by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
About 50% of Kokkoku's “Tenth Moment” is exactly what I wanted from the series' climactic episodes. Though limited by increasingly shoddy animation and direction, there's a visceral thrill in seeing the Yukawas' team finally take Sagawa down. Makoto gets to use his newfound Herald-controlling power, Grandfather and Juri go about their usual teleportation shtick to try and shove the Specter out of Sagawa's body, Shoko gets up close and personal with a blade of her own, and even Sako and Shiomi get a humorous moment with a bat and a crate full of baseballs. Again, the visual quality of this first half is severely lacking; character models are all over the place, movement is extremely limited, and many of the cuts lack the “oomph” needed for such an action-heavy sequence. That being said, I was still as invested as I'd been in Kokkoku in weeks, eager to see how the family got the upper hand on their nemesis.
Unfortunately, all of the material surrounding the big fight is where “The Tenth Moment” starts to fall apart, as the episode just cannot get a handle on keeping a consistent pace or tone. Take the increased emphasis on Takafumi's character, for instance. Last week he decided to claim Makoto's new power for his own, and this episode's first act is devoted to weak humor focusing on Takafumi's inner monologue, showing how his actions are just as focused on inflating his ego as they are in protecting his grandson. There are some cute conversations between Takafumi and Makoto, and a couple of selfless acts on Takafumi's part that do show the man's genuine love for his grandson, but he still comes across as so selfish and weak-willed that it's difficult to have any sympathy for him.
The worst thing about this first act is that it completely wastes our time. Halfway through the battle, Makoto reveals that he's the one controlling Tobino (as if anyone with a pair of eyes and ears could have missed that detail), and the whole façade is immediately dropped. I originally thought that Takafumi and Makoto's scheme was going to lead to some kind of trouble before the finale, but if Kokkoku was just going to drop the subplot within the span of fifteen minutes, then what was the point of focusing on it so much in the first place? I have no clue how this plays out in the source material, but the way Takafumi's character has been handled so far feels like one of the series' most wasted opportunities. Instead of using a broken-down, embittered father to comment on what happens to men who feel emasculated and abandoned by a lifetime of bad choices and raw deals, Takafumi has instead been relegated to buffoon status, and he isn't even amusing enough to fill that role particularly well.
The resolution of the battle is also quite the disappointment. While they originally have the upper hand on Sagawa, once the villain expends all his energy breaking free from Makoto/Tobino's grasp, all of our heroes just kind of stand around and watch him make his escape. When only Grandfather and Juri bother to chase the weakened Sagawa down, Kokkoku stops dead in its tracks for yet another inane flashback, this time shedding light on Sagawa's backstory. It's a thoroughly underwhelming affair: Sagawa's dad was a cult leader himself, and as a young and isolated boy Sagawa learned of his father's hypocrisy when he spied him having an affair with his friend's mother. Not only is this flashback poorly paced and animated, it treats this mundane history with a gravitas it hasn't earned. The episode even cuts to the credits as Sagawa discovers his dad's not-so-shocking secret, and while the effect is supposed to be dramatic, it just feels like the episode decided to stop in the middle of a scene.
It's a shame that Kokkoku has fallen victim to its own worst habits and inconsistencies in its final episodes. I can forgive the ugly visual aesthetic up to a point; sometimes a production team simply must make do with limited resources, and the result isn't always pretty. The sloppy pacing, weak scripting, and rote direction are all more difficult to overlook, however, especially since a series is under much more scrutiny in its final episodes. There's still hope that the show might salvage itself in these last two episodes, but I'm beginning to fear the worst for its conclusion.
KOKKOKU is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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