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Heavenly Delusion
Episode 8

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Heavenly Delusion ?
Community score: 4.7


It's time to raid an abandoned house and scrounge for a beat-up box of tissues because Heavenly Delusion has one hell of a tearjerker on the docket this week. As Kiruko and Maru help Dr. Usami and his partner Hoshio, a surprising guest storyboarder taps into the waterworks in this standout episode of a standout adaptation. It's an important installment as far as the narrative is concerned—some big answers prompt bigger questions that drive us closer to solving this post-apocalyptic mystery—but the anime ultimately prioritizes the emotional core. In doing so, it crafts an experience both distinct from and complementary to the manga and pushes Heavenly Delusion forward as a rare work in thoughtful conversation with its source material.

The big name to know this week is Haruka Fujita. While she has put together quite a resume for herself over the years at KyoAni, this episode marks her first storyboarding credit outside of that studio. That itself is a huge get by this production that speaks to the hard work being done behind the scenes. An adaptation of this caliber doesn't come out of nowhere. But the real proof is in the artistry that suffuses the layouts throughout the entire episode. She has an eye for framing the characters meaningfully within the geometry of their environments, balancing them among the angles and structures, or purposefully throwing them off-kilter. Usami's traversals between light and dark environments mirror his tormented mental state, with the half-light of dusk suggesting a bittersweet peace in his final resting place. Pay attention to the expressiveness of the hands too, which Fujita often centers in the frame as a window into the character's emotions.

The pacing of the material also stands out. By not rushing this story, the anime crafts a patient, quiet, and cinematic atmosphere that synchronizes visual language and kensuke ushio's score to graft emotional heft onto two characters we barely know. I didn't cry at this part in the manga, but watching it here choked me up. Ishiguro himself tweeted something to the effect of ”I wrote it and even I cried.” Of course, the impact isn't limited to Usami and Hoshio; it also tugs at the heartstrings of Maru and Kiruko. Maru, in particular, is shaken by the experience, and that held shot on Kiruko's hands steadying his is the image I'm taking away from this episode. One also can't help but draw the parallels between these two couples. Amidst the harshness and unfairness of the world, they have no choice but to rely on each other to maintain their mutual humanity. Without that, nothing else matters.

I want to stress the artistic choices made in this episode because I didn't find this to be the most compelling part of the manga. Despite the extenuating sci-fi circumstances, Hoshio is a bundle of tragic clichés that would feel undercooked if not for the anime's focus on moments, like her transfer to the balcony. In the manga, this is a 2-page sequence that could have been compressed, but the anime instead embellishes upon it, showing the care everyone takes in granting her last request. I'm also glad Ishiguro gives her some personality through her tablet messages, and Fujita chooses to focus on her eye as a window into her inner self.

Later, in the manga, Usami shoots himself offscreen. The trauma is sudden and blunt. Here, Fujita lets the camera linger on the tenderness with which Usami cradles Hoshio's body. Every subtle gesture conveys the magnitude of his love, while the raven portends the terminus of his grief. These approaches hold meaningful distinctions. Ishiguro's manga has an unsettling and deadpan starkness that ultimately sets it apart from its peers. By contrast, this episode is traditionally more cinematic—maybe even mawkish in execution—but it comes together beautifully. In retrospect, it's easy to see why Fujita was recruited for this particular part of the story.

The episode smartly cuts much of the Liviuman raid on Usami's clinic too. Ishiguro's trying to comment on how leaders often manipulate the populace for their selfish ends, but that message is rote, cynical, and an odd pairing with Usami's story—doubly so, with how much the anime homes are on the emotional side of it. The anime judiciously disregards the raid itself, letting the deceitful instigation (eagle-eyed viewers will notice that Mizuhashi isn't dead) and pyrrhic victory speak for themselves. I feel it's more important we see the humanity in the clinic's patients and Usami himself. He may not have considered himself a doctor, and his knowledge of the Hiruko (plus the symbol on that button) suggests he had other secrets he took to his grave. However, intentionally or not, he found true atonement in helping those people. He created a tiny pocket of the world where a little girl could still find joy in the company of a stuffed giraffe.

The darkness of Usami and Hoshio's tragedy transitions to the darkness of Mimihime's nightmare, as we finally, albeit briefly, return to the facility. The outside world may be hell, but the facility is a cage that comes with its own set of evils. And now we have yet another link between the two narratives: the disease that took Tarao's life looks like the skin discoloration on Hoshio's face. Now we know that humans and maneaters are the same, and neither heaven nor hell is safe from the plague that causes it. One is left to wonder, then, what kind of salvation Mimihime foresees in her dream. A single hand reaches out and grasps hers, as they walk together into the unknown. In the end, that's all Hoshio and Usami have. That's all Kiruko and Maru have. Perhaps, in this world, that's all anyone truly has. And just maybe, it can be enough.


Heavenly Delusion is currently streaming on Hulu as Tengoku Dai Makyō.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. He wants to try Kiruko's cooking. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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