For all of its good and bad points, Shikabane Hime: Kuro ended in a rather odd fashion, leaving us with a cliffhanger of sorts that really felt like it needed resolving. Thus, when I heard that a "thirteenth" special episode would accompany the DVD release of the series in Japan, I was hopeful that it would tie up those loose ends to leave me feeling a little more satisfied with the whole thing.
Well, so much for that idea... Rather than carrying on where Kuro left off, this additional episode instead takes us to a time before Makina became a Shikabane Hime, and equally before Ouri new anything about his future path. Instead, the focus of this episode is on the contracted priest Shuuji Isaki, as he takes on his contract with Minai Ruo.
This allows us a glimpse into the respective backgrounds of these two characters who never really had their characters built up particularly within the main body of the series, and to be honest it's a shame they were never given that opportunity earlier on - This episode reveals that Minai is a woman who committed suicide after murdering her abusive husband, while Isaki's entire reason for taking up a contract with Minai (even lying to do so) is in the hope of killing his brother who he hates for a variety of reasons. Ironically, it's the concept of this pair as sinners that eventually goes at least some way towards creating the required bond between them which was previously lacking, although the story is then ruined somewhat by shifting it back to some shared childhood memories the two had together, which to be quite honest is far less powerful a storytelling device.
Indeed, that's probably the biggest problem when you look at this episode as a stand-alone offering - It built up its story well enough, but then felt like it didn't really have enough time to see it through and just dumped us with a rushed and somewhat unsatisfactory conclusions. Hmm, just like Shikabane Hime: Kuro itself then, I suppose. While this was a passable episode in its own right then, it felt like something that would have been better delivered as part of the series proper, where this particular story could have been complemented by further progress and revelations in additional episodes to build things up nicely. But hey, I don't work for Gainax, what do I know? Maybe I'm just sore that I didn't get my proper ending to Makina's story....