Woooah. Clearly this epi was brought to us by Team Awesome. In fact, rather than just having a new direction, it felt like an entirely new show. In a good way, of course. In a Seriously. Good. Way. By the way, those of you who may have jumped ship mid-way through this series, go back and watch/ read summaries of what you missed, then come back and Watch. This. Epi. Go on, if you haven’t done so already, that is, for I guarantee that you and what is left of your mind will not be disappointed…
Can I just write ‘Awesomeness’ for this bit? Please? No? Okay, it was worth a shot… The epi begins with Maya and Uchida finding another suspect for Nostradamus Key, one of two excavated twin clay masks from the Joumon period, and arranging to travel to Nagano City in order to find and photograph both of them. All this is promptly relayed to the V.P. by her shady goon. Meanwhile, Uchida arrives back home to find that a lecherous Mikaze has already let herself in and is making him dinner, i.e. his exact favourite curry complete with his mum’s secret ingredients. Soon, Mikaze has reduced Uchida to a dazed and horny pile of goo, after snogging him senseless and convincing him (along with many of the KKK-esque garbed local townsfolk) that Maya is, in fact, a witch and thus behind all the weird goings on of late at the Academy and that, in short, she must die.
The next day, Uchida and Maya find the twin masks, but discover that they are not the Key. Uchida is pretty bummed and Maya tries to cheer him up by buying various random munchies, but he remains freaked out by the whole Maya-is-a-pro-alien-invasion-witch-who-wants-to-open-up-the-gates-of-Hell-in-her-backyard-on-July-21st idea. And the fact that he keeps seeing and hearing Mikaze’s creepy face and words everywhere he turns. Soon, he cracks and asks Maya outright if this is the case. Maya is not amused and tries to prove her non-witchiness by trying to take a photo with her phone, only to be prevented by Uchida, who is soundly beaten before Maya goes back home, with his warnings about the bloodthirsty townsfolk in her ears. Upon arriving home, Maya is scared by the sudden appearance to the V.P., who has let herself in after her… Now, insert a very brief couple of scenes with the mysterious future men, who are busy worrying about the ticking clock and if their final time agent will complete the mission in time… Back to 1999, and later that evening, Uchida is walking back towards the school with Maya’s forgotten shoes in his hand, only to discover that the place is crawling with the emergency services and that Maya has been murdered. Uchida promptly becomes distraught and then blames himself for getting her involved in the whole Key hunting thing.
The next day, school is cancelled and the rest of the Scoobies find out what’s happened and take refuge together at Ami’s place. However, they soon resolve to use their various skills to find out what really happened… Meanwhile, Uchida is tearily still guilt-tripping himself at his place, when in walks the VP… and Maya… who are now working together to deceive the enemy, the VP apparently being a White Mage who was entrusted by Maya’s father to look after Maya. Uchida is still unsure about wth’s going on, so Maya proves it’s really her by showing him her father’s notebook. Which Mikaze promptly flies in and burns. Yup, she is a Black Mage and, thus, the actual one potentially responsible for the opening of the Hell-gate, as she gleefully tells them all, before the V.P. briefly attacks her so that she and Maya and the shady guy can get away. Promising to come back and kill Uchida too, Mikaze powers up and reveals her even sluttier true form and goes after the others, who are swiftly cornered by the other townsfolk who are in KKK-posturing-mode, before their demonic leader joins them and reveals her dastardly plans and the fact that she killed Maya’s father. Maya promptly tries to launch herself at the
bitch witch, before the V.P. intervenes and throws her like a kitten to her goon and tells them to run for it while she holds them off, before she promptly powers-up into White Mage-mode and the two women face-off… Cue cliffie.
Bloody Hell, where to begin, eh… Well, that elusive main plot certainly came back with a bang. I don’t know who was more shocked during this epi: Uchida, Maya, the Scoobies, or us. And then there were all those subtle and not so subtle changes in shots, transitions, pacing, lighting and music. Overall, it was like the whole show underwent a magic girl-style power-up…
Firstly, The whole sequence with Uchida and Mikaze at the start was creepy from the get go, with that Stepford Wives-esque uber-enthusiastic stalkerishness on Mikaze’s part, which later degenerated rapidly into that rather graphic songfest surrounded by the local brainwashes. Poor Uchida, eh, methinks the bloke should have been deliriously happy, but clearly he was just rendered delirious by the evil (or as Scamp would say, eeevil) one’s murderous machinations. That particular sequence, in fact, felt like the beginnings of a cultish sex-ritual, and Mikaze’s actions certainly pushed the boundaries of whatever rating this show has. I especially liked those panning shots of the two of them while they were in the centre of the ring of evil hoodies, which, along with the chanting and firelight, highlighted the sense of nightmare from which Uchida and we were probably hoping he’d soon wake up.
In contrast, Uchida’s day out with Maya in Nagano city was a nice mirroring of his first dayto with Mikaze and, despite how it all ended, it was certainly a delicious bit of dramatic irony watching a dere dere Maya trying to cheer him up from what she assumed was his depression over their latest Nostradamus Key disappointment. Of course, Maya’s dere dere mode is soon replaced by her tsun tsun and then yan yan mode when she starts practicing her kickboxing skills on her favourite punching bag. But rather than it being funny, I felt even more sorry for Uchida, as the confused man was also clearly trying to protect his young partner despite the many suspicions swirling around over-sensitised brain.
Didn’t see much of the Scoobies this epi, but Ami’s image of her and Maya in loli mode communicating with the spirits was pretty cute, as was, for different reasons, their togetherness and determination to do something occultish rather than just sit around. What that something is, of course, is probably going to be pretty redundant given that fact that Maya ain’t dead after all, however, that’s a minor point and that Rugby scrum pose and the lighting during these scenes more than made up for that.
And speaking of the lighting, I thought the presentation of pretty much every scene was excellent, really working to help evoke the atmosphere and drama throughout the epi. In addition to the above mentioned sex-ritual and Rugby scrum shots, the scenes where the V.P. does her big ‘reveal’ as a White Mage (as well as the reference to her unrequited love for Uchida, daww) before the evil one comes flying in through the window vampire-style, also made good use of shadows and a more muted colour palette to convey Uchida’s regret and grief. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, of course, as the show’s trademark humour was still present even in such scenes, e.g.: Maya saving Uchida’s number as ‘Idiot’ on her phone being a nice touch and a lighter moment among the tears. I assume that the deception regarding Maya’s death was probably not a surprise to any of us, given the way it was already flagged up in the preview last week and the fact that the fake corpse was wearing the same shoes that Uchida was still carrying when he saw it etc. etc. Thus, if that was the only, or one of the few, predictable things about this otherwise surprisingly good epi (Mikaze turning out to be eeevil being the other no-brainer), then I have few other complaints.
…Except one, perhaps: the magical girl stuff at the end was a bit lame (in fact, talk about Wizard of Oz-ish). Unless, I suspect/ hope, that it all supposed to be very much tongue-in-cheek, in which case it’s all in keeping with this show’s randomness. However, overall it was a fabulous rollercoaster of an epi that’s set the bar high for the final two. Let’s all hope that they can deliver, eh…