After what felt like an almost entirely pointless third episode, episode four of Yakushiji Ryoko No Kaiki Jikenbo at least brings us back to the true driver of the series, with a return to some proper supernatural investigation.
Oddly, this particular episode felt like perfect two-parter material, as there was plenty of storyline available to slowly build up to and expose, arguably far more than what was on offer in the opening episodes that was spread over two parts itself. The storyline here considered a strange non-human skeleton that had been discovered, and the resulting research let to the creation of a genetically modified creature that mixed the DNA from this skeleton with a human embryo. Of course, it should be pretty obvious to all and sundry that this is a bad idea, but for some reason scientists in anime never consider these things, leaving us with a decidedly weird entity on the loose, a state of affairs which is brought into the spotlight when it commits murder.
As I've already mentioned, there was some good material and a very solid plot on show here between the story of this creature's gestation, its violent tendencies and the creature's 'mother' who has chosen to protect it, yet a lot of this intriguing story was lost thanks to some decidedly off-kilter pacing coupled with too much focus on Ryoko and Izumida compared to a plot that was more than healthy enough to stand on its own two feet.
These scripting decisions often skewed things in all the wrong directions, with little more than passing remarks paid to the murder that kicks off the investigation, and even some of the interesting moral questions get glossed over so that Ryoko gets more screen-time being her usual sassy self. It really is a shame, as we all know from The X-Files (before it jumped the shark, anyway) that you can mix some decent lead characters with an intriguing inter-relationship with fascinating supernatural plots and make both aspects of a series work well. Alas, this isn't the case here, as we get too much inter-relationship and not enough investigation all in all, particularly for the first half of the episode, leaving just ten minutes or so to squeeze all the 'real' story into.
So, a definite improvement for this series here, and as far as the pure story goes it was an episode far more worthy of being watched, but the over-bearing focus on Ryoko and Izumida only served to spoil it for me.