves in straight lines, but rather an endless string of unpredictable curves. It’s much more impressionistic – maybe even surrealist – than photo-realistic. When brought off with this much genius that sort of show is always memorable, but they aren’t the easiest to tie together – we’ll see what Matsumoto-sensei and Furuya-sensei can pull off in the finale.