Episode 4 of Shikabane Hime, “Cruel Beautiful Song”, starts off with Keisei on his continuously failing quest to turn his little brother Ouri into one of his own kind, a perverted otaku. It would have been more useful if he gave all of his anime goods to me instead of an uninterested party like Ouri, though.
Among the public, Osaki Kun is an up and rising singer with a beautiful voice, even though her eyes look dead in her posters. There’s a good reason for the way her eyes look: she is dead. It’s rather surprising to see a shikabane having such a public presence. We see her having killed yet another person because “they didn’t listen to her song”, giving her manager more reason to have an ulcer. The manager is working with yakuza for financial and organizational support, but after he talks with the yakuza about the live concert plans, he receives a phone call from the murdering monk seen last episode, warning him that Kun is being targeted by shikabane hime.
Meanwhile, Ouri is investigating Makina’s background, starting by searching newspapers for articles about a fire killing an entire family with the surname Hoshimura. He’s not interested in Kun, in contrast to many of his friends who are abuzz about her upcoming live concert nearby, which will be open to the public at no cost.
When it approaches the time for the concert, Makina infiltrates the building where the concert is being held, disguised as a pizza delivery girl. As Makina approaches Kun, it turns out that she was expected as yakuza surround her with guns pointed. And Makina can’t just shoot and destroy Kun, since Kun has some sort of sonic power with her voice which stops bullets in mid-flight. Makina has no choice but to retreat, especially since she can’t attack the yakuza, who are living people. Incidentally, Keisei was also ambushed as he was waiting nearby, but he’s helped by his backup, the shikabane hime and her rather dour handler we’ve seen a few times already. Interestingly, it’s implied that hurting a living person somehow damages the shikabane hime, which would be a very good reason why shikabane hime can’t kill living people.
Meanwhile, Ouri has asked the director of his old orphanage for help in investigating the death of the Hoshimura family, and she manages to find out that it happened at a temple nearby. When he arrives at the temple, he’s greeted by the ethereal cat, a cat that nobody else seems to be able to see, and finds himself at a temple burnt down. It makes me wonder if the cat is actually the manifestation of one of the Hoshimura family. He also discovers the family grave, which also includes the grave for Makina. Surprisingly, Makina is waiting behind one of the gravestones: she had instinctively came her after her retreat. She enlists Ouri’s help in getting back to Osaki Kun.
That night, Kun is throwing a tantrum as she is complaining about not being able to sing at the cancelled concert. The manager is trying to placate her, but Makina and Ouri arrives. Kun starts attacking them, and Makina engages in battle. Makina is too injured to do much good against Kun, however.
Fortunately, Keisei comes to the rescue. Even better, he decides to come clean with Ouri and reveals that he is Makina’s contract monk, who bonds with a shikabane hime and provides his life energy with his proximity. The shikabane hime heals with the contract monk’s life energy, which we see happen as Keisei hugs Makina. Back in shape, Makina distracts the now monstrous Kun while Keisei turns on Kun’s music back from when she was still alive. Hearing her own singing, Kun hesitates momentarily, and Keisei kicks ass as he manages to inflict a lot of damage against her.
He doesn’t land a finishing blow, though. It’s revealed that only a shikabane hime could destroy another shikabane, which would explain why it’s not heavily armed living humans who are hunting down shikabane. Makina fires off the deciding shots that destroys Kun’s existence as a shikabane, and the episode ends sadly with Kun’s music playing into the ending credits.
This episode showed us pretty clearly the sad existence of a shikabane. It seems that once a person dies and becomes shikabane, it loses all consideration for anything else except for the single-minded purpose that brought it back from the dead. Which is why Osaki Kun the shikabane thought nothing of killing lots of people and cared nothing for what others thought about her, while her song from when she was alive affected her. It also explains why Keisei’s declaration that her current music was so tainted with death, in contrast to her beautiful music from when she was still among the living, seemed to pain her so much. It shows the sad existence of a shikabane, which would be deserving of pity if they didn’t kill indiscriminately.
We also get hints of what the shikabane hime are like. They seem to be much more mentally balanced compared to “natural” shikabane, or at least they seem to be able to pay attention to things other than just destroying shikabane. Created for the sole purpose of destroying other shikabane, they cannot hurt the living without consequences, and killing a living person is completely out of the question. However, I wonder if killing a living person would destroy a shikabane hime, or whether it would break whatever is keeping them relatively balanced mentally and turn them into a shikabane like any other. On a side note, it seems that it wasn’t what killed Makina that made Keisei decide to become a monk: it happened only a couple of years ago when he was already a monk, one who also happens to be a perverted otaku.
In the next episode, Keisei will probably explain things to Ouri after coming clean this episode. The preview suggests that we’ll be seeing what Makina was like in life, and perhaps we’ll get to see what got her family killed. I believe it has something to do with a traitorous monk …