「㐧弐刻 」 (Dainikoku)
“The Second Moment”
If the story-telling in Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho thrives on how cause-and-effect play into how conflicts are resolved or further complicated, Kokkoku‘s story-telling is centered around sensible world-building and the rising tension of what is left unknown to us.
Let’s begin with what we’ve learned from Episode 2 of Kokkoku: Stasis is a world frozen in time achieved by using the Master Stone. Heralds or Holders police the world by protecting those frozen in Stasis, the Stalled, and as we learn from the knife henchman, Heralds will execute those who violate the rules of Stasis such as harming or threatening harm to a stalled person. Heralds in themselves are made from ancestral spirits that have been absorbed into a wooden husk to become the Stasis’ authority. For some reason, the “jellyfish” that are the spirits within the Herald can be transferred into another person to give them access to the world or offer them strength within the universe. By using the Master Stone, one can also maneuver through time as to find a timeline where they would be able to erase people from a location. On the same coin, the Master Stone has been duplicated before in an imperfect clone, motivating the True Love Society to seek out the real McCoy. Sounds like hefty exposition, right?
Where Kokkoku thrives, however, is how this exposition is told to us. We get three different sources of information; the events as they happen, Jiisan, who is telling Juri everything he knows as well as possible with the information he received second-hand from his own grandfather, and the True Love Society, who has been trying to study Stasis to a T so they can retrieve the Stone with the help of information they got from Majima.
We are given a wealth of information about Stasis, but much of what we know about Stasis is imperfect enough to give us a very muddled concept of what exactly is going on. If everyone was a master of the domain, it would be ineffective story-telling, but the lack of confidence the characters have in the knowledge they’ve been using to navigate Stasis make it so that we know as much as many of the characters do at this point. There are some things other characters will be able to flesh out overtime, but the world-building relies on how the cast can react to events as they’re happening. With everyone slowly learning about the changes and mechanics of Stasis, answers can only arise from dire circumstances created through how drastic the hostage situation and manhunt for the Yukawa family that can move through Stasis has gotten.
This leads me to a sequence in this episode that blew me away, and that’s the build-up to the trouble Juri’s in by the end. At first, Jiisan is confident that his plan to have Juri grab the Master Stone and meet him to save Takafumi, the only other non-stalled person in their family, would come to fruition. However, as Jiisan slowly looks through the True Love Society’s hideout, he slowly starts to notice things aren’t as simple as they seem. The slow build-up as they switch back-and-forth between Juri and Jiisan is excruciating as Jiisan learns about the Society’s surveillance operation to trap the Yukawa family into retrieving the Master Stone all the while we see Juri being followed by the Society’s hired goons. As soon as we see a shot of the goons tailing her, we go immediately back to Jiisan, who now has put it all together that the Society knows about their house, their access to the Master Stone, and the fact that Juri is racing back to find it. The rising tension and execution of the scene is nail-biting and cinematic in a way that reminds me of how The Silence of the Lambs built up tension when Clarice is revealed to have been the only FBI agent to have found the correct house Buffalo Bill resided in merely through the bait-and-switch of using a shot of the wrong doorbell to trick the viewer into assuming the one Bill was answering was the same one the FBI was ringing. In the instance of Kokkoku‘s last scene, it is an incredibly tense four minute section where the situation escalates from bad to worse the more Jiisan pieces together the puzzle the Society left behind of how intricate their plan has been to ensnare the Yukawa family.
Of course, there are other aspects of the episode that help continue to build the promising momentum that it’s been gaining. The inclusion of Majima, whose familiarizes with Stasis stem from way back when she encountered Juri as a child, offers a different dimension to the Society as an outsider brought in to assist Junji with his understanding of Stasis as well as possibly having an ulterior motive towards aligning herself with the Society. The differences in principles between the religious section of the Society and the hired goons who have murder and rape on their mind will definitely cause a lethal rift in the Society if the Heralds intervene with their methods. Tsubasa waking up also adds another intersecting path in the plot as his lack of understanding of Stasis and his overall shock of Makoto being stalled make him a third party who might sway what direction Juri and Jiisan move towards. There was a little comic relief in the episode too as there is something morbidly funny about Tsubasa thinking that Makoto being frozen in time must mean that he needs to be rushed to the ER. Even funnier was Juri trying to Super Saiyan charge her way into teleporting to the top of a playground slide while Jiisan just flops on top of it through his own understanding of those powers. Overall, it was another captivating episode of Kokkoku, and with all of the skepticism around where exactly the twists and turns in the series will go has yet to backfire, if it ever would. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here considering that the preview did spoil Juri escaping from the clutches of the Society with stone in tow, but nonetheless Kokkoku has exceeded its expectations so far.