by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Lycoris Recoil ?
Community score: 4.6
While there is plenty of drama in the traditional sense in this twelfth episode of Lycoris Recoil, my main sense of emotional whiplash mostly came from trying to tell if this is the final episode or not! My feelings viciously vacillated throughout, swerving from "So there's no way they're wrapping everything up in this one" to "Well okay, I guess this is how they're finishing things" and then back around to "Nope, nevermind, we've still got more to go!". It's fitting: after all, the uncertainty of futures is a recurring theme in LycoReco overall and this episode in particular. We never know what's waiting around the next corner, so we can only hope to be satisfied with everything we've done before we turn it. In the case of this episode, it's for the best the show hasn't made that final turn, since there are just a few threads left dangling that would have come off unsatisfying. That could still be the result with next week's episode, but the way things are written in this one makes me more confident that the series will be able to effectively tie things up.
Even knowing there's another one coming up after it, this episode is off to the races. The fight with Majima is resolved before the opening credits even roll, a clue already that some narrative satisfaction is going to be left to follow up on. It is an extremely cool fight, don't get me wrong. Chisato exploiting Majima's super-hearing by shooting past his ears is a clever tactic and a smart demonstration of the value of her approach of indirectly, non-lethally attacking people. And then her subduing him with repeated rubber-bullet body shots calls back to her earlier point about her vindictive side enjoying making her opponents hurt like hell despite not killing them. It's not directly called attention to, but it's a detail we remember in the moment, communicated in Chisato's facial expressions and body language.
The facial expressions in general are especially on-point in this episode. Just Chisato's are doing a ton of work communicating the emotional roller-coaster she's on throughout, but Takina's no slouch either. The desperate anger on her face during this episode's confrontation with Yoshimatsu serves as a raw example of how personal this conflict has become for all involved. Before and after that you have both girls exercising their emotional reactions to this absurd situation that Yoshi stacked up just to manipulate Chisato into finally fulfilling what he sees as her murderous purpose. All those complex feelings are mixed up with plenty of physical action, a scuffle with Himegama on a suspended beam catalyzing clear tension to be shattered by Chisato's single, desperate shot of a live bullet at Yoshi, an action that comes as close as possible to finally breaking her. This isn't the pitch-perfect teamwork that so succinctly subdued Majima minutes earlier—it's a messy scramble where everyone's efforts and feelings are ricocheting off each other, and the direction of the action and animated acting of the characters carry the breaking points they've been brought to after all this time.
It fits, given the main theme LycoReco is stretching for here is how far someone will go in sticking to their principles, and where that line is drawn with respect to others. Yoshi, for all his smug manipulation, seems to genuinely believe in his point that using your god-given skills for what they're suited to is what's best for the world, and he's willing to put his own life on the line to make Chisato acquiesce to that. And I love the way she turns that sentiment on him, admonishing him for 'wasting his life' in such a way. It's a contrast between the value of a life lived 'usefully' versus one that is simply lived, and given the show's insistence on all those cute cafe hangout times, we all know which side LycoReco comes down on. Takina thus winds up in a tragically desperate middle ground, willing to kill Yoshi and carve out his heart to prolong that inherently valuable life of her loved one, but that still can't be the right decision. Chisato's life must be lived on her own terms, and that means not killing the way Yoshi wants her to, nor letting Yoshi die so she can keep living the way Takina wants her to.
Yoshi getting away alive is a calculated dissatisfaction, and after a cathartic climax like that, how could the rest of the episode live up to those emotional highs? It feels appropriate that even the characters within the show itself react with a sense of casual recollection ("Oh right, the plot!") to the still-ongoing business with D.A.'s exposed Lycoris. It really has become a background detail, and since the show's getting ready to close out, they can seek to resolve it in as quick and easy a manner as possible. Not to say it isn't entertaining; in fact, as a relief from those emotional highs of the episode's first half, it almost works. Even with the foreshadowed boys of LilyBell bearing down to dispose of the girls, Chisato and Takina get to revel in screwier antics at the behest of Kurumi's plan. Chisato's belligerent chemistry with her ex Fuki is an amusing feature, as is the idea that the resolution of this life-or-death situation hinges on the improbable task of correctly plugging in a USB drive on the first try.
All that flippancy can somewhat backfire in regards to tone. Kurumi's cover-up concept for the whole exercise is, frankly, some absolute bullshit. I can believe in the general public's willingness to buy into a happier falsehood about this whole thing being a produced publicity stunt, but there's still the matter of all those guns loose in the civilian population, not to mention the fact that people and Lycoris are gunned down in full view of everyone. Similarly to how LycoReco treats the broader sociological aspects of its story concept, this narrative patch job glosses over those elements, alongside the way it hastily allows D.A. to keep persisting after what amounts to a management misunderstanding. It always has been a key frustration in this series, and I don't expect them to do much more with this lane of the plot, but at least that's one more reason why getting an additional episode after this is so appreciated; leaving us on "All this will be like it never happened" would be a disappointingly rote finish.
But even among its well-worn shortcomings, Lycoris Recoil has always been aware of where its true strengths lie, and so I was immensely grateful to wrap on one more cliffhanger this week. As has become the case with the show's structure, Majima's return at the end here is a brilliant use of the writing's reflective stylings, his drop-in echoing Takina's triumphant entry in the previous episode. The return of Chisato's departed bag (with the keychain Takina gave her which she was so eager to show off) even serves to solidify the connection! This score needing to be settled, and the pain of watching Chisato and Takina be shut off from one another yet again—this is the sort of high the show knows we're here for, and will be coming back for at least one more time.
Lycoris Recoil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.
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