I can't be sure, though you'd think you'd spot that smirk coming a mile off, or at least hear chocolate snapping with all the danger trigger signals more generally associated with a tiger prowling or a T-Rex taking out Tokyo.
Nevertheless, I think I just glimpsed Death Note's most dynamic character in shades a little lighter than his usual Mafioso black. Take a look for yourself.
(S)he's going to turn out to be Mello in disguise over the next few episodes. You mark my words.
Notice how the Mello puppet was mute? Spot how Near was OUTSIDE without an escort? See the grey clothing settling over the spotless white. That's going to be significant. That's Near's 'innocent' morality turning murky with the influx of Mello. Because the great guess in our house is that Near and Mello are one and the same this time.
Potentially Pairing Mello & Near in Death Note
Death Note 13: How to Read revealed that Tsugumi Ohba contemplated making Mello and Near twins. Death Note's writer never said if they'd be identical or fraternal.
If the former, then Mello and Near would have looked the same.
Moreover, Takeshi Obata mentioned that his initial drawings of the pair got mixed up somewhere en route to Ohba. The image sketched as Mello actually began Near and vice versa.
It's a story which has had the fandom on both sides staring long and hard into space over many a year in the interim. Imagining a Mello that looked like Near; or a Near with Mello's features.
Now we don't have to picture how that would be. Because all indicators are pointing due Multiple Personality Disorder. Near has been the dominant persona until now, but the morphing into Mello has already begun.
And if I'm wrong, then I deserve all I get from the Near fandom, and the utter disdain of my very own Mello/Matt community. But I'm not wrong. I can practically hear the chocolate snap just beneath the surface, (re)drawing Near.
Let's follow this one through.
What's the Significance of Near Going Outside?
Yet when Near goes out to play in the park, the very fact of it seriously disturbs the folk back home. Just look how Mr Wammy breaks the news and L's silently fearful expression in reaction.
"L." He curtly begins. "Unpleasant news." Then the barest pause before, "Near has left the house."
Immediately, L's head shoots up, his eyes already swivelling sidewards to stare at Watari while the words are still spilling out. Is he scared or is that disdain? Whatever we're seeing, that look lasts for long seconds in mute regard, until the end of the scene.
The whole exchange couldn't be more laden with significance, if someone stuck a neon light above L's head flashing on and off pink with the word 'SIGNIFICANT'. What is less explicit is why.
It could be L's inconsistent horror of the dangerously dirty outside.
This is a man who lives in a place so sterile that all who visit have to suffer disinfection at the gate.
Yet L played tennis last week and attended a concert in this episode without any apparent trauma at all. Strange, and a little jarring.
Personally I think there's significance because Near never goes outside, but Mello does. Wammy is basically telling L that Mello is the dominant personality now.
Message from a Split Identity in Death Note
Unless, of course, I'm reading way too much into it. See what you think.
The sequence opens upon a huge screen bearing the legends: 'New revelation - there are two Kiras!' and 'A message from the second Kira to the real Kira'.
For as the message from the second to the first begins, the camera pans from the back of puppet Mello's head to the figure holding it. This 'second' (according to the Wammy House rankings) is mute, not even its limited body language to convey. The puppet's face is turned away. It does not move, utterly inanimate.
Instead its Near's voice which drowns out the newscaster's speech. Or at least the individual who looks like Near and is holding the toy.
Yet not playing with it, as Near is wont to do, hence the seeming emptiness of the previously highly animate doll. Nor is this person twirling a lock of hair, wearing all white or anything else that's previously been a quirk or hallmark of the Wammy House number one.
And this is the person who speaks over the second's message to the first. Because, to my mind, he IS the second (Wammy, persona, whichever you want to call) with his own message to express.
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You can practically see the handover taking place between two personae in one form. Though if this is a split personality, as I highly suspect, then the switch seems more like a slow merging from one to the other, than an instant transformation.
It's not a conversation between Near and Mello, as the people of the world think. It's more a struggle for dominance between their twin personalities, currently running parallel - neither quite one nor the other - though I believe that Mello has a slight advantage.
The camera pans in closer and closer, as the commentary plays out. Making it clear that we should be paying attention to what's being said. Closer still, focusing upon the head or mind, like we're poised to enter inside.
Then this Near does what the earlier incarnations rarely did - looks directly at the puppet, whilst addressing it. Quite fondly in fact, aping that Christian scene so beloved by Near above the Wammy House stairs, complete with clusters of people congregating close by, and a foreground grouping of three children.
Though this particular dummy Messiah sits listlessly still.
Unnamed and unmoved until that second. Only belatedly given clunky expression in the eyes, that suddenly turn upwards to the left.
If this was Wammy's House, then the puppet would be looking directly at that painting, as Near so often ended each scene doing.
For the first time ever, the puppet's operation can be clumsily discerned. Near usually makes it seem so effortless. This seems like a parody to me.
But the puppet is empty. Mello is inside the body and Near is simply fading from view.
Three in One? Multiple People Grouping Near
All those people watching the exchange between two Kiras on the screen seem themselves uncommonly grouped. Each gathered into sets of three. Except Near, who seemingly sits alone. Even the trees in the background were planted in a clump.
Visually, its just another clue to complement the two Kiras broadcast heard over the top. We are being nudged to note that all present belong to a collective. Thus - I'm certain will transpire - Near too constitutes a group, albeit one wherein its harder to count heads than the rest.
Three perchance? I cut one lady off with my screen-shot, but there are three to the side. Three behind. Three in front.
Nor can I help but see Matt, Near and Mello respectively alluded to in the three children at the fore there. But that might just be me.
"Who's Kira?" asks the boy I'm calling Matt. The girlish Near counterpart replies, "Dunno." Because identities are difficult to perceive, when not all might be as it seems. Then we hear the news anchor for a final time reading the words of the second, "Therefore, I will cancel L's press conference."
In short, nobody knows who Kira is these days, nor how many Kiras there might turn out to be. And L is no longer required to appear in public. All anyone grasps for certain is that the second is speaking.
As does the person on the bench. With the symbolism of the scene stating - here are three personalities grouped as one, and it's the one ranked second now being so publicly heard.
Colour Coding the Three in One and Death Note
A relevance only in the fact that the Celtic Three-in-One can identified in the tales of bards by the colours worn in each aspect. White for the Maiden; red for the Mother; black for the Crone.
Not something I should comfortably be considering within the context of a Japanese television dramatization of Death Note. Japan is a long way from Western Europe, where those story-telling traditions hold sway.
Though such overplay did allow us to watch the shift in power between the two Kiras. Watch Misa slip from mistress of her scene through to the mirror image shot at the end, wherein Light has taken it all.
She shouldn't have gone from black to white. It's too late then to go back to red. Not when Light's completely in black.
Romance in Hues of Black, Red and White
I thought perhaps the director worried that the plot was skirting so close to canon, that we'd all be bored by the familiarity in episode five. Except for the Near segment, there were hardly any twists to stop us settling down secure in the knowledge that we know all that's coming next.
Bizarrely enough, the symbolism behind each hue seems to follow fairly precisely that inherent in my own ancient British legends. Shades of the Three-in-One underwriting Kira and L's battles for sovereignty too.
Like Living in a Chessboard, L and Light Make Their Moves in Black and White
Japanese Symbolism in White, Red & Black
However, those colours don't always mean the same thing. It all depends upon who is donning them, or otherwise saturated in the hue, and what's being linked with those around them.
As a rule of thumb, these are the colour meanings in Japan:
White: Intellect; cold calculation; rationality; divinity; sacred (angelic/Godliness); isolation; snow; impersonal; incorruptible; cleanliness; purity; sterile. However, it's also the colour worn by health professionals, so may simply be a uniform on some.
White and Red: Seen in Japan as the colours worn when one is in love. Or else celebrating in pure happiness. However, it may also have a religious connotation, implying a wish to reach to the Gods and/or dedicate your life to deity.
Red: As in so many cultures around the world, this is the shade of fire, passion, danger, losing oneself to powerful emotions, sensuality, vitality, activity, energy, zest or strength, violence, aggression and blood.
Black and White: Traditionally the colours worn to funerals and left as memento mori. Signifies loss. Unless they're worn as opposing colours - as in L in white and Light in black - in which case we're looking at challenge; battle; the yin-yang; a nice game of chess. Or in a temple, as some areas in the Shinto religion are set aside in black and white, dedicated to the kami - Gods or spirits come from Heaven or the sea.
Let's see how informative that is, as we continue on through the artistically shot future scenes in TV's Death Note. Shout up if you spot those colours being used symbolically.
And especially if 'Near' turns up in black or red, snatching a chocolate bar to prove me right. I'm going to look really daft after all that if I'm wrong.