By Noel Kirkpatrick
Episodes 26 and 27: “The Promise in the Snow” and “An Incident of Bloodshed”
Original airdates: Feb. 2 and Feb. 23, 1991
So in a fit of bad planning on my part, this week’s duo represent the end of one arc and what I suspect is that start of another. Had I known things would shake out this way, I would’ve gone ahead and done “The Promise in the Snow” last week. C’est la vie.
“The Promise in the Snow” delivers on my need for the events of last week to matter. Nanako decides to resign from the Sorority, and through her confrontations with Miya-sama during the episode, she demonstrates a surprising amount of backbone and confidence. She refuses to be cowed in the hallway of Rei’s apartment building, even after spilling all her ingredients and Miya-sama tosses the resignation letter in the garbage chute. Does she just head on home? Nope. She maintains her platonic relationship with Henmi, heads into Rei’s apartment, and waits for Rei to return, a bowl of soup at the ready. It’s a little less than great that, even after the icky earlobe kissing last week, Nanako would be at the ready. But she loves Rei, and love goes a long way to filling in those gaps. If it didn’t, then Rei would’ve been able to break free of Miya-sama’s influence a long time ago.
And that’s the bulk of the episode, finding out exactly how the attempted suicide pact went down all those years ago. As is often the case with the show’s flashbacks, there’s something just wonderfully poetic in these sequences with the snow, the crows, and the cresting waves. The sheer ornateness of the blade makes it out of place in the otherwise stark environment, and sort of demonstrates just how much of a melodramatic flair the characters have with small things like this.
We end up, however, roughly back to where we started, with Rei reaffirming her devotion to Miya-sama after Miya-sama almost jumps off the roof of a dilapidated warehouse (in either a fit of suicidal impulses or just the ultimate manipulative gambit—or, more likely, both) as a sign her devotion and intention of keeping the suicide pact. Like Rei before this gesture, I don’t buy Miya-sama’s seriousness. The glass art work is a nice story, and it serves as a convincing one for a young, enamored teenager, but it hides the fact that Miya-sama is the one doing the breaking and goes on living. Things get broken, and it’s not about preventing that from happening, but making sure that it’s Miya-sama that does the breaking. Rei’s existence is a constant reminder of how Miya-sama can break something over and over again, giving her a little fix, as it were.
“An Incident of Bloodshed” keeps this broken motif going as Mariko returns to the center of the narrative. Her parents are getting divorced, and while she’s putting on a chipper facade in front of Nanako and Tomoko, it’s tearing her up inside. Her mother is putting on a similar demeanor of calmness, but Mariko wants, and probably even needs, her mom to be angry so there’s some sense of release of the betrayal, so Mariko isn’t the one admitting how hurt she is, how she let this man hurt her so.
The episode also brings back Misaki. No doubt laying low after Miya-sama declaring that Nanako was under her protection, Misaki decides to strike at the weak link in the Sorority by bullying Mariko about the divorce, including flashing around the celebrity gossip magazine that splashes the story on the cover. Misaki sorely misjudges the extent to which Mariko will tolerate this bullying (and she really should’ve known better given Mariko’s past behavior), but I don’t think anyone would’ve expected Mariko to bring a utility knife to school, let alone use it to slash at Misaki.
And so in a fit of parallelism, Mariko shuffles from the school and almost jumps off a bridge onto some train tracks. But because that story’s not done yet, Takashi, that cad, is there to grab her before she can jump. Obviously Mariko is done at Seiran, and with the Sorority, but what impact will this have on everyone else?
- I feel really bad for that salaryman who just walked out of the elevator as Rei ran out of her apartment. He’s got to be to wondering what in the world he wandered into.
- EPIC FENCING IS EPIC.
- I think my favorite bit of these two episodes was actually the sound of the utility knife sliding back and forth in its molding. It’s just eerie.
We’re closing in on the home stretch of Oniisama e…, so I wanted to get the gears churning about what’s next. There’s six weeks of coverage left, which will close out my things in mid-December (if I’m doing the math right). After that, I plan to take two weeks off, and then starting on Jan. 1, 2013, I’ll devote a month’s worth of coverage to the original Astro Boy, in honor of the show’s 50th anniversary.
In addition to the episode reviews, I’m going to read Fred Ladd’s Astro Boy and Anime Comes to the Americas and Frederik L. Schodt’s The Astro Boy Essays. Feel free to read along with me, but I want your input about which seven episodes to cover over the course of January (the first episode is a no-brainer). I’ve seen a small chunk of the series a number of years ago, but not all of it, so I want some assistance. It can be terrible episodes, interesting episodes, favorite episodes, whatever. I just want some suggestions.
And speaking of suggestions, also let me know what you’d be interested in reading about starting in February. It’s needs to be animated, but it doesn’t have to be anime. It does have to be legally and readily available in the United States, and I would prefer streaming, but that’s not a deal breaker. Leave suggests for the future show, and the Astro Boy episodes, in the comments, or tweet them to on Twitter.