Episode 4

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Kemurikusa ?

The opening scene of Kemurikusa's fourth episode is a wonderful example of what I find so charming about the show. It's only Wakaba and the Rinas bantering to pass the time, but there's a lot packed into the sequence. Wakaba continues to fool around with the Kemurikusa samples he's been collecting, making infinitesimal progress toward understanding how to use them, but progress nonetheless. Meanwhile, the Rinas can't understand why anyone would be interested in things they can't eat, which is admittedly a highly evolved point of view. Wakaba's curiosity about everything means it's easy for them to distract him, and they genuinely seem to enjoy showing off their unique strain of Kemurikusa powers as much as Wakaba enjoys being surprised by them. They're different lifeforms with completely different perspectives, but both Wakaba and the Rinas have a purity of spirit that helps them bond. Meanwhile, Ritsu smiles at the wheel while Rin threatens to turn this subway car around if her kids don't quiet down in the back. It's a silly scene full of the Rinas' weird parlor tricks, but it's a great example of the familial dynamics that add both humor and heart to Kemurikusa.

More so than the previous installments, this episode focuses on the strange powers that the sisters possess, while also finding a niche for the aggressively normal human powers of Wakaba. Most of this gets communicated through Tatsuki's signature understated humor. There's the opening scene where Rina and her clones play with Wakaba like he's a big puppy entranced by their ambulating skirt spheres, and I absolutely love the comedic timing of Wakaba's stunned silence morphing into a slow clap for the way Rin handily pulverized the red bugs in their way in a later scene. The combined fear and awe he expressed when Rin somehow lifted the entire subway car up to the Sky Bridge was similarly great. His reaction to the Rinas trying to expedite their cloning also got a good guffaw out of me. I don't even know how to describe what they do. It looks like they start melting down into brown sludge for a moment before they snap back into their original forms and colors. It's the kind of unsettling out-of-nowhere visual effect that only be properly achieved in this lo-fi CG style. Wakaba, ever the concerned third party, shouts and asks if they're okay, to which they matter-of-factly repeat that they're just trying to duplicate themselves, duh. There's no better argument for Wakaba's existence than his wholly genuine reactions to a quartet of clones out to ruthlessly troll him.

I continue to appreciate the way that Kemurikusa rolls its lore and worldbuilding naturally into its conversations. The Nushi's existence, for example, is brought up by one of the Rinas in an obvious attempt to freak Wakaba out. I actually thought they were just making it up before Ritsu told him in not so many words that they lost their sister Ryo to one, so he shouldn't talk about it around Rin. (And his deadpan “I don't want to think about it either” is a perfect response.) This is information we need in order for the episode's climax to make sense, but it's derived simply from the way these characters act around each other. Points from previous episodes also get reinforced, like Rin's concern for Ritsu's health, their memories of their fallen sisters, and the mysterious First Person. I also love the continued callbacks to Wakaba being “poison” for making Rin's big dumb crush flare up. On the surface, “boy crash-lands in mysterious world and finds himself surrounded by girls, some may be infatuated with him” sounds like every bad isekai premise, but that's unfair to Kemurikusa's resulting storytelling. I don't doubt that it'll eventually go somewhere, but for now the whole point of Rin's crush is poke fun at her otherwise severe demeanor and Wakaba's pure cluelessness, which is the appropriate degree of seriousness that applies at this point.

The climax of the episode is the gang's confrontation with a real Nushi. This is the first big battle since the premiere, and despite the show's low-budget trappings, it's pretty well-directed with good fight choreography and a real sense of danger. The Nushi itself looks great, like a hell-centipede decked out with glowing red Tron lines. And after an episode about Wakaba marveling over the sisters' superpowers, it's time for him to flex his own powers of observation. There were already plenty of parallels to draw between him and Kaban from Kemono Friends, but he's pretty much 100% Kaban in this scene—a normal person working in tandem with extraordinary people in order to save all of them. He's dumb on the surface but he's clever in moments, and his decoy idea gives Rin the window she needs to one-punch her fist straight through the Nushi's neck. Beyond that, he manages to make the Kemurikusa he was playing with in the beginning of the episode deploy a shield to save a Rina. Granted, he doesn't know how he did it, but it's another hint that he has some kind of relationship with their world, even if his reckless bravery can get the better of him. Maybe one day Rin will deign to take his leash off, but I doubt it'll be anytime soon. For the time being at least, she's gained some closure for her sister Ryo and some sorely-needed confidence that her family can yet survive.

All in all, this was another solid episode of Kemurikusa, full of amusing banter between the characters and topped off with a satisfying fight for their lives. The show's aesthetic also continues to be something that elevates it from good to memorable. It wrings a lot out of contrasting reds and blues, but my favorite detail this episode was the reveal of the Sky Bridge, which ends abruptly at a point where it looks like its steel infrastructure was seared and melted. One Rina jovially suggests that something might have eaten a chunk of it, but I'm left wondering if that contains a nugget of truth, like many of her other jokes. Despite what we've learned, we're no closer to knowing anything about what happened to the world, and I'm okay not finding a definite answer so long as we keep getting hauntingly beautiful glimpses of the scars it left behind. Kemurikusa is about the small victories achieved through a family (and their adopted puppy) using their individual strengths in tandem to protect each other and survive in a totally hostile world. That's as relevant a message as any for a show to share.

Rating: B+

Kemurikusa is currently streaming on Amazon.

Steve is a friend who's good at watching anime and can be found making bad posts about anime on Twitter.

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