Episodes 8-9

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Sakugan ?
Community score: 4.0

How would you rate episode 9 of
Sakugan ?
Community score: 3.8

You know, it figures right when personal circumstances make me skip a week, that Sakugan delivers easily its best episode since its premiere. Where previous episodes have featured some uneven storytelling, questionable pacing, or just plain eye-rolling extended jokes, “Memories & Regrets” brings back the strong, nuanced character writing that made this series such a treat in its early days.

Keep in mind, good character writing doesn't necessarily mean likable characters – somebody in a show can be a well-written, consistent, interesting portrayal of humanity without necessarily being someone I'd want to hang out with for more than five minutes, and that's very much true of the portrait Sakugan paints of Gagumber in episode eight. Despite being the sole adult in the relationship, he refuses to actually apologize to Memempu or even hold a real conversation with her, and we learn that the emotions driving that avoidance spawned from his long-lingering guilt over Rufus' death. The exact details of said death are still up in the air – more on that later – but the pertinent details are clear as day: despite knowing his late partner left behind a younger sibling, Gagumber hightailed it out of their hometown without so much as a word, leaving a kid alone and helpless as he ran away from his mistakes, the same way he's behaved several times through the show. And that all comes back to bite him when Zackletu reveals the real reason she tracked him down to begin with.

Said twist isn't exactly shocking – the moment Zackletu mentioned her brother in episode seven all but confirmed that yes, she was connected to the identically red-eyed, black-haired Rufus from Gagumber's past. But the show thankfully doesn't dwell on any surprise, instead focusing on the heavy emotions at play with Zackletu and her secret connection to our fuckup of a hero. That's a smart move on multiple levels, as it slowly becomes apparent that Zackletu isn't out for revenge like you'd think. Instead, she just wants answers, closure, and an explanation for why the brave and confident man who teamed up with her brother seemingly abandoned them, then turned into a washed-up jackass who can't even be straight with his own kid.

Actual answers of that kind are hard to come by, and some details dropped here suggest that any concrete reasons are going to be a lot more complicated than anyone expects. Gagumber dismisses the discrepancy between his own memories and Zackletu's as a simple misunderstanding, but combined with what we saw before in Memempu's uncovered baby memory, that big old scar on the guy's head is looking a lot more sinister than just some flavor for his character design. Plus Gagumber's actual memories of how Rufus died are noticeably sporadic and vague, meaning whatever actually happened to them is probably tied into all this mystery with Urorop and the masked folks sneaking around everywhere. All that could, potentially, cheapen Gagumber's arc if he turns out to have been manipulated into being the mess he is today, but I'm hopeful that won't be the case, considering how things end here.

Because what ultimately satisfies Zackletu isn't getting a full explanation for her brother's death, or excuses on Gagumber's part, or even a direct apology. What lets her finally get closure is seeing, for a brief moment, the return of the man she thought she knew as a kid, running into danger for the sake of another little girl who needs his help and finally giving a much-deserved apology. It doesn't replace what's been lost – nothing ever could – but it's a sign that the person she trusted is still capable of being the person she thought he was. And sometimes a little faith in others can make moving on just a little easier.

It's hard to tell if Gagumber himself appreciates all that, but he does seem to take something to heart in the next episode, where what could have been another goofy side trip winds up being an extremely heartwarming bit of character resolution for our main duo. Sure, there are still some wacky hijinks like a fruit-powered mech, or Memempu outfitting Big Tony with an “Electric Amphibious System” that's just a robot-sized set of floaties, but “End of Vacation” is about the necessary aftermath of its high-flying predecessor. After all, Gagumber and Memempu may have made up, but that doesn't mean the things that had them fighting in the first place were actually resolved. Gagumber's still got a lot of work to do when it comes to being a parent, and Memempu has to eventually learn to trust her dad and recognize there are things she can't solve or control on her own, no matter how brilliant she is.

This all culminates in probably my favorite scene in the whole show so far, as the pair finally, finally have an honest heart to heart where they air things out, and Gagumber at last shows some much-needed maturity. “I might not always understand you, but I always care about you” could, at a glance, come off as callous. But to Memempu it's assurance that her dad's love is unconditional, and no matter how much they fight or disagree, no matter how much their paths in life might eventually separate, he'll be there for her. It's sweet, heartwarming, and serves as an important reminder of why these two need each other after weeks of episodes emphasizing their dysfunction.

And that rebuilt trust is most assuredly going to be tested, as the masked antagonists we've seen scurrying at the edges of the story look to finally be making their move. Merooro also conveniently makes his return to rescue our stranded heroes..almost too convenient if you ask me. Seems pretty fishy that this desk jockey would just happen to be the one to spot their SOS message, and just so happen to have an enormous submersible ship that could brave the Kaiju-infested water at the same time the apparent villains are overthrowing a nearby colony. I still don't trust this man, and I expect to be proven ineffably right next week.

For now though, these episodes represent a welcome return to form for a series that spent a bit too long floundering. I'm very glad to have them, and I'm excited to see how this story all plays out in the end.


Sakugan is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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