Btooom! – 05
I’m right on the edge with Btooom at the moment. I get that the whole piece is something of an unqualified condemnation of human nature, and the broader feeling in watching is still that it’s compelling in an unsavory sort of way. But there were moments in this episode that ventured pretty close to flat-out exploitation, in my view.
One thing’s for sure – this was an episode that pretty much painted threw both males and females collectively under the bus. I’ll give Btooom that – it’s an equal opportunity show in that it makes everyone look bad. Girls, boys, kids, old men and young, popular kids and social climbers, musicians, salarymen, otaku, mothers… The universal message so far seems to be that we’re rotten to the core no matter who and what we are. Maybe that the island is where all of us belong, anyway – or that the island is where we already are, symbolically. We can choose to play the game and become killers, or opt out and probably die.
The revelation that it was Ryouta’s mother that had him sent to the island (I hope she was well paid) didn’t come as a total shock, and we already knew who sent Himiko there. I’m still waiting for Taira’s dark side, and thus far it’s really the only one we haven’t seen – it’s hinted this week that he was a ruthless A-hole in his business life, but that’s pretty pedestrian compared to the rest of the back-stories. It looks as if he’s going to sacrifice himself to save the others (or at least try to) next week based on the preview, so we may not get too much deeper into his character in any case. If things weren’t batshit crazy enough we now have Komodo Dragons added to the mix, but I imagine they’re as susceptible to bombs as humans are.
The scene from the episode that really didn’t sit well – and calls into question whether I stick around despite being quite compelled to see how this all turns out – was the one where Ryouta has his encounter with Himiko. I don’t especially like the way her body was used as a prop there, especially considering the subject matter – and it seemed quite gratuitous to me to have Ryouta leer grotesquely and practically strip her panties off given the circumstances. I get that she’s carrying a lot of guilt around and has good reason to fear men, but this comes close to the concept of rape being used for titillation – and despite the implication of the episode, I don’t think all men are perverts and rapists just waiting for the right circumstances to unleash their true nature. I found the scene demeaning to both characters and to females and males generally, and while that doesn’t seem out of place in a series where misanthropy is the core message, that doesn’t mean I want to see more examples played out over the next seven weeks. I still think Btooom is doing a lot of things right and the overall premise remains an interesting one though, so we’ll see.
Zetsuen no Tempest – 05
The strength of BONES has mostly been in creating original series, but there’s something to be said for the ability to choose the right projects to adapt – and in Zetsuen, they seem to have hit the jackpot. This show could hardly be more BONES if it were a BONES original – fabulous bishounen, Byzantine plot, generally dark and tragic feel. Maybe in a funny way BONES is the most Shakespearean anime studio to begin with.
Rather than “The Tempest” it’s “Hamlet” that’s at the thematic heart of the episode this week, with Aika quoting the title character directly and Samon striking a very familiar pose with a skull at the end. More on that ending in a minute, because what led up to it was pretty good stuff. ZnT has a way of sweeping you along with its grand theatricality – sweeping orchestral music, giant tanks full of black iron fish, dramatic flashbacks to conversations that sound as if the participants knew they were on camera. It’s quite silly to be honest, and a little pompous, but no one can do silly and pompous and make it seem attractive like BONES can.
Two new players joined the company this week – Tetsuma (Yoshino Hiroyuki, forever the sidekick) as another one of Samon’s disciples for Mahiro and Yoshino to dramatically cuckold, and Junichirou (Nojima Hirofumi), as a self-exiled member of the Kusaribe clan whom Hakzae has entrusted with an especially important talisman. There’s a strong implication that Junichirou is an especially important person to Hakaze, and someone she’d like very much to protect (death flag there) but he’s convinced she’s actually dead – and has seen a body, at that. This seems to be the secret weapon in Samon’s arsenal, and the implication is that Hakaze is actually dead (and inside a barrel) and that the one we’ve been watching and listening to is actually some sort of ephemeral remnant of her material self. It’s too early in the story for that to be true, I’m guessing, but there’s more to this than we’ve been shown so far, that’s a certainty.