In engineering, a black box is a representation of a device where you know the input and the output, but not necessarily what’s in between. How fitting that a mysterious “hospital” looks like a giant black cube in the middle of a forest…and a fitting metaphor for the show. We know the outcome–heads in boxes, but how are they getting from here to there?
We don’t seem to be any nearer to finding out just what the events of the show thus far have to do with creepy heads in boxes–though we do find out a few important things. Boxes are key to the show, so it seems; the title of show translated is “Box of Demons” and we see the image extended to houses, to even the human heart by the exorcist that comes to visit Yoriko’s home. Somehow, I’m reminded of certain (African, I think) cultures that believed that demons dwelled in corners, and thus houses were built with cylindrical walls; leaving a place enclosed and isolated invites a form of darkness to enter or fester. The contrast with the brief, carefree life that Yorkiko and Kanako enjoyed in episode 1 could not be greater; an enclosed vs. an open life. A haunted or a unburdened existence. That’s why there’s something so ominous about that big black guarded hospital, which isn’t even safe from a kidnapper’s clutches.
The story is told somewhat non-linearly in this episode, and I had to think about where everything was before I could piece it back together. The writers, I suppose, wanted to save the most climactic scene for last, with the disappearance of Kanako. (Before she was shown to Yoriko behind the curtains and surrounded by dozens of wires and machines, I was half expecting to see a precursor to the half-alive state of the head in the box or something else quite monstrous.) All this, of course, adds to the mystery-with-supernatural-elements that the show is weaving together.
One relatively conventional aspect is the strong likelihood of a big conspiracy by Kanako’s family (most likely) to conduct experiments inside that big black box. It probably might even have something to do with the dolls that Yoriko’s mother produces, and now that we suspect that Kanako was pushed by the proverbial Man in Black, the only kind of guess is that they are conspiring to…make heads in boxes? :) I don’t know. For the first time in a while, it’s an anime where I can’t really guess very well what will happen next. My lack of familiarity with Japanese mythology may have a lot to do with it, to be sure, but at least to me, the way this is being put together is quite original and refreshing.
It surprises me little that Madhouse is involved in this production. Their track record has, as of late, been consistently to pick some of the most interesting projects around. They’re also doing Kurozuka this season, and are responsible for some of the best anime films (The Girl Who Leapt Through Tme, Paprika) in recent memory…and it looks like CLAMP, after the success of Code Geass has a secure future in simply being character designers to interesting shows that don’t have to be shoujo. (Though this one is moreso than Geass, but not by much.) I think this one has rocketed to the top of my list for the season, and we’ll see if either ef or Kurozuka will remain close contenders or fall behind for some inexplicable reason. We have a great season this time, folks…