At the beginning of episode 9 of Shikabane Hime: Aka, “Exciting the Heart”, a group of high school students are wandering inside an abandoned building. They’re here to see the rumored ghost spot, where a bank robber killed himself and a whole lot of other people by causing a fire, and where people have been disappearing ever since. Among them is a girl called Kasuga Nozomi, who notices a girl that is out of place, who we know to be Makina.
While the teenagers don’t really take it seriously, they still end up encountering the shikabane residing in the building. Most of the teenagers manage to run away, but Nozomi gets left behind so that Makina helps her run away. Unfortunately, Makina’s right arm has yet to regenerate enough that an attack cuts off her right arm yet again, and the shock makes her collapse. It is then that Nozomi notices that Makina is dead, although she thinks Makina had just died, but she doesn’t manage to get away. Before the shikabane can kill her, though, Makina had managed to get back up and blasts the shikabane to bits. One curious thing, though: the shikabane seems to have heard rumors of the shikabane hime. Are there social gatherings of shikabane where they can gossip?
Nozomi is the type attracted to death and she’s mesmerized by Makina, however, so she seeks out all sorts of rumored ghost spots hoping to meet Makina again. After many failed attempts, she unexpectedly discovers Makina, except that it was right at the same time Ouri is arguing with Makina demanding to know what happened to Minai. Makina running away from Ouri means that Nozomi doesn’t manage to talk to her again, but Nozomi thinks she’s seen Ouri from somewhere.
It’s no surprise that Ouri seems familiar, since they go to the same school, as Nozomi discovers when one of Ouri’s friends drags him forcefully to admire Nozomi and her large bouncy breasts from afar. Unfortunately for the friend, Nozomi asks to be introduced to Ouri. This all looks like a setup for a confession, and even Ouri misunderstood the situation to be that way, but Nozomi wants Ouri to stay away from Makina like a lovestruck girl. She even exclaims that there is no way Ouri know Makina like she does, something she would hardly say if she really knew as much as she thought.
The ethereal black cat appears yet again, and as before, no one else but Ouri can see it. It points out that Nozomi is like Ouri, someone who is attracted to death. It also causes a bit of mischief as it frustrates Ouri as it loiters around Nozomi’s head to the degree that Ouri tries to grab the cat. Except that he misses and accidentally grabs Nozomi’s breasts, which earns him a good wacking. Interestingly enough, the ethereal black cat reminded Ouri that the cat is Ouri himself.
Back at the temple, right after Makina tests out how well her reattached right arm works by fixing one of Keisei’s figurines, although she would have preferred another way to test it, she asks Keisei what Ouri is. We get to learn quite a bit about Ouri’s past from Keisei. Ouri had arrived at the orphanage when he was three, unable to do anything nor capable of any emotions. This started to change when Ouri picked up a stray cat and started to raise it, but the cat soon died in a traffic accident. Its death was the first time that Ouri openly expressed emotion by crying, and it was also the start of the bond between him and Keisei. It’s also the reason for Ouri’s closeness to death.
Unknown to Keisei, the cat had soon reappeared in front of Ouri by walking through the orphanage window. At least Ouri thought it was the cat he was raising, but no one else could see it, as the cat explains quite clearly to Ouri. The cat also explains that it is Ouri himself. It’s unfortunate for Ouri that he was remembering this as he was working at the Parthenon, as his distracted state causes him to drop and break dishes while he was washing them.
A little while later, Nozomi visits Makina to return the clothes that Makina had draped over her at the beginning. She also uses it as a chance to express her admiration for Makina. Unlike Ouri, another who is pulled towards death, Nozomi seems to have an unhealthy admiration for death, which is why she’s attracted to Makina, but this just annoys Makina who just considers death to be death. It doesn’t help that Nozomi talks about Ouri not knowing anything, considering that Ouri has been involved much deeper than Nozomi can expect. Makina’s apparent rejection of her has Nozomi running away.
Ouri, who had arrived to talk about Minai with Makina, is a bit embarrassed at having witnessed what happened. Surprisingly to both Ouri and me, Makina can also see the ethereal black cat, petting it and wondering if it’s OK for Ouri to raise a cat in his apartment. In fact, she had noticed the cat on other occasions, too, but thought nothing of it and said nothing since she had no reason to think it to be more than an ordinary cat. Even Ouri’s surprised question whether she could see the cat only makes her think Ouri to be silly, that it’s hardly dark enough for a black cat to blend into the darkness. Ouri doesn’t enlighten her on the cat’s nature in this episode, though. At least it’s hard confirmation that the ethereal black cat is not just an unusually perceptive imaginary friend of Ouri’s.
Ouri hadn’t come to demand answers on what happened to Minai. He has by now a good idea of what must have happened to her. Instead he wants to remember her, something that Keisei had said was one of the few things the living could do for the dead. Not knowing much about Minai, he wants to talk with Makina about what she was like and what sort of things she did, and Makina invites Ouri in to talk over tea.
At this point the ending sequence starts, which begins with a rather noticeable change. Ouri appears in dressed in the manner of a monk. It’s pretty obvious what this implies about what is in store for Ouri. As it nears the end of this season of Shikabane Hime, the plot will probably steer Ouri to his fate. I wonder if and what role Kasuga Nozomi will be playing in it as another person pulled toward death.