[笑い犬} (Warai inu)
I think the lack of comments on Sonny Boy is reflective of my experience with it. This series is interesting in an abstract and intellectual way, but I just don’t think many viewers care about it all that much. Appreciate it, yes – its uniqueness, its striking visual style, its willingness to avoid modern anime cliches. But if a show is never willing to meet you half way, sooner or later you get a little tired of trekking all the way to wherever it wants to hang out. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
My thinking was that a paring down of the cast to the essential core (which now includes Yamabiko the dog) might help in this respect. It still might, but Sonny Boy’s immediate response was to use a flashback to expand things outward again with an all-new subplot. It was interesting (there’s that word again), but we already have so much to parse after seven relentless episodes. And if anything the developments in this episode were some of the most cryptic in the series so far.
We already knew Yamabiko was old, though I don’t remember if he specifically said 5000 years before now. After Mizuho pushes him to tell she and Nagara how he became a dog, that’s exactly what Yamabiko does. From his days of wondering aimlessly alone to his meeting with a group led by a charismatic young woman named Kamara. Kamara has a special power, to seemingly bend the this world and its inhabitants to her will. But as we’ll find out there are exception, and the reason for that at least is laid out plainly, if nothing else.
The most effective part of the episode for me was the early portion of this sequence, with the isolated Yamabiko (in human form) resisting the pull of Kamara and her seemingly idyllic commune. While the reasons aren’t clear it’s obvious that Yamabiko sees his isolation as a deserved punishment, but more than that there is something a little off-putting and creepy about Kamara and her followers. There’s an air of cultishness to them, as if they’re trying a little too hard to deny the emptiness of their existences.
Eventually, inevitably, Yamabiko falls in love with Kamara. But soon she and the others fall ill (the first occurrence of illness in this reality that we’ve seen), mysterious crystalline tumors forming all over their bodies. Only Yamabiko is unaffected, and eventually, after resolving he would do anything for Kamara, he turns into a dog (it just happens). The others discover a strange man in a cave, who seems to be the source of all the tumors. Eventually he tells Yamabiko that his name is War, and that the reason Yamabiko is immune to the illness is that he created this world himself.
That all seems clear enough. So does the fact that Yamabiko lives with regret over the fact that he probably could have saved Kamara, and never did. But what does it all mean, really? What is it in the context of the larger story? There’s no hand-holding with this narrative, that’s for sure. Soon the trio meet back up with Nozomi, though she scolds them for being two weeks late – which is due to the fact that their time has been moving more slowly than hers (obviously an important point). And the spark between she and Nagara is apparent immediately when they reunite, to the extent that matters. I’ve rarely has less idea where a series was going next at any given point, which is interesting in its own right. But I wish I cared a little bit more about the answer.