When you haven’t read the source material for a really good adaptation, it can be hard to know how to disperse the credit. To be sure Watanabe Ayumu is as good an anime director as there is, and the way this series manages pacing is truly brilliant. Maybe the manga does that too, I don’t know, but the anime always seems to know when to ease off the gas and give us time with the characters to digest what’s happening. It always manages to reveal just enough to allay frustration but not enough to spoil the mystery. Whether it’s Watanabe or Tanaka or some combination of both, the structure of this series is just about flawless.
Indeed, last week’s episode was an action spectacular, maybe the best of any show this year. This time we get mostly characters talking to each other – and almost entirely humans (and allied shadows). One of the latter is Mio, who’s had her connection with Haine severed by Ushio, She’s still not quite “right” – her personality seems much more different from her host than Ushio’s for some reason. But it’s important to shadow Mio that she be trusted, and she can sense that she isn’t. She shares some valuable information – the two means of shadow reproduction (and how limited “childbirth” is). The fact that replicated shadows will die in a week if their human is still alive.
That’s not all she shares, much to Mio’s horror. Shadow Mio knows everything Mio does, including the fact that Mio is in love with Shin (which is why she never calls him “Nii-chan”). She even asks Shinpei if he got a girlfriend in Tokyo (suspicious of his occasional drops of Wakayama-ben). The one who’s going to end up sharing the most info here is Hishigata Seidou, though – but it isn’t going to come easily. In fact when the good guys go to the Highata house to interrogate him they find it ransacked, with all the furniture copied and eliminated. And when they go to the clinic, Chitose is in the process of shutting Seidou up for good.
That Highigata-sensei is a fool is undeniable, as is the fact that he’s convinced himself he was doing the right thing. The plan here was for Seidou, Sou, and Tokiko to join Chitose as shadows and join Haine as she goes to the place across the seas (and the dimensions, apparently) where only shadows can go (more on that shortly). The problem is that was all BS (he can’t even be copied, as he has immunity), and poor Chitose didn’t even know she was a shadow. Seidou was a tool, plain and simple, and Tokiko was a tool in his hands for far too long.
This conspiracy runs deep – and Shinpei’s parents were killed for trying to blow the lld off it. But Shinpei is all about not rising to the bait here, not acting on instinct – his famous “step back” in action. He focuses on the now, which includes getting Hishigata-sensei to reveal who Shide really is. That would be his ancestor Shidehiko, Haine’s “guardian and first child”, and the founder of the Hishigata Clinic (Shide being someone we didn’t know about is a mild disappointment to me, actually, but I’m already over it).
The upshot of all this is Haine’s endgame – which Seidou says is to take all her shadow children with her to this mysterious homeland. And in order to do that she needs to gorge herself, seemingly on pretty much every human on the island. Seidou points out that if Haine is killed, all the shadows will die – and that of course includes Chizuru and Ushio. But both of them are unhesitating in wanting to move ahead – Ushio notes that she’s on “bonus time” anyway, and one suspects that knowing the truth, Chizuru wants no part of Seidou’s master plan. So even if Shinpei wins, he loses – loses the girl he loves, and who knows what else. That won’t stop him from doing what must be done, but even accepting the cost, actually defeating the shadows still seems like an enormously difficult proposition.