The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Sabikui Bisco ?
Community score: 4.1
What is this?
In the far future, a disaster known as the “Rusty Wind” has transformed the majority of Japan into a barren desert and left civilization in tatters. After his teacher falls prey to the rust, the roguish Bisco Akahoshi embarks on journey through the sandy wastes to obtain a mushroom known only as the Rust Eater, rumored to cure the ailment. Together with the dashing young doctor Milo, the pair will have to contend with the unforgiving environment and their fellow wanderers in order to make it back alive. (from manga)
How was the first episode?
A lot of what goes down in the premiere of Sakibui Bisco functions as table setting for the (presumably) more exciting tale to come, but I actually appreciate how willing the show was to take its time and introduce us to its world and characters. Sure, there may not have been much action or suspense until the very end of the episode, and the title character barely makes an impact on the story until then, but not every anime needs to start at maximum speed. Besides, Sakibui Bisco has such a wild and creative premise that I'm more than happy to savor all of the time we get to spend with it.
The whole idea of a fungal-themed apocalypse is just so cool and visually striking, and I appreciate how the show explores the run-down pockets of life that exist on the edges of what remains beyond the dead cities and Rusty air that mushrooms leave behind. Milo (aka Doctor Panda) makes for a great perspective character, too: He's a fundamentally decent guy who is happy to settle in his practice amongst the prostitutes and the street rats, no matter how much money the skeezy governor offers him to set up shop in the big city. I was initially worried about how the show would handle Milo's “beloved and terminally sick sister" shtick, but it turns out that she's not some precocious little cherub; rather, Pawoo is a badass who will take on shroomy terrorists like Bisco, even if saving her loved ones comes at the cost of her own life.
Plus, did you all see Bisco's bow? It shoots little freaking mushroom bombs! That's just, like, really neat! I have no clue if Sakibui Bisco is going to live up to the potential of its setup and its wonderfully confident premiere, but I'm more than willing to take a risk and stick around for a few more episodes to see.
It's funny, for how often I complain about double-length premieres taking too much time, this show is one where it probably would have greatly benefited from having twice the time for its introduction. As-is, Sabikui Bisco has a lot of details and concepts that are interesting, and I love the aesthetic of it all, but by the end of this episode I'll be damned if I had any idea where the story's going or what it's trying to do.
Partially that's thanks to this premiere feeling pretty disjointed. We begin with a scene of the titular Bisco, a wanted man, trying to bluff his way through a government checkpoint, and you'd think that would be a good way to introduce one of our leads. But instead of following the scene through to its conclusion, we intermittently cut back to it through the rest of the episode, while the actual plot progresses around our other lead, Milo. And while Milo's story is more straightforward, the act of splicing it – seemingly at random – with the whole interrogation is just confusing more than anything. There's a couple other moments that left me scratching my head too, like the total non-sequitur sequence of someone piloting a Slug(?) Plane and firing a missile at Bisco just before the eye-catch. It's a strange scene that might make more sense later on, but is endemic of some strange editing decisions in this premiere.
Still, while the story is up in the air, I'm really into the overall setting. Post-apocalyptic societies can tend towards colorless, samey wastelands, but the world of Bisco is simultaneously vibrant and desolate, and most of its details are simply introduced without any tedious exposition. Why yes, the cops here ride giant iguanas and the mayor's lackeys inexplicably wear cartoon rabbit masks. Yeah, there are monsters and giant crabs with no seeming connection to the human-killing “Rust” that's overtaken the world, and we're not going to bother explaining them, just accept it. It makes for an immediately more interesting world than it could have, and by the time Bisco was blowing up helicopters with mushroom-spawning arrows I was sold on seeing more of this world.
We don't get a whole lot to go on for the characters just now, but what we've seen makes them seem really fun. Milo himself is an earnest and friendly guy who genuinely wants to help the people around him with his medical knowledge. I like that his sick sister isn't your typical frail imouto, but an adult and former guard captain who's still ready to throw down even when half her body is rusted over. We don't see much of Bisco himself yet, but I appreciate him seeming like a shrewd and careful person rather than the dumb hothead his design would suggest.
I wish I didn't have to put the asterisk of “potentially” in front of so much of what I like, though. Promise is always something you want from a premiere, but I'd have a lot more confidence if this intro were more cohesive, or did just a bit more to indicate what the overall story or character dynamics will be. As-is, I'm optimistic, but definitely need episode two to make more sense of things.
One of my regrets is that I haven't finished reading the first novel of this series yet. I have, however, read enough to think that this first episode might be skipping around a bit, but this is a case where it really works in the episode's favor – we get a very good idea of the story's world and the fallout from whatever apocalyptic event happened before the action started. And it's a fascinating dystopian world – anyone can throw hippos into post-apocalyptic Japan or stick a giant snail on the front of a plane, but I can't think of another dystopia that has mushrooms spread a skin disease to the point where they're basically contraband.
The disease, called Rusting, is another well-thought-out piece of this story. If you've ever had seborrhea or a similar condition, the idea of a spreading rash that can come off in flakes will feel familiar, and even if your only experience of something similar is a peeling sunburn, there's a realism to Rusting (apart from it apparently being actual rust) that makes it believable as a condition. The implication that the mushrooms' spores spread the disease makes sense – why else would Mushroom Keepers be so feared or the breeze that blows across ruined Japan be called “the rusty wind?”
It is a mad, headlong dash into the story, which means that if you're not paying attention, things can feel overwhelming. For most of the episode, we have the dueling narratives of Dr. Milo Nekoyanagi, a young man desperately searching for a cure because his older sister Pawoo is dying from Rust, and a mysterious guy dressed like a mummy monk trying to get into the city. Things don't come together until the very end, by which point we've also added a very shady man of business to the cast and seen just what a skilled Mushroom Keeper can do with the spores under his care. But we still get enough to feel for Milo, who really is in an untenable position. He believes a cure for Rusting can be found using mushrooms that he can't get because they cause the disease in the first place, which means that he has to rely on suspect people and methods to make any headway while people die around him. I'm very curious to see what meeting Bisco the Mushroom Keeper will do for his goal and where the story and world go from here. It's an interesting introduction to a world that may be bleak but is definitely worth visiting.
If you locked me in a room for 10 years and had me try to think up the craziest ideas I could, I don't think an archer whose arrows grow mushrooms in a post-apocalyptic Japan where everything—including people—are turning to rust would even cross my mind. Needless to say, I'm feeling like I've been thrown into the deep end with Rust-Eater Bisco—though that's not a bad thing in this case.
While the world of this future Japan is a mix of the familiar and the alien, people are still people. Milo, our viewpoint character for this episode, is easy to understand and empathize with. He's a doctor in the slums for two reasons: 1) He genuinely cares about people regardless of wealth or status and 2) being one gives him access to what he needs to work on curing his sister's severe case of the rust disease. He's genuine, kind, and willing to risk it all, and it's hard not to root for someone like that. So even if I felt like I'm up to my neck in expository world-building half of the time, the emotional connection to Milo kept me from going under.
On the visual side of things, the show looks pretty darn good. The world is expertly realized with a markedly haggard look and the characters look crisp and clean—even during the chaotic action scene in the episode's final minutes. The whole show gives off some serious Trigun vibes with the desert environment, the world in decay, and the presence of a walking disaster feared and hunted by the world at large. And honestly, that alone would be enough to leave me wanting more. The fact that it has a solid main character and a fantastically creative setting only makes me more excited to see what comes next.
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