OP: 「モノノケ・イン・ザ・フィクション」 (Mononoke in the Fiction) by Uso to Chameleon
「ヌシの大蛇は聞いていた」 (Nushi no Daija wa kiiteita)
“What the Guardian Serpent Heard”
Kyokou Suiri’s been my surprise of the season. I went in with average expectations, since Stilts did the rounds and asked if anyone wanted to cover it after he wrote about Episode 1. As it turned out, I became completely suckered by the whimsical mystery premise and eccentric dialogues – with youkai being the backdrop.
Maybe the run in with youkais and being made their goddess of wisdom pulled a few of her screws loose. Nevertheless, Kotoko is one heck of a baller. Which is to say she’s my character of the season so far – sequels excluded. Her amusing interactions with Kuro have formed the basis of this series up till this point – primarily consisting of her attempts to woo him while he coldly brushes her off. But, it’s not like Kuro is a heartless bastard. When she comes to visit him, he looks after her in his own way – packing her tonjiro and bento, spraying her with bug repellent, and providing a jacket for warmth. And he ultimately follows her to intervene should the meeting go awry – although this doesn’t turn out to be an issue, with the deity behaving extremely amicably (in spite of the fact it voiced a craving to eat young girls!). Clearly Kotoko chose well – and we can see that Kuro is a kind young man who acts slightly aloof and jaded because of his experiences with youkai and the impact said experience has had upon his life.
As for the Snake God of the Lake, they request Kotoko’s wisdom to figure out why Aoi Tanio would dispose of a corpse in their specific lake. And even with reasonable explanations, the Snake God proves extremely difficult to satisfy. Kotoko strings together a sequence of plausible motives and conjectures, eventually satiating the Snake God’s desire for closure. For me, this brings up an interesting point. That even though the youkai anointed her their goddess of wisdom, Kotoko is not beyond exploitation and trickery when being called in to resolve problems — because that’s her role as a mediator. But that’s what makes everything so impressive. She wove together such a believable narrative that like the Snake God, I never even doubted her for a second. I didn’t even need to suspend my disbelief, because I was believing her the whole entire time – so Kyokou Suiri passes my personal test with flying colours.
「鋼鉄婦人の噂」 (Koutetsu fujin no uwasa)
“The Rumors of the Steel Lady”
Cue a timeskip. It seemed like an odd choice, especially since we’re only two episodes in. However, it paid huge dividends. I was reminded of the dynamic between Mr Incredible and Elastagirl pre and post timeskip, where they get straight to the meat of things. The legal deflowering joke by Kotoko made the whole thing entirely worthwhile. That aside, a youkai named ‘Steel Lady Nanase’ has been terrorising the city and is allegedly the ghost of an idol who had a massive bust. Her appearances have been causing accidents, but as far as I’m aware, no deaths have occurred yet. I’d go out on a leg and say she’s probably misunderstood – we don’t have a motive or proper life context to work with in fathoming why she’s causing trouble. If I had to guess, her body is out of control, but her actual consciousness resides with the missing face and doesn’t harbour malicious intent.
Saki’s reappearance contributed excellently towards the overarching narrative, not to mention the presence her force of character brings to the screen. Though she gives the outwards appearance of strong and independent woman, her scenes gave greater insight as to why she chose to break up with Kuro, and the heavy regrets she’s been having ever since. Saki’s encounter with youkai effectively ruined her life, inflicting a deep-seated trauma upon her. And when she invariably stumbles across Steel Lady Nanase, she sees it as an opportunity to overcome her own weaknesses and wash away past regrets – only to discover that the ghost is well, a ghost and impervious to physical damage. Just as Saki’s about to be crushed by the iron beam, Kotoko rescues her and proves that while she’s no youkai bane like Kuro, she’s also no slouch when it comes to fighting them. And funnily enough, it wasn’t that much better for Saki – being rescued by the middle school girl who’s currently dating the boyfriend you never got over that made a joke about getting her virginity taken by him. As much as I like Kotoko, she definitely deserved that punch in the face for openly bragging about how she’s Kuro’s current girlfriend, with her desperate cry of ‘Meep!’ failing to win my sympathies (although it won my chuckles). Other than that, I can’t wait for the resolution of Steel Lady Nanase’s mystery, because there’s definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to her supposedly tragic backstory used to explain why she’s haunting the city.
Looking forwards, the path that Kyokou Suiri is seeking to take seems fairly obvious. Arcs of mystery and mediation featuring particular youkai, with Kotoko and Kuro resolving them as a power couple with a combination of her wisdom and his fearsome youkai slaying powers, with some involvement and drama in the backdrop featuring other girls who are interested in Kuro. It’s quite similar to Bakemonogatari and Arakawa Under the Bridge, albeit strange in its own way without the distinctive Shaft style. But I can see fans of those two shows enjoying Kyokou Suiri. And I reckon haters who disliked the pretentious dialogue and abstract post-modernist style of both should still give this a chance – since Kyokou Suiri remains relatively down to earth in its depiction of characters and youkai. Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss? As always, thank you very much for reading this post. There’s an extremely good chance this series will be picked up, whether by myself or Guardian Enzo, so stay tuned for more when the next episode drops.