While I referred to the first episode of Shikabane Hime as a jigsaw puzzle that had to be put together without the picture on the box, perhaps I should have looked at it from a more simplistic angle and simply labelled it as being a case of style over substance. Thankfully, episode two actually manages to balance out those particular items on the "important things for anime to have" agenda far better.
The episode opens by greeting us with a scene of carnage on the roads, with a crash involving (fatally) a coach full of pre-school children, one of whom was friends with one of the orphans who had previously lived under the same roof as Ouri Kagami. Horrifyingly, three of these children 'return' from the dead as Shikabane, leaving Makina to follow and despatch them in her time-honoured fashion, but of course Kagami ends up getting involved which eventually puts him right in the firing line of this skirmish. Here, he ends up learning both about Shikabane themselves as well as Makina's role in "removing" them, although he's still in the dark as to the exact extent of his brother's involvement (as are we, now I come to think about it).
While that opening episode of Shikabane Hime: Aka felt like just another series of ghosts, girls and guns, this second helping manages to strike a far more atmospheric tone. Some of the most horrific scenes are very well realised, with the emergence of one of the children from her coffin in Shikabane form the kind of thing to send a shiver down the most hardy of spines, while the driving rain and flashes of lightning may be as old as the hills when it comes to creating atmosphere, but why move away from such useful devices?
I have to confess that a lot of that visual polish is arguably papering over what could be labelled as a "more adult Bleach with guns" or something along those lines, but now that the storyline and the main characters inter-relationships have been built a little further, the scene is potentially set to offer something that is at least compelling and entertaining. The jury is certainly still out on Shikabane Hime: Aka as an entity of its own, but episode two has shown some shoots of growth that I hope continues into future episodes so that it can at least somewhat live up to the hype.