Finally, the characters are catching on to their village kind of being a fucked up place to live, and are looking for a way out, with Saki and Satoru attempting to find the runaways Mamoru and Maria. It only took several episodes and an ever-growing pile of dead bodies, but rebellion’s finally sprouting in this extended metaphor for puberty and society’s treatment of children. Unfortunately, the way that it’s explained (through a letter, with extended monologuing) isn’t the best means of conveyance, stumbling over attempted drama more often than not.
The actual material is still pretty good; I’ve been rambling on since the beginning on how well the series builds its world as a frightening place for our poor characters, and it continues to up the stakes in the hostility department at an alarming pace. As far as delivery though, a letter from a character whose role isn’t much past being Saki’s lover just doesn’t carry much weight, especially when narrated with the gravitas of a first-year drama student reciting a grocery list. The lack of impact is certainly not helped by a somehow unprecedented use of blurrycam, intent on skullfucking our eyes in new and exciting ways.
The problem here is one that happens in most world-building shows. When characters are supposed to be vehicles for the audience to experience an intricate environment, rather than people, suddenly characterizing them after not doing so for a long time starts to feel unneeded and vestigial, even when it isn’t. The world can be the most realistic, chilling one ever conceived, but it isn’t worth much when it focuses on the least-developed elements and makes almost no attempt to flesh it out past a superficial level. Considering that the first half was supposed to convey the sudden dissolution of the relationship between Saki and Maria as unwanted by both, yet completely necessary, it didn’t exactly pull off the melodrama with aplomb.
If there’s one thing that’s nice to see though, it’s that Saki’s finally showing signs of defiance where before she’d just stumble into trouble. Rather than becoming a mere pawn shuffled from place to place exclusively for the purpose of showing off her exceptionally bizarre world, the loss of her friends and the coldness of the village has finally impacted her to the point of showing more than meekness and trepidation. Also, Squealer somehow still manages to be the most unnerving thing since sliced bread with John Wayne Gacy’s face burned on. He only gets a few minutes on screen, but every gesture of his, no matter how helpful it might seem on the surface, is positively dripping with malice. Granted, the fact that he’s not exactly looking out for Saki’s wellbeing is blatantly mentioned later on by Future Saki, but he’s still the most competently-executed part of the episode.
The stage has been set for this long arc’s fitting conclusion, and it’s about damn time to see the sentient mole rat rebellion come to fruition.