SPEC ~ First Blood – Episode 4

The story still flows nicely, while showing (teeny) bits about the Big Plan. Too bad our Dream Team has no idea of what’s happening. Now, what I simply ask is for someone to finally get the memo *wink wink nudge nudge* or else we’ll soon need a substitute.

Song of the Post:

Heavenstamps -「Morning Glow」

Episode 4: 希死念慮の饗宴 (Suicidal Ideation Banquet)

Chief Nonomura greets us in the Mishou office, hanging a「神棚」- Kamidana (Spirit Altar), a miniature Shinto shrine usually present in most Japanese households. As he places the「御札」- Ofuda (Talisman), Sebumi enters and wonders about all that. Sure, they have to take care of lots of bad cases, but then why do you pray for your divorce?

This display of spiritual respect is (literally) destroyed when Toma enters, knocking over the Kamidana with a pole on her way. Even worse, she stomps on the Ofuda when bumping heads with Sebumi, to Chief Nonomura’s great displeasure.

But Miyabi-chan announces new visitors for the Mishou team: old buddy Chief Kondo, Furuto Hisako who’s the Chairman of the Suicidal Survivors Network. She came because her daughter who was supposed to have committed suicide sent her a text message.

What? A mail from the Hereafter? Toma comes running. She snatches Hisako’s phone and reads: “Killed by the Manager. Help me”. Hisako explains that her daughter Michika joined a「自殺サークル」- Jisatsu Saakuru (Suicide Circle) last year, and informed her of her suicidal intentions, but she dismissed it. Since that, Michika’s body has never been found, but three days later Hisako received a box containing her will and belongings.

Hisako takes out said box, and opens it. When Sebumi wonders about why her daughter would join a Suicide Club, Hisako replies that she fell prey to「虐め」- Ijime (Bullying), which is certainly one of the most serious social issues in Japan. Like so many parents, Hisako feels guilty for not helping her child when she could. She first thought that she should give up since her daughter died, but with the lack of a body, she couldn’t bring herself to believe Michika’s death.

Because, as Chief Kondo explains, this Perfect Suicide Circle’s rule is to not leave the corpse to this world. Toma scours the Police database for more info, and confirms that this group is quite legendary. Recruiting people who strongly want to die, only seven are selected and sent to meet at a secret location. Thing is, while they’re all supposed to drink simultaneously poison, one of the cups contains sleep pills instead. So, the one who survives becomes the Manager and has to dispose of the bodies, deliver the belongings and make the preparations for the next meeting. Sheesh, dying has never been so complicated.

But there’s more. If during the process someone tries to escape, (s)he will be executed by the Manager. Maybe that’s what happened with Michika, and can explain her message. Hisako believes she’s not dead, and has found a way to escape. Breaking down, she kneels and bow, begging them to save her daughter. As Chief Nonomura uncomfortably says that he understands her story, Chief Kondo jumps at this chance and cheerily announces to Hisako that the Mishou team will investigate her case. Haha, lesson of the day: beware of polite and hollow words. Don’t blame it on the broken Kamidana, Persimmon Grandpa!

But Toma is here to refocus. Since the Manager is still alive, they can expect a new suicide meeting to happen soon. Hisako volunteers to participate in the investigation, much to the surprise of the Mishou team. Chief Nonomura tries to use the lack of evidence as a mean to keep her away, but in one click Toma does what the Police’s Cyber Team couldn’t: find data on the 7 people who supposedly took part in the previous Perfect Suicide (PS). Among them, the one who didn’t receive his/her belongings would most likely be the Manager. Sebumi shows off a bit, representing the team as he assures Hisako that they’ll carefully investigate. Toma fumes, she wanted to be the one in charge of it, dammit!

And now it’s a petty and hilarious battle between the two of them, to be the first to conduct the case, as they’re going from place to place to collect the belongings sent following the last PS. So far, it’s Toma’s win, just sayin’. God, Japan and packaging. This freaking suicide circle has its own packaging design!

In one of the houses they visit, an old lady tells them that both her husband and her only son followed each other in death. Damn, she was abandoned by the two men in her life. She sums it up herself: “In one year, I’ve lost everything”. Sebumi shows concern, but Toma asks if they can borrow the things left by her son. The old lady goes wild, and grabs Toma, beseeching them to return her son. She bursts into tears and shakes Toma as she implores them, but none of them know how to react properly to this display of raw grief.

Maybe Toma thinks about it later, when she tries to hack the PS website. Reading things like “Wanna die with us?” or “Let’s go to the world of death full of hapiness”, the old lady’s desperate words ring in her ears and leave her irritated. In a nice sequence, the main music theme goes in synch with her repeated failures at hacking, scratching and cutting like a broken record. Finally, Sebumi’s words resound and make her stop: “Do you understand how they feel?”.

Standing behind her, he points out that in the end, nobody can save those who want to die from dying. Toma disagrees. Death is a certainty and people may feel attracted to it, but it isn’t something that invites people. She’s too keenly aware that even right now, people are being lured into committing suicide. For once, she looks genuinely helpless, and she shows a glimpse of her vulnerable side to a confounded Sebumi. Not used to see her this way, he wonders where the usual Toma who would enjoy the fun has gone.

While they’re talking, new messages appear on the PS chat board. We see different people, at different locations, laughing or crying but all sharing the same thought: I want to die.

So far, the Mishou team gathered data on six out of the seven people present in the last PS. So, logic wants that the person left should be the Manager. Chief Kondo tried to call the family but to no avail. That’s okay for Sebumi, they’ll go directly ask them then.

Other place, other people. Chii is teaching kids physics in a「学習塾」- Gakushū juku (Cram school), which must surely be the definition of H.E.L.L for lots of students. Entering the room is Mirei, who works there part-time as a cleaning lady. She waits for him to finish, as she sits and listens to the lesson. When she finally cleans the place, he wonders why she has to work for, and she tells him that she failed at entering Tokyo University of Arts. He offers to treat her, but she’s too busy to deal with a flirt. Ouch, poor puppy, seems like that’s the image you’re giving off.

Later, when she walks through the corridor, Mirei notices a bunch of keys and as soon as she touches it, she gets flooded with flashes of Chii’s daily routine, ending at his usual trip to the Gyoza restaurant. And indeed, here he is, miserably eating a gyoza. He can’t go home without his keys, so he’s staying at the restaurant instead. Gyoza Chef = not happy. Fortunately for him, Mirei enters and gives him his keys. Girl shall be more discreet about her SPEC. Just sayin’.

In a remote town, Sebumi, Toma, Hisako and Chief Kondo visit the presumed Manager (Uematsu Ikuo)’s family. Only, as soon as the father sees them, he asks if they’re here to extort money on his son’s behalf. Thanks to him, our investigation quartet learns that the Manager is alive and keeps asking for money. Three times already, his father received his belongings and will, an other evidence that someone is cheating death in the PS world. Hisako asks to see the belongings, and the father brings them to the warehouse. But nothing can open the old wooden door, and Sebumi steps forward, ready to flaunt his strength. So it’s all the more funny when he frantically struggles to open that damn door, while Toma supremely enjoys the show.

Pissed (and his alpha male ego sorely bruised), he tells her to try then. Conjuring the “Hando Powaa”, she simply takes the door lock and it comes in her hand. Sebumi: 0 – Toma’s Hando Powaa: 1.

Back at the Mishou HQ, everyone wonders about what to do next when Hisako shows signs of nervousness. She notices that every item they gathered is damaged, and of course, Toma noted that as well. Hisako shares her thought: she doesn’t think that the Manager becomes the only survivor by chance. She believes he forms the suicide circle in order to kill people, because he enjoys it, but as Sebumi notes, a suicide circle wouldn’t be the right stage to satisfy his homicidal instincts.

The damaged items are just so many evidences that people may have fought with the Manager, and only Uematsu Ikuo’s things aren’t broken. Hmm.

The next day, Chief Nonomura hurries to tell Toma that the cyber team informed them that the PS website received a new applicant. Toma munches her croquette, not surprised in the least. Why, because she’s the one who applied! That way, it’ll be way easier to be contacted by the Manager instead of investigating to find him. Persimmon Grandpa is totally at a loss with her logic. Hey, this is Generation Y: just sit and let technology works for you.

Miyabi-chan enters (and I finally understand that Chief Nonomura doesn’t do weird gymnastics but swiftly takes off his ring! snort), with Hisako and Chief Kondo in tow. Hisako had the same idea as Toma, and registered as well. Mom is on the warpath, and really wants to confront the Manager, to save her daughter. But Sebumi comes with bad news: apparently, Uematsu has a past as a mercenary assassin on top of being a skilled computer specialist. Pffft, what are the odds of this happening in real life?

But there’s more: he was fired from his assassin job, which means that he must have done something really horrible (I mean, worse than killing people between your lunch and your yoga lesson). Chief Nonomura freaks out, and prefers to not have women to act as moles. Tch, we know that YOU’re the only wimp here. But if it’s only that, it’s fine by Toma since she also registered Sebumi and Chief Kondo. Argh, what about Chief Kondo’s poetry lesson?

Later at night, in the Gyoza restaurant, Chii can’t believe Toma’s boldness. He worries so much that Toma has to remind him that it’s precisely why they broke up. But Chii’s version is different: SHE was the one who stopped contacting him, and came back with an injured arm. Hm, interesting.

Toma tells him that he may not believe it, but even in such a peaceful Japan, risking her life and getting hurt is a part of her job. Truth is things would never work between a student and a cop, got that kid? YaY for girls who don’t let boys tell them what to do.

A phone rings, and Toma takes out all the models she’s got (including a banana), and gets to read the message sent by the PS Manager. She’s been selected!

Our suicide quartet head to the meeting place, in the countryside, when Toma notices a motorcycle stopping near them. She’s fond of motorcycles, and brags that she rode a vintage Balkan motorcycle back in the days. Tough cookie, aren’t ya?

The two drivers follow them, and Sebumi walks up to ask if they’re also here for the PS. It’s the case, so they’re 6 people. The last person being the Manager, of course.

After walking for a bit, they find a big chalet and enter it. A hooded person in a wheelchair comes up, and welcomes them. He introduces himself as the Manager, and announces that they’ll all leave this world beautifully. The two people who really came to die applause. Ha.

The Manager asks them to take out their will and belongings, and to write themselves the delivery voucher. They all comply, and now’s the time to drink their last shot. He informs them that the one who’ll awake from the medication-induced sleep will become the new Manager, and will have to take care of everything. When they’re about to pick up their glasses, Hisako stands up. Did things happen this way last year? Yes, replies the Manager. Did anybody change their mind? No, nobody did.

Hisako can’t believe it and lunges at him saying that he killed everyone off. But as soon as she grabs him, the whole body falls apart, and a doll head tumbles. Doll heads can be freaking scary, if you ask me.

A strange rain suddenly pours on them, and one of the drivers screams that it’s oil (which brings me bad memories). He and his friend run out, scared that next there’ll be a fire, leaving our quartet behind. Some drops get into Hisako’s eyes, and she can’t see a thing so Sebumi takes her on his back to get out.

Outside, Chief Kondo is fighting with someone dressed as a soldier who knocks him out, and jumps on a dirt bike to escape. Sebumi tries to shoot at him but it’s useless, so he runs after him, followed by Toma. Few meters later, both hear a crash and an explosion sound. They rush to the scene and watch from above a cliff the dirt bike on fire, and the lifeless body of the Manager. For Sebumi it’s a suicide, but something feels off for Toma.

She seems to have a flash later, when she does her calligraphy ceremonial. Yep, now she gets it, be prepared!

Inside the Tokyo Police Department, Hisako asks the Baba team about the Manager. Turns out he died in his motorcycle accident, and they’re still working out his real identity. This is when Toma knocks, wanting Hisako to come with her.

In the Mishou office, both have a little chat, and Hisako recalls the events and how they were fortunate enough to escape the Manager’s bloodlust. She wanted him to finished in jail, and his suicide came as a bummer. Toma tsk-tsks her: it wasn’t a suicide. She noticed some marks on the brakes, and the tires slipped on the ground, leaving rubber marks on it. Hisako closes that as an accident but Toma counters again: it was a murder.

She has evidence: she’s found the motorcycle’s both levers down the road. Hisako wonders who would do that. Hmm, sorry to say, but your very own presence with Toma, this late in the game pretty much points at YOU.

Toma asks if she ever rode a bike, and she says that she does. So she knows that when you apply the brakes, you need both hands to pull the levers. The thing is, with bigger motorcycles that aren’t automatic, you need to brake using your right hand and foot, the left side being a clutch, used when switching gears. And guess who’s the only one who didn’t know that? Toma says it loud and clear: Hisako is the one who killed the Manager.

First, everyone in their suicide circle knew that breaking the left lever would have been useless. Hisako counters that she always stayed with the Mishou team, so Toma  pulls out her joker: she simply broke the levers using telekinesis. Hisako laughs it off but while Toma agrees that it sounds stupid, it does fit with the evidence. Demonstration Time!

All the belongings they collected are damaged but Uematsu’s. At first, they thought it was due to the victims fighting back the Manager, but now Toma believes that it was Hisako who did it when they visited each family. Toma shows the lock she broke thanks to the Hando Powaa. Well, finally there weren’t any Hando Powaa: Toma thought it was because of Sebumi’s strength, but the way the metal broke is odd. Usually, it wouldn’t bent this way, and would let a clear indent to see. The belongings and even the levers show similar marks.

Hisako massages her head, not understanding what Toma says, which makes the latter scoff at how it’s always hard to reveal SPECs when they’re faking ignorance.

One thing is clear though: all the evidence they have are fabricated, and there wasn’t any killer in the PS Hisako’s daughter participated in. It wasn’t needed, as they all genuinely wanted to die.

Hisako angrily refutes that: there was a killer who murdered her daughter and tried to kill them too. Toma smiles, and notes that Hisako spoke as if her daughter was dead. But then, who would have sent her the text message? So, it was her, right? Thinking that her daughter had committed suicide was too much to bear, so she set up the whole scenario of Michika not wanting to die and a killer in the suicide circle taking pleasure in murdering those who still had this desire to live.

Hisako shakes her head. No, it isn’t her delusion, look he even poured gas on them! Except that it wasn’t gasoline. Toma has enough experience in the matter, and can tell that this oil was flame retardant. The Manager’s goal wasn’t to kill them but to intimidate them and make them go.

This totally clashes with Hisako’s beliefs and she’s even more shaken when Toma reveals that the Manager she killed was…her daughter. Oy, wait a minute. Wuut?

Sebumi appears from behind, and presents her a picture of the corpse found down the cliff as Michika’s body. Not even looking at it, Hisako stands stunned and suddenly lights flicker on and off. As if trying to escape reality, she shuts her eyes and moves back, screaming, while the picture hold by Sebumi gets chopped to pieces in his hand.

He takes out Michika’s will, and steps forward to give it to Hisako when she shouts for him to shut up. Her voice totally deformed, her hair flying in her blind rage, she makes every light explode.

Toma understands her feelings, but Justice has to be done. Even more angry, Hisako sends Toma flying in the air, and do the same with the gun Sebumi tries to level at her.

Resentful, she bitterly says that the police should have properly done the investigation, and not let people involved in the PS unchecked. More than her, it’s rather the police forces who should atone for their sins! Sebumi shuts her up and tells her not to blame others when she’s the one feeling guilty for not understanding her daughter’s feelings. At least now she knows that she’s the real killer of her daughter. Oof, that hurts.

She whispers that they don’t understand the feelings of a parent, and Sebumi tells her she’s under arrest. Uh oh. Not the brightest thing to say to a pissed SPEC. Having nothing to lose, Hisako has only one idea in mind now: Kill!

Going wild, her whole body emetting an aura of energy, she yells that she’ll kill them all. Everything explodes around them, as glass shatters into hundreds of pieces. Hiding under a desk, Sebumi spots a power-strip and cuts it with his knife. Electricity sparkles and cracks, and I’m left wondering if I’m the only one thinking that it’s mighty dangerous.

Elsewhere, in the Police’s Hospital waiting room, a nurses comes to call a woman and her daughter. The girl is being examined by Dr. Unno, and while nothing big happens, I’m still wary of him so maybe it’ll have its importance later. What’s interesting is when the nurse calls the other patient, and can’t decipher the name: 「一 十一」which is pretty tricky since it looks like「1+1」but sounds like “Ninomae Juichi”. Yes, it’s him.

In the Mishou office, Toma tries to avoid the thousands of glass pieces coming at her when they all tumble. She looks up, and sees Hisako being electrocuted by the stripped wire Sebumi has sticked into her flesh. She falls down, knocked out, when a squad of men in black barge in. Sebumi hasn’t even the time to ask who they are that he’s punched in the gut and left prone, while Toma gets tased.

They didn’t come for them though, but for Hisako, and they take her away. We get to see the face of the brain behind this operation: say hello to Creepy Cap Man.

Impressions:

I know I’ve said it before, but Tomaaaaa! Cover your ass, woman! Damn, she makes my blood boil. I know other SPECs tried to kill her before, but this time felt kinda different. Maybe because we were dealing with a mom going all wild and blind with rage and guilt, it really seemed like she was going to destroy both Sebumi and Toma, Terminator-style. The way they were flying like toys added more to that, I guess.

Okay, so now we have a clear move coming from Creepy Cap Man. Until now, he pretty much stayed in his hidden realm (read: shadows), but this time he openly thwarted the Mishou team. And to balance that, no move from Emo Ninomae. Hmm, though him visiting Dr. Unno surely isn’t a coincidence. The plot thickens, and it should since we’re almost halfway.

Among other things, what I love about this drama is how it tackles sensitive issues, and smoothly weaves it into the story. Death penalty, abuse of power, suicide…At first glance, this drama might seem to be the usual J-dorama WTFuckery, but really it has a lot more to say than just goofing around (which it also does, and I enjoy it). Already Episode 4, and I’m feeling confident for what’s coming next. I have faith in you, Drama, don’t fail me!

NAMInoYUKUSAKI for SPEC【丁】

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3 thoughts on “SPEC ~ First Blood – Episode 4

  1. Thx for your new recap, i have been waiting for it and really enjoyed it again 😀
    Even though this episode deals with a very serious topic its one of my favourite episodes of the whole season. Probably because i like how Toma and Sebumi quarrel about whos taking the case etc its so funny and the way Toma acts in this episode is so cute XD awww~ Could watch it over and over again ^^

    • kyaah, お待たせしました! I’m sorry for taking so much time >_<
      Thank you for your support, remi!
      Yes, the more we move in the story, the darker it gets, so let's enjoy the cute and fun times!
      Toma is so cute I'm at a loss when I have to chose pictures….XDD

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