Lt. Col. Hirokawa departs a building at the Ichigaya Garrison, staring at a pine tree, calling it the “Shrine of the Threshold.” Yushiro and Miharu walk through the woods, heading towards a hill. Within the city, Kazukiyo passes a rally in his car decrying illegal immigration. He shortly arrives at Nishida’s home, where Hirokawa introduces him to Major Shibasaki and Captain Okawa. The five sit down to talk. Hirokawa says that taking over the nation militarily will not be hard, but capturing the hearts of the people about subjects such as nature, land and history rather than money will be difficult. Hirokawa talks about the pine tree at the Garrison, the “Shrine of the Threshold.” He asks Kazukiyo if he knows where that name came from. Kazukiyo says he does not know. Hirokawa talks about how over time the tree become hollow and fell, and how the men of the Garrison planted a new tree that surpassed the beauty of the original one. Kazukiyo asks if he means the hollow trunk represents the current Japanese nation, which is close to collapsing. Nishida says the tree grew as part of the land around it, and that life forms that reject their land are doomed. Kazukiyo fears what other nations will feel about xenophobic intolerance on the part of Japan. Nishida says that when in power, they won’t shut themselves off from other nations, and will leave their ports and gates open, but will remove the ‘sweet honey’ that compels others to come to Japan. Nishida asks what people gained from a 20th century where everything was driven by greed. He says the current Japanese people live in a world full of wealth but have lost the ability to be alert to looming dangers. He claims the dream of prosperity that draws immigrants to Japan is nothing more than an illusion, and that no one is attempting to resolve this issue. Kazukiyo wonders if anyone can shackle their own desires. The Major and Captain believe that is possible, and that terror will drive men to action. Nishida agrees that much of Japan’s history has been driven by negative emotions. He references the Kugutsu, a group of people who once had great power in the creation and consolidation of the Japanese nation. He references them being hidden within the shadows of history. He mentions the ceremony of Gasaraki, which takes the life of the Kugutsu but leaves behind power in exchange, the Kugai, which the Kugutsu are granted to use. Kazukiyo is visibly upset when Nishida brings this up, but remains silent. Nishida references the massacres that occurred as a result, that were lost with the passage of time. Nishida claims the Kugutsu were also known as the Kai. Nishida says that the Kai slaughtered themselves, but some believe that they cast aside their powers and remain to this day. He would like to believe that the latter is true. Nishida says that the etymology for Kugai comes from the Chinese characters of bone and disorder, and that Kugais are empty vessels which must take a Kai within themselves.
Yushiro and Miharu sit in the woods. Yushiro tends a fire while Miharu lies down next to him. Yushiro thinks back to their first meeting in the Akura Church. Miharu says what she witnessed at the storehouse was a Kugai. Yushiro says he thought she knew of them before. She says she did, but wonders how that could be. Yushiro wonders if they are simply tools. Miharu tells Yushiro that Symbol considers their Fakes a step towards reaching the goal of “Nada”, which means absolute nothingness. Symbol’s goal was to use the Fakes to summon the Nada. Yushiro thinks it is the Gasaraki, but can’t say anymore. Meanwhile, at the Gowa Research Facility, Yonetani talks to Kiyotsugu about using an artificial intelligence external module for the TAs, one with four billion years with of memory. He believes it is possible due to Mile One and Yushiro. He claims a Symbol researcher originally came up with the idea. The JSSDF pilots and technicians review data from the berserk Sat pilot and Yushiro’s TA, finding it to be weaker than that from the Fake pilot that they encountered in Belgistan. Hayakawa believes that Gowa and Hirokawa are going ahead with a project independent from the official JSSDF project. Misuzu, who has been forbidden by Kazukiyo from leaving their house, visits her father. He tells her he is no longer master of the house. Sorachi visits Kazukiyo and asks him about Yushiro and why he would want to cover for him when he aided him before in Kinashi. Kazukiyo also asks Sorachi if he is familiar with Nishida, and after hearing him bring up the Kugutsu wonders who and what he is. Daizaburo tells Misuzu that the one with the most power leads the Gowa household. Sorachi thinks that Nishida may have researched the Gowa family’s history, but Kazukiyo asks how he could know about the Gasaraki ceremony. Sorachi doesn’t think they’d be able to deceive or bait Nishida. Yushiro and Miharu continue to head through the woods during the nighttime. Miharu says she pilots the Fake because of the numerous voices she hears. Sorachi visits Misuzu at the weather wheel. She says she is afraid for Yushiro and wonders where he is. Sorachi says Kazukiyo asked him the same and that he does not know where he is for sure. He thinks Yushiro is likely heading to Kyoto using the path of the Kai, a secret path known to the Kugutsu. Sorachi says Misuzu is old enough to know the truth about Yushiro. She claims the Yushiro she knew when she was very young is not the same as the one she knows now. Sorachi admits that the real Yushiro died 8 years ago and that his body rests in the storehouse. The current Yushiro is a replacement whose memories where replaced with that of the original Yushiro. In the woods, Yushiro and Miharu come upon a wooden gate.
To some this episode may be as frustrating as any episode in the series, featuring no action whatsoever, simply characters talking to one another. The Yushiro – Miharu storyline doesn’t appear to go far, although it will do so in the next episode. We once again spend a large segment of an episode featuring Nishida, Hirokawa and Kazukiyo talking to each other about Japan, something that we’ll continue to get even more of as the series goes on. That said, if you can get by the manner in which they present it, the episode does start to put things together. Kugutsu was an old clan which using the ceremony of Gasaraki summoned the Kugai, which are piloted by the Kugutsu, who are also known as the Kai. They vanished from society, going into the shadows, but are around today as the Gowa family. We also get some revelations regarding Symbol’s goal of summoning “Nada” (which, at least at this point appears to be the same thing as Gasaraki) and that the Yushiro of the present day is a replacement with only the memories of the original Yushiro. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that for all the revelations the episode gives, it takes a couple of viewings (and arguably a viewing of later episodes as well) to sufficiently understand it all, which is the show’s biggest flaw. That said, at this point I think such an episode was sorely needed and it does fill a valuable role once you can understand it!