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.