Hello everyone, it’s time for yet another weekly edition of the Great Grace Field Escape. Last time things slowed down a bit as the show opted to put most of it’s focus towards making the audience guess who the big snitch was, but with that out of the way, we’re back into some fairly hefty material again. There’s quite a bit to talk about here as our resident traitor lays his full intentions bare, but as always I’ve found my attention equally divided between the weight of the story, and the choices the anime has made in adapting it. This time around though, not only have the anime’s choices made the execution feel a bit different compared to its source material, but has also made the show’s immediate trajectory hard to guess, even as a diehard fan of said source material
Before we get to that though, let’s talk about our good boy, Ray, who’s been outed as the traitor in question. Though he attempts to deny Norman’s claims, when he realizes that fell into the trap Norman set for him, he decides to confess the truth: Not only has he been working for Isabella since he was brought on board for the escape plan, but he’s been her loyal sheepdog for years. Despite the implications of this revelation however, Norman decides to continue trusting Ray since much like Emma said last week, he’s still part of their family. He instead deduces that Ray has actually been operating as a double agent to help with the escape and while there is some truth to that, Ray’s actual intentions prove to be a bit more complicated. He is indeed a double agent, and he’s perfectly willing to lead Emma and Norman to safety, but tells Norman that he’ll only continue helping under the condition that Emma is tricked into leaving the others behind sans Don and Gilda. Norman decides to play along with Ray’s wishes for the time being, and lets Emma know Ray is a double agent without tipping her off to his his game, but the burden of knowing that it’s up to him to shield the others from both Isabella AND Ray is one that may be too much for him.
Once again, I really have to praise the way this series has executed on its character dynamics thus far. In a similar setup, I could have easily scene Ray’s traitor status being hidden for as long as possible to maintain suspense, but we’ve gotten that out of the way pretty early and the focus here is less on the act of his betrayal and more about what’s driving it, which does a lot in helping to make the execution here feel more thoughtful than usual genre conventions would suggest. We’ve known from the last few episodes that Ray is by far the most pragmatic of the trio, but the knowledge that he’s been helping Isabella for years carries some pretty nasty implications, and seeing Emma briefly call him out on having shipped out other kids for the sake of his own information-gathering was equal parts surprising, (especially given her general level of optimism) and chilling to watch as she makes it explicitly clear that she’s not tolerating any other sacrifices going forward. Of course, while he may not be willing to throw Emma and Norman under the bus at the moment, Ray is still operating purely on his own agenda, and seeing the intentions of our core trio continuing to diverge with each episode is really doing a lot to make this conflict feel increasingly fascinating.
Great as this material is though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the execution to be a little lacking for me compared to how this sequence of events was handled in the manga. While the show’s direction is strong enough to effectively convey all of the necessary information that Ray’s betrayal carries, the anime’s choice to keep the audience directly out of the headspace of the characters, robs it of some its emotional punch while also making things a little more convoluted than necessary. For instance in the manga, Ray telling Norman that he needed to trick Emma was followed up by Norman directly thinking to himself that he was against the idea and had no intention of following that demand, but also couldn’t ignore the value in making use of Ray’s position. While the scene is still handled well enough in the anime for the audience to likely deduce Norman’s viewpoint anyway, that bit of extra ambiguity concerning it makes the last part of that scene a little sloppier than it could have been, and makes Norman’s following nightmare sequence feel more like a general fear of the kids’ situation than a visual representation of the internal conflict he now finds himself in. Additionally, the episode opts to remove a couple of flashbacks to Ray’s childhood during his and Norman’s conversation, which were helpful in conveying an idea of how long Ray has carried the knowledge of the orphanage’s secret with him and how much it means to him that his plan succeeds. What we get here works fine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those flashbacks were being saved for later episodes, but I do kind of wish the anime would be a little more flexible on its current horror aesthetic since there are times where it feels like it comes at the cost of the story’s emotional core.
This has been quite a fair bit of nitpicking for me, and we haven’t even gotten to the episode’s cliffhanger yet. After having seemingly put aside the issue of Ray’s allegiance for the moment, Emma tells the others that she and Gilda have discovered a secret room in the house that may be where Isabella keeps in contact with the demons. Don wants to investigate the room, and see what’s inside, but Ray believes it’s a bad idea since there’s no telling what kind of surveillance could be hidden inside it. Despite that warning, Don and Gilda go to check out the room anyway, but now face the possibility of being caught in the act. It’s an effective cliffhanger, but it’s one that has me a little baffled as a manga reader. This scene happened a little later in the manga than it did here, and also played out a bit differently than what the episode’s shown thus far, so I’m genuinely uncertain what exactly is peeking beyond that door for Don and Gilda. Both this series and this adaption have continued to be chock full of surprises, and while I continue to be overly neurotic about the latter, I’m more intrigued than ever for what exactly lies in the future.