Oh my god, the creators actually did it. I’d easily label this as the episode with the highest stakes against it of the entire year, perhaps of the past few years: just one inserted cliche; only one weakness could completely break this show and label it as a pretentious piece of garbage. It’s been ages since I’ve watched an episode that took such a huge risk. So seeing that the creators actually pulled this episode off, showing that they knew exactly what they were doing makes this a wonderful episode.
The main characters were completely gone. In fact, only one recurrent character makes her appearance, but she only appeared for like… one minute before this episode aired, and subsequently only had one minute of airtime in just this episode. This episode was all about the figures central to the Mukden Incident, and it avoided the things that I was afraid that this episode could do really well: it did not try to avoid the fact that the Japanese themselves caused the incident, it did not present the Japanese as nice guys, but at the same time it also did not present the Japanese as stereotypical war-hungering bastards.
In fact, this episode was all about making the decision to do this. The central characters involved actually carefully considered the options they had, and eventually decided to go with the plan to blow up the railway, which eventually escalated so terribly. This episode portrayed them as knowing full well that they were changing history, and causing a lot of people to suffer.
Then, the cameo of Aoi’s sister (she was his sister, right? Or his girlfriend?). She did arrive from out of nowhere in front of key figures, right when they made the decision, but she actually did not influence them: the characters again stressed that it was themselves who decided. The one joke that this episode pulled was strangely cute, and did lessen the atmosphere. The one thing that might have been a bit fishy about this episode was how they didn’t go after her when she ran away, but I think that that can be attributed to faith: these guys believed that they saw some kind of prophet, or something. The girl overall is pretty mysterious, and perhaps it was her intention to make them believe this. Perhaps it was some sort of test, who knows? It’s up to the next episodes to go more in-depth into that.
Rating: *** (Awesome)