Writing a proper and satisfying mystery is hard. It’s certainly a task that requires far more effort than what this series put forth in this latest episode.
Whilst I don’t normally like to fall back onto the “but the source material” school of criticism, I can’t help but feel as if that at least somewhat applies here. Now don’t get me wrong, the original manga kind of flubbed this part as well, but not in quite as much of spectacular fashion as the anime did. The problem lies with Tomohiko Itou’s insistence on delivering a strong sense of atmosphere to drive home the impact and implications of a lot of scenes. The thing is, this kind of enthusiasm is taken the wrong way with regards to presenting a lot of the more DRAMATIC aspects of the story. From giving every suspicious individual gleaming red eyes to ominous shot-framing, it just comes off as a little… too deliberate and schlocky for my liking. A good example of this is how no one was really suspecting the teacher of being the murderer until the candy in his glove department was found in the manga, but in the anime, fans had him pegged as a suspicious candidate in the 2nd episode. This has everything to do with how it’s generally easier to hide a twist like this in plain sight in a manga than it is to do the same in an anime. A-1 didn’t even really try to conceal the dude, and the scene with him in 2006 during the 5th episode with a suspicious looking man with a concealed face speaking with almost the exact same voice as Yashiro was a pretty sigh-worthy “how could they let that through” moment for me. That said, I guess you can say that much of the disappointment with this episode was a result of the anime’s previous faults catching up with it and coalescing into that badly handled twist.
But that’s all just presentation, so what of the actual writing? The episode wasn’t any better on that front either I’m afraid. This in part has to do with Satoru, who despite being far more pragmatic, that the discovery of who the killer is would be a conclusion reached by Satoru learning to actually look past his bias and consider the possibility that his greatest supporter is the most culpable of all (two) of the potential suspects. Instead, he continues to not acknowledge the writing on the wall until the Yashiro has had enough of his antics and proceeds to give him all the answers in a cartoonishly evil way. On top of taking away the opportunity for Satoru to at least consider arriving at the difficult conclusion that Yashiro could be the murderer, it’s just a disappointingly simple way of going about resolving this mystery. Moreover, for someone so meticulous when it comes to getting away with murder, his idea to drown the kid in one of his dummy cars and skip town seems a little transparent. Some of Satoru’s classmate’s would be aware that the teacher was the last adult supervising Satoru after all, and on top of that, the fact that he’s his teacher and has a car that’s the exact same as the one in his garage all come together to at least make him worthy of being a person of interest. Where’s the alibi or the clever planning behind that?
The cliffhanger at the end is also a bit hard to buy into here. I have nothing against cliffhangers in general, but when one is dire to the point where it’s obvious the show will have no choice but to back out seconds into the next episode, then I lose a bit of interest. Besides, that situation should be simple for anyone with half a brain to escape considering how Yashiro left a door open and the fact that slipping out of seatbelts isn’t really all that difficult (especially not for a kid of Satoru’s stature).
So like I said, writing a good mystery is HARD. Perhaps one of the hardest things to do with a story I’d go so far as to say. It seems as if my hopes that this series would be up to the task were largely misplaced. I’m pretty crestfallen about how this ended up turning out. The last two episodes might be able to salvage this series, but if this episode’s quality and the fact that their’s an entire 13 chapters left to deal with are anything to go by then I’m not holding my breath.
PS: Decided not to bother with episode 9. This is where the real discussion is at.
PPS: They could’ve at least got the spine-tingling creepiness of this smile right instead of the generic evil smirk we got.