Not to add oil to the burning fire, but criticism has to be given where it’s due – this episode fell a little short in terms of directorial pacing. The presented material wasn’t bad by any means, but compared to the carefully controlled elements such as character exposition and even plot development, this fourth episode is the first instance where it was difficult to tell if the events were just complex or plain baffling. Considering the last three weeks I’m inclined to think it’s the former, but “Knock-on effect” is definitely an episode that required more than a single watch to carefully piece everything together.
The title – “Knock-on effect” – has quite a bit of importance and there are already quite a few events which the concept can be applied to. There are probably more, but they went over my head.
First off, a quick description of the “knock-on effect” from good ol’ Wikipedia:
Knock-on effect: A concept in social sciences that describes unintended consequences – an outcome that is not intended by a purposeful action. It exists as three types:
- Positive (e.g. luck, serendipity)
- A negative effect occurring in addition to what was intended
- A perverse effect opposite of what was originally intended (e.g. a solution making a problem worse)
The whole episode is like a domino, with one event connecting itself to the next one in a narrative sense – there is a logical and rationale present in the storyline that isn’t immediately evident since visually nothing connects well at all, especially near the beginning. The jump into uncovering Shiro’s innocence was a little disorienting, even though the mind can process the narrative progress and piece the events together quite easily. There are plenty tidbits scattered everywhere that none of the plot points feel like they appeared out of thin air, but K lacked a little in visual composition this week to help the viewers make sense of things with their eyes.
Yukizome Kukuri (Satou Satomi) is a key participant in the events and her involvement brings about both luck and misfortune to Shiro. It’s doubly interesting because after considering the meaning of the title, her presence presents a fascinating duality for Kuroh and Shiro. For the former, her actions bring about nothing but positive effects – helping him find his target, returning his cooking utensils, and unintentionally trapping Shiro in his lie – while for the latter she seems to incur more negative consequences than positive ones. Coincidence or not, Kukuri’s request for Shiro to buy fireworks is what set off the chain of events that led him to be chased by HOMRA and Kuroh, and her wholly unintended acts of a good Samaritan have continuously created a complex web around him that somehow culminated in her saving his life. In that sense she feels like an integral character, one that unconsciously affects the flow of the story with her words and actions. Perhaps it’s because she is such a bystander that she affects more things than the main cast would – each of the “main” characters shown so far have a very clear-cut motive that drives them and hence dictates their actions. Because they have a definite goal they want to achieve, the number of paths they can take becomes limited and it becomes an easy task of determining how they will act next based on their personality.
For Kukuri it’s the opposite because she lacks that allegiance. She doesn’t have the same kind of motivation that SCEPTER 4, HOMRA, Kuroh, or Shiro have, which in a sense removes the limiter on what she can do. Her actions are purely dependent on the situation on hand and her judgment is unclouded in the sense that she lacks the knowledge of the bigger picture – in this case, the plot. The main overarching storyline doesn’t directly involve her, but Kukuri is pretty pivotal when it comes to linking the more minute plot-related events together. She’s quite inoffensive as a character as well, which helps her blend into the background.
Kuroh’s current situation with Shiro is an unintended consequence as well, since now he’s placed in a predicament where he’s unable to carry out his duties. He might have been continuously wary of the new “King”, but the unexpected camaraderie he formed with him and Neko was a perverse by-product that was bound to throw a wrench into his plans. Conversely, it was a beneficial event for Shiro since not only did he gain a capable housekeeper, Kuroh can also prove to be a great asset in the upcoming clash between him, SCEPTER 4, and HOMRA.
Speaking of SCEPTER 4 and HOMRA, their arrivals are sure to start an inferno, although it’s quite obvious from the previews that neither party will be able to accomplish what they really came to the Academy for. But a confrontation between Yata and Fushimi is a far more interesting one than one between them and Shiro since it’s rife with emotional conflict that just isn’t there with Shiro. Revenge is a powerful motive, but it feels less personal than the beef Yata is bound to have with Fushimi when taking into account the sheer dedication he has for his gang.
Another notable thing about this episode would be Neko; it was never too surprising that she would possess some sort of powers, and the most interesting thing about her was never her abilities nor her penchant for running around naked. She took an interesting twist on the classic “cat girl” concept by actually being a cat-turned-human, retaining her animal instincts and habits. Character-wise she’s quite endearing, and plot-wise things became rather intriguing when other people could suddenly see her. It’s highly unlikely this was some sort of writing derp, so what changed this time around? One possible explanation is that it takes conscious effort to stay invisible, which seems likely since Kuroh caught Neko by surprise – this doesn’t explain the sudden appearance of clothes, but it does provide an answer for why she suddenly became visible to everyone else.
Her presence around Shiro also complicates things – she seems to be around him all the time, and even during the preparations for the school festival, she was there. There’s no sight of Shiro, but given what is known about Neko, it can be assumed she was in his proximity. Who, then, is Totsuka Tatara’s killer? What about the bloody shirt? More than Kukuri’s photo, what makes it difficult to ascertain Shiro is the killer is how utterly convinced of his innocence Neko is; it’s pretty hard to doubt her testimony when she’s with him all the time. The evidence is pretty compelling though, especially if the snippets of the video are actually flashbacks Shiro is remembering of the night and not some random insertions.
So even though the bloody shirt comes as no surprise to anybody, it’s not as simple as labeling the case solved and calling it a day. Not all the threads have come together yet, and next week seems to add to the complications set up along the course of four weeks. It’s hard to tell how Shiro will deal with this predicament but with the appearance of Yata and Fushimi, things are looking more than a little rough for him.