Warning: The series I am reviewing contains depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder, and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains sexual relationships between young people. That is the trigger warning.
Leave now if you wish.
Also, spoilers for the episode and the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.
Recap: We open with the characters in school. Older Saki tells us that Shun hasn’t been to school for four days. The remaining members of group one gather outside the school. Satoru says they need to find Shun and make sure he isn’t in trouble. He is willing to do whatever it needed. Maria says it sounds like Satoru is trying to be Shun’s white knight. Satoru says that is not why he is doing this. There are too many questions that need answering. What did Shun mean by watch out for cats and what has happened to him? Most importantly is someone spying on them? Maria and Mamoru caution they need to be careful. Saki agrees after all if the monster rats could train birds to spy on them then what can the ethics committee do? Could a bug be listening to them?
In the end to not draw attention to themselves they split up. Saki and Shun will look at Shun’s house. Meanwhile Maria and Mamoru will ask around to see if they can find out anything. Satoru and Saki head for Shun’s home Pinewood village by boat. There are some flashbacks to Shun’s house, his family, his dog and Shun as a young boy. Shun’s home was one of those houses built around a tree. But their journey is not smooth one, they come across barricades and the village has been roped off. Maria and Mamoru have found that only people from Pinewood are absent from school. Why would they all be absent on one day?
Saki and Satoru try to get into the village through the woods only to come across another barrier. They see a monster rat in the woods. They realize they’re outside a sacred barrier-a recently made one. As if something was trying to be contained. As they cross the barrier they come across more unusual things. Trees with faces on them, statues of moths and frost on the ground. They reach a massive crater. Two people are inside it as if they are digging for something. Saki asks Satoru to make a mirror to see what is down there. They see the remains of a tree in it. Saki realizes that this is where Shun’s house once was. Next, we see Saki and Satoru outside of Pinewood sitting in a children’s playground, they are waiting on Maria and Mamoru-both of who are late. They are hopeful Shun is safe at the bungalow. Satoru says to try again tomorrow. Both head home.
Saki returns to her house just in time for dinner. She is covered in mud and heads to wash up. Her parents make small talk about their day to day lives. One thing we do learn is that twenty percent of the town budget is spent on the library and that Saki’s mother works late. This continues until Saki interrupts them and asks ‘Hey, do you know what happened to Shun?’ Both of her parents are surprised and scared. Interestingly the camera focuses firstly on her parents, then on Saki and the empty chair next to her. Her mother tells her no one is meant to talk about that ‘sort of thing’. Her father tells her to say goodbye and that Shun is missing. There was a big accident in Pine wind village. Saki demands to know more but her mother soon tells her to stop. Saki thanks her parents for dinner and makes to leave. But her mother starts to cry and says, ‘Saki please I don’t want to lose another-I mean I don’t want to lose my only daughter’. There is a flashback to the scene in episode one when Saki’s mother said, ‘I don’t want to lose another one of my children’.
Saki goes to bed and realizes something she has suspected for a long time to be true. She had older siblings. Then there is a flashback of Maria and Saki talking. In this culture names are chosen for what parents hope their child will be. Saki looks up her name. It means ‘the youngest’. We get another flashback of Saki as a small child. But there is also another child in the scene. An older girl her mother calls Yoshimi. Saki jerks awake as she remembers her sister and asks herself ‘why did you disappear all of a sudden?’ Next, she hears tapping at the window and sees the silhouette of Maria.
She lets Maria in and she embraces Saki then tells her what happened. She tells Saki that Shun’s friends from Pine wind have been absent too. Maria and Mamoru were suspicious and decided to sneak into the court yard using Maria’s flying ability. Now we learn what was in those Storage drums. Three adults walk into the courtroom including Indo Sensei. From their talking Maria and Mamoru and later Saki learn that inside the drums are the Impure Cats and that the adults have no choice but to send them out before the transformation to Karmic Demon is complete. The cats are as big as lions. The adults use their powers to subdue it. As they leave Maria hears her teacher say, ‘he was so talented it is such as shame’. Maria continues ‘I heard him say it clear as day, he said Shun Ownumba’.
Once Maria leaves Saki decided to act. She puts on the necklace Shun gave her and gets dressed in warm clothes with a back pack. She flies out of her window after muttering some chants to herself. She takes a boat then and heads straight for the barrier she and Satoru came across earlier. In the rain and the dark, she creeps past it and the search lights. She is nearly discovered once but slips past in the end. She pulls up to shore after some time. But it is here she comes face to face with the black Impure cat. She drops her torch and the episode cuts to credits.
Analysis: So many things happen in this episode but what is was really doing was building what would come next. The conclusion of the foreshadowing of what would become of Shun is finally here. We finally also have confirmation that Saki had older siblings at least one sister. There was a lot of build up to this. One bit of foreshadowing that was especially good was the dinner scene. The empty chair next to Saki meaning there should have been another person there.
It is very possible that Saki had more older siblings than her sister. After all her mother says, ‘another one of my children’. This could mean two but it would be more likely than to say, ‘I don’t want to lose another child’. The series never really addresses if there were more older children but really it doesn’t need to. As you know my feelings on how death shouldn’t be overused in a story how do I feel about the death of Saki’s older sister. I like how this is done unlike the death of Reiko back in episode one. Why? Because she was never really a person Saki knew. Yoshimi most likely died when Saki was very young and Saki’s memories were most likely wiped. Instead of Yoshimi being a character who we could have been invested in we instead find out the truth as Saki does.
Instead what we feel is the presence of Yoshimi’s absence. It has been there from the start and now we have some answers for it and will be getting more. This is a much better way to handle the idea of death in story. Compare for example Shun’s arc to Reikio’s brief time in episode one. As this is my second time viewing this series I know Shun’s death is coming. During the first watching this I was dreading what was happening and desperate to know he was okay. This time I feel the impending sense of doom. I know what is coming and I don’t want it to. I want Saki and the others to save Shun. I want to see Shun clear the air with Satoru and Saki telling she loves him.
She nearly does in the last episode but she stops just short. Honestly it is just painful. That is what the death of a character should be. The only character who came close to this was Rejin and even that wasn’t as powerful as this is. But there are other things this episode does that are good other than the build-up of suspense to what comes next and characters dying. There is some release of tension as some questions are answered. The impure cats have been established as real since the first few episodes and they are under the control of the educators in the village including at least one teacher. As the end of this episode draws Saki finds herself face to face with one of these creatures. We are left wondering if she will survive this encounter. (that collar Shun gave her might come in handy).
The use of music in this episode to emphasis the character’s emotions is amazing. It adds to their pain and the feeling of creepiness in this episode. The idea of being spied on is everywhere here and makes me feel just as uncomfortable watching this as I would be with the idea of being watched. This anime has not only mastered the art of foreshadowing both also the art of creating an atmosphere. The kids also show their quick thinking in coming up with ways to make themselves seem less suspicious by doing things such as splitting up.