After Hibiko is struck by a sudden fever, Kira confronts her family about their refusal to explain the situation. When Lady Hibana drugs Kira, Hibiko awakens and attacks her in a feral rage before fleeing, pursued by Kanata.
Having deciding to petition the Divine Clans for aid, Touko and Akira look for a way into their sanctuary before being halted by Hibari. The deity reveals that the Lady Goddess has grown too weak to protect the nation, and that the Clans intend to replace her with the Flickering Flame once it arrives. When Touko and Akira continue to defy them, Hibari attacks and throws them into the river, where Touko is saved by Hibiko. Moments later, a fiend attacks and Touko draws her hunter’s sickle with deadly intent and mysterious skill.
Hoo boy, Scott was right that things were sprinting towards a finish, but I didn’t realize that episode 10 was going to be such an abrupt season finale. Tons of things transpire in this episode, some things are explained, and a lot more questions are raised. For a show that started out at a fairly leisurely pace, things have accelerated to such a pace that it’s difficult to keep track of all the balls being kept in the air, and even with the sudden break between seasons, it’s going to be difficult to keep this juggling act going.
First off, Hibiko’s sudden evolution into a feral child feels like it came out of nowhere. Her illness is long-established, but this doesn’t seem to be connected to that in any way, unless I missed some key context in an earlier episode. While the change itself feels weird, I’m glad that my early sense that the vibes were off at the Okibi estate were right – there’s a lot of secrets and lies surrounding this family, and not just Yuoushichi hiding his experiments and seditious sentiments.
When the doctor, now 100% shady behind his opaque glasses, decides to take Hibiko in for observation, Kira finally snaps at her mother and gets a face full of drugs for her trouble. I’ve been pulling for Kira to take a more active role in facing her family’s secrets, but it’s cut short almost immediately so it feels unsatisfying. I’m almost certain that there’s a connection between Hibana and the Divine Clans, but we’re going to have to wait until the next season to see if I’m right.
Catching up to the core plot, Akira and Touko finally learn the motivations behind the Divine Clans from Hibari, who shows them of vision of the many gods debating what to do now that the Lady Goddess is unable to maintain the wards around the Capital and surrounding villages. The gods have agreed to use the Flickering Flame as a replacement for the Goddess – whether this is purely out of sympathy for her condition or an attempt to use the Flame as a puppet is still up in the air. I appreciate that everyone has different designs and concerns about the Flickering Flame’s return, since so much knowledge has been lost and even those in the know can’t be sure what it will do when it arrives.
Back to our characters, it’s unclear why Hibari thinks this new info will dissuade Akira and Touko, or why he gets so indignant when Akira snipes at them for not being more supportive of the Goddess. This leads to a fight between Akira and Hibari’s shadow assassins, in which her blood strikes one of the familiars and destroys it. It seems Hibari’s talk of “impure blood” earlier wasn’t just talking down to a mortal. Like Kun’s entomancy, this is the kind of weird, primal magic that I love to see, and I hope it gets explored more as Akira confronts the gods for the death of her brother and their failure to safeguard humanity.
Speaking of Kun, he arrives with an army of beetles and other insects to tear apart Hibari’s remaining shadows, proving that he’s far more capable than previously thought. If all Spiders can do things like this, let alone control true fire, then the Clans really have a serious problem on their hands. Even so, Hibari has had enough of this nonsense and uses the wind to blast everyone away, leaving Touko and Akira’s hound, Temari to be rescued from the canals by Hibiko. This feels way too coincidental, since Hibiko almost immediately rushes off to save… someone? Possibly the Tree People? The fact that a fiend arrives moments later with the young child Touko met in the Forbidden District in its jaws suggests as much, but if that’s her goal, then why scurry off when a threat is right there?! I suppose we’ll have to wait to suss out the motivations of this weird girl.
Upon seeing the dead child, Touko’s eyes go cat-like and she absolutely wrecks the attacking fiend. We’ve seen Touko use the hunter’s sickle before, but this suggests a rapid increase in her skills and hatred towards the fiends. Once again, we’re left with more questions than answers as the camera tilts up to watch the glimmer of the Millennial Comet adn the Flickering Flame within drift across the sky.
This episode just seems like cliffhanger after cliffhanger, as tons of new plot beats are brought out, only to be shuffled away as another takes the stage. I’m still fascinated by the world the show has built and the characters it introduced, but more and more I think that I’m more engaged by the idea of those characters and the world than the actual execution. Perhaps once the show is complete, all of this will just feel like a strangely-paced first act, but until then it feels incredibly messy. We’ll have to see how the next season plays out to make any final judgements.
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