by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Even though Sagawa's betrayal of the GLS is about as textbook “Anime Villain” as it gets, Kokkoku's turn for the cliché has also helped it pick up the pace. Now that there's one clear antagonist for our heroes to work against, the plot finally feels like it's taking shape again. While the originality of Kokkoku's premise had set it apart at first, it's never been able to match its ambitions to the execution of its ideas. Battling a deluded cult leader who's trying to attain godhood might be less interesting than “Little Miss Sunshine meets Clockstoppers meets Taken” on paper, but it ends up being far more entertaining to actually watch.
When you get past his thin characterization and lazy design, Sagawa is a compelling enough villain in his own right; the methodical way in which he experiments with his newfound Herald abilities is genuinely off-putting. He brutally murders all of his acolytes in the same academically disinterested manner a scientist might poke at the exposed nerves of some poor dissected animal that's been splayed out on a laboratory slab. Later on, Shiomi watches Sagawa stuff himself into an engorged mass with a kitchenful of food, before shrugging off his old flesh as a reptile would its old skin. While his dialogue in these scenes gets a bit repetitive, there's no denying that he's become a suitably threatening foe for Juri and the rest, even if he's never going to win the award for Most Unique Villain.
There's still a stilted flatness to the visuals that will probably never be fixed, but the reduced scope of the cast and tighter focus of the story at least gives Kokkoku the oomph it's desperately needed. With Sagawa's plans more firmly established, the Yukawas' half of the story is also able to proceed more smoothly. Juri and Grandfather are trying to keep Tsubasa from becoming a victim of Sagawa's science experiments, and Shoko thinks that she can persuade Shiomi to join their side to take down Sagawa and get the Master Stone back. None of the action beats in this episode are particularly strong, but they function well enough to break up the dialogue-heavy scenes. Sagawa and Shoko's fight near the episode's end reveals that Shoko also has a unique power within Stasis, which is the ability to control her gravitational effect on objects. It isn't the flashiest or most exciting power, but it will doubtless come in handy in these final episodes.
On the comedy relief side of things, Takafumi and Makoto continue to act out in their own little corner of the story, with their scenes acting to further develop Takafumi's sketchy personality. While he is using the desire to help his family to help justify his true intentions to use Stasis for personal gain, his trip to the toy store with Makoto reveals that even his own grandchild has a better aligned moral compass – Takafumi is totally fine stealing items from a store when the opportunity arises, but Makoto doesn't even want the gift unless he knows it's been properly paid for. Of course, Takafumi wastes no time stealing back the 5000 yen he ostensibly leaves for the cashier, which is no doubt a sign of complications to come when he meets back up with Juri, Shoko, and Grandfather.
At this point in Kokkoku's life span, it's probably futile to expect the show to live up to the potential of its first episodes. The animation and direction alone have severely limited how much entertainment the show can mete out, and the story hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders either. Still, Kokkoku has never been less than interesting, and it is certainly improving as we head into its final act. At the very least, I'm eager to resolve this week's cliffhanger so I can know whether Grandfather makes it out okay or not. If any of these characters deserve to have a happy ending, Grandfather has a cozy spot near the top of that list. Tell Sagawa and the other Heralds to take Takafumi instead.
KOKKOKU is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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