Episode 02: The First Hand
Some time has passed since the end of the last episode, and Miyuki has more or less settled into his new school life. Izumiko’s friends express a lot of interest in him and they anticipate the upcoming school trip to Tokyo, encouraging Izumiko to come along as well.
There’s a strange moment when Wamiya greets Izumiko in the hallway. Bathed in shadow, he asks whether Izumiko hates Miyuki. When she admits she does, Wamiya smiles and tells her he feels the same way, and that he hopes they will go to the same high school together. This scene was pretty odd and even slightly ominous, with Wamiya asking strange things, Izumiko’s hesitant response, and the contrast of light and dark between the two. It also seems like a sworded question, and one has to wonder what Izumiko’s answer might bring about…
After an awkward car ride home from school with Miyuki, Izumiko receives a package sent to her from her mother, Yukariko, in Tokyo. She’s excited at first, at the prospect of a present, but is soon deflated when she finds it’s a brand new cellphone. Reading the letter enclosed with the package, Izumiko’s eyes widen, and she suddenly runs off to the dormitories to see Miyuki.
Miyuki is busy practicing archery, and yells angrily at her when she startles him – amusing, especially since he was pretty vocal about how reserved and quiet she was… Izumiko explains that her mother wants to secretly meet when she’s in Tokyo on her school trip. She suggests that Yukimasa might reconsider Miyuki’s position if her mother vouches for them. For once, Miyuki agrees with Izumiko… until he hears the rest of it…
Izumiko doesn’t want to go to Tokyo on the trip, and asks Miyuki to meet Yukariko instead. He flat out rejects that plan, since Yukariko clearly wants to meet Izumiko, not Miyuki! Well then, Izumiko asks him to accompany her, since she will still need someone’s help to get in touch with her mother using the new cellphone.
Miyuki is exasperated by her helplessness, and asks why she is unable to just do all of this by herself. Izumiko tells him haltingly that she is unable to use computers, the internet, and cellphones (though for some reason regular landline phones are okay) because they always end up breaking. Miyuki astutely points out that not being able to use the technology of the day puts her at least 50 years in the past, and ultimately agrees to help her since this matter concerns him too.
Izumiko states, rather matter-of-factly, that the plan is settled, and hands him her cellphone. I like how she’s constantly throwing Miyuki off in this scene, from startling him, to her admission she cannot use technology. And then, her expression when she says that the plan is settled is one of determination and certainty – a complete reversal from her usual behaviour.
Also, it’s actually kind of sad watching Izumiko admit that she can’t do what everyone else can. She’s not sheepish like she was in episode 1, when she was doing the computer lab assignment… Instead, the way she blurts out the truth is as if she knows she’s strange and is almost ashamed to admit it.
On the day of the school trip, Izumiko asks where Wamiya is as she settles into her seat on the airplane. She is told that he’s not coming on the trip, and that he doesn’t usually anyways, much like Izumiko. Izumiko is visibly disappointed, but as the plane takes off, a figure on the observation deck of the airport catches her eye… and it looks a lot like Wamiya.
So, Wamiya as turned from nice guy to kinda creepy strange…. There was always something a bit off with him (and if the opening credits suggest anything, he’ll have a (supernatural) role to play as well), but he wasn’t so… shadowy – and I mean that figuratively and literally. Is there a reason why he won’t (cant?) leave the town? Unfortunately these questions will have to go on the back burner for now, since that’s all we see of him, for now.
But, Izumiko doesn’t have much time to dwell on possibly spotting Wamiya, because shortly after take off, she begins to feel a dark and oppressive feeling emanating from behind her. Her friends ask if she’s alright or if she’s airsick. They don’t see anything suspicious when they look around the cabin, and Izumiko assures them that she’ll be okay.
But, touching down in Tokyo, Izumiko is still feeling an evil presence around her. There’s an ominous shot of a security camera that seems to suggest that someone is watching her and tracking her movements.
She’s exiting the bathroom with a handkerchief over her mouth when Miyuki confronts her. He tells her that her mother has sent them a message via the cellphone, and would like to meet them in the afternoon at the north tower of the Metropolitan Government Building.
Miyuki disdainfully asks her if she’s feeling sick because of the Tokyo crowds, but Izumiko says that it’s not as simple as that. She explains the feeling of evil that has been following her, but Miyuki brushes it off like it’s nothing much. He looks at her skeptically, more concerned whether she can make it to the meeting or not, than about this “feeling of evil” she has.
In the afternoon, the class gets some free time to go and explore the city until 4pm. Izumiko heads to the Metropolitan Government Tower with her friends, and is waiting in line to go up in the elevator, when Miyuki grabs her by the braids, just as she is about to board, yanking her back. He tells her that he knew she was screw the meeting up: they’re meeting on top of the north tower! Queue yet another awkward moment in an enclosed space (the first being the car ride home from school). This time though, Miyuki and Izumiko sneak furtive glances at each other.
Strangely, Izumiko’s friends don’t notice she’s gone. Or, try to look for her?
At the top of the tower, the pair waits for Yukariko to show up… but she’s late, and half an hour after their appointed meeting time, she sends a text to them saying that she can’t make it. “They” have found them, and it’s no longer safe. They have to get down from the tower immediately.
A second message from Yukariko tells the pair to come to her house in Nagano, where they will be safe behind a spiritual barrier. But, Izumiko says it’s impossible for her to go to her mother’s house (and she’s strangely insistent that she simply cannot go), but Miyuki’s not hearing any of her protests: they came this far already, so why quit halfway? He keys the address into his phone, and finds that it’s really not too far away. Dragging Izumiko with him, they head to the train station.
Miyuki heads through the ticket gate first, and Izumiko follows close behind. But, as she puts her ticket in the machine and takes a step forward, the gates cascade closed all across the station. Regardless, the pair still manage to jump past the ticket gates and run up to the platform for the train…. but the train is also mysteriously out of order, and just sits in the station, motionless.
Miyuki is only now starting to believe that there’s something more going on, and he asks Izumiko who’s after her. But, Izumiko doesn’t know. She cuttingly replies that if she knew, she wouldn’t be so scared. With that, Miyuki looks around him, seeing their route cut off and Izumiko’s plain-as-day fear, and it finally dawns on him: Izumiko wasn’t making anything up when she said she felt evil watching her….
Abandoning the train, Miyuki and Izumiko make a run for it, but she just can’t keep up. He insists that they go and buy a hat for her so that they can hide her signature braids, in an effort to throw off their pursuers.
Miyuki grabs her by the hand and leads her away. This (I gather) is the “first hand” mentioned in the title of the episode. Once their hands join, white light floods the scene and all outside noise fades away. It’s suddenly just Miyuki and Izumiko. Together.
They end up taking a taxi to Nagano, but they get let off in the wrong place and have to walk the rest of the way. Along the way, it starts raining heavily, so they take shelter outside of an apartment building, under cover. By now, Izumiko is absolutely shaking in fear… And, while Miyuki is still trying to play her behaviour off as her being too sensitive or being scared of the thunder and lightening, when the lights start to flicker out one by one, he is forced to admit that there’s something coming…. In fact, he can actually feel the presence of the evil (finally!)
And, when Izumiko hesitantly asks Miyuki if she can hold his hand, because it made it feel better before, Miyuki actually looks concerned for her and accepts her request.
In the distance, a strange form moves towards their location, chanting an incantation the entire time. They retreat inside into the lobby of an apartment building, still holding hands, and Miyuki begins to chant an exorcism mantra as well, in an attempt to drive the evil away. Things get pretty intense, as a shadowy figure slowly approaches the lobby doors…. and as the doors slide open, a flash of lightening illuminates… Yukimasa holding an umbrella?
Izumiko is relieved to see him, but Miyuki is less sure. He doesn’t believe it’s his father, but Izumiko assures him that it is. In fact, Yukimasa notes that Izumiko’s fear of him indicates that he is truly Yukimasa. What? What does that even mean?
Miyuki is… well, pissed off. He cannot believe that Izumiko was afraid of Yukimasa the entire time! Izumiko stammers that she really did feel something evil, and Yukimasa is quick to say that it was probably someone else targeting her… He also tells Miyuki that he should have been directing his exorcism towards Izumiko, not at whatever was approaching (in this case, Yukimasa himself).
Miyuki isn’t buying any of this, and demands to know whether this was all on purpose so as to prevent them from meeting Yukariko. He denies it, but tells them that even if they show up on her doorstep, they still won’t be able to meet her. What this all means is anyone’s guess at this point. It seems rather sad though, that Izumiko is unable to meet her mother, with even her father working and living far from her.
At her mother’s house, the place is empty – a fact that Yukimasa attributes to Yukariko having led whoever was after them off their trail. Izumiko goes upstairs to change and get some rest, while Miyuki throws off his wet shirt and angrily dries himself off right in the middle of the living room. He’s got some words to say to Yukimasa, and nothing says business like no shirt.
Miyuki insists that Izumiko’s fear was all too real, and that it couldn’t have simply her fear of Yukimasa, and that even though she calmed down after seeing him, Miyuki thinks that it was just a spell that Yukimasa used to exorcise her. He also accuses Yukimasa’s presence to Yukariko retreating from their meeting. Yukimasa cryptically states that running away is simply in their nature, and that many are after their power…. even the mountain monks that he belongs to.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Izumiko is resting… until we see her eyes slowly open.
Yukimasa explains that one has to train for years to even begin to come close to the pure power that they hold from birth, and that pure power has belonged to women only since ancient times. Miyuki asks repeatedly what Izumiko is, and what power she possesses, saying that she’s just a scared girl who can’t do anything right. And, while Yukimasa agrees, he also acknowledges that she hasn’t awakened yet.
Well, Miyuki doesn’t care either way… he tells his father that he’s tired of being used by him, and that if he wants someone to babysit Izumiko, he can do it himself.
Suddenly the room where Yukimasa and Miyuki are talking in grows dark… and we see a flowing kimono, hear the sound of bells, and Izumiko’s hair become free of her braids… And, then she’s in the room with them… only it’s not the Izumiko we know, as it becomes evident as she turns her expressionless face towards Miyuki, who calls out to her. Seeing him, her eyes narrow dangerously…
Yukimasa rushes forwards and tells Miyuki to stand back, dressed (or undressed) as he is. He kneels before Izumiko, and begs her forgiveness. This “Izumiko” recognizes Yukimasa and, in a strange and old style of speaking, says that she only “descended” to Izumiko for the first time because she “felt something stir”…. looking up to stare pointedly into Miyuki’s astonished eyes.
When asked if she will now be frequenting Izumiko, she replies that “he hasn’t caught her yet” and to keep Izumiko well as her vessel…. since she will probably be her last one… Yukimasa is startled and asks if “this will all end with Izumiko, who replies that she feels that she will simply be unable to go on.
And, with that cryptic remark, she closes her eyes, and the Izumiko we all know, is suddenly back to her old self… with no memory of what just happened. Predictably, she freaks out, and despite Yukimasa’s words of assurance (he actually looks genuinely kind here), runs upstairs to be alone.
Resuming their conversation, Miyuki asks if it’s true that Izumiko is fit to be possessed. But Yukimasa isn’t listening and tells Miyuki that he’s not fit to take care of her. Miyuki heartily agrees, but then balks when Yukimasa tells him that he doesn’t have to take care of her anymore, and that he is free to go and do whatever he wants. But, instead of being happy about it (this was exactly what he wanted!) Miyuki appears strangely conflicted….
Wow, nice one dad! Yukimasa just turns on a dime all the time… From smooth and cordial, to kind and concerned, and then suddenly cold and calculating. He certainly wears different faces depending on who he’s talking to. And, now he’s basically throwing Miyuki out the door, after forcibly dragging him to Izumiko’s side? Let me echo what Miyuki says to Yukimasa: “what is going on inside your head?!”
RDG is still interesting to me, but I have since tempered my enthusiasm for the show since the first episode. I am liking the characters a bit more, and I find them mostly simple and stereotypical, but there’s just enough something else that keeps me invested in them. Visuals are still lovely, though the rain scene was really a bit too dark for me – as in, I couldn’t quite see what was really going on.
That said, this episode had too many things that just didn’t make much sense, such as the sliding door that mysteriously worked when the power was clearly down, or the fact that Izumiko’s friends didn’t make a fuss when she was pulled away by Miyuki. I mean, if your friend, who wasn’t feeling well, suddenly disappeared without warning, wouldn’t you… look for her? And, all the students are supposed to meet again at 4pm, and with the time come and gone, not a peep from the school? Of course, I can make up creative excuses for all of these instances, but I really don’t think I should have to be the one rationalizing these things: that’s the job of the writer and director.
Throughout the episode I kept going from liking it to not liking it so much. It really felt like both a lot, and very little happened in this episode. I’m really hoping the pace will pick up, because no new characters were introduced this week, and we know that there are plenty to bring into the story, as the opening credits suggest. This pacing might be fine for a 2 cour show (around 24-26 episodes) but with only 10 more to go, I would like the plot to move faster.
I look forward to seeing how it all plays out, the mystery of Izumiko being possessed, her absentee parents, Yukimasa, etc.. But, while I plan to keep on watching RDG, but I don’t think I’ll continue to recap it.