Holy cow, did DEEN even look at this episode before airing it? The white highlights and soft glows were unbearably bright. Half the time you couldn’t even make out the lines on the characters’ faces. Budget saving tactic by skimping on details? Whatever the thought, this episode looked awful.
There was very little progress in the game, in fact it hasn’t even begun. However, we got a little more background on Maria’s newfound magical powers, her formerly stuffed, now surprisingly shota buddy, Sakutaro, and Ange’s history with magic. As the game is about to begin, Ange takes off on her own, perhaps into her own meta world to have a talk with Maria. It certainly was a very odd time for Ange to split, and start talking to Maria about her unhappiness. I mean, she’s right in the middle of a game. Where is she going off to? If Battler didn’t completely trust her before, he doesn’t have much reason to trust her any more now. Maria’s story, though, and by extension her explanations for her story should be helpful for Ange when she returns to the game.
Wow, I thought Rosa was a below average mom before, but I underestimated her. Unfortunately, we don’t have much info on Rosa’s troubles, or what happened to Maria’s dad, but leaving your 9 year old daughter for a weekend, while you go off doing "moms gone wild?" Damn, Rosa is a terrible mom. Maria talking to Sakutaro about her mom’s forgotten promise felt like one of the more "adult" conversations I’ve heard her engage in so far. It also helps give her character some depth. It doesn’t explain the crazy, occult-obsessed freak Maria from earlier in the show. But it makes her into a much more sympathetic character.
Sakutaro was much cooler (and cuter), before Beatrice inexplicably transformed him into a shota. I mean look at him. Mixing cocktails, getting drunk and getting gifts like it’s nobody’s business. Stuffed Sakutaro is pimp.
While Maria focuses on telling Ange about how happy she was. Ange continues to take the more "realistic" view. Calling Rosa abandonment for what it was. Meanwhile, Maria chides Ange for reading things in between the lines that don’t exist, and then selectively picking up the unhappy pieces to deduce her truths. Maria explains that she’s able to do this, because she has a power that Ange doesn’t: the power of magic. The talk between the two was particularly interesting, simply because it’s an allegory for the larger game at play, and started making me think about what possible things I was reading in between the lines from previous games that didn’t exist.
The transition to Maria hanging with Beatrice and Virgilia felt a bit abrupt. Apparently, Maria developed a power that goes beyond the powers of even Beatrice and Virgilia: the power of
Geass Zero. The ability to create something out of nothing. How exactly did she develop this power? Something that was just passed down the Ushiromiya bloodline? But they congratulate Maria by shotafying Sakutaro, then giving Maria the title of the Apprentice Witch of Origins.
Maria then tells Ange that she was once an apprentice witch as well. Something Ange remembered only after being told. At one point in time, Maria gave Ange the ability to summon the Seven Stakes of Purgatory, specifically Mammon at Ange’s current power level. That is after Mammon and co. went all shotakon on Sakutaro. However, after a particular incident at school she appears to have lost the ability.
Cut next to the "present day" and we see Ange consulting with an occultist and an expert on the Ushiromiya murder mystery. He informs Ange that two bottles were indeed found explaining the murders at Rokkenjima. Both with the same handwriting, but both telling completely differently stories. Although they’re signed by Maria, when compared to Maria’s handwriting the styles don’t match. However, Ange then shows him Maria’s grimoire, at which he’s glaring tell gives away that the handwriting in the grimoire is indeed the same as the handwriting of the notes in the bottles.
A few things to think about here. One is that there seems to be a multitude of realities existing simultaneously:
- 1986, the multiple realities on Rokkenjima, with 6 year old Angie living on her own.
- 1998, following the path of the 3rd game, in which Ange grows up with Eva, meets Bernkastel, at which point her existence seems to split:
- One version is whisked away by Bernkastel and now exists in the meta-world, and is battling Beatrice with Battler
- The other version jumped from the roof for kicks, but is now on the run from the Sumadara family. This Ange seems to be taking a more conventional route at figuring out what happened.
However, we only meet the Ange that was a result of the 3rd game. But what about the versions of Ange that would have resulted in the 1st and 2nd games?
Meanwhile, we see two versions of the bottles, explaining the accounts from 2 different games – game 1 and game 2. Has the bottle from game 3 not been found yet? Or was the note never written because it was the one game in which Maria was killed early?
Also, if the handwriting wasn’t Maria’s, whose could it have been? Beatrice seems like the most likely suspect, considering she was writing in the book before transforming Sakutaro, but it doesn’t make much sense for her to be sending out notes in bottles.
I keep thinking back to Higurashi, trying to think if there are any parallels between the multiple realities in that show, and the multiple realities in this show. But I haven’t come to any conclusions yet. Opening up the mystery to the outside world though has really put an interesting twist on the Rokkenjima murders.
Finally, Beatrice calls Ange back to the game. But before returning, Lambdadelta shows up to troll with Ange, explaining that Bernkastel merely made Ange a pawn in the game. If she wins, Battler returns to her in 1986 not in 1998 (presumably erasing the existence of 1998 and meta-world Anges). But Lambda offers a deal. Play the game forever, so that she can stay with Battler forever.
Zugzwang is a term in chess that basically means "damned if you do and damned if you don’t." Whatever move you make will weaken your position. If Ange decides to "win" the game, current Ange loses herself. If Ange decides to "lose" the game, current Ange gets to play forever with Battler. To be honest, it doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult decision to me. I’d guess it’s not easy to have to erase your current self, no matter how screwed up it is. But considering Ange’s awful childhood, perhaps re-doing her childhood wouldn’t hurt. And the other option of playing the game forever seems like a terrible idea. I hope Ange realizes her goal was to save Battler, not be stuck in a psychotic game with him through eternity (a.k.a. hell).
I don’t know how long this arc was in the VN, but with 6 more episodes it seems like they should be able to take their time… hopefully next episode won’t be as blinding.