Giant human bugs devour the living in Netflix's latest anime series. Nick and Steve look out on the 3DCG wasteland in an attempt to find some semblance of meaning in cruel world of bug-eyed monsters and a truly unlikable protagonist.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Steve, I could give you a long winded introduction belying the fact that we're covering yet another straight-to-Netflix
CG sci-fi show seemingly oozed out of the back-end of the streaming conglomerate, but frankly this show doesn't deserve it. This isn't a stand-up fight, it's a bug hunt.
I am just desperate to know why we're getting all these giant insect shows all of sudden. Did an old copy of Them! worm its way through every anime studio somehow? Is this an expression of our collective repressed guilt over chasing all the bees away? Are people just horny for big mosquitoes now?
Small mercies for large bugs.
Also that there above is one of the first images the show throws at you, and I legit had to pause because I could not believe how dumb these things look.
Whoever in the design process decided to take "Bug Eyes" completely literally deserves either a free drink or a slap across the face. Possibly both. Most of this show's visuals are forgettable sludge but every time those googly eyed mistakes were on screen I was happy.
And they show up a lot, because there are all of 3 different bug designs in Cagaster
. But anyway, to sum this backstory up, imagine if one day suddenly a certain percentage of the human population developed a genetic predisposition towards turning into giant man-eating unkillable dragonflies, and then they did just that, forcing the remaining humans to retreat to isolated fortress cities. Aaaand that's pretty much it.
Aside from the goofy looking giant bugs it's pretty much identical to any zombie/disease outbreak apocalypse series. Which is fine on paper—what's important is what you do with that premise and what kind of drama you mine from it. Unfortunately Cagaster
has exactly 1 idea and it's the same god damn idea every monster fighting story has had for the last century of entertainment.
To be honest though, despite my negative initial impressions, the first few episodes started building something that kinda worked for me. Derivative for sure, but it had a colorful cast and an attempt at thoughtfulness at least. Like, look at this adorable gang of child pickpockets.
You're on your own there. The moment I saw a group of indistinguishable street urchins I rolled my eyes and started skipping through the glorified Goof Troop shenanigans.
I think because I was expecting nonstop grimdarkness, these early moments of levity blindsided me. They indicated, for a time at least, a direction where Cagaster might have been a series of weird vignettes about people trying to live their lives in Crazy Bug World. I could have been down with that.
I could too! But I just had a viscerally negative reaction to the first episodes of the show that never went away. I think a lot of it has to do with it just being 1 too many grey sci-fi series dropped on my doorstep by Netflix
. It just melted together with 7SEEDS
and Ultramarine Magmell
in my brain until it sloughed off like a molted carapace.
That's totally fair because I had each one of those shows running through my mind too, lol. Also, Cagaster sometimes
has an actual eye for composition, which is something none of those other series even graced with the tips of their poorly-rendered fingers.
Sadly none of that attention was paid to the most important shots:
The plastic pilaf is bad, but nothing beats the watermelon pizza.
It's astonishingly bad. Every time I look at it I question how somebody was allowed to put this in a professional animation production. Who allowed this? Who do we arrest?
It's like they're balancing a cosmic equation where the other side has all that mouthwatering Ghibli movie food.
These may be very familiar archetypes, but they can work! I've loved plenty of stories about found families and broken people who help put each other back together again. Even the most formulaic premises can work if love and attention is put into its characters and their struggles. Unfortunately, all my desire to play Devil's Advocate for Cagaster flies out the window with the 5th episode.
Oh boy can we skip right to that shitshow? Because all that happens between the inciting incident and then is that some annoying guy we have no reason to care about gets Bug-fucked and it's very sad when they have to kill him.
That was very melodramatic in a laughably by-the-books turn of events, BUT I still didn't hate it! It was fine! It was something! The fifth episode is where everything turns into a trash fire.
You mean you weren't thrilled by the Oedipal Adventures of Kidow and Divorced Dad Kotomine Kirei?
Look I love any opportunity that lets me call a character "anime Keanu Reeves
," but that's about all the positivity I can spare here.
How dare you sully Keanu by comparing him to this chode.
Haha, yeahhh, this is where Cagaster's awful attitudes towards women start becoming impossible to ignore.
Calling the series openly misogynistic honestly feels like giving it too much credit. It would have to have an identifiable personality for that. But it sure does peddle in tired, overdone psychosexual nonsense that older, crustier apocalypse stories love.
It's hilarious on its own, but compressed into a single episode as it is it becomes too stupid to handle. I literally timed it and Kidow goes from patricide to Jocasta in all of 80 seconds of screentime.
It's trying so hard so be as dramatic as possible, in every possible way, and normally I'm down with that, but not when the precious few female characters are treated like, well, this.
There's a theoretical version of Cagaster
where this can work, but it requires both a level of character writing this show is incapable of and a level of visual storytelling it would never be allowed to achieve. I can get behind stories about weird, messy, screwed up people trying to cling to some sense of comfort or connection in a hell world. In a vacuum this line from Kidow is excellent!
But in practice it's a trainwreck of cliches LARPing as character building that turns any tragedy into trash.
And also, following that admittedly powerful line, we flash-foward to the present and Kidow sexually assualts Ilie. At which point my goodwill for Cagaster dried up and hardened not unlike a giant spooky insect carapace.
I could go on for a long time about genre fiction's godawful reliance on rape for cheap drama (hey there Plunderer
go screw yourself) but Cagaster
goes the extra mile by using it entirely as fuel for Kidow's pain and having Ilie just like...shrug it off?
There's just absolutely no excuse for it. It comes out of NOWHERE, and is never brought up again. We're supposed to accept that it's the turning point that brings them closer together. It's gross gross gross.
What's worse is when they vaguely mention it and then the show turns it into a joke
by having the peanut gallery freak out thinking the two of them had sex.
UGH I actually must have blocked that from my memory, because now that you bring it up I'm FUMING again.
It sucks. And, while this is skipping ahead a bit, it becomes triply insulting when later on some random evil guard try to rape Ilie so Kidow can save her. Like woohoo thank god her first attempted rapist is there to save her from this guy cutting in line, huh?
I'm perfectly fine skipping ahead, because the whole show hinges on making the audience care about the relationship between Kidow and Ilie, and its utter malpractice on that front completely sours the remaining half of a narrative that only becomes dumber and less interesting with each passing episode. Like, it turns out Ilie is actually able to control the Cagasters, but who cares, because she spends the remainder of the show running around a big skyscraper while we learn just how bad every single member of her awful family was, and in some cases, still is.
Turns out Ilie was the result of like 3 generations of fucked up human experimentation. The first one we meet is her brother/uncle Acht, who took turning into a half-bug monster as license to be an eye-rolling edgelord.
At least Natsuki Hanae
gets to voice a silver-haired human/monster hybrid cannibal with a single red eye and an ongoing internal moral conflict and identity crisis that manifest as a masochistic and machismo-ridden death wish. He's never been able to do that before.
Acht's another character that could be interesting in a good show, but here mostly hangs around being angry and tragic in the shadows before getting a single nice gesture from our hero that makes him not evil anymore.
Honestly calling him Gendo is too generous. Gendo had a plan that at least made sense to him. Franz changes motivations 4 times in 1 flashback and another 2 in the present storyline. He's a mad-scientist shaped cardboard cutout the show trots out when it needs a new plot twist.
He also takes, like, 4 whole episodes to die after getting shot. The pacing in the 2nd half is completely whack, but that fact on its own just sends me.
My favorite part is when he's bleeding out, trying to find Ilie on the security cameras so he can guide her to her mom's cyber cocoon (don't ask) and finds her struggling to figure out how doors work.
For precisely once, he and I were on the same page. But at least Franz has motivations, however inconsistent and transient they may be. I can't say the same for Ilie's mom, Tania, who just. Does Things. For no discernible reason.
This is the sum of all I understand of Tania's character, everything else is a mystery:
The crux of this ENTIRE show is that Tania abandons her daughter to become the first queen of the insects, and the only explanation she gives for doing so is this single line of dialogue.
I like my theory that everyone in this show already has tiny bugs infesting their brains. That's why they just do shit for no purpose and then ignore it ever happened.
Oh, don't even get me started on whatever the hell Adham's masterplan is.
Something something evolution something something transhumanism blah blah go watch Texhnolyze
instead of this hot mess. That's all I can gather from it.
It's a stunning combination of philosophical and logistical incoherence. And now that I've written that sentence, that describes Cagaster as a whole pretty succinctly, imo.
Anyway, in the end Ilie kills her bug mom to stop...whatever their plan was. It's very sad, I promise.
Yes. Quite. A touching moment between a traumatized daughter and a mother who locked herself in a giant replica bug cocoon without ever attempting to explain herself or apologize.
More importantly Ilie and Kidow fell in love during all this, I guess.
Sure! Why not! At least it results in the unintentionally funniest scene in the show.
It's supposed to be this bittersweet gesture, but there's just something about Kidow's deadpan way of talking to Tania's corpse that threw me over the edge.
Also this is small potatoes compared to, y'know, the rape, but it's never established how old Kidow is compared to Ilie so by all appearances this is the story of a man killing his child bride's family and gloating over their bodies about it.
So, this show really does earn being accidentally named after shit, I guess.
The most tragic part, for me, is that I went into Cagaster with every intention of constructing a fantastic joke around the pun "Attack on Chitin," but by the end, I was too bummed to even want to dedicate the effort to doing so.
narrowly avoids being the worst thing Netflix
has crapped out for us, but that's more a statement about the quality of their licensing/funding discretion than anything in this show's favor. And fittingly this is also from the studio cursed to bring us 7SEEDS
Part 2 next month. Which, if I can give those fine folks a suggestion:
Don't worry Steve, together we can survive anything they throw at us!