Episode Four – A Man’s Path
Yea, flashback episode! It was pretty weird that Shounen Bat was captured last episode “off-camera.” Seemed like a big plot point to skip over like that. Fortunately, A Man’s Path is here to fill us in. Unfortunately, it’s also going to shock and disturb us with swiftly escalating violence and desperation and perversion, culminating in a really powerful and genuinely terrifying climactic scene. So far, this is as twisted and intense as the show gets. It’s a peek into the head of somebody loathsome finding himself in a position of power. It makes for very effective horror, but is not at all enjoyable.
We get to see a lot more of the older policeman, which is nice. The show is finally starting to feel like it’s building upon the world that was set up these last three episodes.
The Man’s Path tells the story of a toady little fella named Masami Hirukawa (who we’ve seen once before, doin’ the especially nasty with Maria). Over the course of the episode we witness his descent into crime as the mob puts the squeeze on him for a return on their loan. The money, which he is using to build a house for his (never seen yet ever-present) family, stacks up rapidly, as the mob demands greater and greater amounts. Masami starts snatching purses to pay his debt. Finally, his crime spree culminates with burglary and implied child-rape. Yikes. The twist is extensively set up, but it still comes as a total surprise when it happens. The sudden plunge from perverted fantasy to hideous reality is a really effective bit of film-making, more so for the act itself being left to the imagination. That said, it did make me feel a bit sick.
After the assault, Masami stumbles out into a nearby playground where he basically has a mental breakdown. The police inspector strolls obliviously by, and Masami staggers off, quite literally begging to be caught. And here comes the answer to his wish: Shounen Bat, skating up like a badass. Skate skate, whack! Another victim of the mysterious assailant.
Except wait! Masami’s skull is apparently harder than it looks, and he’s back up in an minute. Shounen Bat panics, and the stubby police officer puts the collar on him, just like that. Holy shit! I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle the capture, but the way he is taken from mythic and unstoppable to awkward and clumsy was actually really well done.
So, what’s next? The police are going to interrogate Shounen Bat, and we’re finally going to get a few answers. Can. Not. Wait.
Episode Five – The Holy Warrior
Well, this was… something.
Okay, I’ll come right out and say it: I didn’t like this at all. I get what they were going for, but it just doesn’t come off. The concept of the episode is that it mostly takes place inside Shounen Bat’s fantasy world. Unfortunately, his fantasy world is a good deal less interesting than the actual world of the show. Basically, it looks and feels like a children’s cartoon from the eighties. I’m not a fan of children’s cartoons from the eighties.
I don’t feel like I learned anything of significance about the Shounen Bat character, at least nothing both significant and interesting. And, while it was nice spending more time with the policemen, I would have much preferred to see them doing actual detective work instead of tromping around Fantasy World #51. The scenes in Millennium Actress where the interviewers were inserted into the fantasy worked really well. Here, it just doesn’t seem to work at all. There’s no justification for it. It feels like they’re throwing out a bunch of fantastical imagery and just seeing if they can make anything stick. It tries way too hard, and it skips over the actually interesting parts.
Hopefully the show gets back on track next episode, though I’m once again unsure where the plot can possibly go from here, now that Shounen Bat is apparently out of the picture.