「大きな器」 (Ookina utsuwa)
One trend I’ve spoken of this season is the preponderance of “Yes, but…” series. Shows which are broadly excellent but have one or more elements about them that are seriously annoying. There’s another, though, and Fumetsu no Anata e is a part of it. We seem to have a lot of series this season that are better the less conventional they are (Mashiro no Oto certainly crosses over into both). It’s another phenomenon that’s hardly unique to Spring 2021 but does seem to be a little more widespread than usual this time.
Fumetsu is in a tough spot, admittedly, because not only was its first episode stellar but it was by definition unique. The nature of the plot is such that it had to be self-contained and apart from the rest of the series. That’s left the three follow-ups just a hair- well, conventional – by contrast. They’re telling a traditional anime story and what’s more, Fushi is a relatively small presence in them. I knew this transition phase was coming but it’s proving to be a little more problematical for me than I expected.
Another issue is that March is undeniably a lot easier to take on the page than she is on screen. I can’t really fault Hikisaka Rie because really, how else is one supposed to play this character? But even so, March as an animated presence who never shuts up is a lot to take. She doesn’t forever dominate the narrative so much but it’s going to be a matter of patience we reach that point. Until then all one can do is try to focus on the positives (because there are still quite a lot of them) and wait for what’s to come.
One thing that definitely happens in this episode is that our view of the world presented by Fumetsu changes quite a bit. Yanome is quite a departure from what we’ve seen so far, first of all. It’s not like it’s a modern technological colossus but it’s clearly quite different from Ninnanah – starting with the fact that at least some of the populace is literate. It also has a reasonable level of pre-industrial technology (and maybe not entirely pre-industrial) and a huge population. It’s a land of wonders for March, and Hayase seems to slip into the role of welcoming tour guide as she shows the rubes the ways of the big city.
Well, that act is pretty transparent right from the start, so what happens next is no surprise. Just why it would be worth Yanome’s time to continue this elaborate ruse regarding human sacrifice in Ninannah isn’t entirely clear, but they’re well aware that the whole thing is a sham. This is especially grating to Parona, who lost her big sister to the ritual when she was about March’s age (which certainly explains her maternalistic attitude towards the little girl). Perhaps most significantly, Oniguma isn’t some sort of magical beast out of Mononoke Hime after all – he’s just a really big-ass bear with a lot of arrows stuck in him.
I’ll be honest – I assumed Oniguma was dead all along when I first saw this material, but the implication is that he didn’t pass until after being under March’s care in Yanome for a while. Even if Oniguma is natural we know that there is what we would call a supernatural element to this premise, else Fushi wouldn’t exist – what we don’t know is if that element is limited to his existence, or extends to the rest of the world. Oniguma’s death is significant for a number of reasons, most of which should be obvious to anyone who’s watched the first three episodes of the series.
I’m probably being too hard on this arc if I’m honest with myself, because it’s quite good in a very time-honored way. And the anime is adapting things more or less faithfully so far – whatever flaws or merits we see are straight out of the source material. World building involves a lot of heavy lifting and that isn’t always the most gripping or elegant part of a story to watch play out, and if anything I wish Ooima-sensei had blasted through this stage a little faster (and it’s not often you hear me say that). But at least we aren’t limited to one cour in seeing the benefits.