「幽霊団地の夢魔」 (Yuurei Danchi no Muma)
“The Dream Demon of the Haunted Apartment Block”
Right from the get-go, this episode reached a level of primal terror that none other has been able to accomplish, with the possible exception of Pandora’s empty smile and the poor soul Azazel has trapped in an endless cycle of resurrections and deaths. The difference here is that the victims are children. Imaginations run wild when you’re young, turning floating spots in the dark into staring eyes and random sounds into a creature creeping under your bed. For these children, however, there really were eyes staring back at them. The opening especially made fantastic use of abandoned hallways, long stretches of silence, and discordant sounds to really put the viewer on edge while a frightened little boy struggled to hide from a creature in a red hood that only wanted to play tag… forever.
Although the dream demon terrorizing these children was meant to be Arata’s first solo case, he ended up being joined by a couple men from other wards. Ostensibly, it was to facilitate growth and cooperation among the different Nocturnal branches, but it seems word has spread of Arata’s nighttime rendezvous with a disaster god. While Seo and Kyoichi have consistently warned Arata to be careful, he never imagined that the danger might be coming from other humans. Even on Kyoichi’s worst day, I doubt he would needlessly destroy an Another the way Kanoichi did in front of Arata. Senda had mentioned much earlier that the exam was meant to weed out people like Arata, and I think we finally know what sort of people that means. Those who sympathize with Another are looked upon with suspicion. Through their association with Arata, Seo and Kyoichi have both grown when it comes to how they regard Another, but those who don’t know Arata would definitely find it difficult to trust a human who can communicate with powerful beings that none of them can understand. Even so, whatever Kanoichi Satoru’s (Sakurai Takahiro) tragic Another-related backstory turns out to be, what he did was cruel, though nicely foreshadowed by his comparing Another to rats and other pests. In other words, unwanted things that should be exterminated.
I’m a little torn emotionally because the writing and animation for this series have improved by leaps and bounds since that first episode where Arata was new to the job and used way too much hair gel, but also watching that little dream demon get exorcised was genuinely upsetting. That aside, treating the repercussions of Arata’s fraternization with Another realistically grounds the next arc in the narrative, since whatever comes next will function as a natural consequence to Arata’s actions. Kanoichi makes for a good foil for Kyoichi now that Kyoichi’s mellowed out, like a version of him that never had a Seo or an Arata to pull him from the brink of outright hating Another. He also makes a good one for Arata. Where one can’t communicate and doesn’t want to, the other can communicate and is constantly trying to find common ground. During the scene where Arata was chasing the dream demon down, I tried to keep track of how many times Arata played tag, just waiting for the moment when the Another would steal his consciousness away. As much as Arata seemed to have the situation handled, it could have very easily ended poorly for him due to how unpredictable Another can be, which is why I can’t completely disregard Kanoichi’s point that leaving Another free to repeat their crimes is only asking for trouble, even if I do despise his methods.