It’s not as though I can point to any single extraordinary element of that episode, but it was one of my favorites so far. Everything flowed and came together seamlessly, the story was interesting, and the humor clicked. I also quite enjoyed the interaction between Maomao and her “father” (I’m starting to develop my own ideas on that). It was smart, well-directed, and looked good (Kursuriya no Hitorigoto has mostly left behind the garishly cartoonish palette of the premiere movie). All in all, I’m very pleased.
Let’s start out with Dad – or “Oyaji” as Maomao calls him. It’s an interesting word, with many possible meanings depending on context. Yes, it can mean “Dad” – but you wouldn’t necessarily expect a 17 year-old small town girl to use it for her father. More commonly it means generically “old man” or “pops”, and I get the vibe that’s how Maomao is using it here. Plus, Oyaji is quite old to be Maomao’s father in this time period, and the way they act doesn’t read as father and daughter. I could be wrong and I still wonder about the suspicion she raised in the premiere, but I think there’s a lot of untold story in this relationship.
What is clear is that Oyaji is whip-smart, and that Maomao takes after him in terms of being a medical detective. Father or not, he’s certainly her mentor – and this ep gives them ample opportunity to assume those roles. Maomao is dragged from her house by a servant girl from a brothel (though not her brothel). There she finds a man and woman unconscious, apparently poisoned, and the man isn’t breathing. She employs her considerable expertise on poison to save them (though she does make one mistake, as it turns out). That includes mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Is it realistic that Maomao would know about CPR, fingerprinting, and allergies in this (still unspecified) time period? I guess until we know exactly when that is I’m not sure, but she’s certainly fun to watch go through her paces. She tells the girl to bring her father, which she takes her sweet time in doing. The obvious explantion here is a double suicide, not an uncommon occurrence in the pleasure quarter. But Maomao – albeit based on conjecture – isn’t thinking that way. The guy doesn’t fit the mold – too well-dressed, too well-off. And it soon becomes obvious that she’s absolutely right.
Again, Oyaji is clearly a genius of deduction as well as medicine – he’s ahead of the still-learning Maomao every step of the way. His way of instruction is not to explain, but to let Maomao figure out for herself with a little push – for example, the error she made in not recognizing that the poison was already dissolved in water and thus administering water to the patients would have helped. When Maomao figures out what really happened you get the feeling Oyaji already knew and had pretty much from the beginning.
Maomao has been faced with this “look the other way” scenario before, and she’s shown she’s not averse to moral relativism when the moment strikes her. She basically allows attempted murder to go unexposed here, which not the first time she’s ignored a criminal act. Growing up in the “garden and cage” of the pleasure quarter has certainly made Maomao hard and practical. And that’s not surprising when her role models are people like Oyaji and Han Megumi’s courtesan Meimei (we’re a long way from Gon Freecs here).
Maomao’s return to the Rear Palace (where a poisoner is still at large, let’s not forget) is quite a humorous turn. Jinshi is extremely petulant about her disappearance, and Maomao seems genuinely puzzled as to why at first. The fact that she went with Lihaku is obviously part of it, and Jinshi is convinced that she still has no idea of the true significance of the hairpins. Was Maomao intentionally trolling him with that explanation of how she “paid” Lihaku, or was it unintentional torture? I read it as the latter, but maybe I’m under-thinking it…