The Lost Village
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 8 of
The Lost Village ?
Last episode marked a turning point for The Lost Village. Up until that point, it'd essentially been totally ineffective as a traditional horror story or really any kind of story whatsoever. Its characters were entirely one-note, and beyond that, the ways they expressed themselves never approached anything resembling human beings. The ostensible protagonist Mitsumune was unlikable and ridiculous, and the show's visual framing actively worked to sabotage any dramatic tension. Characters got too caught up in remembering each other's nicknames to deal with their own horror scenario, and ostensible dramatic setpieces like the monster reveals were more hilarious than horrific.
Starting with last episode, the show seems to be swerving into a balance of its traditional humor and legitimate narrative tension. The characters are still thinly written and the story still absurd, but dramatic beats are actually being hit in a coherent sequence - tension, reveal, dramatic turn, etc. On top of that, the visual framing has shifted from its initially sterile and amateurish style to something far more appropriate for the genre The Lost Village is theoretically supposed to occupy. The Lost Village has been funny up until now, but it's looking like from now on, it wants to be both funny and actually kinda exciting too.
In light of that, this episode's first sequence was a horror flashback played straight, as Masaki revealed her first visit to Nanaki Village. Apparently, she'd once tagged along with her cousin Reiji, who followed a sequence of stone markers to arrive at the village. This sequence was pretty much a condensed version of the first twenty minutes of every remote cabin horror story, complete with establishing moments between the main two, enveloping fog, an old man warning the couple not to go up there, and the slow descent of the sun. It hit its beats effectively, even if the story it was telling was one we've heard a thousand times.
Unfortunately for Masaki, the cast of The Lost Village had also heard this story a thousand times. Quickly jumping to its own off-kilter tone, the episode's second sequence was a lengthy interrogation, where the disbelieving crowd actually asked Masaki all the relevant followup questions. This is something that basically never happens in horror movies - characters disappear and then come back and say “I escaped somehow,” and the audience is expected to understand that sometimes things happen because of dramatic expediency. But here, Mikage and the other skeptics actually asked the kinds of questions you might expect someone to ask here, for once applying their circular conversational priorities to something that actually warranted investigation. How did you get down from the mountain? Why are you so freaked out about the tunnel? If you actually left, why didn't you visit your family? You say you lived in a nearby town, but that doesn't make any sense??? It was a great sequence that nicely contrasted the personalities and type of dialogue The Lost Village has established against the traditional dramatic expectations of scenes like this, for once making traditional horror stories seem like the stupid ones.
Then the driver drove the bus through the interrogation field and yanked Masaki out and Mitsumune tagged along and that was that. The episode's second half returned to more or less self-serious storytelling, as the bus driver pleaded with Masaki for help and the other established characters all sorted out their own feelings. I've realized that Mitsumune is more or less a decoy protagonist - his feelings are essentially a running joke, and it's really the characters like Valkana, Koharun, and Maimai who guide the story. In spite of the overt narrative being very silly, those characters have actually been going through legitimate arcs, meaning the show is able to ride on their stories even when things aren't immediately entertaining. The Lost Village may truly be transitioning into a more dramatically stable second form.
Overall, this was definitely a less entertaining episode of The Lost Village. The only scene that consistently hit its usual note of clever self-parody was the interrogation - everything else here was fairly grounded, and even though it all essentially worked in a narrative sense, the show isn't nearly as much fun when it's playing things straight. There were great moments here and there, like Mitsumune only perking up when he heard Masaki might have been dating Reiji, or Hyouketsu's sudden appearance as the bow-wielding man of the forest, but a great deal of this episode could have been mistaken for any other horror series. The Lost Village is better when it's being crazy, and it's at its best when it's being crazy and exciting, so hopefully this episode was just a lull between greater peaks.
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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