“Tricks Both Mongrel and Fowl”
Looking back at the preview and the episode title, it should’ve seemed obvious that Dotsuku wouldn’t make it out of Episode 2 alive. After Inounoshishi had the 1st episode’s spotlight only to be turned into one of Usagi’s zombies, Dotsuku was destined to be the next to go. It didn’t help that in this episode, we get a flashback from him, and a line about how he can’t be killed by the poison because his power can work to eradicate it. But man, I was still taken by complete surprise by how he died! I only saw it coming a few seconds before Niwatori smashed his head, but it was one of those shocking “oh crap!” moments that had me bursting out in laughter at how quickly she killed him as soon as she realized how much power his fang’s strength-enhancement poison gave her.
What got me was how easily I bought into the idea that Dotsuku and Niwatori would be the power duo to possibly fight against Usagi’s zombie army. Dotsuku had the strength and the neat poison powers, and Niwatori was an expert at tracking with the ability to see through the eyes of birds she can control. There was also a sense of chemistry where Niwatori did such a good job at acting inexperienced and oblivious that it seemed like she could eventually cause Dotsuku to let his guard down more gradually over time. He did let his guard down, but out of the idea that if he makes her uncontrollably strong, she’d be an effective gambit against Usagi’s slowly building army. Additionally, Niwatori’s quirky dialog also built onto this chemistry with her interest in bothering Dotsuku by examining the phrasing in “We ran through those mountains full of rabbit, we fished in those rivers full of carp”. It was such as Isin moment that it seemed like a cute duo that might just work out. Though it was highly likely that Niwatori planned to kill him from the start, and was looking out for number 1 more closely, choosing to align herself with Dotsuku to use his poison against him and the other combatants. It was just such a clever trick that it stunned me when she took him out.
Aside from their brief partnership, the bond between Shuryuu and Nezumi is explored further as they ended up tagging along with each other in a bid to hide out, and find a way to stop the game. Not only do we learn that Shuryuu rigged the explosives underneath the floor knowing that there was someone who was planning on killing everyone before the game began, but that she’s a master negotiator who has been powerful enough to broker cease-fires, end wars, and mend diplomatic ties. The fear that she might be able to end the game becomes a major concern for Dotsuku, but it’s hard to gauge her or Nezumi’s motives in the game. How exactly does she want to end the game? Does she have plans in mind for Nezumi? And what’s Nezumi’s angle in all of this? Niwatori has the same issue as Inounoshishi with recognizing who he is. Whether this means Nezumi’s power is in amnesia or tinkering with memories is all speculation, but him and Shuryuu are easily the most mysterious characters so far.
The climax of this episode builds up the momentum towards some intense encounters for the next one. After his battle with the turnstyle, Uuma is horrified to find that negotiation and pacifism is no longer on the table for Ushii as he picks a fight at the train station. In addition, Niwatori’s crows are ascending on the zombified Inounoshishi as she gets ready to make full use of Dotsuku’s power-up. The title of the episode and preview are waving a massive death flag for Niwatori, but I have a feeling lighting won’t strike twice with the show giving away its secrets. At first, I was wondering if Inounoshishi’s stabbing at the end of the premiere would be where the series peaked with it’s shock factor, but the last half of this episode made it loud and clear that this isn’t the last time Juuni Taisen tries to pull the rug out from under us. The next episode can’t come soon enough!
ED: 「化身の獣」 (Keshin no Kemono) by Do As Infinity