Episode four of Shikabane Hime: Aka finally brought us to the point where Ouri discovered the truth about Keisei's job as a Contracted Priest and his relationship with Shikabane Hime Makina, so with that out of the way the start of this latest story arc allows us to be dropped a little deeper into the world we've only scratched the surface of so far.
While we've only really seen Keisei acting on his own so far, episode five takes us into the 'cult' that he belongs to as a wider entitiy, including all of the politics that entails. Thus, we learn that Keisei's father is a bishop in said group, and that for a Contracted Priest to tell anybody (including his own family) what he does is strictly forbidden - Having broken that rule last episode, Keisei is thus faced with suspension from duty, while also being tasked with eliminating his own brother, leaving him with some very difficult decisions to make that don't get any further airing in this instalment.
There's plenty going on outside of this political manoeuvring however (although some of it remains interlinked), not least the growing legend of an unlicensed car rental company, of which nobody who has hired a car from them has ever been seen alive again since. I've rented some pretty dodgy cars in my time, but none that some kind of pulsing brain in the storage compartment, or indeed one with a sat nav that encourages me to kill my fellow passengers if I want to live as there's only "room for one". This is the kind of concept that could make a movie or horror story all of its own (indeed, it would fit a concept like Saw pretty well if you ask me), and with that in mind it almost gets rather short shrift in this episode, giving us some gory moments but never really revelling in such a horrific idea as perhaps it could, and indeed should.
On Ouri's side of things, he finds himself the object of attention for a new and mysterious transfer student (and we all know too well to avoid them), while all the girls are fawning over a new P.E. teacher who has arrived out of nowhere. Between that and the cat that keeps appearing encouraging Ouri to go check out this rental car of doom, life certainly isn't getting any easier for him, so it's a good job Makina doesn't seem too concerned about following the terms of her and Keisei's suspension from duty.
So, yes, this episode almost skips over the horror aspect which had so much potential, which is a little disappointing, but it does at least make up for this somewhat by introducing some major new characters to the proceedings (mostly of indeterminate allegiance), as well as raising some moral questions regarding the Shikabane Hime themselves. Thus far, they've been portrayed as on the side of good, but are they really any different from the Corpses they fight? All of this, plus Keisei's dilemma regarding his adopted brother, is plenty for the series to be getting on with, and indeed its kept things running pretty smoothly here - It still isn't offering enough to stake a claim as any kind of classic series, but it continues to prove to be entertaining and competent at its storytelling overall, which is enough to keep it enjoyable.