Disease runs rampant in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, particularly among the impoverished who must contend with poisonous creatures, a lack of food, and worst of all, the rusting, a disease that “rusts” your body until it reaches your heart and kills you. In this dark place, Milo, known to the locals as Panda Sensei, offers free care to the poor while caring for his sister, Pawoo. But he’s playing with danger, purchasing mushrooms, a delicacy now, but one which causes the rusting as well, as he searches for a cure for the disease. More dangerous still is a “Mushroom Keeper” on the loose, Akaboshi Bisco, who can cause monstrous mushrooms to grow and is rumored to be a maneater. The government, bent on protecting only itself, is rumored to have caught him, but have they really? And what of this mysterious monk, who is trying to enter the vast wasteland created of much of Tokyo by the Tetsujin?
Mushroom shonen sci-fi, anyone? Sabikui Bisco‘s first episode is a welcome surprise in this modest anime season. Opening with a pretty savage explosion in Tokyo, the episode quickly reveals two wondrous settings—a not-quite-yet cyberpunk inner city and a vast desert, along with a palette filled by beautiful oranges and browns, setting the stage for a story of rust and mushrooms. Of course, it’s far more than that. In just one episode, the idea of a corrupt government subjugating the lower class is already heavily featured, while at least two heroes are as well—the likeable Milo, who is as determined as he is kind, and the titular Bisco, who’s bringing all the action. What’s more compelling, though, are all the side characters that have already made their way into the story—a corrupt governor, a kawaii girl enforcer, the mysterious “monk,” and Milo’s sister, whom the narrative leads you to believe will be the meek type that her brother needs to save, but who is revealed to be far more interesting than that (and already my favorite).
Besides the lovely landscapes and cool setting, all reminiscent, intentionally I’m sure, of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (check out the gas masks, desert, and shelled, poisonous creatures), what I like best about episode one is how it unfolds piece by piece. The action centers on Milo here, and it’s through his eyes, mostly, that we learn about this world rather than by any of at least four more physically imposing characters. It’s well planned, a mystery, and we’re left with far more questions by the end of episode one than answers. I’m not sure if the rest of the series can live up to the expectations set by the excellent first episode, but the opening is smart enough to lead me to believe that it might. I’m excited to find out if it does.
Sabikui Bisco can be streamed on Funimation.
9 thoughts on “First Impression: Sabikui Bisco”
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This premiere was probably my biggest surprise! I would have ranked it “wild card” if we’d done a preview post for this season, because it just sounded so very wacky that I was intrigued. But you really hit the nail on the head as to the real strengths of this opening episode! And the parallel you draw with Nausicaa is so spot on! It really has that vibe, but with the added benefits of modern animation (e.g. the colors are brilliant rather than muddy) and Tatsu, er, I mean Kenjiro Tsuda, voicing the corrupt Governor.
What really hooked me though (and I’ll add this to the FI Master Post), is the metaphor at the heart of the mushrooms: the nuclear mushroom clouds that essentially demarcated the end of Japanese history up to that point and the beginning of a new era–one marked by trauma, a power vacuum, widespread illness (both physical and psychological) as a result of the bombing and release of radiation, but also an urgent drive to innovate and rebuild a new society, new power structures, new culture even, while still commemorating the past. What’s really cool is that the character of Milo and his experimentation with mushrooms develops the metaphor even further, highlighting the benefits of radiation when used in a controlled way for medical therapy. Nuclear radiation (mushrooms) is indeed both the deadliest weapon humanity has created, but also a breakthrough medical treatment.
I’m very curious to see where this series goes and if it continues to develop this metaphor!
THAT I did not catch, but now reading it, what an evident metaphor! Now I’m appreciating this episode all the more!
Wow great explanation! I never would have put all of that together. Let’s see how the show keeps going 🙂
Wow! I haven’t watched this one yet, but now it seems I must. Especially when you share insights like this one! Not to sound like a broken record but you really are a gem. (Which one would you be? I’m particularly fond of Rutile :)) Thanks for always stepping forward with these thoughts and not keeping God’s gifts all to yourself.
Aw, thanks so much! I have to say, I’m just so delighted to have found a community where my ridiculous excitement over tiny details is so welcomed!
I so admire Rutile’s clarity of purpose and commitment! If I had to pick a gem for myself, I’d say Pyrite (fool’s gold), haha! Which sounds self-deprecating, but actually, it fits well with my little bio blurb since it calls attention to small quantities of gold that might otherwise be missed, and apparently the ancient Greeks used it as a fire-starter, so the metaphors abound. 😉
“It’s well planned, a mystery, and we’re left with far more questions by the end of episode one than answers. I’m not sure if the rest of the series can live up to the expectations set by the excellent first episode, but the opening is smart enough to lead me to believe that it might. I’m excited to find out if it does.”
That is how I felt after watching it today 🙂 If it can keep this pace going, this will be a favorite for this season.
Thanks for this review! You had me at “Nausicaa” which I love dearly. And then Claire cemented the deal with her latest crazy insight. Crazy like a fox! Again I so appreciate these reviews you guys are doing. I wish I had the time to see them all for myself but 2022 is just crazy busy for me.
While I liked the animation and the character designs, I really wish they had done a better job of explaining what’s going on. I felt like I was just dropped in mid story and was very confused by the end of the first episode. The world of the series sounds interesting, but I’m not really hooked on the story, mainly because I don’t yet know what the story is.