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Episode 4

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Kokkoku ?

Perhaps it's fitting that a series about a hapless family stuck in a world of frozen time should work best in singular moments, little bits of satisfying and thrilling storytelling that just don't come together as cleanly as they should. Every week I sit down to watch KOKKOKU, I find myself loving most of the individual beats in the episode, yet I remain frustrated that the overall structure of the show is so sloppy and ill-defined. This fourth episode is no exception, though it does promise some forward momentum to come at least.

We begin with what is quickly becoming a KOKOKKU tradition, where last week's cliffhanger is immediately revealed to be not that big a deal, as Juri's would-be attacker is quickly teleported away by Grandfather, though the old man finally begins showing signs that all this running and fighting are taking their toll on a fellow of his age. The opening chase sequence is one of the better action beats we've gotten from KOKOKKU so far, ably using Grandfather's powers and the geography of the frozen city to liven up the tension. The best moment of the entire episode is easily when Jiru finally decides she's had enough of these Genuine Love Society assholes constantly threatening to murder and rape her, and she proceeds to put her ability to knock the Specters out of people to good use. The brief montage of Juri and Grandfather combining their efforts to put down a bunch of cult members is fun and satisfying, exactly what I hoped for when Juri first discovered her powers last week.

It also leads us to the expected reveal of why Juri is so familiar with the world of Stasis. Her grandfather took her there once as a child when her dog was at death's door, in an apparent effort to help her cope with the loss. While I appreciate the show continuing to develop a relationship between these two characters, there obviously has to be more too this flashback than that; after all, Shoko's involvement in all this has yet to be explained, and she clearly recognizes Juri from a Stasis-related incident in the past. Still, Grandfather's frantic search for the angry young Juri is a great moment of character development for both of them, showcasing the old man's well-meaning mistakes and the young girl's headstrong personality. Not many anime put adults at the center of their stories, and one of the things that makes KOKKOKU's script so consistent is the attention it pays to the lives of its world-weary men and women, Juri and Grandfather especially.

Unfortunately, the back half of the episode is marred by the story's insistence on having characters take far too long to learn things the audience has already known for weeks. Juri and Grandfather's discovery of Makoto and Tsubasa's newfound mobility makes sense, but I can't for the life of me understand why KOKOKKU thought it necessary to spend a full third of the episode with the Genuine Love Society figuring out that the Heralds punish anyone seeking to do harm to those outside of Stasis. While these guys obviously have to figure this stuff out sooner or later, the audience has been aware of these details since the second episode, and having Shoko explain things in even more detail to the obnoxious and unlikable Society members sucks the life right out of the pacing. The image of the disembodied head and lungs being lifted out of the Herald's sandy remains is admittedly great, but the whole scene feels like unnecessarily protracted setup for Shoko's backstory that we'll hopefully be getting soon.

I never thought I'd say that a show like KOKOKKU is being dragged down by the crazy cult in its story, but here we are. The Yukawa family are a fascinatingly flawed group of people on their own (except maybe for Juri's dad, who just kind of sucks), and every moment we spend focused on the Genuine Love Society instead feels like it's holding the series back from the horror-flavored character drama it could be. We're only a third of the way through the story though, so it stands to reason that the GLS could become more vital in the coming weeks. At the very least, I'm more eager than ever to see what becomes of Juri and her misbegotten clan. There's a truly awesome story hiding behind KOKKOKU's protracted pacing and uneven execution, so I hope to see more of it shine through as the season continues.

Rating: B-

KOKKOKU is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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