Boku Dake ga Inai Machi – 08

Boku Dake - 08 -11 Boku Dake - 08 -41 Boku Dake - 08 -56

There isn’t a whole lot I can say in the wake of what we just saw, to be honest. But I’ll try.

Boku Dake - 08 -1I really think this episode was right up there at the upper limits of how good anime can be, no exaggeration.  I’d judge at least half of the first eight episodes of Boku Dake ga Inai Machi to have been truly great – as in, comfortably in my top Top 50 eps of all time.  So I don’t think there’s any hyperbole with this series, even with the nosebleed fan rankings and owning 20% of the manga bestseller list in Japan for two weeks – that reaction is exactly as it should be, because Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is that good.  I knew it all along of course, but it’s still nice to be validated in such spectacular fashion.

Boku Dake - 08 -2If there’s anything that I find mildly off-putting about the fan reaction to this show, it’s how much of the focus is on the mystery and thriller aspects.  Now don’t get me wrong – Erased is indeed a thriller, and the plot itself is crucial to its very existence.  But if anything I’m amazed that the fan reaction is so positive when so much of it isn’t focused on what I consider the best part of the series – the characters.  I think it’s the emotions that underlie the story, and the way the characters’ emotions are woven together that truly make Boku Dake ga Inai Machi a historically excellent series.

One of my favorite lines of movie dialogue comes from Woody Allen’s Radio Days, in which the character effectively playing the young Woody’s mother declares “The world would be such a beautiful place if it weren’t for certain people.”  That line was spoken about the Nazis, bBoku Dake - 08 -3ut it could just as easily apply to Boku Dake – and one of the amazing things about this series is the way it can so vividly portray both sides of the coin that is human nature.  Darkness is so starkly on display here – there can be little we find so viscerally evil as the abuse and murder of children.  But there’s so much more to this story than that, and that’s what makes it such a powerful experience to watch (or read) it.

Boku Dake - 08 -4Honestly, I found this episode utterly heartbreaking – not because of the evil that people do, but because of the good.  I just love these characters so much – there’s so much decency here, so much courage, so much honesty.  It’s a crying shame there aren’t more serious anime about children, because they can be powerful in a way series about high schoolers and adults (not that there are many of those either) simply can’t.  And then we have Sachiko, who’s such a quietly heroic figure – the absolute essence of what parenting should be.  She understands the gift she’s been given, and the responsibility that goes with it.

Boku Dake - 08 -5As usual, I want to call attention to a couple of specific scenes which I think are transcendently brilliant.  The first takes place on the bus, at the moment when Kayo belatedly gives Satoru his birthday present.  Just on a superficial level this is obviously a moving moment, but just ponder on all the layers upon layers that are really involved here.  This is a 29 year-old man in the body of a 11 year-old boy, living out a moment that’s haunted him for a lifetime.  Who’s the one doing the crying here – the man or the boy?  Is there a difference?  I love the way the two Satoru bleed into each other, each bringing something that the other needs to be complete.  I think the obvious reaction is that it’s the child in Satoru that most wants to cry here, but I would argue it’s actually the adult – because he’s the one who’s experienced all the pain and loss.

Boku Dake - 08 -6Then we have the moment when Satoru finally brings Kayo home, having been reminded in all too ugly terms that the bus isn’t a safe hideout.  If you dare suggest anything that happens in the Fujinuma apartment is cloying or melodramatic I’ll be tempted to slap you, because this is what earned emotion is all about.  The moment when Kayo flinches as Sachiko raises her hand is gut-wrenching for all the right reasons, because we’ve come to understand utterly what brought us to this moment.  Boku Dake ga Inai Machi has mercilessly brought us here, sparing us nothing, because it had to do that to allow is to grasp the true meaning behind what we’re seeing.  This scene also contains one of the funniest moments of the season, Satoru’s “Mmm.” when Sachiko asks if she’s in the way – a passage whose success is no less dependent on all the buildup that’s been done to get us to it.

Boku Dake - 08 -7There’s so much more I could get into here, things like Kenya’s radar that something is off with Satoru, and Satoru’s diligence in making sure Hiromi be brought into the circle with Kayo and himself – all of which we’re allowed to piece together ourselves without being told outright.  I’d also like to talk about the pacing of the series, which is an interesting topic – there’s actually some original Satoru-Kayo material in here that helps the anime impact in a way not even the superlative manga can.  But I feel that could potentially be an awkward topic so it’s probably best not to go there, as much as I’d enjoy discussing it.  Rather, I’ll just reflect again on how exquisitely good this show is, and how fortunate we are as fans that Boku Dake ga Inai Machi has received this unicorn of an adaptation – the great manga made into an equally great anime.

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29 comments

  1. T

    Given how rarely it happens, it is wonderful to see a mother as wonderful as Sachiko portrayed here. This was the episode that brought me to tears, because Kayo finally got to experience the motherly love that had been denied her all her life. Getting to witness that was incredible. Now if only the next episode could get here faster.

  2. What killed me was when she saw the bacon and eggs (and flashbacks to what she gets for breakfast) and she started crying. That scene right there broke my heart.

  3. S

    All that second half of the episode, I was overwhelmed with emotions and warmth, and at the same time I was always at the verge of crying. That breakfast scene proved too much for me. Such a beautiful episode!

  4. s

    i liked the anime original content with sachiko ticking kayo in that playful way. Just hearing her laugh was like “wow, this kid actually has a laugh” props to aoi yuuki for delivering such a real childishly innocent laugh, as if someone was actually ticking her during recording. However what i thought was a bit off putting was when the scene ended up being played up like some generic eechi moment for satoru when he began blushing upon hearing them in the bath. I just asked myself why that was necessary and it slightly tainted what i thought was such a well executed scene

  5. I have to disagree there, because not only do I think that was quite a natural extension of the moment, but it once again ties into the odd dichotomy of Satoru’s existence. He keeps admonishing himself “You’re 29 years old!”, but there a couple of things at play here I think. First, in some very real sense being a kid again has brought Satoru back to the experience of being a kid – the physical reality has impacted the psyche. And second, I don’t think he’s changed nearly as much as he thinks he has. There’s a lot going on here, and by no means do I see it as a gratuitous anime moment.

  6. s

    i get what’s going on but i dont think it was executed well here like it has been in other eps which is why that part stuck out to me as definitely being anime original. I never pegged the scene as gratuitous; it just came off as the generic “the guy is listening in on the ladies bathing” moment in anime and it felt out of place to me in that particular moment (especially since one of those ladies is he’s listening in on is his mom; granted that his focus was more on kayo), But yea it didnt feel as natural as his other “your 29 years old” admonishments have felt. A natural extension of that moment could have been satoru smiling in happiness that kayo is actually enjoying his mom’s company or remarking that his mom and her are having a good time; just taking in the fact that this girl he has been working so hard to protect is finally happy. I understand what your getting at but i dont think it worked here, and part of the reason why i feel that way sort of gets into spoiler territory which is why i didnt say more than i could have.

  7. “If there’s anything that I find mildly off-putting about the fan reaction to this show, it’s how much of the focus is on the mystery and thriller aspects.”

    I think this is your critic’s habits slipping in, really. I see it this way, rather – the thriller aspects are the surface, and the emotional buildup is all the machinery working behind the scenes to present it. Most people might not be aware of it or focus their attention on it, but obviously it’s done its work – to make people *care*. The same exact thriller story, told in an uninspired manner, would probably shake no-one and go by unremarkable.

  8. D

    I feel like I’m watching a different show from everyone else, as all I’m seeing is a pretty predictable, bog standard “thriller” story filled to the brim with moments of very cheap emotional manipulation. The first episode or two, this show seemed like it really was going to be special, but since then, to me at least, it’s become so silly and blatant that I’ve lost any emotional investment in either the characters or the story. At times I feel like I can visualize the author’s story outline, and the comments he must have written in the margin saying things like, “This is a great place to have Kayo cry!”

    I guess I’m in a tiny minority, but I didn’t think this episode was even one of the best of this season, never mind one of the best of all time. It was just another unsubtle blast of melodrama in a show that has abandoned good storytelling in favor of trying to make us cry.

  9. I am not fully on board with Enzo’s admiration, mind you. I think he’s also influenced by knowing and loving the manga beforehand so it’s kind of a dream come true to see it in anime form (and so competently done as well). I find it a pretty solid show but yeah, not even “Best 10 anime EVER” list material for me. This season alone, I consider Rakugo to be better, and if it manages to deliver a satisfying finale it’ll be very hard for it to lose that standing.

  10. There’s an illogic to your argument when you think about it. “Influenced by loving the manga”? What difference does that make? If the anime is a faithful adaptation, then if you think the anime is overrated you pretty much have to feel the same way about the manga.

    It’s fine to not think Boku Dake is all that, obviously. But loyalty to the manga has nothing to do with it.

  11. Not really that – I mean, the manga is a different experience from the anime. We know that it’s (supposedly) cutting out stuff. So for example an anime-only watcher might suffer from that; while for a manga reader it doesn’t detract from the experience much because they already know the missing material and therefore can simply focusing on enjoying seeing the key moments transformed into animation. Having slowly developed attachment to the characters throughout the manga and having investment in them and the story beforehand is also a good starting point. There’s a ton of things the manga could be doing better than the anime and that then “carry over” the experience. For a non-anime example… I loved the “Cloud Atlas” movie, having read the novel. But a lot of people who watched it first found it simply confusing and rushed. The novel has much better pacing; still, as a fan of the book, I loved the movie if only because it brought to life those characters I had only imagined.

    And don’t take it as a serious criticism or anything – we like what we like for often obscure reasons. But one of the reasons why I keep reading your blog is that you are one of the few anibloggers who’s completely unafraid of expressing genuine, unabashed love towards a series. In a lot of places you only see ferocious tear-downs of bad anime and cautious, analytical dissections of good ones. You have some series that you just geek out on, and it’s a good thing imho (also I totally share your enthusiasm when it comes to, for example, HXH, or Watamote – less with BokuDake or Baby Steps, but it’s still pleasant to read).

  12. I just think the line of reasoning doesn’t hold up in this case. There’s very little material difference between the manga and the anime – they’ve actually cut out very little, at least so far. Any issues you have with the anime are pretty much issues with the manga, so to say someone is looking at the anime through rose-colored glasses because of affection for the manga… It just doesn’t make sense. Whatever criticisms you have – whether I or anyone else agrees with them or not – really are directed at Sanbe, not A-1.

  13. Ah, okay, if you say so. I just wouldn’t know, I may read the manga but at this point I’ll wait for the anime to be over before I do it.

    And I don’t really have any specific criticism at Boku Dake, frankly. It ranges from good to very good, it’s gripping, it has interesting characters and I’m invested. It’s just not special-place-in-my-heart great. I can’t even say why exactly. I find it very good and competent but wouldn’t place it higher than my current favourite – perhaps because I prefer anime when it stretches fully its range into complete surrealism.

    With Rakugo it’s different, I think what really makes that for me is the voice actors’ performances, especially during the shows. At this point I’m basically judging it as I would theatre, not anime.

  14. I love this series and I had never heard of it until it started airing (so no manga for me). Each week this series reminds me why I watch anime in the 1st place. That cliffhanger ending last week killed me. Having to wait a whole week to see what happens was torture.

  15. Wow, I really got a big scare when all those tools were revealed to be in the bus the whole time. Goes to show that sometimes the most sinister things can be found in places you thought comfortable. Anyway this was a great episode again, I think this series is a testament to the fact that a thriller doesn’t have tense and gripping all the time, having some really sweet moments can also be very fulfilling.

    The confrontation with Kayo’s mother this time is inevitable, even though I think Kayo could live a very happy life with Satoru’s family. I hope that sheds some light on why she goes through with the abuse, I feel pretty convinced that she’s connected with the kidnapper in some way.

  16. Police call that a rape kit.

  17. i

    “It’s a crying shame there aren’t more serious anime about children”

    That’s more or less true of literature in film in general. One of the reasons I always liked Stephen King novels growing up was his ability to write convincingly from a child’s viewpoint. “Stand by Me” was a great coming of age story and I think Boku Machi has some similar elements.

  18. I don’t think that’s quite as true in all mediums as anime, though I would agree there are fewer good serious adult novels or films about children than there used to be. I agree, King is a writer who’s quite good at writing from a child’s perspective.

  19. Y

    Sorry for the completely off topic post. Feel free to delete. I just couldn’t find any contact info anywhere…

    Leaving for Japan tomorrow. I’m gonna be a little bit all over the place but I’ll be in Tokyo 03/07 – 03/10. Is there anything that’s not in guides that I should check out? Considering I’m more of a Mushishi/Natsume kinda guy and a big fan of Shinto stuff… Not exactly looking for the best maid cafe or anything like that 😉

    If you’re too busy or just don’t feel like it, that’s totally cool… I don’t want you to feel like you have to respond. I just thought I’d ask… Just in case… 🙂

    (Ho! In case you didn’t recognize me without the cat avatar: I’m vegan, so you don’t have to recommend anywhere to eat, unless you know of a secret Shojin ryori joint 😉

    Thanks!

  20. R

    Hey Enzo, I’m curious about your top 50 episodes of all time… I bet there must be some from Seirei no Moribito and HxH… Are there any episodes from Mushishi, Shin Sekai Yori and Uchouten Kazoku?

  21. Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Though exactly what would make up that list would be something I’d have to spend a ton of time figuring out.

  22. R
  23. Of all those shows I’d rank Uchouten Kazoku lowest (though it was still my #5 or #6 of the year as I recall) but the one episode – you know which one I mean – would unequivocally be in my all-time Top 10. Maybe quite high up, too.

  24. R

    I know, I know…that one episode was close to my heart, too….! Now I need to watch that episode and read your post again…

  25. K

    I only tend to comment when I have strong feelings positive or negative about a show and blessed stars…this is one a positive. I consider myself a grown ass man but I welled up when I saw Kayo crying when remembering what she usually gets for breakfast and what Saturo’s mom made her. Reminds you of the lack of affection this child has been getting all her little life and a stark reminder of the ‘little’ things we take for granted each day. Powerful scene. The glove moment was up there as well. Loving this show. I am going to be recommending it high and low for a very long time and its not even finished yet!!!

  26. Z

    I have to agree with you here. This definitely made me well up as well. I think my feelings were much like Satoru’s here “Come on! You’re 35 year old man!” I think that as we grow older we tend to try to distance ourselves from powerful emotions and there consequences. This scene here is a great reminder of what what can seem like a small kindness to us could mean the world to someone else. Another thing I keep being afraid of this series is that the morale will be “You can’t change the past. Live in the present.” If Kayo dies for good….I am revolting!

  27. e

    Oh come on Enzocchi have some faith :,) the speculation part is fun and I don’t think it would be so debated upon if it weren’t based on attachment to the characters involved. Btw I’m more convinced than ever that the teacher is not to be trusted and that he is quite the master planner. In any case personally speaking that’s simply the easier aspect of the show for me to comment upon.
    Hence forgive me but on the emotional part I’ll just say that wheteher by intuition, research or first-hand experience by the author/staff the depiction of Kayo’s reactions to Satoru&hisYokai Mom ‘s genuine kindness is 100% spot-on this wek given her situation of abuse/neglect and leave it at that.
    P.S.: the more I watch the ED the more it reminds me of Wareta Ringo’s visuals style-wise. And seen how in both cases the imagery seems to be rather spoiler-y I’m really wondering about that… hamster in a wheel burning in a blue flame fading into Satoru’s kid silhouette? Of all things.

  28. a

    You have always been my go-to person for anime recommendations but you’re a bit too gushy and fanboyish towards the series, which is obviously heavily influence by your love for the manga. it’s a bit off putting when it’s too obvious because for the first time I feel like I can’t really read your review to find an objective opinion on the show. It is a good show i will give it that, and i am happy that you obviously like it but i felt this way since you recapped episode one.

  29. See my argument with Simone…

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