by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 5 of
I have to hand it to Midori-chan—she's one tough magic log. I didn't expect the gang to reach Island Six so quickly, but their arboreally-ambulatory trolley car has made excellent time. Their approach this episode is much less eventful now that the big bad Nushi is no more, and that's a good thing. While I wouldn't quite categorize Kemurikusa as iyashikei, there's something undeniably comforting about its quieter moments. Just as Midori-chan steadily advances one leafy step at a time, so too has the show's plot found a comfortable pace that affords it plenty of time to breathe while still moving forward and broadening its narrative scope.
Water remains everyone's primary motivation for getting to Island Six. It's a no-brainer—life as we know it can't exist without water—but it's interesting to see the different ways that water is important to everyone on this journey. In one sense, it's the fuel that powers their vehicle, and Midori-chan probably consumes the most out of all of them. It also sustains the sisters, although their tree-like metabolism means they can survive on less water for longer periods, which is probably the only reason they've survived this long. Wakaba needs water regularly like a normal human, and despite how much the sisters love to pick on him, the fact that they share their most precious resource with him is an undeniable symbol of their camaraderie. This gets taken a step further in this episode, when we see that Ritsu lets him take some extra water to give the plant he's growing. Rin justifiably balks at the idea, because while we can guess that his plant will have some importance later on, to her it's just a waste of water that could be used as fuel or nourishment instead. But this also shows how much they've accepted Wakaba (and how much Rin defers to her sisters).
Wakaba continues to unravel the mysteries of the Kemurikusa, albeit accidentally. The big news is that Midori-chan's leaves have the ability to fix pretty much anything, which is immediately useful when the gang discovers they've lost a wheel. (As an aside, nobody in the group knows what a “wheel” is, so they instead call it a “round thing,” which is the kind of cute and evocative detail that's so emblematic of TATSUKI's writing.) It also makes a lot of sense; when Rin tried to attack Wakaba back in the beginning, she only ended up healing his wounds. Along those lines, the reason it works so well on the red bugs may be that they're corrupted by something akin to a virus, so Midori-chan heals them by either exterminating the virus, or if the corruption is too extensive, killing the host. Like most of his discoveries, Wakaba learns this by chance, after he happens to observe a leaf straightening out a bent pole. However, the show extracts some humor out of the others' complete nonchalance towards the same phenomenon, which also further delineates the gulf between the human Wakaba and the human-adjacent sisters. Of course, that's also why they need each other.
My favorite part of the episode happens right after Wakaba fixes their car and reveals his hypothesis about Midori-chan's powers. Ritsu is so overcome with happiness, pride, and relief that she starts crying, and it's the “relief” part that I want to focus on. She's relieved that her decision to nurture Midori-chan ultimately bore fruit that was useful to her family, because otherwise she feels like a burden, neither as strong as Rin nor as versatile as Rina. This is an absurd line of thought to begin with, since Midori-chan has already been both their means of travel and their primary means of defense, but it's the mindset that's been thrust upon her due to the cruel nature of their world. She's scared of weakening her family's chance of survival due to her own selfishness, so she's hyper-conscious of her own desires and deferential to a fault. We already saw her collapse from exhaustion a few episodes ago, but what makes this my favorite scene is that Rin and the Rinas immediately deny this line of thought. Even in this harsh post-apocalyptic environment, Kemurikusa stresses that survival on its own is meaningless if you can't support the things that make the ones you love happy. Ritsu loving Midori-chan was enough of a reason for them to go along with raising the little twig. Midori-chan could have grown into a motionless log, and Rin and Rina would still love their sister. It's the kind of unequivocal kindness that's so rarely found in stories about survival. (Actually, did I say that was my favorite scene? I lied. That was only my second-favorite scene. My favorite scene from this episode was Ritsu curling up Midori-chan's prehensile branches into an unmistakable flexing pose.)
Everyone's finally on Island Six, and there's still over half of the season left, so I doubt their adventure is going to be as simple as finding the lake and leaving. Wakaba personally ensures this by wandering off on his own, led by a trail of glowing Kemurikusa. This breadcrumb trail setup seemed so obvious that I was certain he was being led into a trap, but I think the actual punchline is better—he's so engrossed in magic neon leaves that he gets completely lost deep in the former subway system. That feels true to Wakaba's eccentricities. I'd fear for him if I weren't sure that his new little robot buddy (definitely NOT Lucky Beast) will find him eventually and hand him a map of the island like he indirectly asked for. And he might not even need to wait for that, since the cliffhanger reveals that there's another person in the station with him! She looks more like the sisters than Wakaba, and in fact she looks very familiar if you've watched the mini prequel episodes. Since I'm pretty sure she's supposed to be dead, the next episode should be an interesting one.
Overall, this was another solid installment of Kemurikusa, full of crimson vistas of urban decay, fun and heartfelt character-driven scenes, and additional layers of mystery and intrigue. At this point, I don't foresee the show blowing up in popularity like Kemono Friends did—it's a little too niche for that—but as somebody already on board the TATSUKI train, I'm pleased with how enjoyable it's been.
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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