「京都より」 (Kyoto Yori)
“From Kyoto” was an episode that set the tone for what I believe will be this entire arc. Loss, solitude, mysteries and powers beyond our imagination. With the near extinction of a bunch of divisions from the Tokyo Devil Hunters, we’re left with sole survivors: Denji, Power, Aki, Kobeni and Madoka. After the fearsome display of powers by Makima-san we’re left with more questions than answers. Who is she really? What kind of devils does she have contracts with? And what is it that she truly seeks? A part of me thought it was slightly cheating that she gets to sacrifice other people in order to do those long-distance kills. But oh, well.
Taking everyone in by surprise was our underdog and unexpected hero: Kobeni-chan, who displayed physical prowess beyond what we’ve seen from the humans so far. If she can do that without a devil, just what kind of devil does she have a contract with?!
As Madoka-san turns in his resignation letter, we’re let in the fact that maybe this entire operation was planned by Makima. None of the deaths and destruction that happened were a surprise. When I said back then that we’re actually going to see just how much Makima doesn’t care, this whole ordeal was the first confirmation. No hesitation, no remorse, no reluctance. Makima is ruthless and strategic: she made her play and everyone dealt with the aftermath of it.
「もっとボロボロ」 (Motto Boroboro)
“Bruised & Battered”
There were 3 things that really stood out to me in “Bruised & Battered.” The first one was the heavy use of apples as a metaphor. Aki wakes up in the hospital to Denji and Power being total gremlins over his basket of get well soon apples. Power wants all the apples for herself, Denji wants to eat them too. As the characters interact, the director makes it a point to emphasize the fruit. The doormats leave with all the apples, but on his way out, as an afterthought, Denji offers to leave Aki one of the apples––to which Aki doesn’t really respond or show any concern for. The following interaction is through our new cast members, Kurose (Kawanishi Kengo) and Tendou (Ueda Hitomi). After walking into Aki’s moment of grief, Kurose nonchalantly asks if he can have the apple sitting next to Aki.
Now here’s the thing, I’ve noticed that most of the time Fujimoto’s metaphors are pretty much on your face, but there are times when they’re more obscure, delving more into the poetic realm rather than the explicit. And given his background as an artist, that makes sense. My personal impression is that the apple, in this case, is meant to represent compassion, empathy. And the point he’s making in these two scenes is that human compassion, condolence and empathy are very superficial and fleeting. That people only offer those when it’s convenient for them, or as an afterthought to their own lives. Not only that, even while you’re grieving, people will try to take that away from you [your grieving, your condolences, whatever compassion you’ve received]. Just out of their own nearsightedness and selfishness. “Sorry about your loss, by the way you have work to do. Oh, can I have this apple?”
Another event related to apples and hospitals that makes me think my intuition is right on this one is a call back to when Denji defeated the Bat Devil (and his devil girlfriend, I can’t recall her name). The roles were reversed back then, Denji wakes up at the hospital and Aki’s carving bunnies out of apple slices (he most definitely bought himself). Out of all the characters we’ve seen Aki’s seems to be the most sensitive one. He feels guilt and shame towards his treatment of his brother, alongside his loss. He physically protected Denji when Kobeni tried to stab him in the hotel. And his initial distaste for Power and Denji seems to be transforming into something else. Himeno calls him a crybaby and indeed he breaks down after her death.
When Denji’s in the hospital, he brings an apple for the boy, not for him. Sure, he plays around with it, saying he’ll only give it to Denji if the youngling starts listening to him, but the compassion was there from the beginning. Power wants all the apples to herself, Denji leaves one as an afterthought, Tendou doesn’t even acknowledge it and Kurose takes the last one. As a side note, I think Aki’s meant to represent this all around great guy. Like, he’s the quintessential hero of a story, but the joke’s in the fact we get Denji as a protagonist instead (no hate, I love that dumbass) but you get the gist. Speaking of, points to him though, because the only real kindness Aki does receive in this episode is when Denji comes back for his manga and hears Aki’s grieving cry and decides to give the older boy his privacy. I’m not here saying he did this intentionally thinking “Aki should have this moment to himself and I respect it.” It was more out of not wanting to deal with it, but it was a good display of restraint because if it were Power she would’ve just barged in. So yes, apples as a metaphor for compassion and empathy.
And on that note of feelings, inner thoughts and existential matters, we have Denji’s reflection about the nature of grief, relationships, the weight they carry and how much they impact us. These thoughts lead him to an internal conflict, which I found very meaningful.
Denji thinks about Pochita, and how he’s replaced his heart and wonders to himself, does he even have a heart at all? Is this indifference he feels towards others a result of what he’s been through or was he just always this way? “Do I not care? What does that mean about me? Am I just a shit person?” In this scene Denji’s trying to grapple what he feels and if there’s anything wrong with him because of the answers he has at this moment. I found this very human of him.
I personally don’t think there are many stories in fiction that grapple that very well. Dostoevsky is brilliant at it, sharing these kinds of private, shadow aspects of our persona, the ones that feel uncomfortable but are also very honest, relieving in a way. G. R. R. Martin is a contemporary one who does that too. We are presented with a vision into our minds, of thoughts we’d never share with other people. It’s a quality of great writers.
I have to say, this inner experience of thoughts juxtaposed with interpersonal relationship dynamics and unfiltered violence is something I’ve been greatly enjoying about CSM. I’ve decided to pick up the manga as soon as I’m done with this article. Good way to end a Saturday if I say so myself.
Anywho. The last point that stood out to me happened with the delightful interactions featuring a character I’m sure everyone else also simps: Kishibe-san. The moment he said he was going to ask them questions I knew the unhinged doofuses were going to pass. Lo and behold. After all, the man said so himself: a good devil hunter is a crazy one. But Fujimoto’s real commentary was not about that. It was portrayed when Denji and Power decide, after being killed tons of times, that they’ll outwit Kishibe in a battle of intellect. They fail immediately. But not before they dress up “smart,” all adorable in glasses and even a different hairstyle for Power. “I feel smarter already.” Denji says to our amusement. We know these two characters are dumb as fuck, it’s part of their nature. But it’s undeniable that there exists a weird dissonance between when someone’s talking about physical attributes, or the ability to accomplish a physical task. We understand that certain attributes have to be developed over time. You can’t just “try really hard” to be fast and then you just get faster. You have to train at it, dedicate yourself to it. The same is understood about strength, it takes years to truly develop it. With physical attributes we understand that, but with intellect people seem to have this impression that everyone has equal value. And that’s not true.
Of course, it’s possible to build intelligence as a trait over a long time, at least functional intelligence. But how many times have we not seen this behavior replicated elsewhere? The average person’s view of intelligence––or even some other attribute––is but a mere expression, an affectation, an outward garb. Fujimoto makes a commentary on how people, instead of actually developing a trait, only really want to look the part to feel the part. Mime the gestures, and later on I’ll figure it out. Sure, let’s see where that’ll end.
Sorry about the delay guys (and any grammatical mistakes, I’m not editing this one, I hope it turned out well hahaha I don’t even want to re-read it) *runs away*. Christmas is a crazy time for hospitality and I’m developing a website and branding project at the same time (not counting my regular clients I do graphic design work for). I only had time to sit down and write today :~
ED9: 「Deep Down」 by Aimer
ED10: 「Dogland」 by People 1