by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Last week, Gleipnir once again escalated its premise into newly intimate and horrific directions, fusing characters together in a devilish spectacle further entangling its schlocky aspects with its psychological ambition. It also left us with a lot of questions to catch up on, so this week's episode places events back in neutral to allow these characters to deal with the aftermath and transition into the next arc of alien coin collecting. While the more relaxed pace allows Gleipnir to perform some narrative housecleaning, it sadly also make for an overall less compelling installment of a show that has so far thrived on its flamboyancy. Nevertheless, there are some tantalizing nuggets buried throughout, and for my money, this is still one of the must-watch shows of the season (provided, of course, your taste for trash is as accommodating as mine).
The good news is that Shuichi and Chihiro are totally okay despite being temporarily joined at the molecular and spiritual level. The bad news is that Shuichi doesn't remember a thing, so this hampers further exploration of this phenomenon until the need for another deus ex machina arrives, or until Chihiro takes matters into her own hands (which, given her actions his episode, may come sooner rather than later). In its stead, Shuichi and Clair are formerly inducted into Sayaka's alliance and introduced to the rest of the team. These are brief, and I expect that we'll explore their backstories and characters more as we follow the group, so I don't think it's worthwhile to do much conjecture at this moment. Suffice to say, Isao is adorable, and his impulse floral arrangement for Shuichi is even more adorable. It's also interesting that we still don't know what Yota's deal is aside from the fact that he's their best fighter. Gleipnir is surely saving that for something important, and I hope he lives up to it.
The most interesting thing to come out of these introductions is Isao's memory of Shuichi in cram school, which contradicts his own. This ties back to the cold open, where his memory of the same school turns hauntingly unfamiliar. Isao is deferential enough to not contest Shuichi's recollection, but his superpowered green thumb has likely, if unwittingly, planted a significant seed of doubt in our protagonist's mind. We also know by now that Shuichi's memory loss does indeed have something to do with Elena, and that this cram school is very likely the place where they met and became friends. Combined with the snapshot we got last week of the two of them apparently discovering the crashed spaceship together, we can conclude Shuichi has a much more central role in this story than he thinks. Who's being protected from whom by tampering with his memories? This is a much more complex question than it lets on, especially with Elena seemingly convinced that she's doing the right thing by opposing Shuichi and Clair.
Thickening the plot is all well and good, but if you've been keeping up with these reviews, you know I'm here first and foremost for the juicy, messy, nasty relationship developments. As I expected, Clair doesn't take the news of Chihiro's advances sitting down, and in fact she arranges a demonstration of her and Shuichi's powers together specifically to send a message. Chihiro then reciprocates that delightful pettiness by asserting that Clair's contrasting personality will prevent her from ever truly connecting with Shuichi. Cosmic forces are at play, but these are still just two teens lashing out at each other because of their own insecurities, and that's what I love about Gleipnir—this union of both sci-fi body horror and down-to-earth psychological realism. Clair is legitimately hurt by this too, and in response she goes out of her way to be nice to her favorite furry bottom.
And for what it's worth, I do believe Chihiro is wrong when she argues that Clair is too different from Shuichi to form a proper relationship. Granted, their arrangement is far from healthy; even omitting the supernatural circumstances, they both suffer from a codependency that threatens their growth into a more balanced and reciprocal couple. But couples, on some level, need to be different from each other in order to function. That's an inescapable consequence of existing as a person, but it's also just more satisfying to share experiences with someone who fills in your blanks, and who in turn finds fulfillment in your own eccentricities. Shuichi's power is a grossly hamfisted but nevertheless poignant metaphor for the way two people can complete each other and accomplish things neither could on their own. It's complex and messy in all the ways a “real” relationship is, and it continues to be my favorite thing to watch develop in Gleipnir.
Shuichi and Clair leave this episode both feeling the most unmoored they've been since the start of the series. Shuichi is becoming more aware of the gaps in his memory, and now even once-bland acquaintances smell of danger. Is this paranoia, or is he getting in touch with the person he used to be? Meanwhile, jealousy and distance enshroud Clair's thoughts more darkly than usual. Elena's cryptic comments also continue to cast doubt on our most basic assumptions. If she wasn't a villain in Shuichi's memory, then what happened to change that, and did Clair play a part? Even a fairly routine episode of Gleipnir manages to keep its cogs (and other objects) lubricated, and I hope the search for the UFO takes us in even weirder and more tasteless directions.
Gleipnir is currently streaming on Funimation.
The state of the world has left Steve in despair! But never fear, he's still on Twitter too much.
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