Episode 8 – Sabikui Bisco

How would you rate episode 8 of
Sabikui Bisco ? Community score: 4.1

Mushroom Mafioso Kurokawa takes center stage in this knuckle-whitening weekly dose of Sabikui Bisco. And there’s no better way to illustrate the depths of his depravity than opening with a scene of him enjoying a round of Definitely-Not-Yu Gi Oh!. Whether or not that’s in the novel, it’s a cute nod to Kenjiro Tsuda‘s first major role as Seto Kaiba, and moreover, it’s a good encapsulation of the series’ playful ethos. This is the heaviest episode so far by a good margin, yet it opens with the villain forcing a children’s card game onto one of his zombie bodyguards. That wakeiness is an indelible part of Sabikui Biscoand it’s still important now, even as the story begins hoisting up death flags.

The showdown against Kurokawa soaks up most of this week’s runtime, giving us a clearer portrait of the kind of man our main antagonist is, and unsurprisingly he’s a real bastard. The most important revelation is that he’s a former Mushroom Keeper, which shouldn’t be shocking. Jabi had previously told us that his people weren’t a monolith, and it now seems likely that he was specifically referring to Kurokawa (who we can assume was also the culprit behind the infections in the city Pawoo visited). The old man drops some comments implying he and the governor have some past together, so if Kurokawa was once a student of his, it further clarifies the show’s central conflict. On one side there’s a megalomaniac appropriating mushroom knowhow for power and profit, and on the other side there’s Bisco, who’s doing his best to follow in Jabi’s footsteps and fight with fungus for justice.

Kurokawa is also just a very fun character. He’s not complicated, but he doesn’t have to be when he’s having the time of his life being as pure evil as possible. He has no emotional filter, freely oscillating between smug and scared depending on the situation, and he really rubs it in when he’s in his smug mode. He knows exactly how to push Milo’s and Bisco’s buttons, and while he clearly does so for the strategic advantage, he also appears to just love being a dick. To that point, Kenjiro Tsuda supports the entire episode on his gravelly vocal cords, almost purring with miasma as he breathes life into Kurokawa’s unfettered and sarcastic camp. The storyboards also know the game, utilizing lots of close-ups and low angles to accentuate his menace. While we see him here at his most human—bloodied, broken, petty, and outwitted—he feels more insurmountable than ever.

Sabikui Bisco‘s unsubtle political angle makes Kurokawa feel more tangible as well. While he loves his revolvers and crossbows, his most powerful blows against the Mushroom Keepers have been through disinformation campaigns designed to prey on the general population’s fears. Likewise, his own power stems not from his fungal acumen, but from his ability to control people and information. His puppetshroom couldn’t be a more thematically appropriate weapon of choice. The Rust Eater, for instance, is nothing more than a bargaining chip to him, because when healthcare is run like a business, it can manipulated like one. Profit is paramount, and the public health is of secondary concern. Sabikui Bisco‘s bitterness can’t help but resonate as we cross into three year of a pandemic to which our leaders have sacrificed millions of people on the altar of capital.

Our boys’ confrontation with Kurokawa, however, seems designed to work better on the page than on the screen. There’s some inherent wry humor in such a heated battle taking place in a dull, beige-walled office, but it wears thin when it takes up the lion’s share of the episode, and especially so when compared against Sabikui Bisco‘s other more colorful set pieces. And while the storyboards again do an admirable job utilizing angles and blocking to make the dialogue-heavy scene more visually engaging, the animation’s shortcomings end up being more pronounced. Everything looks clean, but it feels stiff. A little exaggerated character acting to go with the exaggerated facial expressions would have gone a long way. This is a quibble more than anything, though, and Sabikui Bisco puts an admirable amount of polish on its panel-heavy approach to action. Conceptually, too, I have to admire that this showdown is so low-key and character-focused for a series that normally loves the loud and absurd.

The plotting is probably the messiest thing here. Kurokawa and our shroom bros trade the upper hand back and forth a few too many times to sustain the amount of gravitas this standoff begs for. It wouldn’t be Sabikui Bisco If it weren’t ridiculous, and I’m fine suspending my flesh when it comes to anime and wounds, but the wind changing direction every apparent minute cheapens the episode’s dramatic aspirations. By that same token, however, it creates a handful of exquisite over-the-top highlights that help push this conflict towards greater heights. Bisco catching Milo’s arrow with his teeth, and then returning it to Kurokawa’s eye socket, is just plain awesome. I dare not sully it with more words, except that it’s a beautifully bloody demonstration of our boy’s mutual trust. And I can’t say anything negative about Milo’s heroic sacrificial trek while cradling Bisco like a princess in his arms. Their relationship is the heart of the show. Milo was so dead-set on healing and protecting Bisco from further harm that he let himself get caught in Kurokawa’s web, and now Bisco is going to throw himself back into the harm’s way to seek revenge. It’s tragic, but that’s how much they love each other, and THAT is what makes great drama.

Alternatively, I’m going to have some very strong words for the next week’s episode if that title ends up referring to something other than a declaration love between Bisco and Milo. And there are dozens of ways it can spin the line “I love you” platonically, so it’s not like I expect the story to turn into a romance either. However, the subtext is already thicker than a bowl of oatmeal, and the series can’t undo making them boyfriends, even if it never chooses to acknowledge or develop that. They’re both willing to die for each other, and they prove that multiple times over. And as much as I love that passion, this week’s fireworks prove that they really need someone to be their voice of reason. Given our options, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it’s going to have to be Actagawa.

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Sabikui Bisco is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Steve can be found on Twitter if you want to read his World’s End Harem livetweets. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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