「人ならざる者」 (Hito Narazaru Mono)
They say that life is full of pleasant surprises. This week’s episode was definitely one of them. As expected, the defeat of Kirishima and Haruna pave the way for game changing developments—including the roll out of the Vibration Warhead and Iona’s realization of what it means to feel regret and satisfaction. The significant developments however, end up happening away from the I-401 and her crew, as we get an episode focused purely on Haruna, Kirishima (now 1000x cuter), and Osakabe Makie. This gives us an episode unlike any that came before—and a spectacular one at that.
Since the first episode, a major theme of Ars Nova has been the question of what it means to be human and the difference between artificial and natural intelligence. We’ve seen first hand how significant Gunzou’s presence has been to Iona and the changes that the Fog have undergone since their deployment of Mental Models. The use of tactics, independent action (Takao), displays of emotion and curiosity are just some such changes. In this regard, this fifth episode is no different from the rest in terms of thematic exploration. What does set it apart, is how it ends up being explored.
Whereas the previous episodes had Iona, Takao, or a few moments of tea time as the major sources of exposition, this week gives us our first significant look into how Mental Models react in a real-life environment. More importantly, we see it from their view. It’s a perspective that has been mostly absent thus far, and it’s a game changer in regards to their development and how I see them. They’re no longer robotic dolls following the orders of a faceless entity. With each passing week, they’re becoming more and more human, with Kirishima and Haruna’s exploration of the Osakabe manor akin to a child exploring a new place. Their realization of what it means to be truly free, the obvious attachment they’ve developed with Makie, and their implied acceptance of Toujuurou’s request highlight this further. And although the episode does end up on a cliffhanger, it’s obvious they’re going to try and protect Makie. Provided they do, it’s an action that will only further distance themselves from the Fog they used to be—especially when you consider the potential empathy they may feel in regards to someone who “isn’t human” either.
That said, it’s not just all thematic exploration or serious topics this week. Topping things off are some priceless moments in regards to Haruna’s jacket, Makie’s clothing, Kirishima’s “revival,” and Takao’s arrival at Iwoto, and what we get is a fabulous episode that gives us a bit of everything. As with Episode 03, Ars Nova demonstrates its continued ability to impress even without flashy battle scenes, and it takes a special kind of series to pull that off without its main characters present. But, I suppose that’s why we’re getting these T-Shirts…
ED2: 「Innocent Blue」by Trident