In Dies irae Episode 2, “The Claws and Fangs of a Beast,” Ren Fujii and Kasumi Ayase witness a foreign priest, Valeria Trifa, trigger a woman’s stranger-danger response. Rescuing him from the trash, they learn he’s looking for the church where their friend, Rea Himuro, lives with Sister Riza Brenner. After an awkward meal and an even more awkward parting, Fujii has a terrible dream where he sees a woman beheaded. Then he’s pummeled by a sinister character while a friend eggs him on. The friend, Rusalka “Schwägelin, seems all the more evil because of her incessant cheerfulness. Will Fujii survive this? Is his beating even real? And how will he deal with his new classmates — assuming he survives long enough?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What’s In This Post
3 Favorite Moments
- I like foreshadowing, and I even like foreshadowing that’s pretty obvious. When Trifa asks Fujii about where he and Ayase were born (7:22), it’s clear that Fujii misunderstood the intent of the question. Nor does he pick up on the clues that Trifa tried to give him about meeting the dead. The scene created a solid sense of dread of what’s coming for our heroes. I like that in a series!
- For the first time, instead of hearing the characters talk about beheadings, we get to actually see one (10:26). Ordinarily, I don’t like seeing people slaughtered, but putting on my writer’s hat, I think I like the ambiguity the writers sowed here. By that, I mean I’m not sure at this point if Fujii did it or not. I really hope that Fujii doesn’t end up being one of the bad guys despite him seeming to face off against Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (who’s apparently the real bad guy!) in episode 0. Even saying that, I recognize that this tension is intentional, so I’m enjoying it. On a side note, I think the woman killed in this scene (10:35) was the same woman who reacted negatively to Trifa’s request for directions (if that’s what he really asked). I guess it’s hard to be an incidental character in this show!
- What did you think of the fight scene? For me, the motif of super strong evil bad guy (Wilhelm Ehrenburg) attacking the apparent hero (Fujii) in an attempt to draw out the hero’s latent powers is compelling, but not particularly fresh. However, I thought things took a turn for the better (14:38) when Rusalka threatened to kill Fujii’s friends. Fujii tried to attack her, but Wilhelm intervened, and his evil was so overwhelming that Fujii merely touching him seemed to shatter Fujii’s arm. That put me in mind of Tolkien’s Nazgûl, where merely touching their level of pure evil could seriously injure a human. I’ve always thought that a powerful, supernatural malevolent being would be dangerous in that way, so I’m glad to see that idea playing out here.
I’m beginning to wonder if Dies irae has a protagonist. After all, if Fujii’s the one running around beheading people, I’m not sure I’m comfortable rooting for him! Or is this ambiguity intentional, as I’m beginning (maybe hoping!) to suspect?
A side note: Rusalka mentions that Fujii was trying to resist “my nachzehrer.” Turns out nachzehrer is a kind of vampire created post death, typically by someone who committed suicide. Truth be told, I find her to be the most terrifying character so far. Why? Because I think I know how to handle the other baddies. There are patterns to resist pure evil like Reinhard. Same for insane evil like Wilhelm Ehrenburg. But adorable, cheerful little evil vampire schoolgirls? Yeah, this is new territory for me…
I honestly found it refreshing that Fujii’s ultimate dream to protect a life others would consider boring (16:23). He’s not trying to be heroic. He’s not trying to impose his will or even save the planet. He just wants to protect the life he has with his friends. It reminded me of a quote from Sam Gamgee from The Two Towers:
‘…But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually…
Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings (p. 362). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
I don’t know about you, but the hero who’s caught in an “adventure” that he wasn’t looking is far more sympathetic to me than someone who goes out looking for danger. I don’t have anything against those folks; I completely support them living their lives how they want. But I can identify more with someone who’s just trying to live and get drafted into service.
What do you think? Am I giving this show too much credit? Or is there a real subtlety here? Let me know in the comments!