by Theron Martin,
After a burst of heavy action in episode 7, episode 8 mostly reverts to a preparatory mode, the relative lull before a major storm strikes. (And based on the way the episode ends, an intense storm is certainly brewing for episode 9.) Training and recuperation continues on the side of the heroes, with the hint of love in the air for not one but two potential couples. (And yes, Ayumu, it does not matter if you felt you denigrated yourself to save lives until you could do something about the bad guy in the last episode. It worked, and the girl thought you were cool for doing so.) On the side of The Professor, though, more dastardly deeds are afoot. He is on a serious recruitment drive, with Minami out seeking disaffected individuals to take up a murderous test to see if they are worthy of joining the Professor's elite. One makes the mistake of attacking Rinka, who is now a little too skilled to be defeated by anyone less than a highly-trained individual, but more have been recruited, and with Minami at the lead they have an ugly new task to fulfill.
Although this series has shown that it can get a little silly, almost none of that shows up in this episode, which aside from the budding romances takes a more somber approach. More so than in any previous episode, it emphasizes the mounting public fear and distrust of espers and subtly suggests how it can push those who would be heroic into a corner even as they try to do the right thing, which only reinforces the connections to The X-Men and, to a lesser extent, Watchmen. However, the episode does not overly dwell on that aspect, as it has much more story to tell, and the strengthening of the developing Ayumu/Murasaki and Rinka/Kyotaro relationships is a significant part of that.
This episode also raises strong speculations about what the latter is ultimately going to lead to, given the way the first episode played out and the overall timing of the storyline. Minami is clearly upset by something The Professor tells her to do, and her hate for White Girl in the first episode was far stronger than anything that has happened so far in the backstory could justify. Also consider how The Professor seems to view White Girl, what he says at the end of the episode, and couple of other things that happen/are said, and one inevitable conclusion about where the story is going arises. This one isn't going to any happy places, folks.
Aside from the background art, the visuals are definitely not at their best in this episode, but the effective use of soundtrack picks up quite a bit. The writing is still not top-caliber but improving, and the quick, sly reference to Animal Farm (in Ayumu's workbook) is an interesting allusion; implying that there is some parallel between the pig Napoleon and The Professor is an inspired choice if it was not just dropped in there casually.
The narrative path the story is taking is not headed down any particularly fresh direction, but the set-up for it is looking good and at the end of the episode the tension is starting to rise as the big push to the climax starts. Next episode should be a lively one indeed.
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