「炎の鶺鴒」 (Honoo no Sekirei)
“The Flame Sekirei”
All Minaka had to do was tell existing Ashikaba that there’s fresh meat out there for the taking to get them to come in droves, but it’s kind of concerning how there’s no regard for what gender Homura is as long as he’s seen as “free goods.” I gather no one really cares when there’s a high chance that the last unwinged Sekirei in northern Shintou is female to begin with, but the only Ashikaba I’d expect to be completely okay with finding out otherwise is Hayato. He does have Mutsu with him after all. For everyone else, I’m hoping they would at least react a bit like Minato to the idea, before getting into the whole “love that transcends gender” mentality (if at all). It doesn’t matter how slight it is, as I’d simply like some indication that everyone’s not bisexual here. So here’s to hoping that Sakurako Gokurakuin will humor me as the female mangaka that she is if nothing else. On that note, I wasn’t even aware that this series was created by a female mangaka for the longest time, so perhaps that’s why we have a hermaphrodite Sekirei to begin with. I don’t think I’ll ever quite understand the mindset of a female artist who can create such a male-oriented series, but I’d imagine she’d be a pretty cool person in real life!
Most of this episode played out much like the previous one set it up for, but did reveal some additional tidbits along the way. The most notable one was the revelation that gathering a lot of Sekirei under Minato is part of some plan that Matsu has to break free of the twisted Sekirei Project game that Minaka’s running. Both Miya and Seo are well aware of that fact since it coincides with Takehito’s wishes when he was still alive, which explains why they’re all gathered at Izumo Inn and why both Kusano and Tsukiumi were winged by Minato back in season one. Miya’s passive involvement wasn’t too surprising, since she’s scary Miya and wants to kill Minaka herself (apparently), but Seo’s help in adding Sekirei to Minato’s collection wasn’t all that obvious. Back then, I was only under the impression that he was easygoing and didn’t care about the Sekirei Project at all. While that still holds true for the most part, it changes my perspective of him well before he helped out with Haruka and Kuno’s escape from the city. The other big twist was the arrival of Uzume, who joined the hunt for Homura as the “Hire” Sekirei (i.e. veil/shawl). Her appearance as an enemy put new meaning on her words last episode about not thinking of her as Uzume anymore, plus gave us a high definition look at her flashy Sekirei outfit and fighting style. Out of the bunch at Izumo, Uzume’s character design is definitely one of the most stylish, so it’s always a treat to see her in action. As for the last tidbit, Homura also revealed that discarded Sekirei such as Akitsu with the crest on her forehead are ridiculously strong even though they can’t form a contract with an Ashikabi, raising questions about exactly why she’s still kicking around with Hayato.
Aside from the above, the focus of the episode was the hunt for Homura, with Hayato taking the forefront by sending in Akitsu alone in a one-on-one fight for his own entertainment purposes. The revelation that she was going commando loosened the tension a bit, while the arrival of the other parties of interest set things up nicely for a huge showdown next time, where Shiina may finally run into Kusano. However, what absolutely stole the show for me were Tsukiumi’s antics earlier on. The way she finally put two and two together about Kagari being Homura was hilarious, especially seeing Kazehana try to get the hell away before she blew up. I also got a really good laugh out of how she was trying to convince herself more than anyone else that Minato should go and “marry” Homura as well, and how she as the “true wife” permits him to pick up a sixth one. It was a pretty shoddy attempt to say the least, since Tsukiumi could barely contain her sanity with the thought of another girl being added to the mix, but Minato’s rebuttal about Kagari being a guy and Kazehana calling him “unrefined” for being concerned about gender was just as funny. There was Tsukiumi’s justification that she tries to kill him all the time as well, which summed up the whole scene as an attempt to force Minato into a homosexual relationship. I don’t recall the first season ever being this funny, but I just love the mix of comedy and seriousness shown thus far.
As some people may recall, Tsukiumi was more or less coerced into a contract with Minato when Seo tried to force himself upon her (which we now know was on purpose). Her hesitant change of heart here was prompted by thought that some other Ashikabi would try do the same with Homura, so it sort of went to show that Tsukiumi’s more thoughtful than she cares to admit. Next episode should be a nice follow-up to the group’s sentiments, though the preview didn’t suggest whether or not Homura will be winged then. My guess is that he will be, seeing as his powers are about to go out of control and get himself killed if he doesn’t.