by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Yurei Deco ?
Community score: 3.6
I've been asking Yurei Deco to provide some more in-depth characterization for the Detective Club for a while now, not to mention some clearer narrative stakes for the story. Ask and ye shall receive, it seems, because “Smiley and the Flying Lost One” delivers just that, though the way it goes about doing so is a little all over the place, in true Yurei Deco fashion. Still, for anyone who needed more buy-in to fully invest themselves in the big-picture story that this show is trying to tell, I think this week's episode has a lot to offer.
The “flying lost one” in question is Doron, a very advanced AI drone with legally dubious modifications that Smiley discovers while sifting through junk for nifty treasures. The bot has amnesia, and his official request for the detective club is to find whoever once owned him and tricked him out with the black-market parts so he can recover his lost memories. The real thrust of the episode comes into focus when Berry uses her sleuthing skills to discover that the owner of the drone is likely a man named Kearny, who lives in the Sunflower Retirement Home of all places. Though Berry doesn't find any sign of Kearny at the old folks' place, she does discover an unmasked Smiley tending to her grandmother, who is none other than the elusive Madam, and in the flesh no less.
Other than the familial connection to Madam, we don't learn anything else new about Smiley, unfortunately (except for the reason why she wears that gas mask all the time; the girl has a face plucked straight out of one of Stephen King's nightmares). We do get a lot of insight into Madam and her past relationship with Kearny, though, which leads to a whole heaping helping of context that shapes our understanding of the whole story. Kearny, aka “Mr. Hackitt”, is the mastermind who helped design the Hyperverse and create the Phantom Zero Nation game, and not only did his time with Madam inspire her (and presumably her granddaughter) to join the Yurei Detectives, but Finn was his protégé in the arts of hacking and engineering. Furthermore, Finn believes that Kearny's death was suspicious enough to be covered up by the powers that be, and one of Finn's major motivations now is to uncover the truth behind his mentor's sudden demise. So now we have a lot more tangible information about the history of Tom Sawyer Island, and our characters also have more concrete goals to be working towards outside of the nebulous hunt for the “real” Phantom Zero. I'd call that a win for the episode, in my book.
That said, there's something about the way that Yurei Deco has been framing and pacing these story developments that feels…off. The whole mystery behind Doran's origin, for instance, didn't actually feel like much of a mystery, since Berry was basically wheeled around and getting info-dumped on for the whole episode once she traced Kearny back to Sunflower. The more emotional character beats also don't hit quite as strong as I think they could, like when Madam tells Berry about how her knack for nosiness has done a lot to bring .hack out of her shell. It's one of those moments that would be a lot more effective if we had a stronger understanding of .hack as a character, and maybe got to see more of .hack and Berry's growing friendship.
Still, this was another satisfying round of Yurei Deco down. While the series hasn't exactly been quite as superlative as those first episodes might have let on, it has been very consistent in sticking to its vision and telling the stories it wants to tell. I appreciate that a lot, and it makes me confident that the journey that Yurei Deco wants to take us on will be worth it, in the end.
Odds and Ends
• I think we can all agree that Madam's badass Robo-Bed is a technological advancement that we all need and deserve to have once we reach our golden years. Screw Bingo Nights and Prune Juice Mixers; I want to get turned into a cartoon cyborg and get involved with ridiculous Scooby Doo-esque hijinks while fighting off a mob of robots.
• So, after doing some digging into the ol' Mark Twain back catalogue, I realize now that Smiley is very obviously meant to parallel Jim Smiley from The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which is about exactly what it says on the tin. My best guess for Hank is that his namesake is the main character from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. This episode makes it more obvious that Madam is our version of the Widow from Huckleberry Finn, and the weird cat thing is at least named after Miss Watson. Other than Madam, I still couldn't tell you what any of these connections are meant to say about the characters in Yurei Deco, if anything at all. Feel free to let me know if I'm missing something obvious in the comments (it's the only thing that can restore my cred as a Lit teacher).
Yurei Deco is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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