OP: 「innocent arrogance”」by (BISH)
「二人の告白」 (Futari no Kokuhaku)
Truth be told, it would be hard to imagine a better opening two episodes than this. Tengoku Daimakyou is a wonderful manga to be sure, but this… What we’re seeing here is the very definition of a first-class treatment. It’s almost as if it combines the best elements of Production I.G. (I see a lot of Ghost Hound in this episode) and classic Gainax. Yeah I know FLCL did that on paper, but in aesthetic terms that was totally a Gainax show. Heavenly Delusion is unmistakably I.G, but it definitely has a ton of Gainax flourishes.
On that topic, the OP and ED must be addressed. They both premiered this week, and while I don’t know why anyone would be surprised, they were both great. The ED is fun and whimsical and showcases the voice talents of the cast, but that OP is the one that really stands out. It is, in a word, spectacular – one of the coolest and most beautiful I’ve seen in years. It was directed and storyboarded by superstar young animator Welin Zhang, who built a following as an indie artist (Xenophoss) and has started to make a splash with studio work.
That hasn’t even brought is to the episode itself, Ishiguro’s genius at the heart of this whole enterprise. There’s a lot going on here – a lot of characters and a lot of plot. A lot of mysteries too, some of which have been revealed in the manga (even one or two this early), but some of which remain mysterious. As I mentioned last week this is a bit of a minefield show in the spoiler department, but you can begin to see the weirdness that clings to life on the “inside”, and the children who live it. Kids will be kids – petty jealousy, lust, recklessness – but nothing seems straightforward with this group.
Things are a bit more “linear” with Kiruko and Maru (that’s how Ishiguro built the narrative), but even there, new secrets are being uncovered all the time. Obviously, the innkeeper drugged them last week, and the reason was to protect – them, from the maneater outside, and the maneater from them. She’s convinced the maneater (the kids call it a “Hiruko”, a name steeped in Shinto mythology and entangled with the origin story of the God Ebisu) is the new form of her son, which it consumed. Maru and Kiruko are highly skeptical, but the hiruko is a fearsome opponent so if fighting it cam be avoided, that’s certainly the path of least resistance.
Unfortunately, it can’t. This ends tragically for all concerned, in brutal fashion, which is pretty much the norm for Tengoku Daimakyou. In the process we get a stupendously-animated fight sequence, where Maru reveals his power – to reach inside the hiruko and finds its heart, and then to destroy it. He does note later that hiruko are “all I can kill” – a reference to the possibility (later hilariously confirmed) of crocs and sharks in the water as they row what’s basically a flattened crate across the water to Tomato Heaven.
The action continues to shift between the two main sittings. Why does Shiro (Takeuchi Shunsuke) bleed when the foolhardy Taka (Shin Yuuki) is the one who falls from a fatal height (and is seemingly uninjured)? Meanwhile the main pair reach T.H., which by appearances seems to be something like a post-apocalyptic commune, where the residents tend the crops by day and smoke weed and play guitars at night. Undeniably in this world is seems a veritable oasis, and their hosts to be kind people. One of them recognizes Kiruko as “Takehaya Kiruko, the electro-kart racer!”. Kiruko denies this and Maru backs her up, but the photograph is eerily similar (not to mention the name).
Same faces are a theme here, if you havan’t noticed. On the ship back to Tokyo (where they’re headed after finding this was not the Heaven they were looking for) a bit more of their backstory comes out – the woman who asked Kiruko to protect Maru and the gun she gave her, whose markings the kids find on a box. The instructions he was given for when he finds the person with the same face as him. And after one of the most awkward confessions ever by Maru, Kiruko responds with one of her own. Her body may be that of a girl, but her brain is that of a guy. Naturally Maru doesn’t know what to make of this, to say the least…
One of the things I love about Heavenly Delusion is that the kids behave very much as kids their age would act if deprived of what we’d consider normal social conditioning. Their instincts don’t change just because modern society has collapsed, but even more than real children they lack the cultural context to know how to act on them. Maru not least, with no indication that he had other kids around in his childhood. Adolescence is a fraught with peril in the best of circumstances, and these are hardly the best of circumstances for Maru and Kiruko.
ED: 「Dare mo Kare mo Doko mo Nani mo Shiranai”」 (誰も彼も何処も何も知らない) by (ASOBI Doumei)