Red Thread Redemption
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Ekoda-chan begins the episode nearly sucked into a whirlpool. She’s holding on by a red thread. She speaks to the audience promising to fill them in on her predicament before suddenly waking up. She has purchased a red thread in order to tie herself to Maa-kun, supposedly linking their fates together. When she wakes up, however, the string seems to have fallen off. Ekoda is distressed by this realization and thinks about the fact that she doesn’t have many bonds to begin with.
She sets out to a series of jobs as a model and customer service associate. In each, she’s either failed to make any sort of bond or else she’s completely overwhelmed by them. After a while, she laments that she seems to be the only one attached to anything. She attempts to visit the sources of all of the red threads in the universe, but she falls into an abyss of thread. All seems to be lost until she finds her sister and mother pulling her out of the threaded ocean. They pull too hard, though, and Ekoda’s thread snaps. She awakens and realizes that her familial bonds are her most important ones.
This was yet another very interesting bit of animation. The textures were incredibly varied this week, something that we have yet to see much of so far. In addition, the economy of each shot was really next level. The amount of information conveyed in each shot was truly impressive, and I feel as if repeated viewings would only yield more details that I missed. The sounds were also very layered, in keeping with the tradition of the past two weeks, and Shin mentions that he may have stolen the title for the most cuts in a single episode from last week’s director Takahashi Ryosuke. These pieces only seem to be getting better, and I find myself looking forward to what the show has in store week-to-week, despite myself.
The interview, too, had some interesting new developments. Two to be exact. The first was that the original Ekoda-chan was published in a men’s magazine. While this may not be news to some reading, my own research into the anime didn’t yield this scrap of information. There doesn’t seem to be a lot written on the English side of the internet about Ekoda-chan that isn’t related to the anime series. While some sites mention the original weeklies the manga was published in, I, unfortunately, am a little out of my depth when it comes to interpreting their cultural significance.
This makes my discoveries something of an unintended consequence. The men’s magazine revelation, in particular, does shed some light into why the show has employed only male directors so far, even if it doesn’t excuse the practice. The way director Misawa Shin describes Ekoda-chan’s manga makes it sound as if it’s unlikely many women read the series at all. I find this hard to believe, though. The stories, even in their masculine-driven forms, do seem to speak to something about the experience of living as a young woman. The stories never laugh at Ekoda for her womanhood, but point out the plights of modern women through humor.
I’m led, then, to my second discovery. These interviews may be so off-the-cuff because they are recorded before the episodes are finished. Other directors, to a man, have alluded to the animation side of the project, but Shin—and this week’s Ekoda Doi Mika—specifically reference being unsure how the thing turned out. I wonder, then, if the recording time is standard operating practice, or if this is an aberration. Without any sort of context, I have little more than speculation. We’re already behind the scenes, a behind the behind the scenes seems more than a little ridiculous. It does remind me, though, of my childhood watching seemingly random anime episodes on Toonami and being forced to figure out context on the fly. So, that’s something, I suppose.
These two new pieces of information come together in the way that Shin approaches the material. He’s the first director to talk about his work as an adaptation and what that means to him as an artist. He’s also honest about not being sure how the piece turned out and that worrying him. His lack of pretense and general nervousness despite his experience has made him a much more interesting watch than many of his contemporaries from previous episodes. Shin even goes so far as to admit that he accepted the project because the other directors looked, to him, like an all-star lineup.
Very late in the interview, Shin causally admits that this is an original story. This animation was not a translation of one or more of the pieces from the original manga, but one that used the characters to explore what one of Ekoda’s dreams might be. Shin admits this with incredible humility, actually apologizing to original author Takiname for using her original characters. That shoots this episode up to easily becoming my favorite of the bunch so far. Based on the other director’s personas, they would have said if they had written their episodes, so this seventh installment goes from high-effort lark to worthy canonical addition at the eleventh hour.
I don’t think the interview portions are ever going to get better than this. Shin is a wonderfully self-deprecating man with at least some sense of feminism and a desire to understand and do justice to the property he’s adapting. He leaves room for his Ekoda to speak her mind, and it seems as if he chose her well. I just wish I could enjoy it. It’s not the most interesting take in the world to still be complaining about the interview portions of the episodes, but they are still the majority of the show. If anything, this is an interview show that has three minutes of animation in it. And truth be told, I got into this business to watch cartoons.