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Episode 8: The Green Phantom

 

Review by Chris Guanche

June 23, 2011

 

Summary

 

A watchman patrolling the countryside at night on a bicycle encounters what he assumes is a demon in the forest. At the SV2 station house, Goto orders Asuma, Noa and Hiromi to check out the construction site for Capital Loop Route 20, which someone is obstructing. Noa asks why only the three of them are being sent, and Goto answers that there's no particular reason, but he doesn't want to leave the station unmanned. Asuma asks why the local police can't handle it themselves, and Goto tells him to just do the job without asking questions. Once they're on the road, Noa comments to Hiromi that he doesn't seem to be his usual self, and he says that he's worried because they're heading to a place called Demon Haunt Village. He then tells her a legend of the village about demons who fell in love with the chief's kind daughter and mourned her loss after she died. Asuma says over the radio that he's surprised to hear Hiromi talk so much, and Hiromi explains that he likes folk tales and legends. Asuma says the legend might be connected to their case and teases them that it might be a curse. After reaching the construction site, they find the weeping supervisor surrounded by wrecked buildings, cars and labors. Asuma wonders if the havoc was caused by someone opposed to the highway construction, and Noa comments that you'd need a labor to cause this level of damage. The supervisor then whispers to Asuma about a curse and the zelkova tree mentioned in the village legend. They have a look at the tree, which the supervisor says is probably 1,000 years old. Legend holds that demons are trapped in the tree, hence why it is called the Demon Haunt tree. He goes on to say that years ago the village chief and a Shinto priest were killed by demons. The tree is in the path of the highway, and he tells Noa that all their problems started when they tried to cut the tree. Asuma asks why they don't just build the road around the tree, and the supervisor answers that if he could have, he'd have done so already. Noa asks what's going to happen to the tree, and the supervisor answers that it's too big for even a labor to transplant. An old woman then appears chanting about demonic curses, and a Housaku labor passes by her with sirens blaring, knocking her over.

 

Noa uses Unit 1 to move a wrecked labor from the crime scene and discovers a labor footprint. Asuma wonders who could've done this, and Noa thinks they must be trying to preserve the sacred tree. Asuma comments that someone must be trying to make it seem like the curse, or maybe it actually is a curse. A fancy Ghamborgini labor then pulls up out of nowhere, and the old man piloting explains that he has an interest in the construction because he sold the land to the government. He warns them to stay away from the tree because it's filled with the souls of demons. He says if they build the road a bit to the south they can avoid the tree, and he's willing to sell the land for cheap, but Asuma responds that he doesn't have any power to negotiate. Later, they head to an inn for the night and Hiromi asks Asuma if he thinks it's really a curse. Asuma answers that whether it's a curse or a ruse, they have a problem to solve. The power then goes out, and Noa picks up two heat signatures while polishing Unit 1's cockpit. Something tries to attack, but she punches it and scares one off. At the same time, Hiromi finds snakes placed outside the inn's entrance. Asuma has an idea, and the next morning they set out to lure out the criminals. The road is blocked by the Housaku and Ghamborgini, and the old man in the Ghamborgini demands that they stop angering the demons. The two labors attack Noa, and the Ghamborgini gras her from behind. She then pulls out her gun, which makes the Housaku pilot surrender. A woman appears in a Midi labor and tells her grandfather that he'll get in trouble with demons. The Midi and Housaku pilots then panic when Noa mentions SV2, because they've heard that Division 2 lays everything to waste wherever it goes. They all give up, and the old man explains that during World War II the village was ordered to turn over half of its gold and silver. He, the chief and the priest decided to hide it in the tree's roots instead, but eventually the other two died. When the old man heard about the construction he tried to move the treasure, but the night watchman saw him and confused him for a demon. The woman then says that she knew all about it and asks if there's a way to save the tree. Asuma then talks to the priest and asks Noa to transplant the tree to the hill behind the shrine. The villagers are pleased, and the old woman comments that the demons are returning to their mountain.

 

Commentary

 

There's nothing particularly special about this episode. We're not even 10 episodes in yet, and here's another "mysterious thing in the forest" story. This time, instead of a monster or a runaway labor, it's several labors using the guise of a curse to stop the destruction of an old tree. We learn that Hiromi has an interest in legends and folk tales, and the depiction of the village's legend as a crudely animated cartoon was amusing. I also enjoyed seeing Asuma toy with Hiromi and Noa about whether or not the village was actually cursed. But other than that, there isn't much that's interesting here.

 

Overall Rating

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2.5 out of 5 stars
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