「久瑠美とぬいぐるみ王国」 (Kurumi to Nuigurumi Oukoku)
“Kurumi and the Teddy Bear Kingdom”

I suspect I read Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland when was too young to properly do so. I didn’t have enough mathematical ability to understand Carrol’s plays on logic, and didn’t have enough language ability to understand almost anything, so all I really got from the book was a pile of nonsense about a girl with an eating disorder. Yes, the nonsense was arguably the charm, but a child Passerby still grasping at mundane things like meaningful narratives wasn’t going to appreciate that. It also didn’t help that he also kept confusing Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis—it’s talking animals either way, right? But yeah, in the end Alice in Wonderland left an enduring, negative impression on me, not even after watching the Disney version, which is a shame because I think I would have liked it more if I read it while aided by a tad more maturity (and perhaps LSD). I don’t blame Lewis Carroll for any of this, of course—if he had deviated from his nonsense I’m sure the objective quality of Alice in Wonderland would have been reduced. It’s important to stick to one’s guns. If it’s supposed to be weird, then make no apologies for the weirdness.

This week’s episode is also plenty weird, and likely inspired by Alice in Wonderland, considering Japan’s fondness for Carroll. There’s a proverbial rabbit hole, and the giant, multicoloured mushrooms seal the deal (or maybe it’s a hint to the sort of trip we need to be on this week). Even for an explicit dream world, things get super silly. There’s dapper bears. Mecha bears. Mushroom bears. All the signs of an extremely unhealthy obsession (also, the signs of a one note character). And of course, let us not forget the magical backscratcher that allows Pretty Princess Kurumi to nuke the mechabear. It’s supposed to symbolise… her mental fortitude? Was that right?

The fact that it symbolises anything at all, though, may be a problem. Part of me feels that Musaigen no Phantom World really, really wants to be a parody. But at the same time, it wants a meaningful character development episode for Kurumi. Those two goals, unfortunately, work at cross-purposes to each other. Parody needs to be completely over the top lest it becomes the thing it’s trying to parody. By its nature, it eschews meaning (unless it’s satire, which is a different ball game). So we have a conflict here—the silliness belies a meaningful narrative, while the meaningful narrative undercuts the silliness. At best, they have to take turns, but it’s easy to screw up the balance. Lewis Carroll never lets up in Alice to Wonderland, to his credit. But in Musaigen no Phantom World, we pause in the the middle of this episode to explain that, this whole Mushroom Kingdom is the literal mental world of Kurumi, manifested for her to deal with her personal issues (may be a serious family breakdown too, like the rest of the cast) by proxy! So what we’re actually left with is an extremely heavy-handed metaphor that would have worked just as well, arguably better even, without beating us over the head with it. Sure, Reina’s episode was not exactly subtle either, but at least her fantasy was worked into a story, as phantoms come to spirit her away to a happier place yada yada. Sure, Fate/stay night also had the obvious-metaphor-Reality Marble, but at least there it was woven into the narrative as the protagonist’s appropriate super power yada yada. Here, Kurumi’s dream world is entirely and transparently a plot device, with the sole purpose of igniting her fighting spirit. For all the wild imagery (and even interesting imagery) used in this episode, the story it was shoehorned to was awfully flat.

As a demonstrative point, why was Haruhiko even in this episode, except to serve as the obligatory point of view character or, more banally, the Greek chorus? The cast is finally all assembled now, but note that group shot. Haruhiko’s not in it. Make of that what you will.


  1. Meh. So it’s basically the rehash of Reina’s episode just with duller comedy, duller character development, more chuuni, and Haruhiko being Haruhiko? Whatever, at least Ryotarou Okiayu sounded badass while voicing the pinky kuma.

    1. If you drop an episode, why not drop the entire show?
      Skipping episodes (unless they’re filler in long running shonen manga adaptations) sounds extremely dum to me. It’s just a goddamned TV show. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. No one’s going to kill you for not watching it

  2. Yeah, this episode was just lame. I just zoned out halfway through and went back to playing Etrian Odyssey, only seeing magical girl antics and clunky exposition pass by from the corner of my eyes. It doesn’t help that Kurumi is probably the most boring member of the cast (besides Haruhiko, maybe, who was paired with her this episode ), being nothing more than a generically cute loli with a stupid hairstyle. Combine that with the fact that the episode painstakingly spells out absolutely everything for you and I felt like my intelligence was being insulted.

    At least these character introduction episodes are hopefully over now, so something resembling a plot can get going.

    The cast is finally all assembled now, but note that group shot. Haruhiko’s not in it. Make of that what you will.

    Maybe he’s a Phantom that only the others can see, and he’s actually deeeaaad.

  3. Probably the reason why Haruhiko wasn’t in the group shot was because it’s a running gag to make him The Scrappy in-universe. To me, he’s nowhere near a bad character.

    And KyoAni can do babies extremely well!!! SO CUTE!

  4. Bro, this post could do without the entire first paragraph. I’m noticing it more and more, but bloggers on RC are integrating more of their personal opinions and nonsense into their posts. When I read RC I expect to see blogging of the anime, not the blogger.

    All bloggers should look back at how Divine and Omni formatted and went about writing their posts. Their writing was spot on.

      1. Mate, that first paragraph didn’t establish any context. You can, quite literally, remove the first paragraph and remainder reads exactly the same. If you legitimately think you established any context, I advise you reexamine your writing.

      2. Did you not have a specific problem with ‘…bloggers on RC… integrating more of their personal opinions and nonsense into their posts’? All my views on anime are personal opinions. They are informed by my experiences—in this case, my experience with the influential Alice in Wonderland. You may call that ‘nonsense’. Others would call that context.

      3. Don’t move the goal posts. Even if we ignore the more general problem, in this specific instance you completely failed at creating context. The first paragraph is completely disjointed. As previously stated, you can literally remove the first paragraph and the remainder reads the same. The first paragraph isn’t context, it’s personal nonsense.

      4. Also, if you read my reply to Smokex365, there’s nothing wrong with imbuing your post with a personal context per se. But, as you have done in this instance, writers are doing it badly; and it comes off like an autobiography. The first paragraph of this post is a perfect example.

      5. See, what you call ‘move the goalpost’ I would call ‘disagree with your basic premise’. Funny how these things work. Obviously you’re quite attached to your opinion, and you are entitled to it. I will take your feedback into consideration, even if I disagree with it.

    1. If you want rehashed drivel then go read any of a thousand anime blogs.

      If you want engaging reviews that take life, current events and personal tastes and experiences into account to really show what’s what in a show then that’s what you get. Well that and Stilts fetishes…

      1. Rehashed drivel? Creating quite a false dichotomy there buddy. You can draw from personal experiences and manage to write in a way that doesn’t sound like an autobiography. Like I said, read some of Divine’s or Omni’s posts. They do it brilliantly.

  5. I dunno; I think it was artfully told from the perspective of a forth grade girl.
    It was much better than her simply joining the group outright.

    When you’re ten (think back – it’s tough), your ability to express “things” is severely
    limited by your actual experiences. This is why kids that age, who are feeling the
    inkling of adult emotions, have a great deal of difficulty articulating how they feel
    (there are good real-world examples of this in the field of abused children). I don’t
    think she was abused, but was conflicted as only a 10 year old could be.

    I think the episode fit, not great, but well enough with the world of this series. Also,
    here’s a preteen member of the group who is going to act her age, not like she has
    the maturity of a 35 year old woman.

    @Passerby – I liked your intro and comparison to Lewis Carroll’s work. Just my 2¢.

    1. I agree that an episode like this was necessary; I don’t think Kurumi should have outright joined the team either. And I only posit that she may have family issues (not necessarily abuse) because that’s been the way with much of the cast.

      It used to be that the magical girl genre was all about this difficult time in a young child’s life; I’m thinking mostly of Card Captor Sakura here. I would say that this episode of Musaigen no Phantom World tries to at once parody the genre (amongst other things) and play it straight, and I don’t think they balanced things as well as they could have.

  6. Well, count me amongst those disappointed by this episode (and I guess by the whole show thus far). I don’t really care about Kurumi, nor Albrecht, nor any of the other bears, stuffed or mechanical.

    I rarely like shows that develop this way… each character will sort of get their own episode and the other characters won’t really be important unless it’s their episode. So we haven’t seen much of Mai since her limber limboing back in the first episode, and really, we don’t know anything yet about her at all beyond her physical attributes. Reina had hers in the fourth, Koito last episode, and now we get Kurumi. What I find usually happens in this type of sequence, is that time freezes for the other characters and overall nothing much happens. For what it’s worth, I think the worst show for this was something called Sengoku Collection, which had something like fifteen episodes of introducing characters (I lasted for five but some time later went through MAL’s forums to count. I’ve forgotten the exact number but it was around 15.)

    Some alternative examples would include Bakemonogatari, wherein we learned huge amounts about Senjōgahara Show Spoiler ▼

    during Hachikuji’s arc, or during Hanekawa’s arc, we had the long car ride. Or Witch Hunter Robin, which throughout its first half, generally offered up a witch of the week, but with each week, we learned a bit more about the characters, their relationships, the organisations, etc…. Heck, we can even use another KyoAni show as an example… Haruhi. There isn’t a Nagato episode, or a Mikuru-chan or Tsuruya-san or even a Haruhi episode. Phantom World is using a weak method to sort of tell a story which it really hadn’t gotten around to telling yet… and the season’s now half over.

  7. The character of the week episodes are something you’d expect from a longer running series. In this one, they feel like filler to pad out the series until they can do something significant with the plot. This is probably the weakest Kyoani series I’ve ever watched. At least K-On! and Lucky Star were sold on the slice of life aspect, so you know not much happens there anyway.

    It just feels like after 6 episodes, they haven’t really progressed the series much, nor are they giving any indication where they’re headed with the plot either.

  8. This episode was trash tier. Why didn’t they play it off on a more serious note? Why make it deliberately shit? I’m hoping it’s all a ruse and they’ll end the season on a cliffhanger ala Panty & Stocking.


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