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Mysterious Disappearances
Episode 7

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Mysterious Disappearances ?
Community score: 4.3


Despite some issues, this may have been my favorite episode of Mysterious Disappearances thus far. For what feels like the first time, it leans into its darker elements and folkloric connections, showing that it's working within a framework of what amounts to folklore studies. The supernatural being, mostly referred to by the name of one specific Taiwanese ghost, turns out to be more than just a transplanted urban legend. It's an amalgamation of numerous ghostlike beings from across Asia (although primarily Taiwan and Japan), merged to form a new being that incorporates aspects of all of them into a uniquely awful new monster. Just as the original ghost's story evolved into regional variants within its home country, those pieces were combined with Japanese ghost stories to create a new tale. So the ghost is female and wears red, like the Taiwanese Hong Yi Xiao Nü Gui, but she's also susceptible to the things that work on Japan's best-known girl in red, Hanako of the toilet. She follows the chain pattern of the Japanese Shichinin Misaki (and one variant of that story native to Shibuya has all seven ghosts being high school girls) so that each one of Hong Yi Xiao Nü Gui's victims takes the place of the previous one. Still, she knocks, like a specific university variant of the tale. The Curiosity that took Tomoko is, therefore, all and none of the stories: a water ghost, a lost girl, and a bathroom ghost all at once, a tragedy that keeps repeating.

That repetitive nature of the Curiosity drives the ending of this case. We learned last week that the current form taken by the ghost is that of Tomoko, Shizuku's missing friend, and that in itself tells us that Tomoko is almost certainly no longer alive. When that last bit of hope is taken from Shizuku, she attempts to take Oto's place as the ghost's intended victim, something that Sumireko and Adashino almost certainly could have anticipated had they been privy to her history. Shizuku's childhood was horrible: the abandoned child of a woman who gave her a handful of coins and tossed her out after school each day in nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, Shizuku found herself at first welcomed by kids from school, but later spurned when their parents began to feel uncomfortable with her neediness. Depending on the culture of where you live, this could seem almost unbelievable; if these adults saw a child who was obviously neglected (and it was obvious), why on earth would they not try to help her? Why would they begrudge her a meal? Or at least not call the authorities? In the end, only Tomoko was willing to step up and help little Shizuku, so now that something has happened to her, Shizuku feels like she owes it to the one person who was willing to help to do the same.

I almost wish that this episode hadn't saved Shizuku. I love a happy ending as much as (and possibly more than) the next person. Still, Adashino, Oto, and Sumireko working out a way to save Shizuku almost feels like the episode is pulling its punches. Shizuku has felt so helpless for so long, deprived of the ability to make her own choices, that taking this one away from her almost runs counter to her character development. It's good that she's decided to live for herself and her lost friend, but it also feels like it comes out of nowhere. That doesn't detract from the bittersweet moment when she's having her hair cut by a phantom version of Tomoko, which is beautiful in and of itself, as is when Shizuku begins to break apart in the rain. But even though her survival allows us to see more about how Kisaragi Station works, it somehow feels like the writing is afraid to commit to the darkness it promises.

Answering the station and the tickets certainly helps lessen that problem. Plenty of people suspected before Adashino confirmed this week that Kisaragi Station was the same one as in Japanese urban legend, a mysterious train station that either doesn't exist or straddles the border between two worlds. (It's also used in Otherside Picnic, where the American soldiers are holed up.) In this version, the station seems to operate as a resting point between the worlds, a place to buy tickets with Curiosities and curses, and where travelers can rest for a while; hence, the bunkroom where Adashino and Oto sleep. The siblings are based there to allow Adashino to find enough “money” to send his sister home to her world, but as the mysterious ticket agent mentions this week, he may be a different story. Oto is, or was, human – and that's not true of her brother. It may well be that this episode was preparing to set up a parallel between Adashino and Shizuku, willing to sacrifice everything for someone they care about. If that's the case, perhaps Shizuku survived for one very specific reason: to give us hope, however, false, that the same will happen for Adashino.


Mysterious Disappearances is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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