by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Hanasaki's unsurprising abduction/adoption by Twenty Faces is followed by an equally by-the-book mental torture session. Tied to a chair in a dark room, the now not-so-genki teen is forced to face his true self like many a troubled young anime character before him, many of which had a lot more to say about the human condition. Casting himself in the role of the savior in both dialogue and visuals, Twenty Faces tries his best to convince Hanasaki of their shared fate and nature in an overly dramatic charade.
So far, Twenty Faces seemed like a troll with extravagant fashion sense and a straightforward mission: to be Akechi's thrill and keep him from ever having enough time to reflect upon his traumas. Twisted as his methods and mind may be, I believe his motivation was fairly pure, at least from a psychopath's point of view. After this episode, I'm more and more convinced that, in his own twisted world full of flamboyant headgear, Twenty Faces is in love with Akechi. When the object of his obsession moved on, our professional Fiend was cheated out of his raison d'être. By molding Hanasaki in his own image, Twenty Faces will create a new substitute playmate for himself.
Getting Hanasaki to turn against his former idol will also put Twenty Faces in a position to finally make Akechi pay attention to him again. The time Sousuke confided in his mercenary friend is long gone, but there was still a point in their more recent history where he was important enough for Akechi to shoot him in the chest, prompting Twenty Faces to treasure his wound (or should we say excuse for a nipple) as a token of their bond. If Hanasaki wants to be loved and respected, Twenty Faces longs for any kind of acknowledgement from Akechi. By using Hanasaki as bait, he's simply hoping to regain his lost position of "worthy to kill." So he sets out to push Hanasaki over the edge by shattering the former teen detective's image of the world and himself, along with some unfortunate ceramics.
This time of reflection unfolds in several little acts that all involve showing Hanasaki exactly the reality excerpt needed to ensure maximum damage. The first trial is meant to address and dismantle Hanasaki's hero worship of his brother. The question posed is interesting: would it have been better if Haruhiko had died the tragic death of a misguided hero, allowing Hanasaki to grieve instead of forcing him to adjust his perception of his not-so-heroic brother? This is a question full of juicy narrative potential, but Trickster never seems to follow up on any of its ideas, moving on to the deconstruction of heroism stage straight away. Twenty Faces' argument is more than flawed and certainly doesn't get any more credible by the overwrought religious symbolism. There is a reason why big themes such as this usually get a whole TV series dedicated to their exploration, and trying to create any impact within mere minutes of monologuing is futile, not to mention silly when Hanasaki buys it all so easily. Maybe it's just lazy writing.
When Twenty Faces moves on to assess Hanasaki's true desires, the time is ripe to spout epic wisdoms such as "pleasure only existing after sacrifice." Poor Gackt. His characters seem to have a knack for excruciating poetry. Thankfully, Hanasaki is all out of half-sentences to scream and bullets to shoot at shadows. After crossing this threshold, he's ready to – well, do what exactly? Kill Akechi? Embrace the world as nihilistic? Prove that he isn't Twenty Faces? Even after all that abuse and suffering, I'm not sure, and neither is Hanasaki himself, even though he's clearly supposed to be resolved to do something at this point. Why else does he get to leave the reflection chair just to turn himself into a shiny new toy for the other side? All I know is that I'm much more interested to see more of Twenty Faces and Akechi's past, which is quite unfortunate considering we're approaching this season's climax. At least there was one potentially interesting twist when Twenty Faces invited both Akechi and Hanasaki's stepdad out to play, turning the upcoming showdown into a race to find out who cares the most – or least.
Outside the reflection chamber, Akechi and his remaining teen detectives are dealing with a case that only exists to show us how much better Kobayashi has gotten at controlling his powers. Not only is he now able to avoid hurting the people around him accidentally, he's also taken a liking to (or entered a state of not actively hating) working as a detective alongside the others. It says something about Trickster's characters that this is enough to make him the most likable of the bunch. But since "all adults are liars" (thank you Twenty Faces), it's not worth clinging to the not-so-bad times, because they are bound to end, anyway.
This show sure is a bundle of charm and positivity.
Trickster is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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