Episode 4: Labyrinth of Mirrors – The Flame of Death!!

Chapters adapted:  Volume 2, Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17


Last time we left off in Flame of Recca, our hero, Recca, was nearly sliced into pieces in the middle of the park by an angry teenager but was saved because his girlfriend who was able to hear his voice from across town. It was quite the mess of an episode. It also ended in mid-scene, so we need to dive right in here just like the anime does.

And with that, let’s get started.

Mikagami has finished dicing up Recca when Yanagi shows up. He decides to leave because Yanagi looks like his sister, though he still promises to make Recca pay . . . for something he almost certainly didn’t do. Recca feels humiliated by this turn of events and decides to mope about because he lost a fight.

Again, the story cuts to a bunch of figures talking about a girl who can heal. They know this due to the construction site incident back in episode 1. This means the writer knowingly rewrote the way Recca and Yanagi met in order for this to make sense. This change makes Yanagi a target for something that happens later which actually makes the event more coincidental and less believable, but we’ll save that for when we get there. It also reveals something about the past which is not something that shows up for a long time in the manga making me wonder if the writers behind this anime ever had any intention to adapt more than half of it.

What this episode does have is a lot of Recca moping about because he lost to Mikagami. It wasn’t that he failed to protect her or that the sword dude is crazy and should probably be committed or turned into the cops. No, it was that he lost a fight. In fact, that’s all Domon and Fuko seem to care about in regards to his out of character depression. It’s quite a shallow reason to be depressed since Recca is an awful fighter in the anime.

They take him to see Yanagi at the pre-school (the kids also hate her stories, unlike in the manga), the very place cut from the last episode, to try to cheer him up. Yanagi then suggests all four of them going to the amusement park and Mikagami is still watching them creepily from above. He doesn’t understand why Recca has no injuries and declares him dangerous.

The irony burns like acid

Now, chapter 13 in the manga is portrayed a bit different. For one, though Recca is intentionally avoiding Yanagi and making her upset, he is clearly torn up about it, too. In fact, his own reactions vary from comical to those of one with a guilty conscience. He doesn’t care at all that he lost a fight; he’s more concerned about Yanagi and how he could fail her.

One of the more humorous elements of the chapter includes attempts to find out what is bothering him from random students (whom the anime never shows) and even Fuko and Domon.

Yanagi wanted to invite Recca to the amusement park, but obviously that is no longer happening so she decides to rip them up. But instead Mikagami shows up to try and cheer her up and volunteers to go with her instead. This is how Yanagi and Mikagami end up in the amusement park as opposed to how they get there in the anime.

As opposed to the outright psycho he is in the anime, Mikagami actually feels guilty for what he’s doing to the two of them, stating that he hates himself for being this way and getting in the way of others’ happiness. He projects his failure to protect his sister on Yanagi, and refuses to let her get hurt by hanging around Recca. While he may be misguided, Mikagami is not an altogether bad guy here. He may still be confused, but he’s not an outright monster. He’s just going about it all wrong.

Fuko and Domon approach Recca and help beat some sense into him. Since they are his friends, they talk it out while he lets out his frustrations which helps Recca come around to understanding that he can’t just give up on Yanagi for what might happen. It turns out he might have not been taking his duty seriously enough, since his new found resolve sends him out to the amusement park after Yanagi. Fuko and Domon do not go with them to the park like in the anime, instead they show up later.

And that is where the anime and manga merge again. So, back to the anime.

At the amusement park, Recca still continues to be an absolute bore and Yanagi tries her best to cheer him up. While she goes to get juice for the four of them, Mikagami shows up and takes her to the hall of mirrors, essentially kidnapping her. These are not the actions of someone with all their marbles in one place.

He explains why he is hunting after Recca, and that is because our hero is apparently hiding something. For some reason, Mikagami is still riding on the hunch that because Recca knows about madogu he must have had a hand in murdering his sister when the flame-user was eight years old. Yes, he’s still this stupid. There is no reason to believe this is what Recca is like.

Recca, of course, just happens to be walking by the hall of mirrors when Yanagi yells out in disbelief despite moments ago refusing to even get up to look for her. No explanation as to why he didn’t think to go after her. Domon and Fuko have already split, leaving Recca alone to see what the problem is.

He gets over his depression instantly and asks forgiveness from Yanagi for being such a bore for less than ten minutes of screen time. Well, so much for that. Back to the status quo.

Mikagami and Recca meet in the hall of mirrors, and the fight begins again.

Recca shows up in the anime

Recca shows up in the manga

In the manga, chapter 14 especially, Mikagami and Yanagi actually have a pretty good time at the park until she accidently calls him Recca after Mikagami gives her an ice cream cone. It’s a bit of a shock to them but confirms what they both already know. It is Recca that should be there. Mikagami notices Recca’s arrival and shuffles Yanagi off to the hall of mirrors to make sure she doesn’t see him. Inside is where he reveals what Anime Mikagami has been whining about for two episodes—that his sister has died and that Yanagi looks just like her. He doesn’t want her to suffer the same fate as his sister. The labyrinth of mirrors is actually closed, which is why no one shows up to bother them in the manga. Nothing similar is stated in the anime, which opens up so many questions.

Kagehoshi sends Recca a mysterious hint to go to the very spot Mikagami and Yanagi are in, which is how he knows to go there. Much less coincidental than the anime and shows that this was not in Kagehoshi’s plans. Remember, unlike Anime Kagehoshi, this one is not bipolar and actually has a coherent idea of what she’s doing.

Meanwhile, Mikagami reveals his past and states that he lives only for revenge. But unlike the anime, that actually has nothing to do with the current issue, so it’s only lightly touched upon. He also doesn’t blame Recca for any of these events, because he isn’t a moron like Anime Mikagami. The worst thing Mikagami does, which hints at how screwed up he is, is to cut off Yanagi’s long hair to make it short like his sister. That doesn’t happen in the anime, which is funny because it’s about the only creepy thing Anime Mikagami doesn’t do.

To her credit, Yanagi doesn’t freak out, but calmly responds to Mikagami telling him he has issues and needs to deal with them, but she won’t be a replacement for his sister. She might seem childish, but she isn’t so easily spooked which is interesting to see from her.

Then as Recca calls out, she responds, and Recca enters in the most awesome way he can. The fight then re-converges back to where it is in the anime.

Recca’s flames set off the fire alarm which ends up powering Mikagami’s sword. Recca fires three bursts of flames that Mikagami deflects. Well, he misses the last one which crashes into a bunch of mirrors and shatters the glass before Yanagi. How Recca’s flame grew so much more powerful in a single episode is never addressed except to say that Recca apparently used his explosives with his flames, though the direction for the scene is hard to understand. Recca jumps in the way and protects her from being cut up. One of the few comedic moments left from manga includes him comically pulling shards of glass out of his body.

It must be mentioned that not only is Mikagami not hurt at all, but somehow Recca slipped around him to get in the way of the results of his own attack and protecting Yanagi. In the manga, it was clear he slipped around him, but their location in the anime makes it hard to understand how he got to where he was.

Domon and Fuko arrive inside . . . somehow knowing they are there and decide to help out. But this being one of those shonen anime, Recca rejects their help and decides to take down Mikagami on his own. This never happens in the manga where Fuko and Domon don’t show up until the fight is over.

They fight up close for a while, Recca not getting in a single hit, and he ends up punching mirrors because he lost track of the psycho. It’s kind of embarrassing to be Recca in this fight. Mikagami then spin kicks Recca’s face into a wall of mirrors.

Anime Recca is the worst fighter of all time.

Of course, just as Fuko and Domon move to help Recca, Kagehoshi shows up and steps on their shadows to freeze them in place. This is not a power she has in the manga. In fact, neither Fuko nor Domon show up here. They are only arriving in the amusement park now, and Kagehoshi is still talking to Yanagi about plot important details elsewhere. The anime makes them into an audience, cutting out all the other material, for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Recca ends up nearly losing his head, but thanks to stepping on a piece of glass ends up accidentally sliding out of the way of an attack. Talk about no skill and stupid luck. He continues to punch glass at an embarrassing rate and still lands no hits on Mikagami.

For a quick summary of how the manga differs, well, the fire alarm doesn’t go off, which means it isn’t powering Mikagami’s sword. Like before, it is most likely a simple water bottle that powers Ensui, since (future manga spoiler) Ensui’s strength depends on the amount of water Mikagami uses which is why this fight isn’t quite as one-sided as in the anime.

No, Recca actually hurts Mikagami and hits him pretty good in the manga—the two even take the fight away from Yanagi to avoid her getting hurt, almost as if they care about her.

Kagehoshi shows up to see Yanagi and reveals that maybe she isn’t so bad after all. She understands why both Recca and Mikagami are fighting so hard and doesn’t want Yanagi to worry about it. A bit different since Kagehoshi doesn’t appear to hate everyone like Anime Kagehoshi does.

In fact, she continues to talk to Yanagi while the fight between the two goes on elsewhere. It’s a nice breather from the action and lets other characters take center stage for a while. It’s a lot quicker in the manga, leading up back to the conclusion of the fight in the anime.

In the anime, he makes a bet that he will defeat the psycho with two more uses of his flames. It is more accurate to say that he can only use it two more times before he runs out, but of course Anime Recca can’t ever outsmart anyone like in the manga so Anime Mikagami has to figure this out ahead of time. The first flame glides along the side of the mirrors, spraying glass everywhere (of which only one actually cuts Mikagami lightly on the cheek, of course), and uses his substitution trick to fool the psycho into attacking a mirror falling from above. Only difference in the manga is that Mikagami gets pretty cut up from this attack, which should probably happen since there’s exploding glass all over the place.

Recca’s final attack is a flaming punch that he attacks with from behind. Mikagami blocks it with Ensui, but it is no use. Recca’s flames turn Ensui’s water into steam and he hits the psycho full on with the flame punch sending him flying backwards into a remaining mirror. The fight is over.

Mikagami’s glass jaw is a bit embarrassing considering the amount of hits Recca took, not to mention that he still thinks this kid was involved in killing his sister seven years ago. Despite all this, the psycho’s ambivalence about getting beat up is a bit strange. Somehow because Recca didn’t kill him after his defeat he now thinks Recca was not involved in killing his sister, though that again is a pretty random conclusion to jump to. But it is already established that Anime Mikagami is a dimwitted psychopath so that’s probably in character for him.

Finally, Kagehoshi reveals the reason she put Recca in all this danger to “increase his power” (originally it was to test his competency, but we all know Anime Recca would not pass that test) in order to deal with another flame user out there.

And using a flame power for like a week should be enough to beat a master, right?

In the manga, we do not know who this is, though the anime has already given far too many hints about it for it to not be obvious who she’s talking about. Recca also cuts Mikagami’s hair in revenge of what he did to Yanagi’s hair. Their score is now settled in the manga. Mikagami might have issues, but they amicably go their separate ways.

In the anime, Kagehoshi continues on. She reveals the kicker that the killer of Mikagami’s sister is in the mysterious group. So why she manipulated the psycho who almost murdered Recca is finally made clear, even if it is completely ridiculous. If it wasn’t for Yanagi’s Recca-sense an episode ago, Recca would be dead. This was a pretty stupid plan for Anime Kagehoshi. It’s surprising that she didn’t just beat Anime Yanagi into a coma in order to prevent her from getting help in the park like she did in the battle with Fuko– after all, that was to prevent her interference at the time, wasn’t it? If she didn’t want Recca dead, then why didn’t she jump in at the park? Recca was almost murdered, after all. Yeah, Anime Kagehoshi’s plans make no sense.

Mikagami will have none of this, because, well, he doesn’t owe the woman who manipulated him into almost killing an innocent anything. Instead he taunts Recca saying he won’t have enough power to defend Yanagi when the time comes. Recca shrugs him off and says that if he fails to save her, he will take his own life. It’s a bit over the top, but Recca takes his duty seriously though in the manga he proves his seriousness over and over where Anime Recca can’t back anything he says up. Mikagami announces that he won’t have to take his life, because he’ll do it for him. Then he walks away.

Recca collapses on the floor, which means it is healing time. Yanagi’s time to shine. Now here’s where I have to point something out.

Yanagi cuts open her own hand with a piece of glass in order to put her blood against Recca’s blood. Why does she do this? Because this is the only way for her to heal internal injuries like the ones Recca has.

Did you get that?

Remember back in the first episode, when Recca was crushes by pipes and bleeding through his mouth internally? Do you remember Yanagi cutting herself in order to heal Recca’s crushed organs then? No? That’s probably because she CAN’T heal those types of injuries any other way than this. It’s established right here that she can only heal internal injuries this way. This means Recca’s injuries in episode 1, which put him into a coma, could not have been healed. Which means it should have killed him.

So why did the anime writer do this and create a plot-hole that wasn’t in the manga?

Who knows, but it sure is aggravating that they can’t get the main heroine’s powers right when in the manga it was pretty straightforward.

This is when Fuko and Domon (who really might as well not even be here in the anime) learn that Yanagi has healing powers. Behind them no one seems to notice Kagehoshi crying as she reveals in her inner monologue that Recca is her son.

She disappears to reveal that behind her yet someone else is watching them and disappears. Where are all these people coming from and how come the general public or the police have yet to show up to see the chaos in the mirror maze? It’s a total mystery. Turns out this guy was working for the creepy guy from earlier and confirms to him that Yanagi definitely does have healing powers. Why he doesn’t report Kagehoshi or Recca’s powers, or Ensui, is, of course, not explained at all.

The episode then explains that Yanagi is now their target as the creeper in the mask decides he will be the one to find the girl with healing.

Another big difference is that in the manga we see inside Recca’s dream instead of Kagehoshi just outright saying everything in her inner monologue. This is where Recca sees the events from 400 years ago shown in the first episode. A woman named Kagero, suspiciously looking like Kagehoshi, has a son named Recca whom she promises will be a great ninja. The audience discovers with Recca exactly who Kagehoshi is.

In the manga there is no mysterious individual watching from the shadows (sneaking up behind Kagehoshi of all people) and nothing gets reported to anyone. The reason why is because Yanagi is not the target of this mysterious individual and no one is following her. Target of what, you might be asking? Well, that will have to wait until next time when we begin the first proper arc of Flame of Recca. As of now, this is the end of episode 4.

And that is the end of the introduction of Flame of Recca. The first four episodes adapt the first 17(!) chapters of Flame of Recca, skipping much character building and story beats outside of the fighting. In fact, the only thing adapted were the general events of certain fights—everything else was stripped from the story. We are heading into the first real arc next episode and we don’t really know much about our main characters because the anime went out of its way not to show us anything and in the process made the events feel more hollow than they should have been.

But the anime is still young. There are still 38 more episodes of anime to go. Surely they have to get back on track eventually, right?

Well, we’ll see.

Until next time!

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