“What goes around comes around.”
That is the most general interpretation of karma known to people. In application to this episode, however, a more general approach is required, one that takes the concept much closer to its original definition as the perpetrator of the cause and effect cycle.
Totsuka Tatara is the root cause of the events of K. His death is the catalyst – it’s not entirely clear whether he simply expedited the progress of things that were already occurring or started the fire entirely with his passing, but what is clear is with his death, came the birth of a whole new set of conflicts that has a larger scope than anybody could have imagined. His character is the origin point, and it’s not hard to see why. Laid-back and affable, Totsuka has the kind of extroverted personality that endears him to everyone, making him a kind of anchor that connects people together. He lacks the sort of somber, gravitational charisma Mikoto has that enables him to actually lead, but Totsuka’s effortless charm allows him to truly understand people in his own way and become that irreplaceable presence people can’t easily forget. He constitutes the “family spirit” in HOMRA that is somewhat diminished in the present – the gang is still fiercely loyal to one another and united in their desire to avenge Totsuka, but it’s not joy that drives their actions anymore. Yata in particular is dictated solely by his anger and grief, acting on reckless impulses that often land him in unfavorable situations.
Even the sullen Mikoto is feeling Totsuka’s loss quite keenly, and it’s a highly telling moment when he imagines himself getting shot in his late friend’s place. Despite being an integral character and having a considerable amount of presence, the Red King has been quite peripheral, and a window to his thoughts have been few and far between. But as with everything else in K, even just a small dose can be quite effective. The beginning of the episode in particular sufficiently explained his current psyche and even addressed some of the issues that could culminate in some character growth by the end of the series.
The desolate scenery and Anna’s heartfelt plea are both representations of what Mikoto is capable of, and the conclusion he is most afraid of. The inclusion of Anna – quite possibly the most innocent of the group – seems to suggest he is fearful of putting “his own” in danger, which seems in accordance to Izumo’s assessment of Mikoto and further reinforces his decision to turn himself in so docilely. Saying “fuck you” to his kingly duties and creating a giant crater in Japan is one thing, but placing his comrades at risk is another thing entirely. HOMRA is quite possibly the only thing Mikoto actively cares for, and therefore the only thing he will act to protect. His reimagination of Totsuka’s death is ample evidence of this assumption, going beyond a simple nightmare when one starts to consider just how tight-knit HOMRA is. As horridly corny as it all sounds, Totsuka’s death impacts Mikoto to a point where it feels as if he’s the one getting shot. That’s how personal the event feels to him, due to how instrumental Totsuka was in bringing HOMRA’s spirit to life, and due to his unwavering belief in Mikoto’s strength. Totsuka’s faith is particularly important since the Red King doesn’t actually have any in himself. It’s not the same thing as a lack of self-confidence, although it does tread in the same territory somewhat.
Mikoto doesn’t view himself as suitable for the role of King, a thought that stems from his general disinterest in the whole affair as well as the belief he is only capable of violence. The whole notion of people gathering around him seems to confound him because he doesn’t see the value of his company. But who can? It’s actually somewhat touching since neither HOMRA nor Mikoto are able to realize what they mean to one another – but perhaps that’s the best part. It speaks of unprecedented loyalty, where neither side feels the need to quantify their worth. This sort of camaraderie is only matched by true love, where actions and emotions arise from purely selfless motives. There’s a deep-seated trust devoid of arrogance that lets both parties know that no matter what sort of trouble they may be in, they can count on each other for support. Mikoto is HOMRA’s sword and shield, and HOMRA is in turn, his humanity. Izumo is now the only person who is able to recognize this as the one other person who could is dead.
And Totsuka’s killer seems to be in a fine predicament as everyone – even the person in question himself – finds themselves asking: who is Isana Yashiro? A fabrication of someone’s imagination? Some astute viewers last week pointed out the possibility of memory tampering being the Colorless King’s power, and that it’s possible Shiro used it on himself to create the perfect lie. Well that “perfect lie” is crumbling around him quite rapidly, with everything he believed in coming to question. His reaction seems pretty subdued, although the observation is perhaps more of an imaginary one stemming from the histrionic waterworks and dumbfounded shock that result in anime/drama/movies whenever something happens to shake a character’s foundation of belief. In contrast to that Shiro’s demeanor is pretty tame and almost underwhelming. Another possibility is that this in itself is another ruse and Shiro is just testing Kuroh. This, however, doesn’t seem that likely because as weak as his reactions were, his confusion seemed genuine. Whether all of this was actually his doing or not, what’s clear is that this is all masterfully orchestrated by somebody. And if it’s not Shiro, my bet is on the creepy Weismann. Neko might still be involved somehow though – her hatred of telephones seems a tad too strong to be a passing dislike, and there’s still the issue of how she met Shiro in the first place.
The one other notable aspect of the episode would undoubtedly be the relationship (?) between Seri and Izumo – one that still seems to be going strong, if their interactions are any indication. Not only is this interesting dramatically, it puts a slight shift in things narratively. Up until now it was quite easy to assume SCEPTER 4 and HOMRA shared an antagonistic relationship. While this isn’t entirely untrue, perhaps the opposition was situational rather than a long-standing feud derived from the involvement of personal dislike between the two parties. The ideals each organization upholds happens to be different, but between individual members there’s not much bad blood to go around (Fushimi and Yata not withstanding). They say one should keep their profession and love lives separate, but Seri and Izumo seem to be so skilled at compartmentalizing their lives to a point where it seems frightening, especially when considering Seri’s cold assessment of what should be done with Mikoto a few episodes prior. A job is a job, but she has to be privy to the connection between him and Izumo – the level of disconnect she – and he – displays is simply astounding and brings into question the nature and depth of their relationship. It’s a stark contrast to the warm familiarity between the HOMRA members, but perhaps that’s the point. That sort of camaraderie isn’t something that is so easily shared, or even explained. And while a little unsettling, the separation of their professional and romantic connections is not only a show of loyalty to their respective organizations, but also a show of respect to their significant other’s priorities. Each of them have their own lives, and they both understand there is a part of their world they can’t be a part of.
The relationship is also a reflection of their characters to an extent, and hence it’s possible to assume Izumo has some of the traits Seri has displayed throughout the series and vice versa. She certainly seems more at ease with him, with even her voice taking on a more playful and feminine tone. In any case, at least we now know where Izumo’s stroke of genius came from back in episode three.
Note: Sorry for the delay – I seemed to have caught another cold…
ED2: 「Circle of Friends」 by 梶裕貴 (Kaji Yuuki)