Episode 5: A. Kroyd Killer! | A.クロイド殺し
After four episodes of Seven-Oh world-building, cheeky detective trope subversion, and establishing character dynamics (suppositioned with the narrator practically admitting that certain characters are trolls), we are finally ready to break out The Actual Plot. Double Decker! is going in for the kill with explosions, confetti, gruesome murder and a narrator who doesn’t believe in Kirill even half as much as I do.
An elderly and skittish death row prisoner, Zabel Franken, is scheduled to die today. He is taken to receive his final meal, where he conveniently confesses to an additional murder and begs the guards to let him give the details to Doug Birmingham of Seven-O.
Doug decides to go listen to whatever confession Zabel has for him – after all, Doug was apparently the one who arrested him in the first place several years prior. Zabel wants to bargain: reduce his death sentence to life in prison, and he will cooperate and expose where he hid the missing body of his sixth murder: “A”, or “Agapetus Kroyd”, of Esperanza. That just so happens to be the enigmatic super-villain group that Doug has been chasing, so Doug takes the bait, but under the stipulation that the evidence must be uncovered before the execution, which is set for this evening.
At Zabel’s direction, they do uncover the leg of a skeleton buried in a park, ostensibly of “A”. But Zabel has more: the rest of the body is hidden elsewhere, but he will have to go with them to find it, since he can’t remember exactly where he stashed it. However, Zabel will need security: “B” of Esperanza will surely murder him for this betrayal. Doug, Kirill, Zabel, and loads of armed dudes infiltrate an old school building. Doug is desperate to get more intel on Esperanza, but Kirill is more concerned with keeping Zabel alive in the face of inevitable ambush.
B, the ruby-toothed “Bamboo Man”, makes his ominous introduction. He attacks amid the lull of eerie rock music with superhuman strength and speed, but crazy enough, doesn’t show signs of being jacked up on Anthem. During the firefight, Doug pulls Zabel aside and tries to get him to spill everything about Esperanza before B kills him. Kirill tells Doug to cut that shit out, they have an actual (and very painful) job to do: get out there and get their asses handed to them by this goddamn crazy demon-person.
Well, Doug and Kirill do get their asses handed to them, but manage to not die before B suddenly runs off as the clock-tower strikes 6pm.
At Derick’s cafe, Doug apologizes to Kirill for obsessing over the Esperanza thing. The reason is that his previous partner really was killed by Esperanza (just not the Derick partner.) Kirill vows to help Doug put Esperanza down.
A post-credit scene reveals that Ricky, an asshole guard who bullied Zabel all episode, was secretly working for Zabel and B to help stage the escape. A Walter White-esque transformed Zabel has him burned to death anyway, for the crime of wasting food. As the episode closes, B calls Zabel “boss.”
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
Zabel is framed throughout the majority of the episode as pitiful and sympathetic. Even though we know he is in prison for murdering several people, including a small child, he’s a dog getting kicked while he’s already down, and about to receive the brutal and disturbing punishment of execution. He is met with aggression and taunting from several characters, including prison guard Ricky. But conversely, a few characters – notably Kirill – seem uncomfortable with the whole scenario. In the Seven-Oh headquarters, Kay tries to defend the rights of prisoners, only to be ridiculed and shot down by Deana, who reminds her that Zabel is still a bad guy. Kirill himself is frustrated by Rickey’s asshattery and Doug’s indifference toward preserving Zabel’s life.
The twist that Zabel is in fact a villain manipulating his way to freedom is played out at Double Decker!!‘s finest subversion. Though the audience is obviously compelled to feel bad for Zabel, which can often be taken as suspicious, Zabel’s misery along with two impending threats (his upcoming execution and potential murder at the hands of Esperanza) both do an excellent job of derailing the buildup of Zabel’s oncoming betrayal.
Of course, when Zabel does turn out to be a criminal mastermind, he ascends with a vengeance. It’s a neat, but cruel emotive trick, punishing both the characters and viewers alike who had opted to sympathize with him. The farce is symbolized by Zabel’s deceitful use of a walking cane – there’s a chill when he suddenly stands up straight at the end, and pulls a sword out of it.
POVERTY AND CLASS
At the end of the episode, Zabel burns Ricky alive, an undercover comrade, for “wasting food” (in an acted display of cruelty, the guard knocked down Zabel’s “last meal”, a tray of chocolate pastries.) This is framed next to Kirill’s earlier story about attending a fair with his sister as a child, despite having no money to buy anything, where a kind vendor gave them free fries that were about to be thrown out anyway.
When Doug is asked about his motivations for becoming a cop, he responds that he wants to eliminate poverty and class. After the narrator joking that Doug is an asshole and possibly unreliable, it’s not entirely clear whether or not these are his true motivations. But even so, the themes of poverty and waste have become a definite thematic pattern. Whether or not Double Decker! will ultimately address poverty is a mystery: will it offer some sort of resolution, or will it boil down to another scathing joke?
As the series promised last episode, we finally have rolled out a real plot, and I am loving it. While Esperanza as a syndicate is still too mysterious to be really memorable, B’s entrance and Zabel’s reveal were both suitably terrifying.
It was also interesting to see how Doug and Kirill work together when things get rough. We have already seen several episodes’ worth of dysfunctional “Double Decker” pairings, but this time, we get to see Kirill pull his weight by showing courage, compassion, and professional competence in the face of danger while Doug was consumed with grasping for intel to avenge his former partner. Of course, that isn’t to say that Kirill wasn’t definitely going to die without Doug there to save his ass, because he totally was.
A random point of intrigue about this series is its huge variety of characters. A prominent cast member was a female prison guard, heavyset and darker skinned, who was portrayed as strong and competent, but kindly toward Zabel. Double Decker! continues to mimic Western comic art instead of Japanese, and the diversity – from racial to stylized appearances – is still somewhat unusual for an anime, even ones that allege non-Asian settings. At any rate, I continue to love the artistic direction of this series.