The Day I Became a God
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 11 of
The Day I Became a God ?
So okay. Last week, The Day I Became a God left me reeling. It wasn't just that episode 10 dealt with some intense and sensitive subject matter, or that it hit extremely close to home in some ways. It was that this all came as the apparent climax to series that had, up until then, been a meandering and unbalanced mess of obfuscation and questionable storytelling. This is a show that had me burying my head in my hands as I tried to understand how in the hell mahjong was played, and now through a series of barely explored science fiction contrivances, it was diving into a story of a loved one trying to reunite with a disabled, traumatized child with no clue where to start. I'm not one to think stories need a rock-solid tonal consistency to be good – some of my favorite pieces of fiction can flip from ridiculous sitcom cliches to heartfelt parables on the personal cost of war or bloodshed – but that's a Grand Canyon-sized leap to make and this show had been looking way more like Homer Simpson than Robbie Knievel.
Yet somehow, this episode manages to make all of the baggage and strange creative decisions that preceded it just melt away. While we hear from the other characters over the phone or through text, the entirety of “Days of Play” is just Yota, Hina, and her caretaker Shiba trying to navigate the heartbreaking situation they find themselves in. There's still a lot up in the air about this show's attitude towards disability, especially childhood disability, and frankly I don't feel qualified to speak with any authority on how tastefully or not the series is handling it. All I can say is that the awkward, uncomfortable sequences of Yota trying to reconnect with Hina hit like a truck. Every time he jumped at her reactions, only to upset her because he's neither tactful or a trained caregiver, you could feel that knife inching deeper into his heart. It makes for some excruciating viewing, but in the sense that I felt for everyone involved and had to grit my teeth as things kept going wrong. Maeda's a messy creator in many senses, but this episode again exemplifies that he's capable of gripping a real, raw sense of humanity when he's on his game.
All of that is made more complicated by Shiba, who's been working with Hina the most since her disappearance, and has a far less charitable view of Yota's actions. She also knows the broad strokes of what brought Hina to this facility in the first place, and insists that the personality Yota encountered and bonded with wasn't the real Hina, but just a construct created by the supercomputer lodged in her grey matter. This is the one point where the whole episode threatens to fall apart – standing on the edge of turning this into a question of sci-fi mechanics rather than the human story at its core – but as we learn more about Shiba and her own motivations, her assertion feels less like a statement of fact, and more like her urging Yota to stop trying to recapture the Hina he once knew and start grappling with the reality in front of him.
It's also clear that her disapproval of Yota's presence is borne out of a desire to protect and help her patient, and it's made obvious through most of this episode that Yota doesn't fully comprehend what taking care of this girl would mean. In a material sense, Hina is likely better off being cared for and rehabilitating with a team of professionals and a medical staff capable of ensuring her wellbeing. Shiba is perhaps less than graceful about communicating all this, but it's obvious that everything she does is motivated by a desire to do what is best for the children she's involved with. It's a remarkably nuanced portrayal for a character who could have easily been a needlessly skeptical obstacle to Yota's easy happy ending.
And honestly with just one episode left I'm not sure what form the ending of all this might take. Given this show's inconsistent nature I certainly don't think I can predict anything, but I have hope now that it'll have something substantive and meaningful to say at the end. If not, then at least this penultimate episode can stand as a testament that its creator still has it in him.
The Day I Became a God is currently streaming on Funimation. Save on Anime Streaming Subscriptions with Funimation.
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