When Nao finds out Fukunaga lied, her first reaction is that of hurt: Why did he lie to her? (Why the surprise, not like he’s never done it before.) But after the sulk is over, her motherly instinct takes over. There are three of them (Akiyama, Fukunaga, and herself), if they team up, they can easily turn Fukunaga into an Angel.
The only reason Nao doesn’t jumping into the act this very instant is Akiyama’s objection. “Not yet. The time will come,” he warns grimly; then he adds, “anyone making connections now will undoubtedly attract unwanted attention.”
Ignoring fellow competitors’ resentment, Katsuragi makes a proposal. She is extending her friendship to those who desire — Angels and Demons alike — on a limited offer.
Would she really take anyone? The answer is yes. If the newcomer is an Angel, all the better, they will all end up with three Crosses. But if the new member is a Demon, that’s okay too. They will simply turn the Demon into an Angel. Even then, everybody on the team will have at least one Cross.
The offer stands until Katsuragi’s team gets four Crosses across the board.
Once the word is out, chaos erupted. (Think: Asian family on Black Friday.) As everyone scrambles to get to Katsuragi — like she is the 100 million yen itself — Akiyama speaks up, “I can guarantee all of you now, those who go to Katuragi will lose.” The players freeze in mid motion, then one by one, they turn to hear what Akiyama has to say.
“The first one to run over will surely be the demon. Because the Demon has an unfair disadvantage and wants to connect with a Cross bearing Angle more than anyone else.” Since the fear of being mistaken as the Demon outweighs people’s desire to win, no one makes a move. (If you think about it, the fear is irrational. All it takes is one person to step up and connect with Katsuragi, the rest will follow.) In any case, Akiyama successfully forestalls Katsuragi’s chance to win.
“Exposing the Demon doesn’t mean those who choose to follow me will lose.” Katsuragi challenges. “They will lose because I will crush you and your team.” Akiyama replies calmly. As a symbolic gesture, he kicks a bowling ball and knocks down the pin Katsuragi casually placed on another ball earlier.
“Fine.” Katsuragi says, “But in time, they will come back to me. Just watch.”
Even though the remaining eight people stayed with Akiyama, there is no group cohesion — in other words, trusting relationships aren’t being built. Therefore, when the first period ended, not a single connection was made.
Akiyama realizes the problem; so at the start of the second period, he presents his teammates with a little device —
— a rod with two strings attached to it; one long, one short. At the end of each string, dangles a metal bell.
He claims that this device will sniff out the Demons from the Angels in that the Angel bracelet will cause the longer string to move while the Demon bracelet will force the shorter string to sway. The reason is that Angels and Demons’ bracelets transmit signals at different wavelengths. According to Vasilisky circuit, named after a Harvard professor, the two wavelengths will induce movements differently and when applied to objects, exhibit contrasting behaviors. (Okay, that’s the kind of technical fluff, so far fetched, you know up front that he’s bluffing. Curiously enough, all the supposedly brilliant minds who made into the semi-final accepted it at face value.)
To further convince the participants, Akiyama “tests” the device. If more than two people’s bracelets move the longer string then it means two things: 1) these people are Angels (since there are only two Demons) and 2) the longer string verifies Angel status. Then, to show that the shorter string works too, Akiyama sacrifices Fukunaga.
With fear cast aside, Angels start making connections, leaving the only known Demon to pray in a corner.
Katsuragi, however, also makes her first move to undermine Akiyama. She approaches the group and addresses Nao directly. Reminding Nao of the promise to save everyone first, Katsuragi then points out the dissonance of leaving Fukunaga out of the picture. He’s a Demon, why isn’t Nao saving him? Guilt thus instilled, Nao loses her sense of certainty. Too eager to prove herself trustworthy and too soft against Fukunaga’s plea, Nao goes ahead and connects with the Demon despite her better judgment AND Akiyama’s warning. Had she more faith in people’s affinity to trust, she would have pointed out, assertively, that she’s simply deferring the step in question to achieve a higher purpose.
But irony should have it that Nao, in contrast to her trustful nature, didn’t trust Akiyama enough to take his advise. (And the frustrating thing is that she looked to him twice and twice he shook his head no. Yet she still did it.)
Goal achieved, Katsuragi recedes into the background.
With Fukunaga converted, more connections take place. Soon enough, Taninaka Momoko, Tatsuya Kawai, and Akiyama himself, who already have three Crosses, reach the game goal. Even Fukunaga catches up and takes home four Crosses. Nao however, falls short with only two.
At this point, Katsuragi walks in to announce that Akiyama’s device is nothing but a work of fiction. Not only that, Akiyama had teamed up with Fukunaga and Nao to beguile the other players. The participants are furious and no amount of explaining can put together the tarnished trust, which was built on shaky ground in the first place. To add insult to injury, she reminds the Four-Crossers that they have no reason to further their participation, thus reducing the number of Angels willing to make connections.
Then, Katsuragi extends her offer again.
Now, if everyone on Katsuragi’s team ends with four or more Crosses, then it leaves Nao to be the sole loser in the game. And that, is exactly what Katsuragi wants. She knows the only way she’ll ever get to Akiyama is through Nao. Because Nao is so trusting, so simplistic, so… — What’s the word? Ah yes, — naïve, that Akiyama wouldn’t forgive himself if he stood by when bad things happened to her. In a way, it’s him repenting for his inaction in the event of his mother’s suicide.
But Katsuragi miscalculated. Not all four of the remaining people rushed to join her side; Makizono — the single exception — held out.
His reason is simple: Nao’s words touched him. He recounts a personal story where a friend, whose friendship he resisted, ended up saving his life. That friend had said the same thing Nao said, “We’re in this together.” For this reason, he stayed on Akiyama’s team.
Happy that someone stayed, Nao holds out her hand to make the connection (this girl needs to learn a thing or two about impulse control). This time, it’s Fukunaga who stops her, warning her to beware of traps. While Nao hesitates (where is her trust when she needs to show it?!), Akiyama makes the connection instead — a self-sacrificial act that could jeopardize his wining status — and heads to the Room of Judgment to check his status…
This episode is as much about timing as it is about trust. Or rather, the lack of trust. Since I’ve already made plenty of comments about the theme of trust, I will not repeat myself here.
Instead, I’m much more intrigued by Katsuragi’s relationship with Akiyama.
When Akiyama forestalled Katsuragi’s team formation, he didn’t have a plan to crush her. That’s why the first period ended uneventfully. Katsuragi knew this but she tolerated it to see what Akiyama has up his sleeve. She could have called Akiyama’s bluff and formed her team anyway, but it would be over for Akiyama. Again, when Akiyama presented his shady device, Katsuragi could have told the truth right away but she waited and sat a trap for Nao instead.
There could be two explanations. The first being that like Eri and Tanimura Mitsuo (Mr. Creepy Golden-tooth), who, through the course of life have accepted that human actions are driven by greed, fear, and self-interest, Katsuragi also houses the contradicting desire to be proven wrong. So she gives Akiyama chance upon chance to show her otherwise. The second and more probable explanation: Katsuragi is showing Akiyama her version of the world, slowly and painfully.
I sincerely hope it’s the first.