The Lost Village
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 5 of
The Lost Village ?
At this point, I feel confident in saying that The Lost Village has hit its stride. This episode was essentially one long, rambling conversation back at the village, as the exodus party returned and began throwing accusations around. This led to a discussion that brought up ghosts, torture, giant Mitsumunes, seeing dead people, and the correct way to say Hyoketsu no Judgeness, as nearly every member of the cast proved they were an entirely ridiculous person. The Lost Village may be totally absurd as a thriller, but I haven't seen an anime comedy this consistently funny in a very long time.
I've been debating all along whether The Lost Village is being intentionally funny or not, and I think this episode answers that question. Its jokes are frankly just too smartly constructed to be accidental - it's not just ridiculous, it has legitimate setups and punchlines of absurdity, with established running jokes and a variety of ways of letting characters riff on each other. Things that are bad aren't just inherently funny because they're bad - truly so-bad-it's-good material has to play off the audience's expectations, and create its own internal vocabulary of assumptions that imply a uniquely slanted authorial worldview.
Films like The Room may come about accidentally, but when you're trying to intentionally create something like that, you realize it isn't actually easy to evoke the right tone. You still need to make jokes, but they need to be jokes of circumstance, things your versions of human beings could theoretically say. You still need punchlines and a consistent tone, but your humor has to be more structural and incidental than consciously witty. Hilarious deadpan absurdity is not an easy trick to pull off.
There was a wonderfully diverse mix of jokes in this episode, from the long-running gags to the silly standalone moments. One of my favorite tricks is the way everyone treats Lovepon. In an episode that was pretty much wholly dedicated to everyone accusing everyone else of betraying the group, Lovepon's continuous insistence that they execute people somehow never drew any suspicion. While stuff like Mitsumune being accused of being a ghost is apparently cause for legitimate suspicion, Lovepon's incredibly blood thirst has just been totally accepted by the group - in fact, when the most un-trusting member pulled together his secret group, Lovepon was one of his few chosen allies. Apparently the characters have just accepted that Lovepon is the show mascot, and so her love of executions is no more suspicious than an interest in crochet or old-fashioned trains.
I also really enjoyed the moment when the group actually confused who had died and who had maybe killed them. The fact that all these characters agree it's somehow possible to confuse “Jack” and “Hyoketsu no Judgeness” is one thing, but the way the show built to “didn't he fall off a cliff?” “No, different guy. That one's Catacomb Jack” was wonderful. From the first episode onward, The Lost Village's characters have always possessed an amusing propensity to get entirely distracted from their main point, leading to lines like “hey, let's not talk about our life philosophies right now.” It's like the actual characters in this show don't have the attention span necessary to keep focused on the show they are in.
There were plenty of other great lines and betrayals of expectations scattered throughout. Like with the treatment of Lovepon, much of the humor comes down to the audience expecting characters to react somewhat like human beings, and then them instead picking at absurd or irrelevant details - like when, in response to hearing Maimai had seen a giant Mitsumune in the tunnel, Mitsumune responded with “how big was it?” Because of course, having been told a girl saw a giant version of you in some random tunnel, your first thought would be to clarify its exact size. But then again, Mitsumune's priorities are nonsense from top to bottom - he basically only responds to characters in whatever way he thinks will make girls like him, and having survived the crazy events of this particular day, all he can think is “Wow. I talked to a lot of girls today.”
The Lost Village is completely ridiculous, but it is ridiculous in consistently inventive, well-crafted, and very funny ways. It is easy for a show to be bad - all you need to do is have flat writing and an uninspired narrative. But for a show to work like this, it can't just be “poorly written,” it needs to be absurd in a way that invites the audience into its absurd world. There aren't many shows that would follow up a line like “let's execute him” with “but if he's a ghost, there's nothing to execute,” but I'm happy we're getting to watch this one.
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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