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This Week in Anime
Why You Should Watch Sabikui Bisco

by Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas,

This post-apocalyptic series mixes together so many disparate elements, yet somehow it comes together in an exciting a new way. Put on your giant mascot heads, avoid the mafioso governor, and keep your eyes peeled for giant shrooms!

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation

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.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nicky, I've got good news and bad news. Good news is, we get to talk about a really cool and fun new anime. Bad news is, the bastard mobilized the damn hippos.
At least our heroes have the power of CRAB to save them! Oh, and mushrooms, lots and lots of mushrooms.
Oh it's a veritable fungi fiesta in the post-apocalypse of SABIKUI BISCO, a sci-fi series that's equal parts Mad Max and Looney Tunes, and may have been custom designed to pander to our editor.

Fun fact: that's the sound my phone makes whenever I get an e-mail from Lynzee.
And this is what the house looks like ten seconds later.

I'll say eating lots of giant mushrooms has been pretty tasty though so I'm not complaining.
Just uh, be careful which ones you pick. We here at TWIA cannot be held accountable for any bad trips, etc etc.
But playful jabs aside, Sabikui Bisco or transliterated Rust-Eater Bisco is a story about a tag-team of two bros who join together and set out on a journey to find a mushroom magical enough to cure the disease plaguing their Mad Max apocalypse.

Or at least that's what it is after about three episodes of trying to skip town...
Yeah, this show doesn't exactly get off to a running start. The first three eps are all about establishing the cast, world, and immediate quest of helping the titular Bisco find the also titular "Rust-Eater" mushroom that's said to be the cure for everyone's poor exfoliating habits.

You'd figure a loofa or scrub brush would be more helpful but who am I to question the man with mushroom arrows?
The world used to be normal until a big ole shroom reared it's ugly head and now everyone has it out for Bisco and his mushroomancing ways. This makes him Public Enemy No. 1 right out of the gate.

Him and the Straw Hats have something in common.
I was thinking more Vash the Stampede, but that's probably what opening on a sci-fi desert does to my brain. Weirdly, Bisco himself doesn't feature heavily in the first episode, appearing at the fringes of the main narrative while we follow his eventual partner in fungal crimes: Dr. Panda Milo.
He's about as much as a true altruist as you can get in this world. He's a doctor who gives rust treatment to the poor people of the city for practically nothing. We see him in a seedy part of town treating everyone equally and earning the respect of the community.
My favorite detail is that I'm pretty sure we've never gotten an explanation for that spot on his face. It is a birthmark? A skin condition? Avant-garde makeup? For all we know he just got hit with a spring-loaded boxing glove as a child and the cartoon logic of this apocalypse made it stick.
At the very least, it's distinctive? Though, honestly visually, I enjoy most of the character designs. I prefer Panda's sister, whom he's doing everything in his power to try and save from the rust that's consuming her.

She took a page from Satsuki Kiryuin's book.
Oh I love all the designs here. Every important character—and even some of the minor ones—have these instantly recognizable looks to them that are both distinct yet perfectly work together. Pawoo in particular has this supernatural power to look cool in every single shot she's in.

She's also a total cop btw. But she gets a pass for looking good.
TBF she only ever goes after Bisco, and he DID shroom up her house and kidnap her brother.
Who, again, is actually just trying to save her. So right off we just have this huge misunderstanding. Her initial confrontation with Bisco is pretty good and has stuff like "knocking over a giant bowling pin and making the exact sound you'd think it would". There's a lot of just pure cartoon logic at work here even when the weapons aren't just giant grabs or robotized hippos. And that's WITH Pawoo dying of a deadly illness!
Sabikui Bisco is not concerned with plebian ideas like "realism" and god bless it for that. There's no long explanations. No winking at the camera about how silly this all is. You just have to accept that this is a world where cops ride giant iguanas, have weaponized hippos, and planes are actually snails.

Where did these things come from? What kind of expedited evolution let them happen? Fuck you, that's how. Go get eaten by the flying sand whales.
Yeah, there's a sort of Alice in Wonderland madcap energy. The governor is also a mafia don who makes all his cronies wear stupid mascot heads. It's just another fun detail in all of what is essentially Toon Town.
And of course that guy's voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda, so every single line he speaks sounds like it was filtered through a rock polisher. It's great.
If it wasn't for the garbage governor we wouldn't run into one of my favorite characters: this pink-haired gremlin who calls herself Jellyfish. Anime knows what I like.
That's right, in this world they not only let hippos have guns, they let jellyfish become Borderlands NPCs. Truly the future has arrived.

I made the Looney Tunes comparison earlier, and Tirol is definitely our Daffy Duck.
She definitely has that same level of "pathetic to scrappy" ratio of a Daffy. We meet her trying to run away from Bisco as a common mook, then she screws up her one job big time, and after that she's almost like a secret third party member, which we'll get into later. Either way, she's adorable and I love her.
But of course, Bisco himself can't just be a mushroom-launching weirdo, so he's got his rascally pirate grandpa in tow who also has that nasty Rusting disease. He also has the superpower of looking cool every time he's on camera.
One benefit of the slower first few episodes is that it really set up the relationship between Bisco and gramps here. Poor Bisco is just doing whatever he can to save his mentor just like how Milo is trying to save Pawoo.
These aren't exactly the deepest characters, but they're all lively enough to fit in with the world, and are likable in simple, engaging ways. Bisco and Jabi especially are written with an implied familiarity that tells you they're family without ever having to say it.

And that same label is later applied to our two heroes. They instantly get this kind of strange chemistry (a little literally as Milo is trying to sequence some medicine with mushrooms) that just explodes into what you can tell is gonna be a full bromance. Bisco may be a tough guy but he knows deep down he needs the help of someone talented like Milo. He's a great mushroom keeper but can't craft medicine for the life of him. Milo knows he can be of service and doesn't back down even when Bisco tells him he'd get in the way.

And I think it shows how much of their surface demeanor betrays their strong qualities. Bisco is a rough hot-headed guy but he's got noble intentions, and Milo may be kind and forgiving but he doesn't ever cow from his ideals.
I also dig that Bisco is kind of a shit stirrer. Much as he dislikes the undeserved "Man-Eater" nickname, he certainly likes playing the villain when it suits him. Like when he needed to stall for time against Pawoo so he just started vamping as a Heel.

Bold strategy against a woman who just knocked out a home run with her own motorcycle.
Maybe he should change his name to Shit-Eater with a stupid grin like that! Again, the faces are probs one of the show's strongest quality. The action isn't bad but it pales in the energy that some of the faces have. Especially in the first few episodes, which I like but the pacing is very strange and kills some of the cool momentum.
Yeah, overall the action gets by on snappy timing rather than intense sakuga, but that isn't all that important when they're just so many cool individual drawings. I especially love what they do with eyes.

Postal Service Voice I am think it's a sign/the projectiles in their eyes/are mirror images and/when they kiss they're perfectly aligned.
It's not without a sense of style, that's for certain. It's another example of a show that you have to take in for it's moment-to-moment coolness.
And on a moment-to-moment basis this show has a higher Cool Shit quotient than anything else this season. Damn near every episode has some new design or concept that makes me point at the screen like the Leo DiCaprio meme.

Look at those crustpunk lizards. I love them.
And then they eat them. Just don't think about how it feels on your throat or you'll choke!
Somehow not the worst thing somebody has in their mouth that episode.
Worm got your tongue? Super gross!! Poor pinky...
Weirdly this is the second time I've seen that image. Go read Yui Kamio Lets Loose, everyone.

And while you're at it: don't eat weird bug eggs.
Also don't work for corrupt governments that will then try to secretly feed you weird bug eggs so you'll die when you eventually try to escape!
And especially don't try to use that situation to flirt. For god's sake, girl.
Especially when his boyfriend is right there! Sheesh. The show does a bit of dancing about that kind of stuff where women think either Milo or Bisco are attractive. I wouldn't really call it romantic but even Milo's introduction involves some incredible tongue-in-cheek. But it's all in good fun and in-character.
Yeah I don't exactly expect anything romantic to bloom between any of these characters, but the show knows it's fun to tease that stuff in between fighting giant monsters and Crab Rides.
And even though she flirts, saving Tirol/Jellyfish really does pay off as setting her up as a potential friend. Even if she also landed them all into trouble by spilling some gas on an old war machine, that also happens to be a BIG CRAB!
I mean in general you should never just pour out gasoline like that. Even if you don't awaken a biological superweapon you're gonna kill a lot of grass and have a nasty brown spot in your lawn for ages. Anyway with that life lesson learned, time to run into a city of gun-toting orphans.
Ah yes, maybe either one of the best or the weakest episodes depending on how you look at it. Bisco and Milo come across a city of children by the sea side who have learned how to defend themselves from various outside thugs and also incoming yearly plague of giant pufferfish. Bisco convinces them to take them as prisoner in order to claim his large sum reward, y'know so they can have somewhere to stay. It feels like the closest the show gets to being Kino's Journey.
Personally I like this half of the episode. It's fairly standard, but it gives both our heroes a chance to show their softer sides, and showcases the goofiest monsters yet:

Yes those are flying, apparently perennial giant puffer fish. Yes they will fuck you up.
The A plot with the children is good stuff. Including the fact that their whole town is just built on the rusted remains of some random leftover robots that are just there! And Milo and Bisco both trying to help the kids grow and support themselves in their own way despite being outsiders is sweet. By itself it's a decent little atmospheric contained story in this wider world.

But I really wish it didn't have to share time with the much weaker B plot, and overall it felt really condensed because of that. This is on top of being the only real episode that really felt like we were exploring something outside of the main character's goals. So it highlights my feelings that for an adventure series, I just wish there was more time to let that soak in.
Yeah, the B-side with Pawoo is just kind of weird. It may come back to be important later, but as-is it's more a spooky horror story that doesn't gel all that well with the wild and wacky wastelands surrounding it.

That said, it does have Pawoo kicking the shit out of a giant spider, so it's still better than 80% of everything else this season.
I don't even think that Pawoo's storyline with the Spooky Weirdos is that bad by itself, but for something that's supposed to be tense it doesn't have a lot of time to build up. I'm not sure it would've worked as its own chapter or episode though. I feel like both of these were trying to say something more concretely political involving the world but that some of the nuances got cut out for time more than anything, leaving Pawoo's story feeling rather empty.
Probably for the best. I don't get the impression this series has a whole lot to say about any topic heavier than "cool monster fight" and trying to box above its weight class wouldn't do it many favors. I got enough headaches trying to figure out whatever the fuck Attack on Titan is clumsily trying to say with its political allegories, let me just enjoy these bozos fighting tunnel squids.
But that lines up with my bigger gripe about some of the show's pacing. I enjoy how it moves fast but it also feels like I could've had 4-5 episodes of just Milo, Bisco, and Co. wandering around instead of three. By episode 6, the boys are already pretty close to their goal of finding the Rust-Eater.
Honestly I like that? We get a solid picture of the world outside Milo's starting city, then move back to the main goal and progress the cast's various arcs. Much as I enjoy some good fuckin' around, in the era of single-cour anime you have to be judicious about it. Otherwise you end up like Sakugan where you straight up don't have time to resolve your actual plot.
Oh yeah, anime have to work with what's feasible for them. Production is hard! But that doesn't stop my brain from having the fantasy of having a great 24-episode anime instead of the more often just a good 12-episode show. It's small but I think that also comes from how much I like the show that I wish there was just a little time in between some points that would end up making it feel that much more memorable. This is on top of the fact that I know this is based on light novels that are still ongoing so I have no illusions of the plot being totally wrapped unless they invent something.
I'm here for a good time, not a long time, and Sabikui Bisco has given me that with a whole lot of gravy on top. Like where else am I gonna see a giant, flying, two-headed centipede-snake with enormous human fingers and legs as its feelers?

Other times we also just have to appreciate what we got. Like when a pink gremlin gets frozen. Again, I mentioned there's a quality of enjoying anime as its moment-to-moment ephemeral self, and Sabikui Bisco succeeds at that. The most recent episodes have been really strong.
I also appreciate that Actagawa, while fine with being everyone's Uber driver, has no patience for tsunderes.
Having saved Tirol a second time from the face of death, we finally get her to open up and really learn about who she is beyond comic relief.
Much as it's funny to us, this is a genuinely harsh world, and not everyone is willing to put themselves on the line for others like Milo and Bisco. It's a pretty standard setup, but Tirol's already fun enough that it works to add some texture.

I like the added detail that she's skilled with machines and most of her jadedness comes from being workforce tired. Maybe that's just my millennial showing. She doesn't end up completely joining the group but she lets her guard down enough where you can once again see how valuable she could actually be if she took the leap.
I'm sure she'll show up again. Especially since, just halfway into the season, they've already found the mysterious thing in the title they were looking for! Take notes, Monkey D. Luffy.
Yeah, after that we're straight into the plot again, and Pawoo catches up to the gang while they're trying to confront the weirdo worm to get the magic mushrooms they need for the medicine. It takes a bit of taunting and external threat to bring Pawoo to Bisco's side but they do eventually win her over, but not without some good faces first.
Of course, no sooner have they found the fungus—and figured out it needs Mushroom Keeper blood to activate—than that gravel-voiced Kurokawa shows up in...whatever the hell this is:

to steal the worm carcass that has all the Rust-Eater mushrooms in it.
But it also might as well be useless to him without a mushroom keepers blood. Milo manages to make just two vials of medicine to give to Pawoo so she can treat both herself and Jabi. However, Bisco got shot by a rust-infecting bullet and Pawoo gives up her vial to him to use it later to retrieve the long boy.
Self-sacrifice runs in the family i guess. And she decides this is the perfect time to flirt. The ladies in this show, I tell ya.
Okay, but she's really not wrong.
Just saying. Time and place. Maybe save it for when one or both of you aren't dying from your organs turning into toolboxes left out in the rain.
Milo never hears any of this btw. So he doesn't know that she's also risking herself. They split up but when she gets back into town she's confronted by the government mafia, and things aren't looking so hot for Jabi. How quickly things go south.
I'm sure things will be fine. Sure, the whole city seems to be under some kind of weird mind-control, but I'm confident things will work out just fine and our heroes won't make incredibly bad deci—oh wait no, both these boys think with their dumb, dumb hearts.
Bisco refuses to rest and Milo refuses to let him die so they duke it out, the way bros do in a brawl, until Milo hits him with the Sleep Juice, and Bisco is down for the count. And yeah I never get sick of when two bros fight because they just care about each other that much.
This would also be less of a problem if Bisco just took the god damn shroom juice, but you just know he's keeping that in his back pocket in case Jabi (or Pawoo) ends up needing it. Really, these two need Tirol around just so somebody can remind them to stop jumping in front of bullets.
Honestly, I totally forgot this was only like episode 7. Most anime do this at like episode 10 or 11, so I'm just sitting here with my hands like "WHAT NOW?!"
I have no idea but I hope they let Pawoo fight some kind of big ass raccoon or something. At this point I'm just along for the ride with whatever this show crabwalks into next, and so long a sit keeps delivering Cool Shit I'll be happy.
It's not perfect but overall Sabikui Bisco is a show that's fun just to be along for the ride. Especially if your ride happens to be a crab.
And as in all parts of life: beware of hippos.

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