Our troupe of do-overs eventually make their way to Nanaki Village, and as I’m sure most of us in the audience had already expected, the place is all but abandoned. I only say “all but abandoned” because the anime loves giving us those horror movie camera angles to suggest that our naive group of kids are being stalked by one or more individuals with ill intentions. While these brief attempts to induce fear into the story do manage to add some suspense, they also feel cheesy and forced. I can’t help but think that we’re strapped for time, so as a result, Okada couldn’t afford to build an unsettling atmosphere. Instead, she has to go for these cheap scare tactics. Then again, perhaps I’m being too charitable, and the reality is that the studio producing this show honestly think these moments are truly frightening. In any case, our group splits up to look around, but find nothing but rundown buildings. But again, the corniness seeps in when one of the characters says something like “Oh, I used to be a cleaner, and judging from all the dust here, this place must have been abandoned for at least a year!” Haha, what? What is she, some kind of dust forensics expert?
Eventually, most people reconvene at the center of the village only to be greeted by the bus driver again. He had originally decided to part ways with everyone when a landslide forced the bus off road. So why is he here? He’s here ’cause he met someone. Naturally, we don’t know who he met, but that someone must’ve convinced him to follow the kids. But the kids are arrogant and dismissive. Rather than question the bus driver’s sudden change-of-heart, they just act like pissants: “If you get off your soapbox, we can consider letting you join us, I guess.” Then they all take turns questioning Koharun. How did she even know to find this place? The lady then admits that she had received a mysterious email. But of course, the mysterious email’s sender can’t be tracked, and oh yeah, she didn’t bring her laptop. Guys, guys, when you ditch society, you also have to ditch the internet. The episode ends on a cliffhanger when another group finally reunites with everyone, and frantically announces that Pukey and Sir Raps-a-Lot have gone missing. See, I’m not worried about Pukey, ’cause I’m sure she’s got plot armor. On the other hand, I feel Sir Raps-aLot’s days are numbered.
Mayoiga’s second episode is a little contradictory: it’s uneventful, but it’s also kind of not. On a macro level, not much really happened in the plot. They found the village, and it’s empty. A couple people go missing. Whoop-de-doo. On the other hand, as you might expect from mysteries, the devil’s in the details. You really have to pay attention to the character interactions, because like Clue, everyone’s a suspect. Some less than others — like, for example, our dud of a main character — but you get my point. It almost makes me wonder if the characters are so bland and one-dimensional as a way to conceal their true intentions. For instance, take Mr. Bossypants. First, there are too many characters, and I can’t be assed to memorize their names. So y’know the guy who’s always screaming at people? Yeah, he’s Mr. Bossypants. Second, and this is the point I’m trying to get to, I almost don’t want to suspect him of any wrong-doing, because he’s so simple-minded in his words and actions that I can’t see him being the nefarious evildoer. But what if that’s the point? Then you look around and realize that a lot of characters are in the same boat. What if the writer’s trying to throw us off the trail?
Again, perhaps I’m being too charitable, because honestly, if there’s anything that truly holds Mayoiga back, it’s the god awful characters. Fucking hell, man, I know I’m supposed to examine everyone’s words, but ugh. First, we got the weird Nyan Nyan freak over here:
Like, I can’t even tell if she honest-to-God brought a fucking submachine gun with her or if it’s just a prop.
Then you’ve got the tactical misogynist. Look, he only hates women because of biological truths like their low stamina!
I… I don’t even know what this guy’s deal is. These characters don’t amuse me. Instead, they draw me out of the story. Like I’ve said last week, they’re a painful reminder that I’m watching some generic anime series, and not a suspenseful, psychological story about disillusioned youths trying to find their paradise.
Most of all, I hate how no one seems to ask the sensible questions. Everyone sees some village in the middle of nowhere, and their eyes light up, but what about food? Besides a bear’s paw print, I haven’t seen a single animal that these characters can even hunt or trap. What about clean, running water that’s not stuck in a well? People are going to bathe themselves and clean their stuff how? What about electricity or even heating? What about waste disposal because we can’t just shit in the woods all the time? What about medicine or medical treatment in case someone gets sick or hurt? And fine, you can argue that these are likely minor characters, so most of them are not going to be smart either. Also, if they are minor characters, they probably don’t need to be further developed than this. I don’t necessarily agree, but I also recognize the painful truth is that we can’t always afford to have it all. In the ideal world, I’m sure we would have the time and budget to create the perfect story, but we gotta work with what we have. It wouldn’t make sense for a do-over group like this to be small. It’s gotta be at least 20 or more people, right? But at the same time, we can’t create 20 or more unique yet fully fleshed out characters. Not in a single cour, anyway. Something’s gotta give.
There’s just one huge problem with that: if you’re gonna make me swallow this bitter pill, you have to give me a better main character than this:
On the one hand, Japanese Michael Cera hardly has a dominating presence. I think he technically gets the most screentime — along with yet another boring flashback about his past — but he’s not in every scene. At the moment, he’s mostly an observer, and he has relatively no impact on the group and what it does. Hell, he’s also a suspect. God only knows what he’s doing offscreen. Maybe he’s the evildoer! Nevertheless, most stories have to have a protagonist. You don’t always need a hero, but someone’s gotta be trying to achieve something, and that someone is your protagonist. Now, a protagonist doesn’t even have to be human. Maybe it’s the bear that left the odd-looking paw print in the forest. Maybe Nanaki Village will turn out to be our protagonist. Who knows! But if it’s Japanese Michael Cera — and anime convention seems to point in this direction — he’s not cutting it.
The episode wasn’t an entire loss. I enjoyed the visual storytelling at the start.
Like in the first episode, a fog or haze surrounds the bus as it creeps slowly but steadily along its journey. Essentially, these characters are not free. If they were free, they would be going in all sorts of directions. That’s how it is in real life. Take your high school graduation, for instance. Everyone gets their diploma, then everyone goes on their separate ways. Some people head to college, others go to trade school, some join the military, some have to work full-time right off the bat, etc. We all shoot off in different directions as we choose our paths in life. Not so with Mayoiga’s characters. Right now, they’re stuck on a bus that’s driving down a road. They can either go forward or backwards. But which is which? In any case, the bridge signifies the process of crossing over. Whatever we saw in the previous episode, there’s no going back to it now. But with all the fog, it’s clear that they have no idea where they’re going.
We then get some visual contradictions, and although I use the word “contradiction” here, I don’t mean that in a bad way. The shot above suggests that the bus is slowly traveling upwards.
But then we this shot where the canopies of the trees — aided by the lack of light from the sky — almost seems to suggest that our group’s journey is subterranean. They are going down rather than upwards.
Not surprisingly, the land gives way, and literally forces everyone down even further. And y’know, that same contradiction I speak of is not just visual.
I don’t remember this character’s name either, but if I recall correctly, her real life problem was that she was being stalked, and she needed to escape from that. Or maybe harassed at work. I just know it’s one of the two. Nevertheless, she’s not really dressed comfortably for this trip, and at the same time, she contends that she only owns high heels. Huh. I’m not a girl, but c’mon… what woman doesn’t own a single pair of shoes that aren’t heels? Either she’s an idiot and she doesn’t own anything but heels, or she’s lying. It’s tempting to deride a story and its author, and thus just write this character off. But if High Heels isn’t stupid, why would she feel the need to lie? Food for thought….