「封印の巫女」 (Fuin no Miko)
“The Maiden of the Seal”
The sound of a maiden song returns after two episodes, and surprisingly without a trip into Zero Time for only the second time this series. Focusing on the characters instead in the real world, this most recent episode quickly became my favorite thus far, as the story finally shifted towards the conclusion of Mizuno’s arc and the inevitable breaking of her seal.
Incidentally, it was also the most “trippy” showing to date, and one where the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi could have learned from for their dreadful Endless Eight arc. To create an unsettling feeling over Mizuno’s inability to leave the island, Star Driver achieved the same effect with four iterations in a two-minute span, whereas Haruhi dragged out to eight full episodes and negatively impacted the viewer experience. The combination of eerie music and Mizuno’s tears drove that point home really quickly, and the cause of the looping effect was quickly addressed with an explanation from Wako, which I was actually really grateful for because I was dying to know if there’s some invisible force preventing maidens with their seal intact from leaving. From a story standpoint, her attempted departure also answered the question about what happens if a maiden tried to leave, addressing any potential plot holes surrounding why they haven’t done so to escape the Kiraboshi brigade.
In terms of character development, Mizuno’s arc has been a drastic step up from the start of the series when Sakana-chan’s seal already broken and everyone after Wako, especially after last week put Marino’s existence into question. The sudden return of her mother Fujino to Southern Cross Island and how she only came looking for Mizuno made it seem even more likely that Marino is someone created from her powers to cope with being abandoned as a child. When I take into consideration how Marino said Mizuno’s powers only take effect if people believe in her incantations, and how she was the only person before Takuto who did, hearing her recite “Katami Wakachita Yagadanse” over and over again made it feel like she was trying to prevent herself from disappearing now that Mizuno’s mother is back. I had pictured a possible scenario where if Mizuno actually opened the door, Marino wouldn’t be standing beside her once the camera was back on her, which created a lot of tension in that scene when Mizuno broke down in tears. The idea actually came to me from the earlier one in their bedroom when a quick glance over at Marino’s bed showed that she was gone and was suddenly hugging Mizuno the very next second. Whether intentional or not, the sight of her instantaneous movement seemed to suggest that Marino is some sort of transient existence, providing a possible explanation as to why she was no where to be found when Mizuno suddenly decided to leave the island and didn’t hesitate to do so.
On the Kiraboshi side of things, Head’s return to Vanishing Age and his invitation to Sugata to become the leader of the first division reserved for him put a nice twist on things, as did mention of how he perceives both him and Takuto as allies. It’s been sort of hinted that he wants Sugata on their side, so the real surprise came from the fact that he didn’t merely see Takuto as a hindrance. In addition, Head’s confidence as a Star Driver in combination with the preview quickly cleared up any doubt on who the Tauburn-lookalike Cybody in the new opening sequence belongs to, whereas the brief introduction of some new Vanishing Age members seen in the new ending sequence — including one voiced by Yukana — suggests both story and Cybodies are finally going to move onto the next phase. To balance out Head’s tactful approach, I really like the evil side of Keito shown at the very end when she addressed Mizuno as the west maiden, just as she’s about to prey on a heartbroken girl who believes Takuto’s in love with Wako. All that reiterated to me is how much this series has picked up in the past couple of episodes, and how it’s become the series I look forward to the most on a weekly basis.