This episode used a trope that I haven’t seen in anime before (not that my anime exposure is particularly expansive) and one that rarely see in any other kind of fiction either. In this episode, the events of the previous episode are revisted but from the different perspective. Do you remember the little girl and the young woman who visited Decim at the end of the last episode? If not, you need to rewatch the last episode and wait till after the credits are done for a little bonus scene. It turns out that Decim is a fairly inexperienced arbiter, despite what his stoicism and white hair would lead you to believe, and the young woman has been assigned (and arguably created) to guide Decim through the world of feelings and emotions. There isn’t any real plot advancement (and honestly, it’s little early to even tell what the plot even is) in this episode though there is a fair bit of world-building and character development.
We learn a few things about the other arbiters (turns out they aren’t all bartenders). Nona, pictured above with the nameless Assistant, lives in the remains of a coliseum that has what I think is a greenhouse inside it. This coliseum, I assume, is to her what the Quindecim is to Decim. The fact that Nona knows that the Assistant has no name leads me to believe that Nona created the Assistant to give Decim a hand with emotions and other fuzzy shit. It turns out that Decim’s gruesome collection of corpses behind the liquor cabinet were just mannequins after all, which the Assistant finds quite amusingly creepy. There is also a Quin who works in the Quindecim and I’m looking forward to meeting her.
There is a Buddhist statue at the entrance of the ‘building’ in which the Quindecim is located which makes me think that the concept of reincarnation and death in the void is more like the Buddhist version that I mentioned in my previous post. This doesn’t match up with the way that Decim thinks that he misjudged the pair, though. It seems that Decim did fuck up and sent poor Machiko to ‘hell’ instead of Takashi though, really, it seems that these decisions are somewhat arbitrary to begin with (heh). The reason I say this is that while my own reasoning is line with the Assistant’s, Nona’s point about the fact that Takashi was untrusting is also rather spot on so really it all comes down to whether you think of reincarnation as a blessing or continued suffering. It’s all rather complicated but quite wonderfully thought provoking and it’s certainly one of the things I enjoy about the show. Yet, it feels like the show itself isn’t particularly interested in the question of the results of the judgement but rather about the process of judging in the first place, which is fair enough and equally intriguing. The Assistant seems much more capable of understanding human emotions and she seems to have a better read of the situation than Decim, despite not having the whole bunch of memories that Decim has to give her context. I think the fact that the arbiters are not omniscient beings that can flawless decide good and bad is the best aspect of this show’s premise. It means that you can agree and disagree with a decision without feeling like you’re forced into accepting a certain moral position for or against a certain decision.
We get a fair bit of characterization here as well, though this episode focus mostly on Nona and the Assistant. I’m a little disappointed that Decim isn’t more personable though he seems polite enough but the fact that he acknowledged his mistake and learned from it is an encouraging sign. Nona seems senior to Decim in some way and there’s also the fact that she ‘works’/lives on the 90th floor as supposed to Decim’s 15th. We are introduced to another character I recognize from the OP – Clavis the elevator operator. I wonder if he’s the guy who brings the dead down to the judged?
Anyway, it felt like this episode revealed a great deal about everything but there are still a fair number of mysteries left to solve – why is the Assistant on a three month term? Who is she? What is she? What are the arbiters? If they were ever human, what were their stories? I don’t know if we’ll have time to get through each question in detail but then again, maybe there’ll be a season 2. I’m just glad that this show decided not to go with the formulaic new game per week format but instead decided to pull back the curtain and take us backstage.