Anime Orbit is an irregular column where I summarize a stop along my journey through anime, manga, and the related spheres of popular culture over the past week. Expect spoilers for covered material, where relevant.
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Since we last spoke about Lycoris Recoil, the series has undergone a radical shift in scale and focus. We saw the opening moves of this maneuver back in episode 7, but by now the show has mostly disregarded any direct “nitty gritty” political engagement. There are two things LycoReco cares about right now: mapping out the long arc of Chisato’s short life, and broad, philosophical questions of destiny and free will. Even though the show’s actual setting and characters have not changed much, we’re still a very long way from the montage of high schoolers capping people from the premiere.
We’ve known for a while that Chisato has an artificial heart, some future-tech thing that doesn’t actually beat, and which is essentially irreplaceable. So it wasn’t that surprising when, a few weeks ago, a minor villain posing as a nurse injected our protagonist with some knock-out serum or another and performed some impromptu surgery. The result was hardware lockout; no one can tinker with Chisato’s heart anymore, and that includes recharging it.
She has two months left to live.
Chisato’s life has the ring of true tragedy. Raised as a child soldier but addled with an incurable heart disease, she was singled out by the mysterious Shinji Yoshimatsu as a “genius” of killing, the primary skill of all Lycorii, and given her artificial heart with the understanding that she would use this gift to become an even deadlier assassin. Even with this in mind, we learn, it was doubtful she’d live past 18. Of course, for the purposes of being a deadly teenage supercop, that’s perfectly fine; Lycorii are discharged at 18 anyway.
The entire universe of Lycoris Recoil is aligned against Chisato; the “nurse” who’s pulled the plug on her heart is one of Yoshimatsu’s people, an obvious attempt to gain leverage on her to get her to return to her alleged true calling as an assassin, her former superior at the DA is not much better, giving her back a camera she’d confiscated some time ago to try to nudge her back into DA service. And of course, there’s her heart problems themselves, a natural ailment that the artificial heart has provided only a temporary reprieve from.
Chisato rarely shows any direct concern over any of this, and frankly she’s remarkably unflappable in the face of her imminent demise, but that’s precisely part of what makes her character arc so effective. Fearing death, at least a little bit, is normal. Staring unblinking into its face as you know it’s creeping ever closer, that’s another thing entirely. The ability to do that only comes from having spent the better part of your life in a seriously bad place. Even with all she very obviously cares for—Takina, the cafe’, Mika, etc.—she seems to have accepted this as inevitable from day one. It’s heartbreaking.
Yet, when, in episode 10 (the most recent), she finds out who exactly is responsible for all of that hardship, she holds no ill will toward him at all. She’s not really even mad at Mika for keeping this secret from her this entire time! Instead, she reiterates that she sees the two of them as her fathers, and when, in the episode’s final minutes, we learn that Shinji’s being held hostage by Majima and Robota, she doesn’t hesitate to spend a day of her rapidly-shrinking lifespan trying to rescue him. (The actual hostage rescue itself being territory for next week, we must assume.)
Chisato is, at the end of the day, an incredibly strong character. Not just strong in the usual anime sense, and not just strong as in “well-written,” but possessing of a vast moral strength, too. It’s hard to know whether to take her insistence that she hear all of the terrible things Shinji’s said about her in person as an incredible capacity for forgiveness, a denial that she’s been lied to at all, or both. But all signs point to her being very much aware of her own mortality, her ability to do all of this in spite of that awareness is both admirable and more than a little terrifying. Hers is a blitheness that hides a deep pain, something we really don’t get to actually see for ourselves directly.
While this is very much Chisato’s show, it’d be a mistake to not mention that the rest of Lycoris Recoil‘s cast has continued to be great, too. Mika’s deep and very much justified regret over his role in concealing the truth from Chisato rounds out his character in an excellent way.
Takina, in the meantime, has had to deal with the impending loss of her best friend (or “best friend.” I leave that distinction up to you, shippers), perhaps the first person she’s ever truly connected to, while also, in a twist of dramatic irony, being given exactly what she initially wanted; a trip back to the DA. She and Chisato are apart for episode 10, which while sad, does give her a few moments to truly shine on her own, and her single-minded focus on trying to somehow help Chisato is very grounded and relatable, despite the fantastical stakes. (This could also be said of Mika, actually. I am sure there is at least one father watching this show who absolutely cried his eyes out this past episode.)
The only real weak spot is Majima, who’s taken the main villain role in this last arc of the show. As a cartoonish caricature of an anarchist in a world built on some already-iffy foundational principles, he is probably the only genuine weak link in Lycoris Recoil‘s character roster and embodies most of the show’s remaining shortcomings. Still, he’s at least entertaining at this point, with his utterly ludicrous plot of “hide a thousand guns all over Tokyo and let carnage ensue naturally from there” being, all at once, a decent piece of commentary, comically stupid on its face, and weirdly lazy, as far as big endgame villain schemes go. But at this point, that’s expected of LycoReco, a show that is built on contradictions top to bottom.
The plot itself has taken an all-action movie tropes twist—again—as we ride into the final few weeks. A dying Chisato prepares to rescue Shinji while Takina and the other DA Lycorii try to deal with Majima running circles around them. Much is up in the air, and it’s impossible to exactly call where it all will land.
For any flaws it could be said to have, there is absolutely no denying that, as Lycoris Recoil nears its end, it remains an absolutely fascinating show, forever pulling in all directions and only recently settling into a groove that seems to truly suit it. (No one would call the show’s early episodes bad, I don’t think, but things have definitely improved.) The last bullets are in the chamber; gun cocked, but not fired.
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