by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Shadows House ?
Are you of Unseelie Court?/Do you give man no second thought/Except what troubles you can bring/And to increase his suffering?
Fairies, at least the Scottish ones, are traditionally divided into the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, and as you can tell from the verse above by Sir Stanley Coulton, only one of those courts contains fairies who are kindly disposed towards humans. Members of the Unseelie Court are cruel fey, the sort of fairies who might, for example, convince humans that they are living dolls in order to steal their bodies and take on a less shadowy form. That, as it happens, is the truth about the Shadows: they are a type of soot-based fey who learned how to become solid, and the entire living doll system is one designed to consume the “dolls” so that the Shadows may become them. If you needed any more proof that this story draws directly from Hans Christian Andersen's “The Shadow,” this would be it.
This episode brings us to the end of the debut, but in truth, the danger for our core cast has only increased. From an anime-only perspective, it's very well done – we get to glory in Kate and Emilico's friendship and teamwork as they convert the cart into a boat to ensure that they pass the debut within the time limit, something followed quickly by the terrible disintegration of Shirley, who just blows apart in the wind as if she were never solid. Then the surviving pairs are welcomed into the fold only for us to slowly realize that something is drastically wrong when neither Shaun nor Ricky respond to their shadow-halves, a truth that is horribly solidified when we see Emilico's blank, staticky eyes and understand that she, too, has drunk the metaphorical Kool-Aid. Or coffee, as it happens. And even worse, we know that she had more than her fair share, because she finished Kate's coffee after the latter decided that tea was a better beverage; there's a bit of irony there because technically Emilico, too, should have switched to tea to be more in line with her Shadow Master, but in standing by her personality, she appears to have damned herself, at least temporarily.
The real saving grace here is that Kate's soot manipulation has markedly improved, and since the coffee was spiked with Lord Grandfather's soot, there's a good chance that if Kate can figure that out, she can draw the soot out of Emilico. Since she's very much invested in the relationship that the two girls have, one whereby they both retain their own personalities, this does seem likely, all the more so because John is smart enough to see that something's off with Shaun and is likely to seek Kate out to talk. (Maybe not about that specifically, but it's bound to come up.) That's possibly the reason why Edward is so afraid of Kate, whom he's branded a malcontent. Even if Shirley was the one he expected to fail, he's been very, very leery of Kate from the start, and that feeling has only grown since he realized her soot skills. And now that Lord Grandfather has put him in charge of the children's wing? Kate had better watch her back.
This episode is a wonderful mix of answers finally being given and character dynamics. The revelation that it's the Shadows who are the dolls (or perhaps “poppets” would be the better word with its connotations of folk magic) is key, especially since the fact that brainwashing is absolutely possible (it's Rum's fate now – she'll have her memories erased and be made into a veiled doll, presumably so that none of her friends can recognize her). Fairies, as well as traditional Japanese yokai, are known for spiriting away children, so the idea that the living dolls are really stolen human children who have had their memories wiped really takes on a lot of traction now.
There have always been sinister undertones to Shadows House. Those are out in the open now, and that means that it's time for the people who disagree with the way things are done to think about making a move. Edward's not as clever as he thinks he is; here's hoping that Kate realizes that she's much smarter than even she herself knows.
Shadows House is currently streaming on Funimation.
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