「神楽坂の白い猫又」 (Kagurazaka no Shiroi Nekomata)
“The White Nekomata of Kagurazaka”
It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane. No, it’s a… kisha?
Before diving into this week’s episode and the array of new Another introduced, let’s talk a little more about Hakoneyama. The hill is located within a park that used to be the site of the Army Medical College and Hospital. Since then, it’s been home to several medical research centers, one of which is said to have been the training center for the Imperial Army’s Unit 731, a research and development facility for biological and chemical weapons. To this day, bones from the remains of the patients who died there are still being uncovered, and at night, rumor has it that you can still hear the groans and moans of the unhappy dead…
Naturally, this ghoulish locale is exactly where Arata, Sakaki, and Seo ended up. In exactly one episode, the ‘villain’ gathered all the ingredients needed for their dark ritual and put their plan into motion before the heroes knew what hit them. On the other hand, reanimating the dead with mermaid scales and fairy powder isn’t exactly earth-shattering as far as dastardly deeds go, but it more than suffices for the B plot of the episode. As for the A plot, after showing an affinity for communicating with the yokai, despite not knowing their language, Seo and Sakaki were sent to Arata’s home to make certain that his “Ears of Sand” were the real deal. It seems pretty unlikely that his ability would be a hoax, but the whole thing feels more like an investigation into why he has these talents than if. As for why, it turns out that the Miyako clan is closely related to Abe no Seimei, thus explaining why Arata can speak with the Another, including the nekomata he used to play with as a child that’s been guarding his family’s secrets for generations.
For whatever reason, Senda (Yusa Koji) seems to think that people with genuine affinity for the supernatural should have been weeded out of the examination process, and with questions like, “Do you believe in yokai?” being on the test, it’s not hard to see why. Judging by how unsurprised Seo and Sakaki were last episode by Arata’s lack of knowledge and how prepared they were to train him, revealing the existence of yokai is likely part of the initiation process. But why wouldn’t the Nocturnal Division want people who are already aware of the existence of yokai? It could be because attachment to the Another can make it difficult for the division to do their jobs. Seo compared understanding the Another to cats and dogs last week and he did it again this week, which is exactly the kind of detached professionalism the Nocturnal Division appears to value and cultivate. He also mentioned that trying to reason with Another the same way you might reason with a human is a recipe for getting in over your head, which isn’t something Arata appears to be fully convinced of, yet. Although nekomata are cute, they’re really not meant to be pets. In some folklore, nekomata were domestic cats who grew old enough to transform into a yokai, whereupon they started abducting and eating people. That’s not to say Arata’s nekomata would ever do something like that, but a different one might. These are all things he will come to understand through time and job experience, if he lives long enough.
Events are moving fast, though, because there’s a new player on the scene who could very well be the main villain for this season, and he’s riding in on the back of a Chinese kisha, a many-headed bird with one neck that always weeps blood and a portent of disaster. Somebody sure does know how to make an entrance. And luckily for Arata, he gives the best the gifts, too!