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Annotated Anime: Mekakucity Actors 4

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"Screw you, cat."

Words like "fate" or "destiny" are often associated with victory and love, but it can also be a horrific concept. It's not only the most confusingly presented episode of Mekakucity Actors, it seems to be going straight for Shaft's "Most Abstract Presentation" award.

The episode seems to start out normal enough, as it picks up the dropped string from episode two, when Momo and her young bratty acquaintance, Hibiya, get separated in the mob chase. Never catching up to Momo, he ends up getting what he came to the city for: a keyring with a cartoon mascot figure, a present he hopes will please his schoolmate crush, Hiyori Asahina.

Immediately following shows Asahina coldly rejecting his present at her uncle's house, a place both of them lied to stay at for a small vacation. We see the disparity and how one-sided the attraction is in the way she treats Hibiya like a lackey, sending him on errands and insulting him whenever she finds the opportunity. One has to wonder why Asahina invited Hibiya if she didn't enjoy his company, but it can easily be answered by her archetype as a tsundere.

She brings Hibiya to stay at her uncle's place in the city, a house he barely lives in, making it practically an empty house for the two to crash in. They do however find one occupant living there: her uncle's supposed foster son. A soft-spoken, tall young man with white hair named Konoha, who has a bottomless stomach, and quickly becomes the subject of Asahina's affections, to Hibiya's continual dismay. Feeling the mounting pressure to confess his feelings to Asahina, Hibiya falls asleep, hoping for his luck to change around. Things couldn't be more wrong.

The episode takes an abrupt left turn from the moment Hibiya wakes up the next day, taking the audience through a austere sequence of what can only be described as a mix of David Lynch, End of Evangelion, and Bill Murray's Groundhog Day. After failing to save Asahina from a terrible automobile death, he wakes up, reliving the same day over and over again.

Each time he tries to save her using different methods, but it seems that death is inescapable, resulting in Asahina's death every time. Discordant guitar notes with the morse code rapping of electronic noise makes up the sparse sountrack, while the visuals also take a turn for the surreal, creating a properly hellish dream-scape made up of flat concrete, twisted wires, and harsh color. After realizing what he must do, he and Asahina trade places, throwing himself in front of the oncoming truck, and appearing to thwart fate's plan.

I did a bit of homework with this episode, watching the original music video that this story was drawing from called 'Heat Haze Daze', of which the episode is also named. Watching it through this medium, I could start to understand where some of the very vocal complaints were coming from. The story is delivered well in the music video, completely told through the lyrics, describing the events in a very straight-forward manner with a very frenetic pace, making it a thrilling and emotional experience packed into four minutes.

When having to create context for the story and delivering on the main narrative in a full length episode, it loses that kind of frantic energy, which can disappoint fans of the original work, especially when they're subjected to Shaft's abstract visual storytelling, the very opposite of the music videos.

While I believe it could have been presented better in the anime, I still found myself entranced with the episode, watching it multiple times to make sense of deliberate visuals that were shown during the latter half.

This could very well be the most contentiously debated episode as 'Heat Haze Daze' is among the most beloved works from the Kagerou Project, making this episode the hotbed of criticisms and praise from both sides. I find myself in the middle, as I still think there is plenty to like here for those who are only watching the anime.

I enjoyed this hypnotic trip, and understand why they had to make the certain story changes they did -- though there is such a thing as being too subtle and obscure. It seems like there's still quite a bit more to be explained as far as what happened and why, and I hope the extremely abrupt cliffhanger ending is followed quickly by a satisfactory resolution.

[Watch Mekakucity Actors on Crunchyroll, and read the previous episodes' impressions here!]

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Dae Lee
Dae LeeContributor   gamer profile

I can't stop watching anime, listening to idol music, and playing video games. It's a wonder I'm still alive. Do the twitter thing @NewSchoolDae more + disclosures


 


 


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