「冥府の天使」 (Meifu no tenshi)
"Angel of Hades"
Whether it was intentional or not, the fifth episode of NO.6 left me more confused and less sure of my footing than I was going in. As with so much of this show, I’m never quite sure just whether I’m taking things the way BONES intended.
I appreciate the fact that none of the major characters from the first couple of episodes appear to be tossed aside in the story – not just Shion’s Mum but Safu appears to have a major role to play in the story going forward. She’s indeed off studying at No. 5, which looks eerily like San Francisco. It’s a very normal campus experience – Archie ‘n Betty snogging discreetly behind one of the lecture halls, trips to art museums with pompous guides, charmingly earnest student poetry. Meanwhile, back home, Grandma appears well-settled in the Twilight House where she and all her peers get injections, presumably to keep them from feeling too depressed about their situation.
Meanwhile, Shion seems to be branching out socially. In addition to reading to the local urchins (one of whom shares his mother’s name, which I suspect can’t be coincidence), he’s spending more time working for Dogkeeper and trading gossip about Nezumi. Rikiga shows up, fishing for information about a strange disease in No. 6. Rikaga reveals something about Dogkeeper – that “she” (until further notice) is peddling black market supplies from the correctional facility – and about himself, that he’s deathly afraid of mice for some reason. Rikiga takes him to see “Eve”, Nezumi’s stage alter ego, as Ophelia in “Hamlet”. And believe it or not, that’s the normal part of the episode.
What I can’t remotely figure out yet is how the strange events that follow are related. How is it that Safu hears the same song and feels the same wind as far-away Nezumi, causing them both to faint? Safu is in front of a stained-glass window depicting wasps, and Nezumi dreams of wasps while unconscious, so there’s clearly more coincidence at play here. How does the fact that Safu’s Grandmother passes just around this moment play into things? We’re almost halfway through what’s clearly a very big story, and it seems late in the game to intentionally muddy the waters this much – but again, I’m not sure what’s intentional here and what’s incidental.
I must admire the ability of NO.6 to insert WTF moments, and this ep was really full of them. I would be lying if I said I expected Nezumi to rise from his sickbed and sweep Shion onto the dance floor, and the extended scene that follows is one of the oddest you’ll see anywhere – eerie, romantic, awkward and frankly quite puzzling. Shion’s declaration that Nezumi is “the most important person on the world” to him is pretty unambiguous, but he follows that up by grabbing Nezumi’s neck – causing Nezumi to be shocked that he was unable to stop the “attack”, as well-intentioned as it was. Is Nezumi’s guard down around Shion, or is Shion now some kind of ninja due to his transformation?
I have to say that on balance this episode didn’t quite work for me, though it was certainly memorable. The composition and pacing felt awkward, and as sometimes happens with this series it’s hard to place all these weird events in context with each other. The plot remains extremely interesting – the wasps appear to be active in winter, and there are implications that there’s some sort of intelligence acting behind them. There’s a nicely creepy sense of impending doom developing, and I like all the major characters enough to care about them and wonder how they’re all connected with this. But while I enjoy the general oddness of the series, I really hope things start to fit together pretty soon. I don’t want NO.6 to become conventional or lose the likeable, quirky weirdness that permeates it, but I would like it to start making a little more sense. But then, this is a BONES sci-fi – so that may be too much to ask…