The Lost Village
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 12 of
The Lost Village ?
There's a moment early on in this wonderful finale that I think really sums up the Lost Village experience. Hayato has apparently tamed his giant CG grandmother Nanaki, riding on its shoulder in pursuit of Mitsumune. When Hayato finally captures Mitsumune, we see that Hayato's Nanaki actually has Mitsumune's silly penguin Nanaki hanging in a little cage from its neck, apparently emphasizing their thematic relationship. The visual concept is ridiculous - Mitsumune's Nanaki has always looked silly, and having it wave its little arms in a giant birdcage only increases the absurdity of the image. But as Mitsumune gets dragged towards Hayato and begins desperately monologuing his character development, the camera keeps that silly little penguin in the frame, waving his stubby arms in clear defiance of all rules of narrative tension.
The show didn't have to keep the penguin in that shot - in fact, it's inherently more work to include more elements, even if they're just awkward CG objects. The show's creators deliberately chose to include the penguin in those frames, ensuring that Mitsumune's speech about finding his own voice and becoming a better friend to Hayato lacked any tension whatsoever. There's nothing like a silly penguin to deflate a dramatic moment.
But that moment was one among countless silly highlights in this standout conclusion. There were more resolutely awkward verbal puns, from Lovepon describing the penguin as “a-gore-able” to Nyanta's final “purrvival.” There were other great jokes of visual framing, like when God's declaration that he has “a bird's-eye view of human psychology” was accompanied by a literal bird's-eye shot. There was the moment when Mitsumune took the time to remind himself of his penguin's thematic meaning and the other moment when he yelled at Hayato to let him be carried because dangit, this is a symbolic gesture. There was the brutal irony of Lovepon briefly believing that she was going to be executed. And there was the fact that even through the “climactic” final conversations, half the cast remained too lethargic to move - even responding to the reveal that Koharun was the villain with a lackadaisical “pretty ladies make for good villains.”
Every ridiculous running gag or questionable character trait or self-defeating quirk of visual framing got a victory lap in this finale. On top of that, the story pretty much worked - Reiji being Masaki's imaginary friend tied a relatively coherent bow on the “Nanaki represents the trauma we are distancing ourselves from” package, and allowing a third of the cast to just stick around the village made for a somewhat more nuanced ending than expected. There were even some genuinely relatable lines here and there. “If I think of it as myself, my trauma feels kind of cute” is probably close to how many people consider their relationships with their scars, and “it's much easier to think everyone else is having a good time and giving you all the crap to deal with” is no less true for being extremely on-the-nose.
But in the end, The Lost Village's great strength is its ability to constantly take the piss out of its own narrative, while somehow remaining charming and involving in its very special way. “Okay, time to go” says Nanko, followed by a breathlessly abrupt cut to credits. Then perky music plays as the characters trudge awkwardly down the mountain, none of them actually talking to each other. And then we get that fabled hippopotamus song once more, ending in the very necessary “we should execute him!” Oh Lovepon. Please never change.
It's inherently difficult to evaluate a show like The Lost Village, whose underlying goals run so counter to traditional metrics of storytelling, but its accomplishments really are something. It is very difficult to not take your narrative seriously while simultaneously maintaining viewer interest - you can't just keep making the same jokes, you have to iterate and be inventive in your expression of your own self-defined strengths, and you also have to still genuinely love your own story and characters. The Lost Village wasn't just directed “poorly” - like that scene with the penguin, many sequences here deliberately undercut narrative tension for specific comedic effect. The Lost Village's characters weren't just “ridiculous” - they shifted between deadpan genre critique and over-the-top absurdity, all while maintaining a strange internal logic that gave them a kind of sincerity. There were overt running jokes and consistent betrayals of expectations, and through it all the show kept taking the silliest route possible, while still more or less cohering as a traditional narrative.
There's a lot to unpack there, and I'd personally love to see some of the discussions that went into creating this very unusual thing. But for now, as a single episode, The Lost Village's finale successfully cleared its own narrative hurdles while consistently demonstrating exactly what has made this show fun. These heroes have earned the right to drive that invincible bus off into the night, singing that hippopotamus song with pride.
The Lost Village is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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