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Mysterious Disappearances
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Mysterious Disappearances ?
Community score: 3.8


It's really easy to point the finger at social media and the internet as evils that suck in unhappy people, but doing so is ignoring history. The same thing people say about video games today is what people said about reading fiction in the eighteenth century, and if you want to get really angry, go read about the whole Seduction of the Innocent debacle in the 1950s. But my point isn't to argue for Vtubers or internet doomscrolling, but to point out that what Nodoka is doing in 2024 isn't that different from what D&D kids were doing in 1983: she's looking for a place to belong where people might pay attention to her and understand her.

Her wish to become an idol isn't about wanting fame, it's about wanting positive attention – the poor girl can't even talk to her father without going through his receptionist and the only adult we see at home is a tutor making a middle schooler do university science problems at her parents' behest. She gets praise for being who her parents want her to be, not who she really is. That makes it very important that the one person who validates her personal dreams is a digital mermaid – not just a stranger, but one who isn't even presenting their true self to the world. She's more like a collective imaginary friend, making her a perfect example of what Adashino and Sumireko were pondering last week: a digital tsukumogami.

Was she ever really a person-fueled Vtuber? Probably, but that's not really important. What matters is that after she announced her retirement – her very sudden retirement, since it appears to have happened the day after she encouraged Nodoka – she continued broadcasting. And the people who stay up for four nights watching her strange new world all suddenly collapse. Now, you may be thinking, Of course they'd collapse after staying awake for four days straight, and yes, fair point. But maybe the tsukumogami knows that too, and it isn't a supernatural phenomenon, just good old-fashioned manipulation at play. Adashino references an old story about vengeful tsukumogami looking to punish the people who threw them away when they were objects, and that could be what's happening here. Like with Nodoka, her fear is no longer being seen, and she's accumulated enough power to take on a life of her own…and if humans were the ones who retired her virtual body, then they are the ones who must be punished—all of them.

It's a little melodramatic, but it fits with the social media angle of being a V/Youtuber; social media tends to exaggerate and embellish for clout. More importantly, it dovetails with Nodoka's desperate desire to be seen and appreciated; her hurt when she realized that Oto was ordering food during her karaoke performance was brief but visible as if not even her friend could be trusted to pay attention to who she really is. How this fits in with the name of Nodoka's family's hospital is a little more oblique; the hospital is called Takamagahara, which in Shinto mythology is the realm of the gods, often depicted in the sky. (Older manga readers may also remember it as the setting for Megumi Tachikawa's Dream Saga Takamagahara manga, my favorite of her works.) Does this symbolize how Nodoka's parents believe they are better than mere mortals? Does it show a fidelity to an older way of viewing the world and raising children? It could be both; the repeated imagery of tall buildings associated with the family, however, leads me to believe that the intention is to show that they think they're above the clouds, an old term to describe royalty or nobility.

Because the digital tsukumogami storyline is so strong, the final scene with a cat girl dancing with a bunch of bipedal felines feels very awkward and out of place. I'm sure that she's another Vtuber or digital tsukumogami, or maybe she ties into the whole Takamagahara thing and is a god, but even for this show, the whole thing felt weird. I'm sure we'll get an answer soon now that Adashino's on the case, even if we won't learn what was going on with that truly terrible mermaid design.


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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