Mekaku City Actors Episodes 2 & 3

 Kisaragi Attention & Mekakushi Code

One of the most hyped shows of the season continues toward its second (forgive me for being a week late – stuff happened) and third episodes. How were those? I have yet to form a solid opinion on how much I’m enjoying this series, which is being much harder than I thought.

Episode two follows Kisaragi Momo, the younger sister of out NEET protagonist from episode one, who is an idol, troubled by such status due to attracting undesired attention wherever she goes. On top of that, she appears to be hopelessly terrible at school. You just don’t apply manga logic to history tests, specially not when foregoing reading the questions or simply being to dumb to even understand them.

During the course of the episode, we follow her to a make up class in which she’s basically just scolded by her teacher (who just so happens to be an important character in the series). Nothing of note happens there but I can at least say the comedy works well. The dialogues are definitely something I enjoy in this, though maybe due to the way SHAFT plays them out, it’s almost impossible not to draw some comparisons with Monogatari and it’s not hard to see how Nisio’s dialogue is most of the time much superior.

One thing I have to mention, though, is that unlike the terrorist scene in the first episode, which screamed “low budget” louder than it’s comfortable for one’s ears, the SHAFT style worked really well here, specially during Momo’s backstory. The minimalistic coloring along with the symbolic objects representing people, including the clever use of shadows, really cemented this as a solid scene with the treatment I’ve come to expect from SHAFT. The bear in the chair accurately captures the uncanny feeling of discomfort mother and child seemed to be experiencing due to the visit of this idol promoter, while every single detail in the art room, from the orientation of the shadows, all pointing toward Momo, to the shadows and the obvious fact the the art club president who’s voicing her complaints is represented by a speaker, is simply gorgeous.

I certainly wouldn’t sign a contract with the fellow on the left.

Content-wise, Momo’s backstory can also be said to have been quite interesting. Her having “nearly drowned” and her father having died, for instance, are relevant things. Her struggle with her power to draw people’s attention ends up sounding very real with things such as the art contest. The first time we see her winning one she looks like an elementary student and is just overjoyed for having won, something absolutely natural. Later on, she starts realizing her achievements don’t seem to be due to her own merit and she’s just frustrating others’ efforts, which is why she decides to join an industry where the one and main goal is in itself to draw people’s attention.

However, as this attention reaches unwanted levels, such as everyone recognizing her in the street to a level that completely voids her possibility of just walking around carefreely, she starts questioning this decision. And that’s about all this episode is, also introducing as Hibiya at the end for no real purpose and finishing off with Kido preparing to go and meet Momo.

Overall, it was a good episode, despite suffering quite a bit from slow pacing. I honestly feel like the introduction to the Mekakushi Dan and the interactions with the rest of the group should have been in this episode, in big part due to what they could have included in the next one in case episode two hadn’t been this slow paced. That’s my main qualm with this episode.

On the other hand, as it probably couldn’t not be considering this is KagePro we’re talking about, I can’t deny what I enjoyed the most in the episode was the Kisaragi Attention insert song and the ED. The ED, “Days”, is beautiful and it’s an interesting detail to note how it’s sung by Lia, the singer who provides the voicebank for the vocaloid IA, the most used by Jin. As for the insert song, as someone who honestly isn’t a vocaloid fan, it’s great to have official cover versions of songs I like sung by real humans.


 

Unlike the discontinuity between episode one and episode two, the third episode starts right where the second one left of, with Kido appearing before Momo. Kido’s social interaction skills seem to be absolutely lacking in many aspects, though I absolutely don’t dislike her aloofness and bluntness. As she proves to Momo she has similar powers, the poor idol girl scares of fright as if she saw a ghost.

Having been brought there by Kido, Momo wakes up in an unknown room with an uncanny group inside and we are thus introduced to more of Mekaku’s cast of characters. The interactions between the characters from here are the very core of the episode, so I’m mostly just glad they work well. The varied personalities match nicely to create a good synergy that I’ll be glad to see more of in the future. As a side note, it’s refreshing to, for once, see a sister that gets embarrassed about her newfound friends seeing her older brother rather than one who idolizes him. It really does feel more natural this way.

And this is when you’re able to tell a protagonist is most definitely not wish-fulfilment material.

The second half of the episode consists once again of the terrorist scene we see in the first episode. This time, however, it’s presented from another perspective: the Mekakushi Dan’s. Despite ending up using the very same excessively red colors, the scene flowed much better this time, which I in part believe to have been due to better directing and the color coded characters in the dark.

Visuals aside, this scene finally had the explanation to the strange happenings of episode one, with all the chaos, the falling televisions and Shintarou being suddenly conveniently freed and able to run and execute his plan. While I still feel like something was off, I can’t really pinpoint anything to complain about in this scene, and seeing Momo and Marry’s powers being used in conjunction to such a nice effect to completely stop the terrorists when Shintarou connects Ene to the building network was just quite the satisfying scene.

One thing I didn’t like as much was how the insert song, Mekakushi Code, was place this time. It simply didn’t feel right. On the other hand, it once again sounds much better than the original and having the song by itself like this is honestly something I’d place priority over its place on the episode. Despite that, I still wish it didn’t feel so jarring and out of place.

As a last note, I’d like to once again comment on the puppet sequences for both episodes. It seems like they’re really planning on having Shinigami Record completely explained in those sequences, and while I’d normally find that a shame considering how good Shinigami Record is, I simply love the art and narration in these sequences to be able to resent their choice for including these events. Bottom line is, those sequences are amazing and definitely the best way to end each episode.

Over these two episodes, Mekaku seems to have been keeping up the same “above average but far from great” level, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s something I’m still hoping will change for the better. Now that we’re done with this terrorist part that’s mostly meant to introduce the characters and bring them together, I expect things to become much more interesting, but Mekaku still has a lot to prove.

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