Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever
We’ve finally gotten past the halfway point for this season, and as the show continues it’s journey towards this arc’s big climax, the level of danger these kids have to run through is only increasing. Said danger makes itself readily apparent in this episode as Sister Krone lays her plans bare, and it’s uncertain exactly how much she can be trusted. Needless to say it makes this episode pretty tense experience, but one that doesn’t quite live up to last week’s level of presentation, and feels a little bit of a low point for the anime’s general approach to the material thus far.
Where we last left things, Krone had finally caught the kids talking about their escape plans, and now knows for certain which of them knows the secrets behind Grace Field. However rather than choosing to ship them out right away, Krone offers to make the kids a deal to ally themselves with her in order to take down Isabella. To that end, Krone not only reveals to them her plans to take away Isabella’s mom position, but that she herself is a child from the farms. Girls who score high enough on the daily tests and are recommend by a Mom, can become Moms themselves and Krone believes that becoming a Mom is the only way she can live life properly as a human under this system. While the fact that Krone and Isabella both hail from the farms shouldn’t be too surprising a revelation to the audience (the manga considered this obvious enough, that it made it explicit as early as its second chapter) it is a detail that the anime has opted to remain vague on, so learning it outright is pretty significant to the story going forward. In many ways, it makes the nature of farm system all the more sinister as we now know it’s one that manipulates children who were oppressed by it into becoming the oppressors themselves, something that unfortunately mirrors many real world institutions, and in the case of this show’s criticisms, Japan’s education system.
To that end, it’s fitting that it’s not Norman, but rather Emma, who immediately questions Krone’s sincerity in lending them a hand. Anyone who could grow up under such a system and yet turn around to take advantage of others in the same situation is the type of person who doesn’t really value the lives of others, and it makes sense the overly empathetic Emma would pick up on that issue as she’s someone who frequently concerns herself with the lives and value of other people. Unfortunately the speed at which these particular moments are run through doesn’t quite give them the level of thematic punch I would have preferred, but the intent here comes across well enough, and given that these are points that are pretty vital to the themes of the original manga, I’m glad the anime was relatively straightforward in conveying them.
However while that’s mostly well and good, the anime stumbles a little later on in the episode when Emma and Norman go to have a second talk with Krone and learn what she knows. This scene helps in giving us a little extra exposition as we learn that the farm system has been in place for at least over 30 years (a point that is very significant to the manga’s timeline of events, but one that the anime has decided not to highlight for whatever reason) and that there are humans who exist in equal standing with the demons and live outside the farms. Both are pretty vital clues towards the kids solving the mystery that is the world they currently inhabit, but they aren’t the only ones that learn something new, as Krone deduces from their reactions that the two of them are aware of where the tracking devices are located on their bodies, and that they’re hiding some big secret by choosing to ask her about it in spite of already knowing that information.
While we a lot of good information from this exchange, there’s a pretty notable difference in how this scene was handled compared to it’s manga counterpart. In the manga, this scene was a back and forth battle of wits between the kids and Sister Krone as their thoughts focus on trying to squeeze as much information as they can out of each other, while hiding their actual intentions. As has become the standard for the anime though, it instead attempts to play this scene out from a mostly-horror based angle, and uses various camera angles to portray a sense of foreboding and dread. While this approach has generally worked well enough in a lot of the anime’s other moments, there’s only so much you can really do to add tension to a scene that’s just characters talking about information, and without the shifting internal monologues that helped to make this “battle” fairly entertaining in the manga, it can’t quite escape the grasp of being a basic (if needed) exposition dump and feels kind of limp compared to the rest of the anime’s execution.
Although the makeshift alliance with Krone takes center stage this week, the story makes some advances in a couple of other areas. While Emma and Norman engage with Krone, Isabella receives a mysterious package from headquarters which includes both a camera that Ray requested, and a letter for Krone. The camera is apparently a key component that Ray needs in order to destroy the tracking devices, but Ray also takes a surprising amount of interest in the idea of photography itself and starts snapping pictures of everyone around the house. For a character as jaded as Ray’s been so far, seeing him express enthusiasm about pretty much anything is certainly a sight to behold, and given how this’ll play out in regards to upcoming events, I’m glad the the anime decided to highlight this a little more than the manga did. The letter on the other hand, is a whole other mystery entirely, and one that seems to come with some very unfortunate timing for Krone. Her continued snooping after her conversation with Emma and Norman seems to have led towards her discovering a key weakness that Isabella’s been hiding, but her reaction to the letter suggests she might have bigger things to worry about. This certainly raises the stakes for next week’s episode, and it’s a good thing too, because how things play out there are likely going to determine for me whether or not this adaption has succeeded as a good representation of it’s source material. In the meantime though, what we got here was decent enough and the material was as interesting as always, but it was also probably the first time where I’ve seriously felt like the anime’s adaptional choices resulted in a wholly less engaging experience.