Well, this episode starts out on a bright and sunny morning with Kanata getting ready to head out to town, it’s her first payday and she wants to buy a present to send home to her mother. Kanata is surprised to learn that she’s getting paid in real money, not scrip, to which, Kureha tries to reply “that’s why we have our other job” but Noel grabs her and stops her from talking.
After Rio and the others she Kanata off, Rio chews out Kureha for almost spilling the beans about their other job. Kureha says that no one would really believe that they got paid on time all the way out here, but Filicia says that what makes her Kana-chan. As the other girls walk down to the locked storage area Rio said that neither Noel nor Kureha believed it, so today we forget about our main job.
As we see Kanata wondering around town we see Naomi (the shop keeper, and Rio’s friend) pay a little visit to the fortress telling the girls they have a little problem. Then the scene switches to a building sitting below the shop where it appears that Filicia and the girls are making a deal to sell wine and other beverages to some shady characters in a black market deal. The transaction goes bad and Rio, Noel, and Kureha end up gunning down three guys in a gun fight.
Afterwards, we find out that this was all done as a show to scare off two men that have been hanging around town and snooping around the shop. After the two men run off, the three men that were gunned down get up and are thanked by the girls. They call the girls the Central Area Mafia and they agree to a “you help us and we help you relationship”.
In the confusion, the two “bad” guys’ car was smashed up before they fled so everyone agrees to take the stuff and split the profit. A little while later we find out that the girls are distilling the wine and spirits at the fortress violating the federal monopoly & tax codes and could be court marshaled for treason if caught. Also, we find out from Filicia that the fortress maidens seem to have been doing this for quite a while, and that Rio didn’t object when she arrived at the fortress.
Then we switch scenes and see Yumina trying to get the orphans dressed up and ready for a visit to the church, and she has problems with Mishio who ends up running off alone. A bit later we see Kanata getting pushed into Naomi’s shop’s window where she sees the two guys from later gunfight play. After Naomi speaks with Kanata for a while about the dolphin she likes Naomi tells Kanata that she’ll save the dolphin until she says she doesn’t want it.
While Kanata is walking away, she says she’ll buy everyone a gift before she buys one for herself, and it seems that it’ll be quite a while before Kanata gets her dolphin since she’s got a lot of gifts to buy (mom, dad, grandparents, and even a great-grandmother). Once Kanata reaches the main market she runs into Mishio who who’s looking for a certain box, a box that we’ve seen sitting inside the bad guys’ crushed car.
A little while later, Kanata runs into Yumina who’s looking for Mishio, and we find out that Mishio’s mother died and all their property was taken, and Mishio searches the market hoping to find that family memento. As Kanata is searching for Mishio, she spots her on the roof of Naomi’s shop. As the “firecrackers” begin to go off it startles Mishio causing her to slip, and she ends up hanging from a gutter calling for Yumina. Kanata rushes to the roof and saves Mishio in the nick of time but their struggle causes debris to cascade down crushing the bad guys’ car.
Later, Kanata takes Mishio below and apologizes to Naomi for the car and even offers her paycheck in compensation for the damage. Naomi begins to laugh and tells Kanata to keep her check when Mishio spots “her” box inside the spoils taken from the car.
Inside the church, Yumina tells the priest that no matter how hard she tries to be Mishio’s family she’s not good enough. A few seconds later, Kanata brings Mishio to the church where Yumina sees that Mishio has found her box. Mishio gives the box to Yumina, the box contains hair braiding trinkets, and Mishio tells Yumina that she mother told her to give this to the person the person she’s closest to and have her hair braided by that person.
While this is going on, Kanata and the priest have a conversation about how Mishio’s father joined the army and never came back (KIA?), and how the invisible/phantom killer struck Mishio’s town and her mother became ill by the time she arrived in town then died. Kanata and the priest then talk about how man can live on even though we lose the one’s we love, and how it’s a very sad but brave thing.
Back at the fortress, Kanata sees that Rio has washed her hair and offers to dry it for her. While drying her hair, Kanata and Rio have a discussion about fate, Kanata believes in it, but Rio doesn’t. Rio hates the idea that things are decided or given to you at the beginning but she says it’s possible that something that happens by coincidence can go around and around and change someone’s life in a big way; maybe you can call it fate. Rio falls asleep as she’s talking to Kanata and the charm she’s wearing jingles a D-flat, and Kanata says Rio must have had a good day. Well, that’s all from mafia central.
First of all, I have to say that this was an extremely enjoyable, interesting and enlightening episode. I found it very enjoyable watching Kanata going through the town and its market exploring the wares. I did the very same thing when I was first stationed in Korea; “must get gift to send home to mother (or else)”, and it wasn’t unpleasant watching a cute girl doing cute things (oh-no, I’m falling for Kanata Moe). I also really enjoyed the gangster shootout scene because it was such a contrast to what I had come to expect from the girls, and I never would have thought that the big secret the girls have been keeping from Kanata was that the fortress maidens are bootleggers, quite a nice surprise.
What I found enlightening in this episode was we got another glimpse into the real state of the country and its military in the current post conflict stage. This episode showed us that the military is in quite bad shape because it can’t pay its soldiers on time or with real cash. In the military we had a rule called the three M’s when it came to taking care of the soldiers (meals, mail, and money), meaning that the morale of the soldiers depended on the soldiers receiving those three things. Also, it was quite shocking how poor the room conditions are for the girls at the time keeping fortress, notice that Kanata sleeps on a pretty ratty looking mattress/futon and she doesn’t even have a basic military wall locker to put her uniforms in while she not wearing them. The issuance and use of scrip inside the girls’ home country is quite surprising.
Note: When my father was stationed in Japan in the early 1950’s they were paid in military scrip and they hated it. Scrip is used to control the soldiers’ spending, and is also used to control the local economy. The government authorizes what stores can accept scrip and also basically sets what prices the stores can charge for their services, so if a soldiers wants to spend scrip at a place that doesn’t accept it they can usually spend it there but they’ll be charged a huge markup because that store must then exchange that scrip with a store that can accept the scrip. Stores or businesses that are authorized to take scrip then exchange the script for real currency but the government can put the screws to the businesses by not giving them a full exchange rate if things are fiscally tight or if they just don’t like them.
Also, we found out that Kanata’s basic training was only one month long, and she received no pay for basic training. Well, it seems that any military that can’t afford to pay its soldiers for basic training is pretty poor, and it’ll probably only attract only those who truly want to join the army for some reason (like Kanata wanting to learn music), or those who have no other way of earning a living or have no family. This information seems to line up nicely with the soldiers from the first episode’s surprise when they found out that Kanata was a volunteer. One month of basic training is a very short time indeed since Kanata probably spend one third of that time traveling to and from basic training, filling out paperwork, and getting uniforms and equipment issued to her leaving very little time for real training.
This episode also highlighted how naïve and idealistic Kanata is compared to the rest of the girls. While Kanata doesn’t even wonder why she’s getting paid on time, and in real currency when all the previous stories she’d heard contradicts her experience while Rio confirms that neither Noel nor Kureha would have believed it to be true.
So, the fortress maidens have been bootlegging wine to supplement their incomes for quite a while, and this was confirmed when Rio has a flashback from her childhood of her mother drinking the wine. Soldiers bootlegging and black marketing stuff is as old as the wind, and in times of war and financial stress it’s often overlooked. This doesn’t mean that the higher ups won’t crack down if it gets out of hand it just means that they understand that the military can’t properly care for their force the way it needs to be taken care of. When I was stationed in Korea in the mid 1980’s, I and several of my fellow soldiers did a little black marketing of booze, smokes, and other items to make some extra pocket cash.
While I think this series has been very lighthearted with a few somber moments I think that it’s going to take a dark and more serious turn in the future. I think that the higher ups must be aware to some extent that fortress maidens are doing their bootlegging thing but I think that they believe that there’s some purpose to having those maidens at the fortress, so they tolerate the back dealing. We’ve been given too many hints about past legends, invisible demons, fate, and destiny for this to be red herring. When Kanata and Rio had their little discussion about fate with Kanata saying she believes in the concept and Rio hating the notion we’re entering a pretty well trodden anime path. Many great anime series such as Princess Tutu, and Escaflowne use the conflict between free will and fate/destiny as a major theme, or maybe the writers are going to keep this a military slice of life anime with heavy themes of mono on aware, fooling me, and most other viewers.
It’s quite possible that the creators intend us to just watch and enjoy Kanata and the girls trying to live life to the fullest in a society starting to recover from a devastating war and ecological disaster, life is beautiful, or as the priest comments how man going on in the face of loss is both sad but brave. Well, if that happens I guess I would have fallen for the concept of synchronicity, this is concept that Rio tried to find the words for when she was discussing how seemingly unrelated events could have a large impact on someone in an unforeseen way. But, I’m siding with the idea that Kanata appearance at the fortress is like placing a small stone in just the right spot in a river causing the river to change its course (idea swiped from Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass), so I feel that something big is going to happen, but I don’t know if the girls will find it very pleasant.
For more info on mono no aware see my review of.