「歌舞伎町の定点観測」 (Kabuki’chou no Teiten Kansoku)
“Fixed-Point Observation in Kabukicho”
A general rule of thumb is that if the animation quality falls for an episode, it’s most likely a breather episode. Despite dealing directly with last week’s repercussions, nothing that happened here truly impacted the plot in any way. However, it did give us some hints that Sakaki might not be entirely unbiased when it comes to Anothers. Understandable since his sister was spirited away. After the Kabukicho’s shrine Oni kidnapped a policeman, Sakaki went above and beyond his duties as a civil servant by accepting the Oni’s – or really Kohaku’s since it was their idea – drinking contest. Whoever lost would have to remain in the Oni’s shrine for a hundred years, and while that’s hardly a problem for an Another, it’s something of an inconvenience for humans.
From what I remember of Nurahiyon No Mago, yokai were able to create closed spaces around shrines, which could be why Arata wasn’t able to escape no matter how far he ran, always ending up in the same fixed spot, but that might also be tied to the civil servants having agreed to take part in the contest. Though the Oni did give him permission to get help, he never gave Arata permission to leave, and like Seo said – you always have to be careful what you say to an Another. Whether it was entering the Oni’s domain, agreeing to the contest, or making eye contact, the three of them plus the policeman were all, effectively, spirited away in Kabukicho.
Sakaki was clearly fueled by a personal vendetta this episode, and between his anger and his desperate desire to get the policeman back to his family, he was able to keep up with the Oni for much longer than his companions. Still, he has but a puny human body. He can only do so much. And just when it seemed like he would have to forfeit, Arata managed to save the day by enlisting help from a group of heavy-drinking gorilla yokai he’d met earlier in town.
In one episode, Sakaki’s warning about the Another – that accepting their offers can lead to disaster – is both affirmed and challenged. While the Oni didn’t seem to understand or care that there was no way a human could drink with him for a hundred years, the gorilla yokai offered their aid without demanding a price of Arata. To be honest, when they ran into Arata passing out in the street, I truly thought they were going to try to eat him, as Seo had suggested they would. Instead, they interrupted the contest, and I think it all had something to do with how Arata framed his request. For example, had he said, “Will you help me?” that would lead to trouble because it’s an open-ended request with no conditions, but, “How would you like to join us at a festival?” is an offer. Language is very important when it comes to dealing with the otherworldly, and on that note, Arata should really be more careful when it comes to Kohaku. Huehuecoytl may be acting like a NEET now, and seeing him playing with the nekomata was unexpectedly endearing, but he’s still very much not an Another whose help you should be requesting willy-nilly.
Luckily, he seems to have a soft spot for Arata. Or Seimei, at least.
The animation quality dropped in a couple frames, though that’s to be expected since this was essentially a transitional episode after last week’s conclusion to its first mini-arc. Character expressions generally don’t break model, which can make them appear stiff sometimes, yet there’s good comedic timing, especially whenever Arata has to deal with those pesky fairies, and the strength of the voice acting often makes up for it.
Now that Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin is moving on to its next arc, there should be opportunities to learn more about Sakaki and his sister, but also for Arata, Seo, and Sakaki to learn more from each other. Arata’s compassion and familiarity, combined with his Ears of Sand, clearly has its benefits, but so too does Seo and Sakaki’s cautious approach. Hopefully, the three of them will be able to reach a healthy balance before long. Oh, and one last thing – I wouldn’t be counting out onmyouji battles just yet. After all, none of these Anothers have referred to Arata as the descendant of Seimei. They all refer to him as though he were Seimei himself, and I’m willing to bet that the tengu and Huehuecoytl might be on to something there.