Raiju sure is one creepy Ayakashi.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Progress is being made on performing the sacred ritual of the southern lands, with Aoi, Ginji and the twins working hard to prepare themselves. Some good-natured flirting takes place between Ginji, as well, and Aoi shares more of her feelings about the Master and her kidnapping. The two drink the night away and enjoy their time together.
As Aoi is walking around the inn, she gets ambushed by the not-so-noble spirit Raiju, who proceeds to chase Aoi around the nearby forest and frighten the bejeezus out of her. Raiju is threatening and creepy and discusses with Aoi how an Ayakashi’s favorite delicacy is a human girl with lots of spiritual power. You know, like Aoi.
Raiju continues to act like a general scumbag, but Ranmaru scares him off and sticks up for Aoi in an interesting turn. With Aoi safe and sound, she and her friends continue their preparation and shares a toast with Ranmaru and Hattori. But as she enjoys the secret liquor they’re drinking, Raiju invades her mind and makes Aoi pass out.
This episode has a lot going for it in terms of interesting story content; certainly an upgrade from the tepid episodes we’ve had prior that have had Aoi coasting on her laurels for the longest time. The plot really gets moving here, and even a huge cynic like me found things to enjoy in this episode.
Raiju is the big star here, and the reason I found this episode so enjoyable. Unlike other obstacles Aoi faces, he can’t be sated (Well, for now, anyway) by Aoi’s home cooking abilities. Raiju feels like a grim and terrifying reminder of the hostility of the world Aoi is in, something that is often gravely overlooked when she continues to make friends with seemingly everyone she meets. Raiju is creepy, powerful, and persistent, the essence of a villain who is supposed to be actually scary and not just playing at being threatening. And by having him connect Aoi to her grandfather as the reason for his interest, it assigns a troubling association with Aoi’s past. Maybe it’s not so great to be Shiro’s granddaughter.
The rest of the episode is…just okay. Aoi spends plenty of time making her cute little dishes, per the usual, and still lacks a sense of agency beyond her ability to cook. Thankfully, these scenes are not the main focus, but just little side bits relegated to the beginning and end of the episode.
Her drunken conversation with Ginji is also a pretty entertaining diversion from the usual Kakuriyo fare. I would actually really like to see Aoi in a condition that makes her more human and less overwhelmingly pleasant. I’m wondering when in this series we will get into the real nitty-gritty of Aoi and the Master’s relationship. In my mind, its still a kidnapping marked with manual labor, but somehow I get the feeling that Kakuriyo isn’t going to really get into the implications of their relationship.
All in all, Kakuriyo puts on a pretty good show for people who are invested in these characters. Long time viewers will probably find the frightening shift in tone be enticing, while still preserving the formula of the show that most of its viewer base has come to rely on. There’s only a few episodes left of this particular show, and we have plenty to still see. How Aoi will fend off Raiju and how she’ll perform the southern lands ritual might very well be interesting resolutions to the plot so far.