KOKKOKU Episode 5
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
As Kokkoku makes its way toward its halfway point, I must admit that I'm becoming more and more used to its protracted sense of pacing and plotting. This could very well be a kind of anime Stockholm syndrome, though I think it has more to do with the kind of story Kokkoku is trying to tell. This is a condensed, dialogue-heavy tale by nature, and I feel like it will hold up much more as a bingeable series by the end. Watching the plot make so little progress from episode to episode can be frustrating when the story is protracted over the course of weeks, but my guess is that Kokkoku's flaws will feel less pressing when viewing the entire series over the course of just a few hours.For instance, the series has been setting Majima up to be one of the primary forces of the story, a deuteragonist that also functions as Juri's main foil, but it's taken five weeks to learn anything more about her than a vague connection to Juri's initial foray into stasis as a child. I wish we could have seen more development for her sooner, but this flashback does arrive at an appropriate point in the story; now that Juri and her Grandfather have had time to grow into their roles as the story's primary heroes, we get to see how Grandfather's messing about with Stasis inadvertently ruined Majima's life. Her family got their hands (and bodily fluids) on one of the precious stones entirely by accident, so it's only a cruel twist of fate that landed them in Stasis alongside Grandfather and Juri. This provides a welcome wrinkle to Grandfather's hazy history of using the Master Stone, as there is now proof that his good intentions have led to terrible outcomes for people who had nothing to do with him.
This flashback also reveals Majima's motivations. Her father, mother, and brother all succumbed to the despair of existing in Stasis, likely transforming into the Handlers that protect the Stalled humans who cannot defend themselves when others are abusing the power of the stones. While their near-immediate transformation was borderline campy in how quickly it all went down, it paid off later when Sagawa's test lured out three handlers whose remnants of clothing have Majima suspecting that she has found her family again. There's a certain sloppiness to this sequence of events, in keeping with Kokkoku's scruffy style of storytelling, but the series has regained a sense of urgency and purpose by giving Majima clearer motivations and backstory. Up until now, the Genuine Love Society has been devoid of the personality needed for a successful antagonistic group, but Majima at least can give the GLS a much-needed sense of identity and purpose. Hopefully that will continue for other members like Sagawa in the future.
The remainder of the episode is mostly following the two groups of Yukawas: Juri and Grandfather are trying to rescue Takafumi, the ineffectual patriarch, while Tsubasa and Makoto are unwittingly traveling back to a home filled with GLS operatives. Grandfather and Juri remain a reliably engaging pair of heroes, even when the man they're trying to rescue is playing the part of the weak-willed coward who'd rather just give the cult what they want. It's understandable that a man with absolutely no experience in these supernatural matters might buckle under the pressure of the Yukawas' misfortunes, but it doesn't make his character any less unlikable.
Thankfully, Tsubasa is proving to be more reliable, taking on the knife-wielding GLS goon in order to save Makoto. He may not be the bravest or most capable of the Yukawas, but he's at least trying to be a good uncle to poor Makoto, and I hope he gets more to do in the story soon, outside of getting waled on by the GLS. The cliffhangers that end the episodes are getting predictable in their fake-outery, so I'm sure Tsubasa will at least not be gutted by the time next week rolls around. While I could appreciate the guts Kokkoku would show in brutally murdering Tsubasa only halfway through the story, this show has proven to be at its best when the Yukawas are working together, discovering what they're truly capable of when the chips are down.
KOKKOKU is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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