Did I just watch an episode of the wrong series? I thought I was watching Kyouran Kazoku Nikki's twentieth instalment, but that can't have been it I just saw... can it?
Okay, so I'm over-egging this particular pudding - It was very much Kyouran Kazoku Nikki I just watched, and this isn't the first time that the series has delved into some deeper and darker territory, but after so many daft and frankly not particularly entertaining storylines mixed with some slightly better but rather generic offerings, I really wasn't particularly expecting the turn towards psychological horror that this episode became.
The focus of this episode is entirely upon Chika (who is long overdue some more exposure regarding her back story really), blending what appears to be an innocuous day out with some of her school friends with some memories from her childhood, in particular surrounding a weird pet monster she called 'Vitamin C' and her sister, who didn't treat her like all of the others in her family treated their younger siblings.
While this all sounds straightforward enough, and indeed seems to be so early in the episode, the second half of this instalment absolutely delights in turning the story on its head - Not just once, but several times. You could perhaps argue that the way the story was spun was a little contrived, but in a rather detached (and admittedly less compelling) way it evoked thoughts of The Sixth Sense in me with its revelations. All of this is without answering perhaps the deepest psychological question (and scar upon Chika's personality), regarding whether her older sister didn't abuse her like others in her family were abused because she really was plotting something as Chika imagined, or whether there was an actual real bond of sisterly love that transcended the disturbing status quo of that particular family.
In short, this episode was an absolute breath of fresh air after so many of the episodes that have come before it, and harks back to one or two of this series' early episodes where I held such high hopes about its ability to break the mould. This instalment shows what the script writers can do when they put their mind to it, eschewing madcap comedy almost entirely to deliver something altogether darker and more potent, the kind of thing that leaves you sitting there for a good half hour mulling over what you've just watched and whether it all meant what you thought it meant at the time of viewing. It would be far too strong to call this episode genius, but particularly in the wider view of Kyouran Kazoku Nikki as an entire entity, it was a little gem, a flash of brilliance in the otherwise dull rice bowl of mediocrity. If this show had been a thirteen episode series of episodes like this, we might well all have been raving about it.