by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 7 of
You ever go on a road trip that suddenly turned to crap? Like hey, things are going well, you're making good time, everyone's having fun and keeping each other entertained in the car, when there's a distinct and noticeable shift in energy? Like maybe somebody got sick from that gas station hot dog outside Atlanta. Or somebody drinks too much and can't drive for their shift, so now everyone's extra tired for the last two days. Or god damn Keith thought it would be funny to take three tabs of acid and spends the next 36 hours having the trip from hell in the back of the van and now you're strung out on energy drinks to keep going because you're already way behind schedule and you need to make this gig if you want to pay off the van and god dammit Keith you always do this we're finding a new drummer the second we're back home. If you have, then you can very easily relate to Memempu this week, as she finds herself having to chaperon her adult companions as they trip off weird flowers and cactus juice.
It's a classic setup for these kinds of road trip adventure series, and makes for a pretty fun sidestory as our central quartet make their way through the barren desert section of the underworld, but I am a little disappointed we didn't get more time just letting the crew hang out. We finally have all of our principle cast together, and the few minutes we get of them just traveling and bickering are genuinely charming. Yuri especially works to bring everyone's personalities together, being youthful and outgoing enough to bridge the gap between Memempu and the adults, and good-natured enough to let some gentle ribbing happen without it feeling mean. I also like how the team's different vehicles let them emote differently even while they're on the road – it's a cute addition that makes the mechs of the show feel integral even when there's no fights. Like I said, I'd like to see more of that going forward, and it's a good sign that our full cast has genuine and likable chemistry together. Speaking of chemistry...
From there most of the episode follows the formula you'd expect if you've ever watched “Mushroom Samba,” with the cast tripping out and acting weird as they get dangerously high off toxic underground flora. Memempu escapes the worst effects thanks to following proper masking procedure, and finds herself babysitting the adults in her life while trying to find a cure that won't just make things worse. It's funny enough, and offers a fun look into what kind of Drunk everyone is; Gagumber is a total party bro, Zackletu giggles before turning into a sobbing wreck, and Yuri rides the buzz before riding a toilet seat face-first.
But in a twist to the expected formula, Sakugan actually solves this problem before the third act, and the fallout of the whole thing takes a surprisingly dramatic turn. All the psychedelics in the air seem to have knocked loose more of Memempu's prophetic dream of Urorop, including some shockingly dark images of Gagumber's apparent, bloody death at their ultimate destination. The whole sequence is expertly edited, and throws the entire rest of the episode for a loop, as our heroine's growing fear over the vision pairs with Gagumber's hangover to make for an emotionally messy confrontation that's still not resolved by the end of the episode. What initially looked to be a goofy parable where Memempu learns to value her companions above the end goal of their quest winds up with her at her lowest point, barely speaking with her dad even as she's haunted by the thought of losing him, while he stubbornly refuses to bridge the gap himself.
Then there's that final dream, which expands to show us just enough to reveal these visions haven't been from the future, but the past – from Memempu's infancy. That raises a whole lotta questions about pretty much everything we thought we knew about this family and their history, and on top of some not-so-subtle hints about Zackletu's real reason for following Gagumber, it signals that we're finally drilling into the mysteries that Sakugan has been skirting around these past few episodes.
In all it makes for an episode that's more than a bit disconnected, but ultimately works well even if the two halves don't mesh quite like you'd hope. If nothing else, both sections get the room to breathe they need unlike last week, meaning the whole thing still feels more coherent by the time the ED hits. We seem to be through the goofy and fun side adventures now, and I'm excited to see what Sakugan's true depths have to offer.
Sakugan is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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