Lineage oftentimes brings about the perception of inherited or shared misfortune, even in cases when family isn’t blood-related. As expected, Narumi gets caught in the middle of a brewing conflict between the Hirasaka Group’s co-founders, which leads us to understand just how important Renji is to its foundation and subsequent future.
As if last episode didn’t have enough hints, explanations behind Renji’s interestingly embroidered butterfly shirt revealed that there’s more to him than meets
his sunglasses that he never takes off the eye. Nevermind the fact that Narumi and Ayaka were still scouting for dive bars to host Hiraska Group’s all-girl band, or that Alice’s bear was seemingly fixed overnight. This episode boiled down to opening up the slowly hatching past of the Hirasaka Group and why Renji has become so significant in the past 48 hours of screen time. And all of this just for a showdown of Dragon Ball proportions where the characters will trade physical contact for exchanges of verbal reprimand for their wrongdoings to each other.
For once, I’m actually looking forward to the reveal. It’s not like I’m a fan of dialogue that could easily be cut out for the sake of going shounen for viewers, but this is a serious drama we’re watching here! There has to be significant reasons for Renji’s name being incorporated right into the group’s name, as well as why Souchirou is so bent on either exacting revenge on him or just teaching him a lesson about their shared past.
If the tension between ‘brothers’ wasn’t sketchy enough, Narumi’s cola ritual with Renji at the local zoo raised even more suspicions and now-obvious clues as to Renji’s origins in the story. Shame on Renji for being so slyly manipulative and condescending and to Narumi for being utterly naive to the entire situation. It almost served Narumi right to almost get beaten to a pulp in the back alley with Ayaka on the sidelines as a witness. But the question at this point really doesn’t revolve around anyone else but Renji and Sou. Who’s right and who’s wrong? What started the rift between these two and why is Renji suddenly back to manipulate everyone like chess pieces to a game he thinks he’s winning?
In the middle of all the tension, I think it’s nice to see the growing interactions between Alice and Narumi and how he cares for him despite feeling like he’s pretty worthless. I’m sure viewers can agree with the fact that he’s pretty useless regardless, but showing him as having some courage to try and deal with being involved with a possible reunion between Renji and Sou really helps balance the positive traits in him against the mostly clumsy and irrelevant side of him.
We don’t see much of Ayaka this time around as she plays more of a damsel-in-distress roll when she and Narumi are surrounded by the Hirasaka Group posers, but I was definitely amused by that scene. She lit up so much when Tetsuo showed up to box the daylights out of the phony group that I’m sure anyone in Narumi’s shoes that had any remote feelings for Ayaka would have had their ego just stomped on and absolutely destroyed. It’s bad enough that you can’t even protect your own close friends, let alone feel powerless to stop two powerful bosses from fighting each other. Narumi should have had more sake and toughened up some more during his sake-sharing ceremony.
I felt like refraining from going to deeply into Renji’s actions this time around because this episode was mainly meant as a significant buildup to what should be the end of this arc next week. There are definitely situations from last week that now make a little more sense this week, and Renji’s character was fleshed out just enough to make his significance seem more worthwhile to accept.
However, my continuing gripe about the pacing of the show is that the first episode set a fantastic bar in cramming a great story into a single hour-long block. Even if episodes are roughly 24 minutes each, that means a good two episodes will sufficiently carry out a particular arc with enough buildup and resolution to keep the series fresh and invigorating. Yes, I still enjoyed this episode and felt the plot revelations were great, but sufficient script writing can still lead to two-episode arcs without dragging some of the more unnecessary parts of the plot.
Next week’s preview is a good example of this, since we basically hear Sou utter the same thing he’s been saying to Narumi for a long time now: stay out of my way and don’t interfere. Okay, we get the point now, so it’s just making Narumi more persistent than he probably should be, and it’s not making Renji any more mysterious and conniving than he already seems to be. Overall, great episode, but I’m almost positive we could have had a new arc by now.