Due to having a bunch of different deadlines I fell behind on basically everything for 3 whole weeks. Sorry about that.
It’s an even grimmer mood than normal at Grace Field – Norman is being shipped out tomorrow, Emma is immobile with a broken leg, and the ropes they gathered have been discovered and confiscated by Isabella, who knows what they’re up to. Norman tries to be calm in front of Emma and Ray but the terror of his impending death starts to take a toll on him. However, Emma and Ray are determined to save him, and the two eventually plan for Norman to escape on his own – or at least pretend to after disabling his tracker using a device finally completed by Ray – and then hide nearby with the goal of rejoining them once Emma’s leg heals and they escape for real. Emma concludes that – since the demons no-doubt want them as intact merchandise, Isabella will not ship her out with a broken leg – nor Ray – so neither of them will be in danger of replacing the missing Norman as long as Ray also breaks a bone or makes himself ill.
The new plan also has the goal of having Norman scale the wall and be able to let them know what he can see from up there. But when the moment comes and Norman makes it up there, he sees something so demoralizing that he simply comes back and admits defeat. The walls are basically cliffs, and the other side is separated from them by a gigantic chasm.
There was a rather strange and eerie mood to this episode, which both worked and didn’t. There are a few very slow, somewhat disconcerting shots of Norman trying to do completely banal things, but clearly not being able to concentrate – he walks down the hall, he fills a cup with water for Emma, he eventually drops the cup and sits hunched on the floor for a while before composing himself. Each of these seems to take a while which increases the weird unease of it, and it’s definitely a good way to get inside his head space – especially because Norman has always been the calm and collected one until now. The narration he had in the manga about how badly he wants to live is also removed here, but I think the scene is actually better without it. But, while its a good concept in theory, in practice some of the shots are extremely awkward to me – especially the hallway ones with the odd CGI. It’s not the first time the anime has done these weird ‘walking down the hallway’ shots, and while they’re definitely weird, suspenseful and creepy as presumably intended, they do also look kinda lame because the CGI is really glaring.
It’s also a liiittle obvious that there is some padding in this episode, because they really wanted the cliffhanger of finding out Norman would be shipped tomorrow in the previous episode, but they also really wanted the cliffhanger of discovering the massive chasm at the end of this episode. Both cliffhangers are good ones, but it does make the content of this episode seem a little slow. But going from despair to hope to extreme despair is a ride itself for sure.
Besides the stuff with Norman, we also learn a few more things about Ray – and both require some suspension of disbelief. First of all, Ray explains that he knew the truth about Grace Field because unlike normal humans he never had ‘infant amnesia’ – ie, the natural loss of memories of infancy – and that he could remember being a baby and even a fetus – and thus remembered seeing the demons. (Something which we don’t get a flashback for at all, unlike the manga…which is odd, because having a flashback here would have made the padding off the episode less obvious) Interestingly enough, this is actually a documented phenomenon – however, such memories (if they are indeed real) typically disappear by the time the child is five years old. I guess I can buy it in this fantasy setting with demons and stuff, but the other fact about Ray is a little harder for me. It’s just almost a little too much suspension of disbelief that he not only was able to construct a device that breaks the trackers using components from a whole load of different items, but the fact that he had done this over the period of six years…which would mean he was six years old when he started. He may be a genius, but is that enough to explain how he could figure out such a thing, especially with such limited information given to him…?
Norman tells Emma and Ray the other thing he learned while on top of the wall – each of the farms is separated by walls on all side in a wedge like shape, and they all join together into a hexagon. There is a bridge leading away from this hexagonal island in the chasm, and it presumably goes to where the headquarters is. While the others are desperate to figure out how they can save Norman, they soon realize there is nothing that they can do – and after a deliriously cute flashback about how baby-Emma and baby-Norman used a cup-string phone to communicate when Norman was sick – the same phone he decides to put into his suitcase when he leaves – it’s soon time for his ‘shipment’. Emma’s last-ditch effort to have him run for it is thwarted by Norman himself – who doesn’t want Emma to ruin any of her or Ray’s chance at freedom, and his final wish for Emma to see him off with a smile goes unfulfilled.
Afterwards, Emma and Ray become depressed. Isabella tries to comfort Emma in a twisted way – telling her she will be happier if she gives up, and that she would be happy to let her live if she agrees to become a ‘Mama’ herself, which Emma angrily refuses. The days quickly pass with no progress being made on the escape plans – even with Ray’s birthday and shipment date looming. Have Emma and Ray truly lost all hope and given up…? This close to the end of the season? Of course not.
Here we have another episode where things were obviously padded out to achieve the desired cliffhanger, but this time around it’s done much better. The cuteness with the flashback was a nice touch, and seems to also be unique to the anime – while the manga did have a side scene where Isabella sees the cup/string phone in Norman’s suitcase and there’s a panel implying what it had been used for, expanding on that was a nice idea for the anime version. Rereading parts of the manga for the purpose of these reviews, it does really strike me how much longer things seem to be taking, and how much flatter some of the scenes are. It was more of a problem with the previous episode – which definitely relied a lot more on talking heads rather than flashbacks that could show rather than tell as the manga also had. (Which is curious because the anime frequently takes the ‘show dont tell’ approach in other ways, such as removing narration where it feels its not needed).
Mostly, this episode made us feel sad about Norman – it really stressed the bond that he has with Emma as well, for maximum gut-punch. I was happy with how his send-off scene was handled, and the complete lack of music was a good decision in setting the mood. Emma and Ray’s despair, as well as Norman’s grim acceptance, are also conveyed well. Now then, of course – there’s the question many probably have as to whether Norman actually died or not. After all, the number one rule of fiction is always that a character should never be treated as dead unless you see the body. Instead, the last we see of Norman before he is treated as dead by the narrative is him being shocked at something – and its implied to be unexpected…which means it’s very likely he had something other than a demon waiting for him at the gate. But that will likely have to wait for future seasons of this show – and unless the anime is going to pull a copout anime-only ending, I imagine we’ll get more of it animated soon. Even with the flaws I’ve mentioned it seems like the anime version has been performing well, and its even gotten a bunch of figures up for preorder already, which is always a good sign. Regardless, whether Norman was killed or not, he has still left the cast either way, and that’s still sad.
Isabella does tell Emma that Norman is dead, but that’s to be expected – its for her benefit if Emma is driven to despair enough to give up. And while it seems as though she might at first, we can see by the end that her and Ray still have some fight in them – and that acting like they’d given up was possibly part of their plan all along. I also like the implication that – as twisted as Isabella’s apparent taunting of Emma may be, it does seem like it is a form of love. Even though she is frightening, I don’t think Isabella is an evil person – rather she is someone who likely used to be idealistic like Emma but had her hopes crushed – as well as her friends killed – as, after all, if she is like Krone than she is also unable to leave the farms. Her offer for Emma to also become a Mama, therefore, would almost certainly come from a place of her sincerely wishing for Emma to stay safe, to accept the despair and thus be able to live ‘happily’ like she herself currently is.
In all, while I wish some things were handled better I do think this episode did a great job at being suitably emotional, and the flashback was adorable enough on its own to get a higher mark from me.
Out of 5,