Sabikui Bisco
Episodes 1-2

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Sabikui Bisco ?
Community score: 4.1

How would you rate episode 2 of
Sabikui Bisco ?
Community score: 4.0

Snail planes, iguana cavalry, and giant ally crabs, oh my! Sabikui Bisco's creative license with the animal kingdom is just one of many facets that help its introductory episodes stand out as one of this season's boldest and wildest anime offerings. Post-apocalyptic sci-fi stories are a dime a dozen, especially in our increasingly fatalist times, so it's an uphill battle to distinguish yourself from the disaster-obsessed crowd. In essence, how do you go about making the end of the world more exciting? Sabikui Bisco's answer, so far, has been unilateral audacity. Its colorfully overbearing worldbuilding, hot-blooded characters, whip-quick pacing, and deliberately jumbled plotline all swirl together into one shroom-addled experience. It's a hell of a lot, and I like it.

Rather than begin with the show proper, I think it's easier (and more fun) to look at its appeal through the lens of its appropriately eye-popping OP. The displacement of animals reinforces the show's apocalyptic themes; whales swimming through the sky suggest an inversion of the natural order. Plus, it just plain looks cool. The heavy cel-shading gives the whole OP a vintage comic book vibe, which pairs well with the giant creatures and desert setting ripped from retro sci-fi serials. The aesthetic prevalence of rust and mushrooms also makes it impossible for me not to draw comparisons to Dorohedoro, a kindred spirit in smashing subtlety's face right into a concrete wall. The only major downside of the OP is that it makes me wish the rest of the show looked just as heavily stylized.

Outside certain strong aesthetic choices, the defining feature of Sabikui Bisco so far is its setting, and more specifically, how its setting is presented to us with as much gentleness as a swan dive into a frigid winter river. While some stories ease their audience into their worldbuilding, Sabikui Bisco starts mid-sprint and expects us to keep up with it. It's a disorienting and potentially off-putting approach, but I think this story has enough confidence and character to make it work. There's a smorgasbord of small details and puzzling asides that I look forward to learning more about as the series progresses. Everything we currently know about Tokyo's destruction, for example, comes secondhand via quips from the border patrol and a cryptic dream recounted by the brothel owner. For as in-your-face as Sabikui Bisco is on the surface, it's been pretty meticulous in how it doles out information, and that degree of care gives me confidence that those threads will lead somewhere cool. Is Tetsujin real? What's the relationship between the Rusting disease and the mushrooms? What even is the Rusting disease? And why are the secret service wearing rabbit masks? These are good questions, and I want to know the answers to them.

Perhaps the most significant choice made by these first two episodes, however, lies in its timeline. It's all out of order, jumping between Milo's activities in Imihama, Bisco's perilous escape, and, eventually, their adventures together. Arguably, this just adds another layer of confusion on top of what's already a pretty stacked plate full of concepts like rust pestilence and mushroom terrorism, so I can't blame anybody put off by that. On the other hand, though, the second episode provides additional context that makes it a lot easier to understand the actual progression of events—Bisco and Jabi travel to the Gunma border, they escape over it after an altercation with the guards, the snail plane injures Jabi en route, and Bisco infiltrates Imihama to find a doctor for Jabi, which unites him with Milo and kicks their whole mess off. It's not exactly complicated, but I also don't think the jumbled narrative has added anything valuable like an enhanced focus on character or thematic parallels. It'll be interesting to see if the rest of the season sticks with this approach, or whether it's just a gimmick for the introduction.

With the timeline in flux and the setting so psychedelic, the characters help ground us in these early stages of the story. Compared to everything else, it's honestly refreshing how archetypal they are. Milo is a quasi-back alley doctor with a heart of gold, caring for the slums and his sister while searching for a cure for the Rusting. His unfaltering kindness contrasts sharply with the setting, but I really like that even he is not above making shady deals for the sake of his research towards a greater good. Bisco is currently a bit less rounded, but he has all the makings of a great foil and companion for Milo. Although his demeanor and violence couldn't be any different from the doctor, he too has a sick family member he cares for very much. Elsewhere, I love the scumbag mobster governor Kurokawa (and his velvety villain voice courtesy of Kenjiro Tsuda), Pawoo's motorcycle samurai shtick kicks ass, and Jabi is great even if he is absolutely fated to die.

As likeable as its setting and characters are, there are still some noticeable cracks around Sabikui Bisco's edges that temper my enthusiasm ever so slightly. I can see the pacing as being a significant issue. Not only are these first two episodes jumbled up, they're fast. Not too fast as of yet, but with a lot of light novel to get through and (presumably) only one season to work with, I wouldn't want to see them cut the brakes just to cram in as much story as possible. This is also a pretty wild action series with a diverse cast of giant animal combatants, and I worry about the animation production being able to keep up with all that. The CG integration into the second episode already isn't great, and the crab looks comically robotic. Hopefully, the anime's overall sense of style—suffused with Fungus and Iron oxide—will remain strong enough to fill in those gaps.

Quibbles aside, I think Sabikui Bisco is off to a really fun start on the heels of the most kinetic and frenetic premiere of the season. It remains to be seen whether it will unravel like a finely crafted mystery series or collapse like a shoddily constructed building, but there's a lot to like about the prospect of further offbeat adventures in this rust-eaten dystopia.

Rating:

Sabikui Bisco is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Steve can be found on Twitter if you want to read his World’s End Harem livetweets. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.


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