「4TH DAY – 変容の水曜日I」 (Henko no Suiyobi I)
“4TH DAY – Wednesday’s Changes 1”
For a supposed “fanservice” episode of DeSu2A, this turned out better than expected.
Well, I say that, but it’s true that the first half of the episode was anything but light. “Anguished One”. “Purge of Polaris.” “Unbroken Covenant”. True to anime form, when exposition is being delivered, it is delivered by the truckload. With all these arbitrary terms being thrown around, it is times like this that I wonder how much I would’ve caught had I not played the game. A huge chunk of it comes from Alcor, the non-man-non-demon entity. There’s no doubt that he’s involved in the orchestration of this entire doomsday scenario -referred to as the “Purge of Polaris”- and he seems to have a hand in nearly every part of it. We saw him command the demon Botis that tore down the barriers for the septentrione Merak to attack, and now we also learn that he provided humans with the tools to fight back: Nicaea and the demon summoning app. Every action he reveals seem to make his motives all the more ambiguous, and there’s even some disagreement with his demons about “the purge” itself; The key to it being his search for a “Shining One”, which seemed to have manifested in Hibiki. Boy, if there’s one thing all SMT stories love, it’s their mysteries.
A mandatory JP’s checkup –which is sure to be more than meets the eye– next forces our characters into some downtime; and sure, it’s unabashed (but glorious) fanservice for players of the game. The checkup’s basically a twist on the “secret garden” event, and there’s even a cute gag about Airi’s bellybutton. It’s fun, albeit slightly mindless stuff; but for a short moment, it allows characters to stop being plot devices and just be, well, characters. We see Otome talking about her daughter. We get a glimpse of Joe behind his cheery façade. Makoto again shows her doubts about Yamato’s philosophy by referring to Hibiki as a weapon, and then a friend. And nearly every other character gets a small moment like this as well. There’s nothing particularly original about how DeSu2A goes about this, and in some cases the character moments will feel exceedingly simple or trite; but these small touches go a long way in humanizing the show and making me appreciate their presence all the more. (Or it could just be death flags, all of them. Wow, that’s a depressing thought.)
After a tumultuous character arc that saw him switching sides and slipping into the now infamous bunny-mode, Hibiki also seems to have finally hit some kind of a milestone in his development; where he proclaims he is no pawn, and that he wouldn’t let anyone else use his powers. It’s the conclusion to a development we all saw coming, and to be frank, I’m a little apathetic because of how generic it all turned out to be. But that said, this is finally feels like a Hibiki I can start to get behind, and with another 6 more episodes to go, Kishi still possesses the capacity to bring him to some interesting places by the end of it all.
And then there’s Yamato. There’s nothing much else about him that hasn’t already been said in some form; and it might not quite redeem him in the eyes of critics, but this episode does throw a couple of things out there to clear up some of the chaff about his characterization. That he finds “friends” to be complicated and that “Might is Right” seems to strike at his characterization in the anime; something of a social inept due to his elitist upbringing, who genuinely believes in his Darwinist ideal that the strongest (effectively himself due to his upbringing) should lead humanity. And little wonder why he continues to believe this, thanks to the clichéd portrayal of the self-serving Japanese leaders. Thus, it’s interesting to find that Yamato saved Hibiki at the cost of hurting himself; and this contradictory act certainly goes against a few assumptions we’ve been making about the goal-orientated leader. That, or he’s starting to consider that there actually are others equal to him by openly inviting Hibiki and Ronaldo to challenge him if they survive till the end. Again, there’s still a solid 6 episodes to go, and if Kishi plays it smart the way he did in P4A’s second half, the show can still salvage what they have of Yamato’s characterization.
All in all, I’m glad we had a breather of an episode here at the midpoint of the show, especially in the wake of a rather disparate first half. We’re reminded the stakes are steadily being raised with each passing day, and that the fights from here on are going to require demons of a “Byakko-Class” level. The episode even closes off with the foreboding scene of Io being found to be compatible as a sacrifice for “Lugh”. This is most likely the last time we’ll get to see the cast in such high spirits; it definitely doesn’t feel like the ominous second half of the series is going to get much in the way of sunshine and rainbows.
-Pleasantly surprised by the Mugen no Sekai (game OP) instrumental insert, the first time in the anime I’ve recognised a piece from the game’s OST.
-All this time I’ve never noticed how Ronaldo ended up with his “Clicky” nickname. Kurikki, d’oh!