K – 09, 10
「knell」 & 「kaleidoscope」
K might be entertaining and rife with some rich character interactions, but it doesn’t make the show any easier to write about. It’s strange because my enjoyment and appreciation of the series has certainly grown, but perhaps it’s the amount of thinking that goes into delving into every little detail that’s creating the difficulties – listing plot events is easy, but dissecting the thematic messages behind the event is far more time-consuming, but ultimately worthwhile. The storyline is nothing more than a vehicle used to convey a specific message, hence why it seems pointless to write a post listing out an episode’s happenings and call it a day. Events are meaningless by themselves, and can only become bolstered by execution and the writers’ intentions behind their story.
From the start, the nature of K’s stories have been ambitious, creating an anime series in media res where official explanations were scarce and most of the comprehension fell into the hands of the audience. It certainly doesn’t make it an easy watch, but K’s penchant for assuming the audience has half a functioning brain is actually somewhat welcoming. Things are firmly within reach of comprehension – no detail is so far out of left-field that viewers can’t follow the trajectory of the storylines and none of the plot elements are so convoluted that it requires an 8000-page encyclopedia just to follow what’s happening on screen. If there is one thing that K can be faulted for, is that its grandness extends to several other medias at the same time: light novels, manga, which are all part of the same universe. The anime is of course, standalone, but some world-building does occur in those mediums and their stories do offer a more expansive backstory to supplement the cast and setting of K the anime. It presents an interesting dilemma for the production, as the amount of knowledge the viewers need to be aware of in order to be fully steeped in the experience becomes less centralized, yet an anime adaptation is clearly the most convenient way to reach the largest audience. So how do you go about stitching information from a myriad of different sources so that it all makes sense?
The result isn’t perfect, but if the last two episodes have proved anything, it is that K has always been realizing its ambitions in one way or another. A lot of the plot elements such as “Weismann Levels” and the “crater incident” don’t have official explanations, and Totsuka’s influence on present-day HOMRA is slightly hampered by the fact his bond with the members aren’t as fully explored as it could have been. In fact, most of the jargon K presents has not been given a thorough tl;dr explanation, but for some reason, the show seems to be proceeding along just fine. It won’t please everybody, particularly those who like having things fleshed out completely, but even without a play-by-play, it doesn’t require too much brain power to follow the trajectory of the plot. Complex explanations are almost superfluous since the point of the story is not what these elements are, but how they affect the situation now.
For example, it’s been hinted for quite a long time Mikoto’s life is nearing its end, assuming Weismann Levels, the Sword of Damocles, and a King’s life are connected somehow. This was evident not only narratively, but also visually – taking a closer look, it’s easy to see the tattered state of Mikoto’s Sword, and even without someone hammering the viewers over the heads with a mallet, it’s an all too simple task to deduce it’s not a good thing.
This puts an interesting spin on Mikoto and Reisi in particular, who are not only diametric opposites by virtue of their appearance, but by their values. Reisi is not an inherently antagonistic character, but a highly selfish one. What he does is for his own benefit, and what he thinks is best for others. Contrast him to Mikoto, who seemingly runs amok at his own pleasure. He creates chaos after chaos without a second thought and it paints a portrayal of a self-absorbed tyrant constantly saying “fuck you” to society. But strangely enough, people flock to the Red King with genuine affection and loyalty. There is one singular thing Mikoto cares about – HOMRA influences his actions to the point he neglects everything else in order to protect them. That’s the choice he makes even when it seems his life is at stake, and this shot is probably the most fitting visual to portray the different paths the two men have taken at this point. I love and appreciate what this that moment did for both of the characters; this is Mikoto’s last “gift” of sorts, the final thing he can do for Yata, Izumo, Anna, and the other members who gave him their explicit trust. This is the only thing he can do for Totsuka, who first gave him the choice of becoming a monster or a King that protects his subjects.
For Reisi the effect is more profound, marking the moment he first loses his aloof attitude – the intensity he exhibits is phenomenal, and it’s perhaps the first instance where his character is moved by motivations that aren’t solely his own. He still is a selfish character capable only of framing situations from his perspective, but his investigation into Totsuka Tatara’s death and his confrontation with Mikoto this time around are tinged with rationales that don’t solely involve “keeping the order”. Being a sharp man, he knows the effect the HOMRA member’s death will have on the group – in order to protect the peace and salvage Mikoto’s life, the only logical course of action then is to launch an official investigation. There is a thread tying everything together, and seeing it converge is, to put it simply, fascinating.
How Shiro will deal with the brunt of the rage from not one, but two Kings, is still a mystery, especially since it seems everyone is being manipulated by a puppet master bigger than all of them. Weismann clearly has some screws loose, having lost everything with his sister’s death. He knows exactly how to push characters’ buttons to create the largest fire possible, which is the primary thing that makes him seem so omniscient. There is a clear goal he wants to achieve, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out to be abolishing the King system once and for all, returning humanity to the path it should have taken.