Subarashiki Kono Sekai’s fourth episode opens with the results of Neku’s first Reaper’s Game and the Josh Fight as Yoshiya “Joshua” Kiryu appears as Neku’s new partner for the second round. Although Sho Minamimoto is the game master of this round, Neku is unsure of where his allegiance should be with Joshua and Beat having different ideas for how they want to approach Neku.
It’s difficult to approach the 2nd Reaper’s Game without addressing that this is where we meet two fan-favorite characters with Sho and Joshua. If you ever had an annoying otaku friend back in the late aughts, they likely either quoted Sho Minamimoto’s math jokes or endeared themselves to Joshua’s flamboyant personality. It’s a little nostalgic to think of the Internet culture that sprung in the wake of this game as fans clung to these characters and gave them new life through these odd intertextual interpretations of them.
Starting off with Sho, he makes his presence known through being outwardly disruptive, calling on participants of the game to kill each other or target Reapers that are merely observing the game from afar. That alone would warrant Sho to be a fascinating antagonist and game master for Neku’s second round. But then they make the one distinguishing aspect of his personality a completely unrelated love for mathematics to the point that every other word he shouts a reference to functions, equations, and units in math. For the time being, it seems like an inconsequential quirk, but it never hurts to add a fun personality trait to such a bombastic character, and the anime does a good job at leaning on how much of an amusing chaotic villain Sho is.
On the other hand, this episode gives you traces of what made Joshua entertaining. With the game, they ease you into your new partner by having him appear as the complete opposite of Shiki. Whereas Shiki had constantly fought with Neku to get him to shape up and be friendlier, Joshua favored the direct approach of regularly putting Neku on the spot. This can range from smugly countering Neku’s sour attitude to outright flirting with Neku to catch him off-guard. On top of being unnerving for the darker secrets about the Reapers’ Game that he’s hiding from Neku, he aggressively challenges Neku’s narrower point-of-view by getting on his nerves and being overly affectionate to Neku’s chagrin. Needless to say that he is among the pantheon of Kaworu types alongside Komaeda and Akise.
But it seems that the anime takes more after Kingdom Hearts 3D’s portrayal of Joshua by playing into him being a mysterious figure who is better versed in the world that surrounds him. While this helps for world-building purposes, especially as Neku learns about this new topsy-turvy version of Shibuya, I do miss the playful banter the two had as Neku would get quickly fed up with Joshua playing up his sassy side around him. Alternatively, the distant version of Joshua we get here does make it far more foreboding when Neku starts connecting the dots that he’s been regaining stray memories from the time of his death whenever he scans Joshua.
On that note, making Neku more likable right off the bat adds to the emotional weight that comes from him trying to cope with being thrown back into the game knowing that Shiki is gone. His main motive of using the second game to bring her back hits ever harder when he comes across Eri buying flowers to place at a memorial for the real Shiki. With how rough her disappearance was in the last episode, that pain still lingers when we see Neku grieving her loss and being torn up about how Eri is handling Shiki’s death when she’s alone. It also allows him to be on the same boat as Beat, who is also currently grieving Rhyme. But while Beat is going about his grief through allying with the reapers, it’ll be a matter of time whether Neku would also be able to free him and restore Rhyme as well, or what Joshua has to say about what he knows now about Neku.