Boku Dake ga Inai Machi – 03

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I’m running out of superlatives, truth be told.

I can’t think of a series I’d rather be my first on the new site than Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, because it really is sublime – I love it both objectively and subjectively.  In case any of you were thinking ol’ Enzo was exaggerating or going in heavy on the superlatives when I kept praising the manga, I hope you’re convinced now.

We’re getting into the place in the series now where it really is hard for me to talk too much about the plot, but at least I can talk about how stupendously good this show is, and how pleased I am that it’s totally and utterly captured the magic of the source material.  Did you ever have a series where you racked your brain trying to find flaws, or even things you wished it were doing differently – and couldn’t?  That, for me, it where Boku Dake is right now.  It’s just doing everything right.

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I think you understand from watching it better than I can communicate by talking about it, but the way Itou Tomohiko and Kanbe Sei are able to communicate what it’s like for Satoru to re-enter the life of a ten year-old again – the way he finds himself drawn into the emotions of that ten year-old – is remarkable.  I think it’s easy for us to forget that a 29 year-old man is inside that little body – because I think Satoru slips up and forgets it himself sometimes.  And because I think perhaps we’re not as different from the people we were as children as we’d like to believe.

I don’t think there’s a studio out there which sees as wide a range in production values between its series as A-1 pictures, but we’ve seen what they can do when they aim for the stars – shows like Hourou Musuko and AnoHana are ethereally beautiful, and Boku Dake has very much that same quality.  The expressiveness of the characters, the background details, the music, the way Ito frames the camera – this is anime as art.  It’s both timeless and old-school, because there’s no trickery, no CGI, no gimmicks or pandering – it’s just lovely artwork and animation, a great story with incredibly complex character interaction, and a superb cast top to bottom.

And boy, does that work for me.

So, I’ve managed to get through four paragraphs without really talking about what happened during the episode itself, which would be a lot harder with a show that weren’t this great.  Lots of stuff did happen, of course, but – you know the problem.  I can say I loved the focus on honesty in this episode – with one’s self, and others.  I like the uncertainty about Satoru and Kayo – that is to say, has this “revival” forced him to spend time with her and in the process discover new feelings, or were those feelings there all along and sublimated?

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I think it must be said, too, that Tsuchiya Tao and Yuuki Aoi are doing a stunning job here.  This is not easy material in any way for an actor, and it demands something other than the kind of self-insertion performance that’s more or less than norm in anime.  Every scene Satoru and Kayo share is heartbreaking and beautiful (usually both), from the truly devastating glimpses of her home life to the utterly magical dance of the foxes in the snow.  If you see a more lovely scene in anime this year than the latter – or more gut-wrenching than the former – it will have been a very good year indeed.

I’ll leave it there for now, I think, as I can’t really go on about how much I love this show without lapsing into outright fawning (and of course I can’t talk specifics about the plot).  I’ll close by once again thanking all of you for reading and for participating in the LiA community, and ask your forbearance as I slowly transition six years of my life onto the new site.  There will be glitches and it’ll take a while to get everything where I want it, but I couldn’t be happier or more excited to be here – and to share the trip with all of you.

 

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17 comments

  1. K

    Holy cow, that scene with Satoru trying to look up Kayo’s birthday was so TENSE, I’m glad it turned out fine. The teacher seems like a good dude (I hope there won’t be a twist about him being no so nice). And boy I was so happy for Kayo when she finally smiled; good job Satoru.

  2. Like I said to someone else: A-1 Pictures only works fine when is for NoitaminA or when Aniplex throws lots of money at them. But they seem to have gone beyond their usual “good” to plain old excellency with this one.

    On the episode itself: man, that was awesome. I’m loving this anime so much. I wanted to punch that scumbag that probably calls herself a “mother”, and almost could taste Satoru’s frustration at his own powerlessness on that situation. The scenes of Satoru and Kayo are beautiful, and he finally made that poor child smile.

  3. What a fantastic episode. Gotta hand the credit for this one over to Takahiro Shikama though. He directed, supervised, storyboarded, and animated the majority of the episode himself. I can only hope the fact that Shikama worked extensively with Ito on SAO means he’ll be back for at least one more episode. Everything from the subtle difference in character designs to the excellent framing and facial expressions, it was all so perfect. Ito has found someone special in Shikama and I can’t wait to see what series he inevitably directs in the future.

  4. Thanks for that note on Shiyama-san.

  5. M

    This is one incredible episode. It starts off with a little bit deep by Satoru intentionally losing, then the discovery of the abuse, then the lunch money incident and lastly the Christmas tree. This episode make me wonder, mad at Kayo’s mother, laugh at the childishness of the bully and cried at the beauty of the last scene. I can honestly said this could be the first anime episode that make me ride a roller coaster of emotions like this.

    And I’m not being fooled by all those red eyes and ominous shots, they are all red herrings to me. The real killer could be the janitor for all I know. I’m just going to enjoy it and let the anime continue to surprise me with the mystery.

  6. I have to say, I found that last scene pretty goofy. It was pretty obvious that they weren’t going to end the episode without a cliffhanger, but it definitely felt forced between how short it was and how the music was so overly serious. I actually laughed out loud. Though that’s probably a mix of disdain and a “c’mon! how can you leave it like that!”

    Definitely just a small blip in an otherwise flawless run so far. The only show to have captivated me endlessly since forever.

  7. R

    Superb superb episode indeed. Just leaving a comment here, was there any anime as beautiful & touching as what we have here? It evokes something like i felt from a Makoto Shinkai (5cm Per Second) creation.. truly amazing.

  8. M

    My emotion burst out when those foxes started running around Satoru and Kayo. It’s a very…heart-warming scene like foxes telling them “hey kids, it’s alright. Everything will be ok.”. Having grown up in Japan, those kids’ school life makes me nostalgic so much (mine was peaceful with no horrible incidents, though.) , school lunch (yes, they serve it by themselves), birthday parties, the heater in the classroom…and etc…Hoping every kid having trouble in his/her life can have someone like Satoru (well, “revival-ed” one) to stand by.

  9. So far things have pretty much progressed as expected, I’m eager to see what happens when the other shoe drops next episode.

  10. Seeing what that poor kid was going thru was a heartbreaker. Yet IRL there are kids every day going thru hell. Its no Wonder they grow up broken.

    On another note… anyone else find the text to be a little light and hard to read? Lots of white on the page and the text in the boxes (replies) are very light.

  11. s

    this was a great ep i thought (an 8.5 for me). Again, someone on the animation team understands the importance of good quality animation in visual story-telling. Notice how for the last two eps, the camera barely cuts off, characters legs whenever they walk (usually used as an animation shortcut to not animate true movement). It’s attention to detail like that that i really like. Boku dake really does take me back to the time when anime could be grounded in realism and portray it so well without being restricted by the medium (cough back in the 80’s, late 90’s early 2000’s cough cough). Sure there i a tiny bit of cgi scattered around (it’s integrated much better in these last two eps and used less than it was in ep 1; stuck out like a sore thumb there), but it’s primary 2d hand-drawn animation and it looks great. I mean this series actually has some good cinematography, which again plays around the whole theme of satoru’s revival being metaphorically represent by film reels (or the fact that the OP goes out of it’s way to show that this is an introspective series meant to be seen as if the main character was watching a movie of his life).

    I liked how this ep used satoru giving up the ice hockey race as a way to illustrate that just because he’s reliving his elementary school days with 20/20 hindsight doesnt mean he cannot repeat the same mistakes. This sort of gave him a wake up call that he needs to be more scrupulous as he can still mess up at any time and lose his second chance. If i had to pick something that bothered me, which is what i was hoping this show would avoid (as it’s done a good job showing that it’s a smart series) is making Kayo’s mom so “apparently sinister”. No need to try hard to portray her as an amoral asshole, i get that she’s someone we shouldnt like and her actions speak loudly enough. Just the way ep goes out it’s way to show her evil smile (the typical anime shit-grin), talking so sinister and pushing satoru out of the way had her come off as a bit over-the-top. I only say that because ive seen characters like her portrayed with a bit more subtlety. i would have forgiven the ordeal under normal circumstances but i feel like boku dake has proven that it has better writing than that. With the mystery, at least to me, being obvious as to who the perpetrator is, i assume that this series is less about the mystery and more about Satoru getting a second chance to rebuild himself into a better man and redeem himself by giving others a second chance at happiness. Satoru has a bit of self-loathing so he doesnt realize it but boy is he a genuinely altruistic person.

  12. I listened to this one more than watching it (unsubtitled) and it was still super impactful.

    The voice acting and sound design is excellent.

    Gotta watch it again subtitled though…

  13. O

    What a fantastic anime. It’s been years since I liked the first 3 episode of a show that much. Already a very strong candidate for anime of the year.

    I have bought the first 5 volumes of the Manga, but I’m waiting for the anime to finish before I start reading them. Can’t wait for next week !

  14. T

    I’m strongly suspecting the teacher is the murderer. My reasoning for this is solely because people often suspect those who are outcasts and odd, while no one seems to suspect the well-spoken, well-dress, and smooth talking folks. Plus as in the case of abuse of all kinds its strongly the case the perpetrators are those that the victims know and trust using that logic the murderer is someone the kids knew very well and had constant contact with them at all times. These kids are smart so I strongly doubt they would follow someone they don’t know. Lastly there is just something about the teacher that sends off very creepy vibes for me.

    On a happier note The scene with the christmas tree in the forest with the stars shining in the background made me tear up a bit. It was just so beautiful and you can tell the genuine joy they felt watching something so amazing. I like that Satoru is not really struggling adjust from his adult life to being a child again, which indicts to me that we are not all that different now than when we were children. Granted I’m definitely happier knowing different things now then before, but at heart I still believe I very much the same.

  15. K

    It’s too bad about Ajin since it looks like it will be completely ignored by here and RC (after Enzo’s introductory post). It should’ve been top 2 with this series and these two are the only things I watch. I get the (bad) CG issue, but perhaps because I consider the source material quite good that it is not enough to stop me from watching it. Have to say, though, I found it easier to watch in the longer form (i.e. movie part 1 or about 5-6 episodes combined) as it gives you more time to get absorbed into the story and get used to the CG. Anyway felt like commenting about Ajin as it is type of show that would’ve been great covered here at least (maybe blog about the movie part 1 at least if covering weekly is too much for the eyes?)

  16. G

    Well, I was suspecting Sensei as the serial killer as well – not just the red eyes, but after this week’s reveal that he knew about Kayo’s abusive childhood (not trying to invite spoilers, I know nothing about the manga). This would make it a variable as to why Kayo is one of the targeted abductees, because kidnappers like to look for kids who stand out from the crowd / do not draw attention. Of course, if we assume that Sensei is the killer, he would now know that Satoru is keeping an eye out for Kayo, and I wonder if that would change anything.
    At first, I thought Satoru would have an edge in the race, because his 29-year-old mind would have had experience, but on hindsight, his body would need to be experienced anyway. I’m surprising how little influence Satoru has had on the present world so far.

  17. G

    do not stand out*

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