Touko and Koushi make their way through the Factory District (the Garden of the Gods) while chasing after a member of the Treefolk, and fleeing a paper spirit sent to spy on them by the Divine Clans. Touko wants medicine for Shouzou and Koushi wants the Treefolk to explain the history of the world. Once they find the Treefolk, they discover these individuals are members of a rejected sect who are not allowed to live in the forest like their brethren. Despite an initially harsh reception, a Treefolk named Yanagi informs Koushi and Touko about how the world came to be. Afterwards, the duo is attacked by the above mentioned paper spirit, but are shockingly then saved by one of the Divine Gods. After all of this excitement, Touko finally returns Kanata to Koushi.
I can’t help but feel like while I am watching this show, I am missing large chunks of information the show assumes that I have. Episodes will drop statements in that leave me scratching my head about what’s being discussed and there’s so many names and so much terminology. I just bear it because no further explanation is given, and parts of it do fit together just enough to keep me invested. Beyond this global problem, Episode 08 is confusing and oddly illogical.
In Episode 07, Touko initially goes into town to get medicine for Shouzou and Akira. When she meets up with the Treefolk in this episode she requests medicine from them again. Medicine for what, girlfriend? Didn’t you just pick stuff up at the town’s pharmacy? While I know it’s been mentioned that the Treefolk make more potent medicine, Touko’s request makes it sound like she’s desperate for the stuff because she has no other options.
Koushi is the other big WTF. He has access to anything he wants under Yuoshichi and went to the Central Archives to read about the history of the world (remember the density of the exposition dump in Episode 04?!). It was confusing when he endangered his life by going out into the forest with the rogue Fire Hunter. Now I’m more confused because he acts like he’s completely in the dark about the world he inhabits. His request to the rogue Treefolk makes him seem like the story so far has fed him nothing, so he needs this information so bad as to risk his safety in their hostile presence. Based on previous episodes, it’s obvious that Yuoshichi isn’t everyone’s favorite person.
His motives are questionable despite his seemingly bountiful generosity towards Koushi and Hinako. My only guess here is that Koushi is cross checking what the Archives say vs what Fire Hunters believe with the Treefolk. I think it was also mentioned elsewhere that the Central Archives didn’t give him a full understanding of Skyfiends that drop the precious Skyfire. Even if that’s true, Koushi doesn’t ask anything about Skyfire. He’s just asking for the same damn information that he got out of the Central Archives! Is there some deep knowledge only the Treefolk possess? If so, why the hell did he go to the Archives in the first place?
Lastly we have the exposition dump that comes from Yanagi. Apparently the world died at some point (um…what?!) and the Gods entrusted flame to the surviving beasts. The Gods tried to take the flame back from beasts and got burned by this action (figuratively and literally), and the humans suffered the same fate along with them. Both parties became combustible and could no longer use fire. The Gods gave the flame back to the beasts and that’s how we now have Fire Fiends. Then we have the Flickering Flame, which is enraged at the Gods and Humanity (or something…) and is currently being appeased by the Goddess Tayurahime. The Lord of the Fire Hunters is prophesied to appear soon and it will be on that person to negotiate with the Flickering Flame and prevent the Earth from being incinerated again. Yeah….at least…that’s what I think is happening….
My head hurts a little. I am all for deep worldbuilding and density in storytelling, but there’s a weak foundation to this story at this point in the show. It feels like we are being fed the same information over and over again from different sources and certain details are just vague enough that my brain glosses over them but knows they don’t totally make sense (again…WTF do you mean the world DIED?! Is the Flickering Flame an evil sentient entity that can be negotiated with, or is it just a natural phenomenon the Goddess is keeping at bay?!).
I thought the goal was to prevent the Divine Clans from colliding with the Spiders and causing mass devasation to humanity? There’s too many little plot threads dangling and I cannot fathom how the show will resolve them by the end of this season.
Artistically, the show will never have fluid animation but it fares better than it did in my previous episode review. This made the episode watchable at least. The last thing I’ll add is that in addition to the theme of responsibility Dan mentioned in Episode 07, there’s a theme I’m seeing of “those left behind must band together to find the truth”. I mean those left behind in a very broad sense. It’s not just our cast of characters who have miraculously survived being incinerated given the world’s current state. Fire Hunters pass on dogs and sickles. Those who are left behind in that sect must carry the memories and burdens of their predecessors.
There’s also the idea of those left behind by common society (the rejected individuals). Akira and the Fire Hunter Koushi worked with are rejected by the Fire Hunters of the Capital. Kun is rejected by the Spiders for being unaffected by the Fire Bugs, and the Treefolk who help Koushi and Touko are rejects of their own species. All those who suffer in this way are being pulled into play for the common cause of (supposedly?) stopping the Flickering Flame’s wrath. I am a big fan of this kind of characterization so it’s a shame the plot is sagging under its own weight now.
I think somewhere in here there’s a great story that I would love to hear about. Ultimately though, this show is hitting a point where I am unclear if the showrunners are keeping track of the necessary details. To steal a phrase from Scott, “There’s just enough detail that nothing makes sense”.
The show’s story is getting muddled by repetitive information and odd motivations on the part of the characters. I honestly thought I had a decent grasp of the world and the central conflict. After this episode, that feeling has vanished. While the animation was watchable in this episode, I was left utterly confused at what the heck Koushi and Touko were doing and what the point of all their efforts are. At this stage I can only hope for enough clarity at the end of the season wherein I won’t declare this show a COMPLETE hot mess. Let’s see what dangling plot threads get tied together, especially now that a Divine Clan member has made an appearance.
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