So many anime should watch episode 8 and 9 of Sabikui Bisco to really understand how to capitalise emotionally on a cliff-hanger ending. Seriously, I thought episode 8 left us at a heart-wrenching moment and my greatest fear was that this week we would literally just see the characters walk away from it within the first few minutes of the episode.
Instead, episode 9 begins with shattered characters and words that are clearly foreshadowing disaster and then things escalate and just don’t stop until the dramatic conclusion of the episode (which I am going to try hard not to spoil because that really should be watched). I’m just left wondering what Sabikui Bisco does for the next three episodes and whether it can ever be as emotionally devastating as it was this week.
Although, it probably doesn’t need to be. What it really needs to do is address what all of this actually changes in the world or whether it was all for nothing.
Sabikui Bisco was far more committed to its plot than I gave it credit for earlier in the season.
In order to avoid too many spoilers I am afraid this particular episode review is going to end up being a little bit all over the place as I focus on less prominent details than the conclusion.
For instance, I haven’t really talked about Jabi much in any of my episode reviews of Sabikui Bisco so far. Yet this mentor character from Bisco has played a key role at multiple junctures in the story, despite spending most of the series injured or captured. And you have to admit, this old man has some spunk.
I mean, Jabi is the one who raised Bisco so we had to know this guy was a bit on the reckless side. He also clearly has a big heart. Throughout the course of the series, his own safety has never been his priority concern. Instead, he’s always looked out for the others, whether it be Bisco or even Pawoo when she was captured.
It makes me wonder why Kurokawa ever thought threatening Jabi’s life, or even his fingers, would somehow convince him to surrender. This old man was never going to fold over something like that.
But now I’m wondering how Jabi is going to react next week to the final of episode 9… Okay, not going there.
Honestly, there’s little more you could ask from Sabikui Bisco at this point. It has been a zany adventure and buddy quest with this whole dystopian thing going underneath it and this episode just brought all those elements together so well. It is always nice when you are watching an anime or a story and realise that everything actually does work together and clearly there was a plan from the start when the writer put this story together.
About the only real visual criticism I could make of episode 9 is that it is pretty much the same colour from beginning to end and it is quite a bleak and dull looking episode compared to previous ones. Then again, given events, the colour palette more or less suits the episode perfectly.
Can the next episode be out already?
This is perhaps the biggest problem with seasonal viewing in that there’s so much I want to say but at the same time don’t want to say until people have a chance to watch this episode on their own.
Anyway, Sabikui Bisco has gone from being a curiosity and kind of interesting to being something I am highly emotionally invested in and that is definitely a good thing given how many other anime this season kind of lost me at the mid-way point.
DanMachi is one of those rare fantasy anime that actually isn’t an isekai (though at times it feels like it should be).
In a fantasy world, Bell Cranel wants to be an adventurer and wants to meet the love of his life in a dungeon. With the divine blessing of his Goddess, Hestia, Bell is going to work hard to become strong, and let’s be honest, this is one of my favourite series ever.
Alright, I avoided this anime when it first came out. The name “Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” was kind of an instant turn-off and I just had this image of the most generic harem comedy in existence and wasn’t going to go near it.
No idea why I ended up watching the first episode of it, but I do know that I then watched the entire show in the space of an afternoon. For all that it isn’t a perfect series, it is a delightful bit of fun and highly addictive viewing.
Is it generic fantasy? Definitely. You have dungeons and elves and minotaurs and you’ve got a whole pile of RPG elements thrown in with levelling up and stat scores and the like. It isn’t trying to break new ground in its world building but neither is it playing these things as a joke. While the feel of the show is light-hearted they’ve taken world-building seriously and the world you are presented with is a very functional setting for a story.
Do we have a harem? Not quite but pretty close. Bell does have a lot of admirers by the end but to actually describe this as a harem comedy would not do justice to either this or to harems because while there are certainly elements of harem here, that isn’t the main focus despite the title. There is one girl that Bell likes and he uses that like as a motivation to drive himself to get stronger.
While other characters flock around him and the usual comedy elements get thrown in, the story focuses very much on Bell developing as a character.
So what works about this show? The comedy is a little bit childish and over the top at times, but it generally works and is amusing. Hestia in particular can usually make me smile. But then again, the idea of a Goddess taking on part time jobs to buy her hero equipment (or even dinner in the early stages) is pretty amusing in and of itself.
Pretty much if you don’t crack a smile during the first episode then this show isn’t going to work for you because from a tone point of view it isn’t really going anywhere and they are only going to get more excessive in their efforts to make you laugh.
Bell Cranel works as a character. Okay, he’s a bit bland as a character (generic self-insert cliché) but the story allows for him to grow and actually begin to make decisions and choices and to start to find out who he is. And unlike so many other characters he doesn’t discover he is actually an ego-maniac. He discovers that he genuinely wants to have an adventure and to protect his friends and he derives great joy from his small (and not so small) successes.
The interactions between the gods and the gods and their families work really well. I feel a little hypocritical on this point because they do a great job of massacring mythology in this and I’ve certainly criticised other shows for this previously, however I didn’t feel annoyed by the way they presented the gods in this show.
They also didn’t try to shove their version of mythology down your throat. It was more they had god like characters who happen to have the names of gods you may or may not be familiar with and as a result you may or may not like the way they are represented. That said, the interactions are great.
Bell’s party that slowly forms is fantastic. Originally hiring a supporter (who comes with a lot of baggage) before recruiting a smith (who also comes with a lot of baggage), these additional characters really help to off-set Bell’s general blandness and inject new energy into the second half of the series.
Welf Crozzo (the smith) is one of my favourite characters and my only complaint would be his limited screen time given how late in the series he is introduced.
Then we have the dungeon exploration itself which is just pure fun. Whether the characters are picking off small fry or facing up against a floor boss, the combat is visually entertaining and hits just the right balance between being dramatic and being over the top. Bell’s battle against the minotaur is one I will continue to love forever.
It perfectly brought together the previous plot points (Bell being embarrassed when he was cornered by a minotaur and being unable to fight against it as well as his desire to protect), it allowed for some critical character development and a bit of a power-up in the process before we moved into the final arc, and it was an awesome fight to watch. I loved every minute of that fight.
The biggest flaw might be that the final fight sequence isn’t quite as exciting as it needs to be. Bigger enemy doesn’t necessarily make for a better fight and it actually felt like all the clever moves and strategies that we’d see previous got tossed out the window as the characters threw themselves at the giant blob of a villain (little bit sarcastic but you get the idea).
Admittedly, it ends the way it needs to for Bell as a character, but as a viewer you gain little satisfaction. The Minotaur fight was a personal triumph for a character we’d grown to like and then this final fight was with a boss from nowhere and while it has its place it didn’t feel as rewarding. Worse though, it all just feels like a resting point for a continuation that has yet to come, though I guess we’ll see if it ever does (rumours say yes, but they’ve been wrong before – meanwhile I’ve well and truly read beyond this point in the light novels now and please give us another season).
Okay, I have to mention my other criticism which is the basic dress of every female character (even the armoured ones). Starting from Hestia on, they are not dressed for any practical purpose and while some of the male costumes aren’t any better there is at least a wider variety of clothes for males.
Is this show going to blow your mind and change the way you think? Probably not. What it should do is provide you with a few smiles, some exhilarating fight sequences, and a whole cast of cute and zany characters to chill out with for an afternoon. If that sounds appealing, pull up a chair and give it a watch.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Arifureta continues to be a mixed bag of varying animation quality and varying amounts of care. At times there are scenes that look truly beautiful and then they are followed by a still image depicting everyone walking in for dinner with the sound of footsteps over the top to give us a sense of actual movement going on (unsuccessfully). Likewise we go from a silly game of tag where Shia’s bikini top gets stolen to full on conspiracy and murder at the castle.
As always, my feelings on Arifureta are mixed as the overall plot line is fascinating and all of these characters have moments where I truly do like watching them. Then there’s everything in between those moments and when that starts dominating the episodes I find myself wondering once again why I continue to push through with this anime.
Definitely a case where reading is the better option for this story because you can definitely get through the more frivolous parts quicker and when you get to the meat the story is actually really good.
Those still watching Arifureta really have to just accept this is what it is.
You’d be forgiven early on for feeling that episode 7 of Arifureta was just going to be more filler time with fan-service as Hajime and the girls delay leaving Myu and her mother due to Hajime suddenly having sentimental feelings toward leaving Myu behind. Admittedly, it is a pretty decent character progression point given other than Yue, Hajime had cut himself off significantly from others after the initial betrayal that led to his fall so seeing him so connected to another is actually a great step forward.
It doesn’t make watching them play tag in bikinis any more interesting. Nor does it make morning wood jokes actually amusing.
However, for all that Hajime and gang seem to be in a holding pattern this week, events back at the castle involving the other students are in full swing. We finally get to see Aiko in her prison and admittedly she isn’t doing a whole lot other than fretting about things. It would have been nice to see her plotting escape or trying to get a message out or literally anything to show that she had grown beyond just wringing her hands and hoping, but at least we’ve finally seen what happened to her after her abduction.
Of course, it does leave you wondering why she isn’t just dead. All well and good to say she’s been taken off the board but the problem is she could be placed back on it if you just leave her where she is.
Aiko isn’t the main point though. What we see this week is that huge numbers of people in the castle are being influenced and this leads to an attack on the Knight Commander and pretty much only decent guy there. While a fairly common criticism I’ve had of Arifureta up until now is that we don’t spend enough time on this aspect of the story, leading to only having a vague sense of any of these characters, the Knight Commander has managed to make an impression so the attack upon him definitely carried weight and it definitely has huge implications for the safety of the students going forward.
And just to ensure that the plot is really hopping along we also get a cut of the demons declaring that their god has spoken and they are going to war. This could potentially lead to a very violent climax if all of these plot threads actually come together.
All that is really left is to see what Arifureta decides to do with all these plot points. Hopefully something good. Or at the very least, explosive.
If I thought episode 7 of Sabikui Bisco left us on a dramatic cliff-hanger, clearly I was mistaken as episode 8 shows us exactly what a dramatic cliff-hanger really is. I guess the only question I’m stuck with is whether I think Sabikui Bisco will actually follow through or whether this is going to be one of those stories where we get a dramatic cliff-hanger only for everything to be resolved within a minute of the next episode beginning.
Only time will answer that particular question and in the mean time I’m going to try to review this episode without spoilers. Though, this episode did very much cement my opinion that despite all the weird mushroom trappings, Sabikui Bisco is very much going through the motions of an adventure narrative plot. We had four episodes setting up the adventure and bringing the two main characters together. The next four episodes had their journey to find the MacGuffin and then set up this new problem. Now, with four episodes left, we’ve hit another dramatic turning point in the story.
Sabikui Bisco wasn’t going for light viewing this week.
Every now and then I watch an episode of an anime that just leaves me emotionally wrecked. That was this week’s episode of Sabikui Bisco. We begin with Milo facing Kurokawa having watched his little broadcast in the last episode and we finally get to see what images drove Milo to drugging Bisco.
Kurokawa is just… well, evil would probably be the best term. Cartoonishly evil. Motive revealed – profits at the expense of the lives of everyone suffering from the rusting. Maintaining power. Oh, and throw in the kicker reveal about Kurokawa’s life before he was the governor. Added kicker, he’s personally responsible for why everyone hates mushroom keepers.
That’s a lot of reasons to hate a person. And the thing is with the over the top nature of how this story has played out, having a villain that is so ridiculously villainous just kind of makes sense.
Speaking of over the top, Milo really stepped up this week in Sabikui Bisco. As much as it didn’t end up working out, you have to admit the sight of him charging in to the villain’s den, taking out the lackey’s and taking slices out of Kurokawa was really impressive. If Kurokawa didn’t have plot armour because he’s needed to still be around in the final act of this story he would definitely have been taken out by this attack.
What doesn’t quite add up though is that Milo did go to a lot of effort and clearly put some thought into his attack and yet turns out Jabi was going to rescue himself and probably could have gotten himself and Pawoo out without Milo or Bisco ever turning up. It really does suck when the designated hostages can rescue themselves as it makes the efforts of the heroes look more than a little futile.
Still, how awesome was Jabi?
Actually if we are ranking how awesome the characters were this week in Sabikui Bisco, tragically Pawoo who only gets to be the damsel in distress and torture victim comes in quite low but Bisco, despite coming to save Milo, doesn’t do much better. For all that he’s had some truly awesome moments throughout this series, somehow here he was just kind of off his game.
I know, they are going to use the whole poisoned last episode thing as a reason, plus he didn’t really expect the attack to come from where it did, but given some of the dodges and cool moves he has pulled off previously it really did seem like they had to seriously de-power Bisco this week in order for the story to progress as they wanted.
Anyway, Sabikui Bisco was great. I love watching this scene unfold and my only issue is the credits started rolling leaving us severely hanging until next week.
Sabikui Bisco has been airing during the Winter 2022 season and while there’s some chatter about it unfortunately it just couldn’t compete for the communities attention when big-hitters like Attack on Titan and Kimetsu no Yaiba are airing. Which is a bit of a shame because the audience that likes those kinds of shows would probably find enough to enjoy in Sabikui Bisco though it clearly doesn’t have the budget of either of them and is by a studio that I can’t seem to find any other anime listed for.
It probably didn’t help that the first few episodes kept the audience guessing about what kind of story this was ultimately going to be as we were introduced to a world being taken over by rust, a city with a corrupt leader and all the usual dystopian trappings, and a guy who could shoot arrows that caused giant mushrooms to instantly sprout.
It more or less guaranteed that Sabikui Bisco was going to be an anime that would end up being enjoyed by a few but give it six months and most people won’t have heard of it.
Again, a bit of a shame. Not saying this anime is some hidden masterpiece or anything, but if you just want to strap in and enjoy a fantasy ride, Sabikui Bisco has consistently delivered. And perhaps the reason it has managed that is that despite some of the more bizarre choices within the post-apocalyptic setting we find ourselves in, Sabikui Bisco is following almost a check list of what an adventure story needs to be. In short, our heroes find themselves on a quest.
I’ve mentioned this before on my blog that I value entertainment over originality. Weirdly, Sabikui Bisco kind of gives me both. The plot line is very much exactly what you would expect from a quest meanwhile the setting continues to feel fresh and interesting though is perhaps underutilised and underexplored.
The basic introduction to Sabikui Bisco
In Bisco Akaboshi, the ‘man eating mushroom’ (perhaps one of the weirdest and most inaccurate nicknames ever given he’s neither a mushroom or a man-eater) we have our enigmatic hero. He first appears with his face fully bandaged over in a poor attempt at disguise to cross a checkpoint. We know little about him other than he is a wanted criminal, is travelling with an old man, and he rides a giant crab. However, once he arrives in the city he meets soon to be sidekick/best friend trope Milo.
We’ll talk about how Milo has most definitely risen above his archetypal roles in a moment.
Through meeting Milo we learn that Bisco is, as all hero’s in adventure stories must be, on a quest for your standard McGuffin. This is a quest to find a mushroom that can apparently cure the disease known as the rusting that both the old man Bisco is travelling with and Milo’s sister, Pawoo, are suffering from. Actually, it probably isn’t strictly fair to call it a McGuffin because having it isn’t in and of itself the goal. The goal is to cure the rusting. Still, it could have been literally anything they had to travel to find.
Of course, they only have a vague idea where the mushroom even is and it is more mythological than reality. Then again, most people believe the mushroom keepers are spreading the rust when in fact the mushrooms they are spreading about are actually helping to remove the rust.
Now, the adventure itself through the dangerous landscapes filled with a range of biological and natural dangers could have been sufficient challenge for Sabikui Bisco to take on. However the early episodes also introduced us to a villain.
And while he isn’t a moustache twirling, monocle wearing, cackling bad-guy he’s the next best thing in anime – a gravelly voiced yakuza knock-off complete with an army of bunny guards armed with guns.
So it is the arrow shooting mushroom keeper against the gangster with gun wielding bunny soldiers?
Actually not so much. Because after Sabikui Bisco delivers the first three episodes where all the characters are established, Milo and Bisco head off on their own (pursued by Pawoo) to find the mushroom that will save their loved ones and our villain kind of disappeared for awhile. However, you had to know he was going to return. They spent too long on that set-up to let such a good opportunity just fade away.
At the halfway point just after they find the item they’ve been searching for, the villain sweeps in and essentially resets the goal-posts for the heroes who were already on a tight timeline. It is a pretty standard move in an adventure story for a party member to betray the hero or for something unexpected to throw the mission into overtime only the stakes are now far higher and the potential losses far greater.
All and all, an excellent way to pivot into the second half of the anime season and hopefully a sign that Sabikui Bisco won’t lose momentum but will power through to a conclusion at the end of the season (I am being optimistic). Still, unlike so many other anime it really hasn’t felt like it has floundered in the mid-season. Each episode has naturally progressed from the last and they’ve interspersed action set-pieces with character moments fairly nicely so that there’s always something happening.
However where Sabikui Bisco has truly excelled is in the partnership between Bisco and Milo. While Bisco is a seasoned adventurer he’s pretty brash and loud and he tends to tackle everything head on. He isn’t a mindless idiot though. He has some real survival skills and a solid knowledge of the world they are travelling through.
Milo on the other hand has lived his whole life inside the city and has become a doctor and he could definitely have become the dead-weight of the team or have been used as the damsel in distress in every other scenario. Instead the doctor commits to this journey and the path he has chosen as he is determined to save his sister, and everyone else who is dying from the incurable illness, and while Bisco’s instruction is at times lacking Milo works at improving himself.
While Milo’s medical knowledge is impressive, his ability to learn and adapt to new situations is what makes him an incredibly strong asset in the team and someone that while Bisco teases him occasionally you can see he respects. It’s also just great watching him get stronger and more confident.
It probably isn’t a coincidence that the two are colour coded with Sabikui Bisco giving the hot-headed Bisco spiky red hair and the calmer, more thoughtful Milo soft blue hair that falls across his face. Their different personalities are clear from the start and yet this odd-couple pairing works and makes what happens at episode 7 even more amazing to watch. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the two moving forward.
Sabikui Bisco isn’t treading new ground with its plot or even its characters and yet its taken the standard adventure story, thrown in a whole bunch of weird, put it in a blender and somehow managed to make the concoction stick through decent writing and not letting the pace slow down enough for audiences to question some of the plot holes. If you haven’t given Sabikui Bisco a try yet this season, now may be the time.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Sabikui Bisco presses forward with the plot in a big way this week with the dynamic duo of Milo and Bisco finally reaching their goal of finding the rust eater mushroom, just as Pawoo roared onto the scene at the end of episode 6 determined to teach Bisco a lesson for taking Milo with him.
Weirdly, Milo doesn’t intervene as Pawoo and Bisco exchange words and initial blows and it isn’t until Pawoo is lifted into the air by the rust eater that he takes any action. And what dramatic action it is as he charges into the air on the back of Akutagawa going head to head with the rust eater. It is extraordinarily brave and kind of stupid simultaneously, and because it is anime that means it is going to succeed.
Sabikui Bisco continues along at a brisk pace.
You have to wonder with all of these mushrooms instantly springing up into full growth, how they actually work. Largely, I have to wonder after Bisco and Milo get themselves chomped by the rust eater and clearly fire mushrooms inside of it how they managed to get pushed out through the roof of the mouth with the mushroom clump and not get crushed to death in the process. Or maybe I wasn’t supposed to be applying logic to this situation. It looked cool. It was dramatic. There was a great soundtrack. Let’s just go with it.
The fight isn’t without casualties with Bisco getting knocked about a bit and Akutagawa, everyone’s favourite giant crab and definite mascot for Sabikui Bisco, losing a pincer. That Bisco later in the episode mocks Akutagawa for getting turned down by a female crab (off-screen but I really want to see what she looked like) was kind of low. I felt so bad for Akutagawa.
Anyway, Pawoo finally accepts that Bisco isn’t a man-eating maniac who kidnapped her brother. Which should have meant the group could make the medicine, get back to the city to save Jabi, and spread the cure for rust.
Of course, it isn’t that simple. Sabikui Bisco had established the evil governor Kurokawa in its early episodes so it isn’t as though his interference comes out of nowhere. At the same time, convenient he shows up in a giant airship capable of listing the entire rust eater right at that particular moment.
It kind of makes you realise he’s known all along about the potential cure and for whatever reason doesn’t want it getting out (I’m guessing it is to do with power and control or just that he’s evil) but it is interesting that other than the mushroom keepers everyone else seems to be in the dark about it and that he’s managed to quell even rumours in the general population.
Of course the governor’s plan doesn’t stop with just taking the rust eater. For a show that moves so quickly and seems so light and fun if you just kind of watch the brightly coloured scenes, it kind of is really dark. Though I guess it is set in a post apocalyptic dystopian society so what else should I expect from Sabikui Bisco.
Kurokawa ambushes Pawoo on her way back to Jabi with the cure and televises something that Milo sees on TV. Weird given the amount of times there was no possibility of Bisco or Milo seeing a broadcast and yet the one time they are resting in a room is the time he tries to talk to them that way (I get it, don’t ask questions). Anyway, whatever Kurokawa says gets Milo ready to drug Bisco to sleep.
Yes it is that tired old trop of betraying someone to save them.
I don’t know why anyone thinks this is a good idea though I am impressed how well Milo thought it all through as he clearly realised he needed more than one contingency if he was actually going to drug the mushroom keeper.
Sabikui Bisco leaves us on a dramatic cliff-hanger (again) and honestly I just want to see what happens next.
When Arifureta directed Hajime onto his quest to conquer each of the Labyrinths, initially as a goal to maybe get home and then apparently to bring down the gods of the world, or whatever, I wondered how they would keep this scenario interesting.
The first Labyrinth (in season one) was brutal for Hajime given his weakness when he fell into it and transformed him entirely teaching him a huge range of skills along the way. Subsequent labyrinths have been less impressive. While the second presented some challenges, mostly they’ve been a walk-through for Hajime and gang and while they’ve learned a new magic at the other end there’s been little personal growth associated with the journey.
If the journey is giving diminishing returns, what will Arifureta do next?
I guess if someone was determined to attempt defending the Arifureta anime adaptation they’d point to Kaori’s understanding this week as she accepted her position in the party and that Hajime was in love with Yue. I’m not entirely sure that was a winning decision but I guess it counts as character growth.
For Hajime though, this latest Labyrinth really didn’t do much for him other than give him the token that means he now has conquered enough labyrinths to go back to the one in Shea’s forest. I’ll admit though, as Hajime himself points out, the visions in this Labyrinth would have been much harder to deal with if you were from the world originally. As it was though it really was as Hajime put like “watching a bad play”.
Basically this Labyrinth revealed that a year after peace was forged between humans, beastmen and demons, the human king got all the delegates from the beastmen and demons onto a boat, went off on a religious extremist rant before executing the lot of them. Go figure it was a human who broke the peace treaty and did it because he was hiding behind religion.
Although, I guess we are potentially being led to believe that he was being manipulated behind the scenes. With the end scenes showing us what is currently happening in the palace where clearly people are having their minds controlled, it is certainly possible.
And certainly they remind us at the end of this episode of Arifureta yet again of things going very wrong for the students waiting back at the palace. While Hajime and his group are out doing and as a result continuing to gain magic and skills, the rest of the summoned heroes have kind of stagnated and seem to not even be venturing out from behind the walls anymore.
Even as they worry about their teacher who has not come back and others who have gone missing, they still simply sit at a table and wring their hands rather than taking action.
Honestly, we’re very back to Arifureta just kind of being adequate. We’ve returned to the murky visuals at points in the Labyrinth making it difficult to see what is happening. We’re also back to seemingly little to no challenge for Hajime and his gang as they simply walk through one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Even the one potential threat that may have challenged them was easily dealt with due to the arrival of the talking fish Hajime randomly rescued way back when (and how many viewers had just forgotten about that).
That said, there is a sense that this season of Arifureta is actually moving us toward something. The ongoing saga with the other students suggests that Hajime isn’t going to be ignored for too much longer and it makes me wonder where this season will end.
While last episodeSabikui Bisco made us go ‘aw’ at the sight of Bisco and Milo helping some children who were under attack and running low on weapons, this week we get a flash back to Jabi teaching Bisco how to shoot his bow and while it is less than two minutes of the episode it was just so adorable it’s kind of what stuck for me. That and I think I need to update my favourite anime archers list.
Seriously, who wasn’t putting their hand up for a prequel story (a single episode would probably do it rather than a whole series) of seeing young Bisco learning how to be a mushroom keeper?
Sabikui Bisco continues with its focus on fun adventure.
One thing I’ve noted with Sabikui Bisco is it really is committed to just moving the audience along with the characters and the story. Sure there are some slower more heart warming moments and definitely a few conversations that are entirely driven by the need for some exposition, but this anime is happy to kind of just loosely connect its set pieces in order to keep the fun coming.
This week Bisco and Milo are riding Akutagawa through the snow when they encounter a snow bunny and after hunting it pull the pink-haired girl, frozen into a block of ice, from the snow. We then see them negotiating for some warmer clothing before navigating into the subway line. There’s a small heart to heart between the main pair while pink-hair fixes the train and then Bisco and Milo head onward while pink hair says goodbye.
What follows is a brief fight sequence in the train tunnel before the two burst into the light and more or less instantly stumble upon the thing they were looking for launching them into what seems like it will be a battle to carry over next week, before Pawoo shows up on her motorbike and the episode comes to a halt without a clear idea of where we are going next in Sabikui Bisco.
Normally that somewhat haphazard approach to story-telling that largely feels like a ‘and then this happened’ approach would grow a bit tiresome by the midseason yet Sabikui Bisco has managed to keep itself feeling fresh and energised. Part of this is probably just the bizarre setting and the mushroom spores that just instagrow and have a weird range of effects. But part of it is that Milo and Bisco have formed a solid team and for all that Akutagawa is a giant crab he manages to make his presence felt as a part of the team.
Even pink-haired girl, who this week finally introduced herself as Tirol, is kind of fun to have around. I loved her tactics when negotiating with the traders and it was clear she was warming up to Milo and Bisco early on. Though, you do have to allow for the whole plot convenience as Milo quite rightly asks how she got ahead of them when they’d been travelling as fast as they could given they are on a time limit to find the rust-eater mushroom.
Sabikui Bisco doesn’t really want you to concern yourself with that too much, but it also does provide at least a throw-away solution so you aren’t wondering if pink-hair is Sabikui Bisco’s equivalent of Team Rocket who literally just show up wherever they need to.
Anyway, Sabikui Bisco continues to be a lot of fun. I hope Pawoo listens to Milo next week though I suspect there will be some hijinks first. Also, I was never the kid who wanted to own a pony, but I suspect if I could have had a giant crab like Akutagawa I may have considered it.
The School Trip That Will Take Them Across The Galaxy
Kanata no Astra was an anime that seemingly came out of nowhere. I’d never heard of it and hadn’t seen any promotional videos or the like prior to the Summer 2019 season beginning. Turns out this was for the best because once this story got going it sucked me right in and was quite the enjoyable ride, more so because of walking into it absolutely blind. While it isn’t flawless, this was undeniably my favourite story of the Summer season and if it hadn’t been for the emotional connection I felt with Given, this anime would have walked away as my favourite anime of the season.
I know. High praise right off the bat.
That said, I will caution readers that though I’m going to avoid major plot spoilers as much as possible, given the nature of this story, with small bits of information revealed throughout each episode, pretty much anything I mention beyond the first episode would count as a spoiler. If you want to go in blind, just know this one is great and concludes its plot very nicely and that first double episode might start a bit slow but hang in their, it definitely finds its feet.
For everyone who is still with me, let’s talk about Astra Lost in Space.
This one is a fairly basic story following the voyage and return model where our kids, thinking they are going on a school camp, end up thrown to the other side of the galaxy though fortunately they find a functional space-ship (convenient that) and then they have to plot a route and make their way home. On the journey they learn a whole bunch of stuff about the world and themselves. Underlying this is the reason for them ending up in that situation which we will learn more about piece by piece as the journey progresses with all being revealed nicely by the end.
Still, it was really fun having a week in-between each episode to speculate.
We do need to start with that first episode though. Kanata no Astra begins and ends its run with a double length episode which adds to the overall cinematic feel this one seems to be striving for. Honestly, I probably could have done without the black bands that framed the screen for the majority of scenes however in key moments of drama, such as the rescue sequence at the end of that first double episode, that cinematic feeling really helps draw the viewer into the character’s situation and it works remarkably well.
What was a little less thrilling was the opening twenty minutes which is where the story lays its groundwork and introduces the characters. While the goofy comedy aspects on display in this part never go away, the rest of the story balances moments of tension with moments where the kids kick back and get to be kids. The opening sequence on the other hand feels like pure fluff despite the necessary introductions to the characters and the setting.
If I were to change anything in this series, it really would be this opening because I actually did pause the episode and contemplated walking away as my Summer watch list had been quite full. By the time I got to the end of episode one, all such thought were erased from my mind.
See, the characters in this story individually aren’t all that great or exceptional. In fact, most are pretty much characters we’ve seen many times before. The cast however is perfect together and as the group of kids face danger together, work together, clash with one another and then reconcile, they win the audience over and their plight becomes somehow more significant and interesting. Whether the story had ended up with a satisfactory ending or not wouldn’t change how fun the journey with this cast was even if individuals within the group annoyed me, they fit within the team.
The story also deftly introduced an additional character to the crew toward the end. Their integration only added to how solidly they had built these characters as the students we’d been travelling with interacted with, learned from, and responded to the new addition. There was some attempt at building up a few characters on Earth who were plot significant, though given the time frame this anime was working with, as well as the fact that the kid’s journey was by far the more interesting part of the story and the conspiracy was more interesting when the kids were speculating, this didn’t really go very far.
The one down side of all of this is the reveal of the traitor ended up being less of a reveal and more a confirmation of what you will have probably suspected for awhile. The character in question did feel off comparatively and there’s a lot of obvious flags along the way. I’d picked the traitor and then dismissed them because they seemed too obvious. While this isn’t the end of the world given their reveal is just one part of the mystery it is a point where more nuanced individual characters may have helped muddy the waters a bit more while still making this make sense.
Obvious red-herrings aside, there really weren’t any other candidates.
Still, it isn’t as though Kanata no Astra wants you to be perplexed. There are clues in the OP and a number of moments where characters tell us important information. While it is a slow drip-feed of info it never really stops coming and if you put the pieces together, by the time most revelations occur you’ve got a fair idea of what’s about to happen and then it is the satisfaction of having figured it out. Or in one case, being miffed that you went the wrong way with your speculation (well, I can’t get them all right).
Anyway, I loved the sense of tension this series managed to build up at key moments. I loved how when the kids had some down time they really felt like teenagers who were finding their way to a friendship. The music was fantastic and I liked that when a character changed her hair in the show they changed it in the opening as well. I also found it great the number of times Astra didn’t play the OP at all because it was using every minute of its episode time.
In less deft hands this story could have felt bloated, rushed, or meandering depending on how it was delivered. Yet here it feels like every step of the journey has been carefully plotted out and given just enough time without lingering past its welcome. Critical conversations are framed by comedy or short action sequences and everything balances nicely. In short, this series is a genuine joy to watch. It’s a space exploration story with a group of characters you can enjoy spending time with but it has ongoing drive throughout the series giving it a sense of direction and focus that helps pull everything together.
Now I’ve actually watched the series twice already because I was watching the episodes alone to review them but about four episodes in I talked a friend into watching some of it and we soon caught up to where it had aired. After that I’d watch and review the episode and a day or two later we’d watch the episode together. It is amazing how many extra details you pull out of this on a second watch even if that watch is still with a weekly gap.
Kanata no Astra benefits from taking breaks and thinking things through.
On that note though, I don’t think I’d recommend binge watching more than two episodes of this at a time. This series seems to lend itself to that slower viewing experience of watching chunks of it and then contemplating before watching a bit more. Still, I’ll definitely buy this on DVD is it becomes available because this is one series I just had a blast with.
Just so it doesn’t sound like I’m heaping nothing but praise on this anime I will point out that it has a penchant for ending episodes on cliff-hangers, or building up to dramatic moments and then resolving them fairly quickly. In other anime I’ve found this can get quite annoying as it makes it feel like they are going for cheap TBC moments. For whatever reason I didn’t find the impact to be annoying in Astra and usually just happily waited for the resolution or accepted where the story went. That doesn’t mean it won’t be irritating if you find that particular narrative gimmick one that wears thin.
However, minor niggles aside, I’d strongly recommend giving Astra Lost in Space a go. Maybe it won’t work for you but I know I thoroughly enjoyed the story that was told here and there’s plenty of positives to take away from the series even if it ultimately doesn’t work for you.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
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Images from: Kanata no Astra. Dir. M Andou. Lerche. 2019.
The Strongest Sage With The Weakest Crest reaches the halfway mark and decides the wrapping up the whole demons and monsters attack the capital arc is a good idea. So in quick succession the girls defeat a diversionary team of demons, the students of second academy delay the first demons who arrive at the capital, Mathias proves once again he’s potentially the most violent and bloodthirsty character in the show, the barrier goes up, and the monster horde is defeated. All before Mathias decides to pack up and leave to explore the dragon veins.
The thing is, I am wondering why he ever went to the academy. I don’t recall him learning anything in particular there, other than the demons had infiltrated human society, which wasn’t exactly on the curriculum. In terms of plot, he met the girls on his way to the academy so could have just as easily met them on his own journey.
And the headmaster saying Mathias had nothing left to learn just more or less reinforced that he’d learned basically nothing while he was there. He taught quite a bit but that never seemed to be his main goal. That he chooses to leave now more seems like the writer realised the school setting was not exactly exciting and wanted to move on, so why start there at all?
The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest neatly wraps up its first arc.
If I’m being a little less petty, it was kind of nice to see Lurie and Alma facing off against the initial demons alone. The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest has done a pretty decent job of building these two up incrementally. Admittedly, like everything else in this anime, it seems to have happened way too fast, but the girls have gone from learning new techniques, to facing off against lower class enemies, to fighting demons while supervised by Mathias, to now standing alone against at least weaker demons.
Their genuine happiness after they successfully took out those first few demons was actually pretty fun to watch and honestly Lurie and Alma may be the best things about The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest. Except as soon as Mathias comes back onto the scene the two become decidedly more damsel in distress like, often hiding behind him.
So let’s turn our attention back to Mathias, given he is the title character, the actual Strongest Sage.
Mathias is not a nice person. He’s proved this again and again. Basically he’s obsessed with power and getting stronger and that was the catalyst for his reincarnation in the first place. Though as he uses a range of painful and nasty tricks to dispatch his enemies, you have to wonder if he wasn’t the ‘hero’ of the story what your impression would be of him. For demons, Mathias doesn’t just kill them, at times he can be quite awful in trying out new techniques against them.
Even this week, as Mathias makes his dramatic appearance as the students of second academy were about to be overwhelmed. The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest essentially gave the demons two choices and both were to die at his hand. I’ve said it before but it is hard to get behind a main character who is quite this arrogant and cruel at times.
Though at last the barrier is complete and the demons stop coming though that still leaves the horde of monsters. I kind of though The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest had set it up so the monsters would arrive first, distract the city, before they attacked, but in this instance the demon attack came first. It doesn’t make a lot of sense from the point of view of the demons but apparently we shouldn’t worry about that.
I will say the barrier was kind of pretty, though we didn’t actually get to see something trying to get through it so I’m not sure if it physically stops things or not given the students clearly pass in and out of it.
Anyway, halfway along and The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest has been consistently ordinary. It isn’t bad by any means and there’s nothing here to really point to and say it is broken in terms of characters or plot. It just isn’t very exciting and the main character isn’t very likeable.
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