The Beniko-Bot, and most of the costume.

VIRUS II is the Claytons ending [1] to the regular episodes of Key the Metal Idol. However there is sufficient mayhem for this to be fairly well hidden from a casual viewer, and it is also an unusually staged episode in several ways.

The tag is a dark screen and an announcer apologising for the delay and stating that Miho’s show “A Nap of an Automaton” is about to begin.  The recent tags have had multiple scenes, sometimes with almost kaleidoscopic visual effect, so this sparse entry is noteworthy.  It highlights that the theatre will be the focus of this episode.

The stage lights, and backing music, begin to come up on an odd set.  The Miho-bot is sitting at a desk with a quill pen in what looks like an old English home. The Miho-bot is wearing a nightgown, and looks like a lady preparing to retire for the night. The backing band appears to be maids with classical instruments.

Key is still facing Tsurugi.  He demands that Key show her true face, clearly flashing back to brown hair at the previous audition.  Key falls to her knees.

The slow music is continuing, although the band is moving poorly.  In the control room a technician compares them to puppets, and Ajo calls the suffering minion in the controller a coward.  Ajo moves the show forward to cover for the weakness.  The Miho-bot stands and walks towards a microphone.

Sergei is maneuvering some PPORs, but they fail quickly due to lack of gel.

The Miho-bot reaches the microphone.

Key is begging one more time.  Tsurugi is initially unimpressed, but from behind Key’s hair appears to have changed to brown. Tears start rolling down Key’s face and her hair colour seems to vary with the angle: facing Tsurugi it is brown, from the side the usual green/gray.

I’m not sure but I think that Tsurugi is more attuned to Key’s powers than others, possibly because he is an artist himself, possibly because of obsession or madness.  As such it is easier for Tsurugi to see the “real” Key, and he reacts accordingly.

Tsurugi tells Key to get ready to go and leaves the room.  Key definitely has darker hair after he leaves, although it is flickering back and forth. The clockwork soundtrack is heard here.

The concert is continuing but the Miho-bot still hasn’t sung yet.

The PPORs have collapsed.

Tsurugi is racing towards the concert hall [2].

Miho begins to sing as Tataki finally enters the concert hall.  Both Sakura and Tataki recognise it as the song recorded from the speakers earlier in the series, and Tataki yells that it isn’t Miho’s song.  The flickering image here between the DAT and Miho reminds me of the sequence in SAVE.

Ajo finds out that Tataki is Miho’s fan club president at this point, and connects the dots to the Mamio Valley.

Miho is beginning to suffer in the controler, and it is becoming apparent on stage with the Miho-bot.

Tomoyo’s readings are going off the scale.

Tsurugi smirks when he glances across to see Key’s brown hair and tears.

As Key’s power grows closer Miho is continuing to suffer, and something is interfering with the sound reaching the theatre

Key and Tsurugi arrive at the theatre.

Tomoyo says something has begun.

Miho screams, collapses, and starts drooling. The Miho-bot freezes on stage.

The backing band go crazy as the minion loses control.

Ajo switches the Miho-bot for the Beniko-bot.  This is a truly disturbing piece of staging, and certainly that’s how the audience reacts to it.  The switchover is achieved by wrapping the Miho-bot in chains until fully mummified.  The bots are then switched undercover of the chains. 

However the method is so openly contemptuous, so dismissive, that it highlights the negative aspects of the idol singer industry that Key the Metal Idol has been commenting on all along.  The imagery here says that Miho is on her way out for good.

The change of scene includes replacing the backing band.  The new band has modern instruments, costumes reminiscent of Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistable and start playing once the chains start breaking.

Beniko is revealed in what is frankly a stripperiffic outfit and still has some chains dragging on her as she starts performing.

This is when Key enters the hall.  It is also one of those moments when the soundtrack drops to focus on Key, and Ajo’s reaction to Key’s entry.

The music comes back as Tsurugi challenges Key with the late arrival. 

The clockwork is heard, there are scenes of flesh swarming to cover robotics, and flashbacks to Miho.  Key claims that she can sing better and Tsurugi dares her to prove it.  Tataki tries to stop her but is restrained by Tsurugi.

Key runs towards the stage and jumps over a security guard to land on the stage. As she lands everything just stops.  Beniko, the band, everything on stage is frozen except for Key.

A panicking Tomoyo says “not here, not now” and starts rushing towards the theatre.

Key’s power runs through the control room, basically shredding it and Beniko screams in pain.

The crowd turns ugly and a chant of “go home” starts up as Tomoyo enters. 

As the chant gathers power, and focuses on Key, Key finds herself in a red hued forest.  The light is coming from a burning shrine.  The crowd in front of the shrine, and the miko in the shrine, are facing Key and smiling.

Key calls out to her mother, and a column of flame flows into Key’s mouth [3]

The chant stops. One nice touch is that there is one last chanter who cuts off halfway through when he realises he’s the only one.

An oddly gentle looking Key turns to the audience and sings a single prolonged note. As she sings the robots on stage are destroyed, fairly spectacularly in the case of the Beniko-bot.

Cue the inevitable panic as the crowd flees. Tomoyo knocks Tsurugi unconscious since he doesn’t want Tsurugi finding out too much.

Key collapses unconscious on stage. Sakura and Tataki rush to her side.

Ajo is quietly furious that all the bots have been destroyed. Sergei arrives in the control room.

The conversation between Sergei and Ajo is interesting.  Ajo asks Sergei to use PPORs to kill Key, but he can’t oblige due to lack of fuel.

Sakura points to Ajo and Sergei in the control room.

Sergei identifies Sakura to Ajo as Key’s best friend.  Sergei thinks that Key is a trap set by Dr Mima, and describes Sakura as the necessary bait for a countertrap to catch Key.

Tomoyo starts leaving with Key as Tataki claims to have worked out what’s going on.  Tomoyo’s response is that there’s still time and that it’s a little too early for spoilers. He leaves Sakura and Tataki standing alone in the concert hall as the credits roll. 

Personally I think that’s more than a little cheeky on the part of the writers, not to mention breaking the fourth wall just a little.

I don’t normally talk about the next episode trailers but this one has an interesting bit in it: a scene of Key squatting in the rain as an unknown voice calls her name.  As Key turns around to face the voice her face lights up in joy.  Make of that what you will.

On the one hand VIRUS II wraps up the storylines that have been converging on this concert since GOTO.  The action in this episode is well scripted, holds the attention, and definitely establishes Key’s powers.  The extent to which those powers depend on other people is also made clear here, and reinforces the message of Key needing 30,000 friends to break through permanently.

However, VIRUS II also doesn’t really resolve any of the fundamental issues.  The viewer is still left wondering what just happened, and how things will work out.  The increased focus on Sakura from Sergei and Ajo is also unnerving given that Sakura is not Tomoyo’s responsibility.

This will be the last post in this series for a couple of weeks.  The remaining episodes are too long to be reviewed during a working week, and I’ll be in Perth for SwanCon over Easter.

Day 1 – START UP
Day 2 – CURSOR I
Day 4 – Sub vs Dub?
Day 5 – ACCESS
Day 6 – SCROLL I
Day 8 – The extra bits
Day 9 – RUN
Day 10 – GOTO
Day 11 – RETURN
Day 12 – Gender and Key the Metal Idol
Day 13 – BUG
Day 14 – SAVE
Day 15 – VIRUS I
Day 16 – Staging Key the Metal Idol
Day 17 – VIRUS II
Day 18 – SYSTEM
Day 19 – EXIT
Day 20 – Looking Back at Key the Metal Idol

[1] I admit that using that phrase forever brands me as an Australian child of the 70s and 80s.

[2] Note: getting into a car with Tsurugi is probably not a good idea at the best of times.

[3] A little later Tomoyo describes this as absorbing the energy from the crowd and converting it.