The Lost Village
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The Lost Village ?
This week's Lost Village featured a childhood spent pretending to be your brother, a fight with a giant penguin, a debate on the proper way to kill a ghost, an actual witch hunt, and (at long last) an attempted execution. In spite of all that, it was also the most dramatically grounded and legitimately “successful” episode of the show so far. It succeeded both as tense drama and the absurd self-parody it's always been. It was easily the show's best episode yet.
We opened with Mitsumune and Masaki, the alleged ghost girl, running away from that giant penguin. Apparently the penguin was a gift from Mitsumune's mother, a symbol of his identity. Mitsumune once had a brother named Tokimune, but when Tokimune died, Mitsumune's mother started treating him as if he were his dead sibling. And so, of course, the logical solution was for all the adults in Mitsumune's life to go along with his mother's delusion, in the hopes that this would somehow eventually make her better. This reveal was absurd on its face, as The Lost Village reveals tend to be, but it was made dramatically effective through a bunch of punchy transitions and a general snappy pace. Silly and exciting at the same time, a choice that would set the tone for this episode.
While Mitsumune and Masaki got to know each other, the rest of the group sorted out their feelings on this whole ghost-monster-psychological-hangup deal. The gang displayed some real genre-savviness in their analysis of the situation, in a way you don't usually see in anime. Instead of merely commenting on their genre, they actually built their hypotheses on the usual kind of nonsense these stories tend to employ. Ghosts are good at psychological attacks, ghosts are weak against stakes or crosses or maybe salt, ghosts hopefully won't bleed when you stab them, etc. And all the while, the script made sure to emphasize how absurd this whole situation was, through exchanges like “so Masaki, a ghost, is bringing those monsters here in droves?” “That's a reasonable conclusion to draw, isn't it?” Though I might have preferred Mikage's “we don't have time to hold self-help sessions,” a line that felt particularly relevant in a Mari Okada show.
Things only got more funny and exciting in the second half. Having all agreed that Masaki is an evil ghost who summons monsters based on people's psychological hangups in order to torment them for some reason, the group held a gentle interrogation of Mitsumune, where they tried to act nice to him in order to ferret out more information on Masaki. While Mikage played it cool, Dahara couldn't help but ask suspiciously leading questions, a nice unstated joke that played on both their established personalities. And in the end, Hayato's “good friend” act was finally turned up to the always-at-eleven crescendo of everyone else's personalities, when he responded to Mitsumune gaining more self-confidence by muttering “There's no reason to have more faith in yourself. You can't survive without doing what I say.” It seems like there's a little bit of Lovepon in everybody.
The episode's finale was a whole lot of Lovepon, as the group literally conducted a witch hunt (“time for a witch hunt… a Masaki hunt”), built a bonfire, and tied Masaki to a stake. While Koharun did her best to kill the mood (“this is going too far!” “Koharun, you should go with the flow!”), everyone else seemed fairly on board with torturing Masaki until she confessed to her ghostly ways. Fortunately, Mitsumune arrived just before Hayato could stab her, leading to a dramatic firelit confrontation and a final confession by Masaki.
That last scene was possibly the show's best so far, a sequence lifted both by absurd single lines and by a legitimate understanding of dramatic tension. The episode successfully managed this balance all throughout, building in intensity through its base narrative variables while also consistently acknowledging the absurdity of those variables in its script. The music certainly deserved some of the credit for this - Mitsumune's brief fight with the giant penguin was nicely undercut by an upbeat, almost “Nightmare Before Christmas”-styled jingle, and the finale featured a legitimately urgent musical accompaniment. Mizushima's strengths as a director are also finally getting a chance to shine; his works generally aren't ostentatiously pretty, but they possess a firm grasp of dramatic tension and release, as well as an understanding of how to naturally weave humor in pacing-wise without disrupting the flow of a scene. And even the overall plotting serves both dramatic and humor purposes, with the rapid jump from "we've figured out the monster" to "time to burn the witch," leaping over what could have been a dramatic lull while offering endless opportunities for bizarre character behavior. I keep expecting this show to go truly off the rails in a way that isn't entertaining to watch, but it actually seems to be getting more confident over time. I may be having the most fun with The Lost Village out of any show this season, and I can't wait to see whatever it does next.
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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