「復讐者・1」 (Fukushuu-sha 1)
This show is amazing to watch, but kind of a bear to write about.
I’m having a problem with Planet With, but I guess it’s a good sort of problem to have. I’m loving the experience, but when these episodes are ending I’m finding the prospect of writing a review to be pretty daunting. More than anything I want to rewatch the eps a second time (which is what I did with the first two) because there’s just so much to absorb here. Funnily enough it makes me ponder what the experience of blogging Spirit Circle might be like, if they ever adapted it, and looking back on that series I suspect I would feel exactly the same way.
Oh, well – that’s Mizukami, and it’s why I adore his writing. There are so many slices of this story that could carry the series on their own, but he packs so much into his narratives that you only get to see them as part of the larger whole. Those pieces are starting to slide together, elegantly as they always seem to in a Mizukami series. In very matter of fact fashion we learn that Souya is in fact a “Siriusian” – a native of a world destroyed by the dragon power that Ryuuzouji (though Shirashi is the one pulling the strings if you ask me) and Golden Paladin are using to (as they see it) defend the Earth.
Ryuuzouji clearly has some serious firepower, melting away an entire hillside with his “Thor’s Hammer” before Sensei’s spaceship (which looks, fittingly, like a giant Sensei) arrives and swallows the Souyabot. It’s a mutual standing down for now, as Souya has spent his powers and Ryuuzouji has no desire to take on the monstrosity before him. In his dreams, Souya (in addition to being cock-teased with a bucket of chicken) overhears Sensei with His Excellency (the unmistakable Wakamoto Norio), a conversation that’s seemingly fraught with significance on multiple levels.
What we can take away from this is that Sensei and His Excellency are both “Kigurumians” (Mizukami, you scamp) and that Sensei took Souya under his care after the destruction of Sirius, for which he blames himself. This seems to be a zero sum game for the Kigurumians – once a species reaches a certain point they’re either sealed (which means their evolution ceases) or eventually destroyed by their lust for power. Sensei wants to save the Earth without sealing it, Souya wants to be an avenger for his lost planet, and Excellency (and the Sealing Faction) believe that what Sensei wants is a lost cause. It’s quite a mess.
Against this backdrop, Mizukami totally switches gears and revels in a phenomenally charming sequence of school life scenes, prompted by a TV interview where Nozo-san (heh) – who’s mistaken for a middle-schooler, just like Souya-kun – notes how worried she is about him (“I wonder if he ever found the bathroom?”). Souya’s return to school soon enough finds him invited to visit – and eventually join – the Occult Research Club. Why their greeting is “Run-yah!” I have no idea, but this is a blast – especially after the arrival its wacky president and Nezuya “Judgment” (Sugawara Shinsuke).
We know Nezuya of course, and Souya looks naggingly familiar to him – but neither boy can place the other. Nezuya is actually a graduate, apparently, who’s a hard-core occult otaku and regularly stops by to borrow books he can carry around and (he imagines) look cool with. He’s charmingly goofy and Souya seems rather touched that Nezuya immediately considers him a friend – something, one imagines, Souya hasn’t had many of. When he gets home to vegetarian curry, Souya apologizes to Sensei and Ginko for his actions during the last skirmish – and Sensei offers him the option of sticking around on Earth. But is it really a good idea to form emotional bonds to a planet that’s probably about to be destroyed?
All that takes a back seat, though, when another of Nebula’s iconic curiosities shows up. And this time around it’s a truly creepy as fuck one, a bunch of grinning upside-down babies (with doggy diapers). I agree with Souya here, Mokele-mbembe is cuter. This time around it’s Nezuya who finds the weak point, but Haru is desperate to avenge Miu’s defeat and redeem herself after her failure to protect her friend, and follows him. We know what she sees inside, and her parting message is “No one is scared of you” – suggesting, perhaps, that her personal bugaboo is the fear that everyone is afraid of her because she’s big, knows judo and does scary things. But apart from a very brief glimpse we’ve no idea of what Nezuya saw in there – and Haru’s rash actions seem to have placed him in real trouble.
What can I say, for me at least this story is a fascinating tangle of possibilities. I’m beginning to see these messengers from Nebula as a kind of Rorschach test for humanity – I don’t think their bizarre appearance or misspelled catch phrases are coincidental, but designed to test human reactions in some way. They seem to reveal the innermost fear of whoever enters them and offer reassurance, but to what end? Even as questions are answered, new ones arise – and despite great clarity about what’s happening at any given moment, the premise as a whole is filled with mystery. That’s Planet With, the best series of the season, and it’s the quintessential Mizukami Satoshi experience.