– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Last week, I had a chance to share with you an interesting new way to experience media on a weekly basis. Rather than deal in the world of actual television or streaming, Serial Box hopes to merge the consumption mindset of the medium and bring it to the world of novels. Every week, they release new “episodes” from ongoing series that can either be read or listened to in audio format, and the “audiobook” available tends to be much higher in quality than your average production, with plenty of sound effects to help keep you immersed in the experience.

The series we’re following is the science fiction police procedural Ninth Step Station, created by Malka Older. The “pilot” episode saw the introduction of a local Tokyo cop, a U.S. peacekeeper, and a mystery involving a faceless body. Keeping along with that tradition, its second episode “The Bodiless Arm,” written by Fan Wilde, continues this trend of disembodied parts as the kickoff point for this week’s mystery.

Following an eerie cold open at Tokyo Station, Our two leads Emma Higashi and Miyako Koreda come across a disembodied arm. Said arm is found cauterized where it would meet the shoulder, with no real clue apart from blue and turquoise tattoo made up of special ink that can process data. And it’s from there that the mystery begins to unfold and the world begins to slowly unravel.

In addition to the plot of the main episode, we also have a subplot involving a romance between Emma and Kensuke, another Tokyo cop. I’m not usually one for the romantic stuff, but they do a good job of intertwining this into the main plot so that none of it feels irrelevant, and rather than play up the romantic elements, it’s almost used as a way to increase the distrust and tension between Emma and virtually everyone else. At the end of the day, she is a peacekeeper on a mission, and it’s nice they haven’t forgotten the idea that not every person in every organization is someone that can be trusted. As such, I’m interested to see where this whole thing goes and just how trustworthy Kensuke will be to Emma and Miyako.

RELATED – Ninth Step Station Review: An Engaging Start To A New Serialized Futuristic Police Procedural

So how did it all come together? The main mystery, sadly, wasn’t the most interesting. When all said and done, there wasn’t a whole lot that happened. Mostly there was a few interrogations scenes, a couple scenes in the field, and little else. That being said, I do appreciate the continued world building here. It’s unclear whether or not the ending of this story has larger implications for the overarching plot of the whole season, but it’s nice to see them go for a more ambiguous, less satisfying ending for this sophomore episode, even if the standalone mystery element was a bit underwhelming.

When all said and done, for better or worse, this felt like a relationship and world-building episode. It technically stands by itself, but isn’t entirely enjoyable on its own merits alone as the first one was. On the plus side, like the first episode, the movement in the plot is usually made secondary to the development of the characters, and while that may ultimately makes for an initially less-satisfying read, it has me more interested in the characters with each passing episode. At the end of the day, that’s what’ll keep me coming back, so perhaps it’s all for the best. My perception of this episode could very well change in the future depending on how the season-long story develops. But for now, it’s solid, albeit a bit less inspired than its predecessor.

Grade: B

+ Solid writing
+ Continued character development
+ Intriguing politics between different departments
+ Narrator Emily Woo Zeller continues to be a joy
– Bland episode mystery
– Unsatisfying close to the episode.

To check out the series for yourself, go ahead and CLICK HERE!

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.