Boku Dake ga Inai Machi – 06

Boku Daku - 06 -9 Boku Daku - 06 -38 Boku Daku - 06 -47

There’s more than one way to measure success, that’s for sure.

Boku Daku - 06 -1No doubt about it, Osomatsu-san is the biggest success story in anime this year, and maybe for a long time.  But Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is a pretty remarkable case too – and a reminder that in anime success can’t be measured only in disc sales.  There’s the obvious element from the point of a Western fan – the series is already ranked #1 all-time on Anime Planet, and at a 9.1 rating at the halfway-point it’s going to soar close to those heights on MAL.  But most telling (certainly to the production committee) is the fact that all seven of the manga’s volumes are back in the charts this week, all at #36 or higher.

Boku Daku - 06 -2Now, that statistic may not be as remarkable as Osomatsu-san selling 80,000 discs in the first week, but it’s still pretty amazing.  I mean, effectively 20% of the Top 35 manga are Boku Dake ga Inai Machi – not a Shounen Jump series or a shoujo romance, but a once-obscure seinen that’s riding a wave of popularity tied in with the anime airing on NoitaminA.  It’s almost as far-fetched as Osomatsu’s fairy tale (though not quite).

Boku Daku - 06 -3As you can probably tell I’m finding other things to talk about with Erased besides the obvious things, because those obvious things are so difficult to talk about.  And one of the other things once could ponder on (just like with Osomatsu) is just why this series has become as popular as it has.  Quality?  Well, sure, it’s one of the best anime of the decade – but so were Shin Sekai Yori and Kyousougiga, and those both more or less tanked.  I do think the reception Boku Dake has received is a sign that anime fans are starved for smart, mature dramas not set in high schools – but again, this show is not the only one to fit that bill.  I think they must actually be starving for this kind of smart, mature drama specifically – there’s just something in this story that resonates with manga readers and anime fans alike.

Or who knows, maybe it really is just because it’s that good.

Boku Daku - 06 -4There were all kinds of interesting things happening in this episode, which by some standards was a “slow one”.  But in truth it was nerve-wracking and tense and seemed to fly by in about five minutes (and that’s for someone who knew what was going to happen).  I think you can see the emerging themes here, trust and belief in people being a big part of that (though I can’t go into more detail, much as I’d love to).  What’s clear is that what happened to her father was a big part of what made Airi the adult (well – almost) she’s become, and what happened to Yuuki did the same for Satoru.  And of course, both of them continued to believe even when most of the world turned against that belief.

Boku Daku - 06 -5I’m curious to see how new viewers react to the manager character, who shows up to help Satoru rescue Airi from her burning house in the nick of time.  He takes the credit for the rescue when Satoru did most of the work, but then he does send Satoru out the back door and hide his presence – is the impression that he’s doing it strictly for selfish reasons?  And if he is, does it matter?  Also a crucial part of this sequence is when Airi slips her phone into Satoru’s pocket in order to hide the incriminating message that was sent to it from Satoru’s phone – proof that she can still think on her feet even when she’s nearly unconscious and by all rights should probably be dead.

Boku Daku - 06 -6Making his formal entry into the story this week is Sawada (unmistakably Ohkawa Tooru), who was much younger when we briefly met him earlier.  He’s a reporter and a friend of Sachiko, and it was his number on the slip of paper Satoru got from his mother.  Sawada is devoted to cases the police have deemed closed that (in his view) are not, and he’s never bought the official version of what happened eighteen years ago in Hokkaido.  He fills in some blanks for Satoru when they meet, but the one that stands out involves Satoru’s murdered friend Sugita Hiromi – the boy who looks a bit like a girl.  To say that the plot thickens with this new information would be an understatement.

Boku Daku - 06 -7No doubt the signature scene of the episode comes when Satoru leaves the safe anonymity of Sawada’s office to meet with Airi – who’s fled the hospital with the help of her mother – under the bridge.  This is a dumb move, but they both know it is and do it anyway.  The anime communicates this (especially in his case) but not as explicitly as the manga does – I hope it comes across clearly enough.  I think this meeting can be interpreted in many ways, and the connections between what’s happening now and what happened 18 years earlier are obvious.  But I think my take on it is this: the point Sanbe-sensei is making here is that while the hardest time to stand by someone is when they’re alone and shunned, but that’s the time when it really matters – and the real test of one’s loyalty and/or love.

Boku Daku - 06 -8There’s a lot of very subtle stuff going on here – the chance meeting with the two boys (watch the water later and listen to what Satoru and Airi are discussing).  The way Satoru’s time inside his child self has left him saying stuff out loud without realizing it, even now that he’s back in his own body.  When Satoru tells Airi he’s glad they met (and not that they met that day, as the subs mis-translated it – a very important distinction) you can see that he really means it.  The decision to meet under the bridge doesn’t turn out well, obviously (except for a certain person) but when the moment of crisis comes it isn’t himself Satoru is thinking of, but Airi.  It’s a bittersweet ending and a hell of a cliffhanger.

 

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26 comments

  1. D

    This is obviously a fantastic series as many have pointed out. I don’t claim to be an expert in Japanese law, but I wonder if this series has an intentional element of veiled criticism towards a system that has a conviction rate north of 99%. The tendency towards jumping to conclusions taken by the police both in 1988 and 2006 would seem to suggest so, at least to my eyes.

  2. Bingo.

  3. s

    you know, when airi called satoru to ask if they could meet up because she had some information to share, at first i was like “why didnt airi just tell Satoru what she needed to tell him there or why didnt Satoru just tell her to say what she had to say over the phone?”. It was only a couple of seconds after my thought that i was like “oooohhhhh……awwwwwwwweeeeee how sweet”. And yea i did catch that mistranslated piece of dialogue; my japanese isnt 100% but im glad i listen to the dialogue when watching anime in its jap dub because when i heard that i was like “wait, that’s not right”.

  4. I thought the manager did it for selfish reasons. He only let Satoru go because he did not want to upset Airi. Not because he believed that Satoru is innocent. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me because I believe all human action is motivated by some level of self interest.

  5. s

    this is a very true comment and yes, the manager did do it for selfish reasons in my eyes. Sure he did Satoru a solid, but he only did it because of Airi would have been upset at him. Plus if Satoru heeded his words and decided to stay away from Airi, he wouldnt have to worry about him anymore

  6. m

    At least this time he was honest about his (selfish) intentions. Airi actually punched him out about that, so it seems the lesson sunk in a little.

    Watching the anime, I actually feel more attached to Airi than I did in the manga and can see how she did a lot of good for Satoru. I didn’t feel the full extent of Satoru’s growth, as a more open and ultimately trusting person, after his previous Revival. God, it’s subtle, but it’s good.

  7. T

    I wonder if having non-seiyuu actors contributes to BokuDake’s success. Mitsushima Shinnosuke has some pull, I assume. Or maybe it just hits the right notes. I love SSY and Kyousougiga too, but perhaps were too fantastical for the mainstream audience. In any case, I’m glad it’s successful.

  8. Yes, I do believe the use of actors who aren’t well-known as seiyuu helps – I talked about that in the premiere. It’s a critical element in a lot of shows like this one I think (Moribito being the most obvious example) and I think A-1 has proved themselves good about taking that route when the material demands it.

  9. s

    honestly i think it just pretty much boils down to this: it’s a character drama disguised as a murder mystery/time travel series. The hook of Satoru, a guy with the ability to go back in time being framed for a crime he didnt commit was a strong enough hook to grab so many viewers by the balls and keep them along for the ride. Had it been anything else, Boku dake may have actually fell into the same place other anime go to die financially. Ive always said that once you’re able to convince somebody with something generic and simple, it is much easier to have them buy into the complexities of whatever your tryna deliver, and that’s exactly what boku dake did. It hooked its audience with something plenty of people could get themselves into and then laid on its real intent, to which at that point, it didnt matter if it would have alienated people had it been at the forefront. At this point, they are too invested to turn away now and so they dont mind being challenged. I mean boku dake aint too challenging but it does have some good writing and nuance and that may have turned some people off.

    Some series just come out the gate showing too much of their complexity and it turns off people who either dont have the patience to have their intelligence tested, dont have much intelligence to be tested (that’s the cynical viewpoint), or not genuinely intrigued even if they love being challenged. Some shows actually do this on purpose: texhnolyze (another of my all-time favorite anime, right there with lain and a few others) intentionally had it’s first ep alienate anybody who wasnt able to be tested on a cerebral and sensory level. It was pretty much like “If you’re not ready for this, get the fuck out”….almost like a strict world class chef

  10. I can think of a few shows that have used that “testing” approach with their first episodes and honestly, I find it a bit pretentious.

    Your larger point with Boku Dake certainly has merit. I don’t know if it explains the sheer degree of love it’s getting from Western fans, though – I mean, it’s #1 all-time on AP and likely to be top 5 all-time on MAL when it ends. That’s just stunning.

    I often think about SSY and why it failed, and failed with extreme prejudice. I mean, that premiere totally captured me – I thought it was utterly spectacular. Is it because it’s not relatable enough in the way Boku Dake is?

  11. s

    “I often think about SSY and why it failed, and failed with extreme prejudice. I mean, that premiere totally captured me – I thought it was utterly spectacular. Is it because it’s not relatable enough in the way Boku Dake is?”

    In essence; Yea pretty much. Think about it enzo; if you were to dissect what SSY did on a directorial and narrative level in its first ep compared to what boku dake did, which one can you honestly say is would be more relate more to a wider audience. There was so much sci-fi world building in the first ep of SSY, but there werent enough answers as of yet. It showed instead of telling it’s audience what the hell was going on, but on that note, there was a lot of mystery as to just exactly what world these kids lived in and if the unnatural sci-fi elements didnt grab you, or make sense to you, then you most likely werent captivated by the first ep; it’s as simple as that. Boku dake…yeeeaaa much more easier to relate to. Also what do western fans love? (besides blockbuster action and fart jokes). We love “whodunnit” mysteries. We like time travel, we like zombies (not relevant i know..but at least that’s relevant to why attack on titan reached out to the west as well)..to me it just makes perfect sense which is why im not surprised boku dake is as successful as it is.

    Oh can it be pretentious for a series to show off its “complexities” in an attempt to alienate others..absolutely as i think that to be the case for certain shows as well. But when a series actually delivers on its quality…eehhhh can you really fault them? I mean subete in my opinion got a little too big for its britches in trying to prove that it was this smart intellectual show but other series know how to present their complexities better without coming off as snobbish, or at least have the guns to back up their claim. Take moribito for example: it knew exactly what it was, what it wanted to be, and kenji kamiyama gave no shits if its type of storytelling alienated you or if it didnt follow all the check marks to successful disc sales. That’s what i mean by some series running out the gate with their head held high and expecting those on board to get on and those who arent to get off on the next stop. Texhnolyze, while not as kind with it’s alienating of others, had the quality to back its shit up. But it wasnt as if it was touting itself as “too smart for you” kind of anime. The crew working on it had a story to tell and they wanted to tell it their way. if people didnt like it…..oh well.

  12. My only quibble is I think you’re talking about a couple of very different things here. Moribito was indeed unapologetic about what kind of story it was, but I don’t think it intentionally went out of its way to scare off viewers in an attempt to “qualify” the audience. And some shows – as you suggested – do indeed seem to do that.

    I suppose SSY was a much more “genre” series out of the gate – not only hard sci-fi, but an especially Japanese style of it. Boku Dake is pretty much universal in that there’s nothing in the premise that wouldn’t feel equally at home in a Western series or novel. Details are certainly culturally specific, but not the premise itself.

  13. D

    To be honest, I’m in love with Boku Dake, while I dropped SSY after an episode or two. There wasn’t a single element of SSY, in its first two episodes, that grabbed me in any way shape or form, while Boku Dake is so extremely compelling and genuine, in my opinion.

  14. My two cents:

    1. SSY is not relatable outside ani-bloggers.
    2. That yaoi/yuri scene.
    3. The hellish slow pacing but amazing world building.

    I love Shin Sekai Yori and all as it is in my Top 20 most favorite animes but… those flaws are enough for a casual watcher to leave it in the cold. Although I cannot say the same with Kyosou Giga as it is just as accessible as any other anime.

    Well, I am seeing more concerns with Erased than in SSY so I am not placing it to my personal favorites soon but it’s good.

  15. Y

    I dropped SSY actually… So I can tell you that for me, the main reason was that the character design was just awful. Couldn’t take it

    You always rave about it though so I’ll just have to give it another chance…

    Thanks for the heads up on the translation error. That is indeed very different!

  16. Y

    Heads up: something funky going on with the time meta tag on the comments. I posted at 6:40 pm here in NYC and it says 11:40 pm which isn’t the right time for Japan either I’m pretty sure…

  17. Thanks. I’m not sure I’ve ever dropped a series over character design – but the funny thing is I didn’t mind the character design for SSY at all. Different strokes I guess.

  18. Y

    Maybe I should have said animation in general instead of just character design… I just remember thinking to myself something like: “Wow! this is really freaking ugly to look at…” but hey! I’m watching Ajin now, so maybe I’ve become more lenient with age 😉

  19. Y

    Another meta thing you might want to fix: your permalink for this post is `/2016/02/osomatsu-san/` It doesn’t seem quite right 😉

  20. s

    You’re right in that moribito was not intentionally trying to alienate its audience; I never believed that. However I do believe kamiyama had every intention to tell his tale in a specific way n didn’t care if it followed convention or if it was what the audience wanted. He sought to tell a complex tale that in his mind was the optimal way to do it. The intention from him wasnt to purposely alienate…but he did showcase right from the gate that this was a complex tale for those who care enough about it.

    But yes…as we’ve already established already some shows try to intentionally push those they don’t seem of quality taste away n it is pretentious…normally that irks the crap out of me…especially when they fail spectacularly (like the movie transcendence…good god that was bad)…but sometimes they do deliver n all I can say is “hmmmm….touche”

  21. As for SSY, I also stalled it at around ep 3-5, have been wanting to return but didn’t have the motivation to actually do it.

    Pacing and immediate hook I think is the main reason. You will hardly find anyone who watched ep. 1 of Erased and do not watch the second episode. The episode is set using familiar setting, but enhanced by the plot device which is explained clearly. The story is very personal, you have immediate reason the watch episode 2 (your mom is killed, you’re the main suspect and you somehow went back in time to your childhood to solve the problem which established both the character and story? Heck, give me the next episode!). Had they did not cut the material and show the big time travel in ep. 2 the response won’t be this good.

    Meanwhile in SSY, all it did gave me was “Okay, this have depth and potentially could be very good”, but that’s it. Potential. Not immediate grab. Plus personally I like stories to be much more personal, and early SSY did not really fit that category.

    That said, personally I find Erased post childhood loop did not really grab me as strong as before. The story at the loop is very focused and tightly paced, while the last two had their elements kinda scatterred all over the place. The materials which have been cut possibly also affect this.

    Still very good, but not flawless like the first 4.
    Possibly would be much better if marathoned though. (Or I just have a fetish for cinema-like black strips on top amd bottom)

  22. G

    Enzo you’ve obviously praised this series to the heavens. I have to admit that at first I was more than a little hesitant to your hype. I started mocking your enthusiasm based on a quick look at the manga. However, it would be equally false if I didn’t admit that the series pleasantly surprised me at first, in that depressingly familiar anime way. It deviated a bit from the default shit show we get each season and while the flaws were obvious, it was pleasantly enough constructed in order for it to be watchable. But. Based on the last two episodes my early feeling returned with a vengeance. Seriously. Is this it? Is this the masterpiece that you’ve been waiting for all along? This is nothing. This is shit. Yes, of course, the language is deliberately violent but I feel like this is what’s needed to shake some truth out if this whole stinky situation.

    The recent clumsiness and cheapness of the animation coincided with one of the most vivid ”’the emperor has no clothes” events in recent memory. The falsity of each and every scene and human interaction since Satoru’s return to the present became much worse than the troubling pedophilia and sneaky power fantasy ingrained in the ”adult in child’s body” premise of the flashback. “How is that even possible?” one can ask in retrospect while feeling a sense of shame for ones earlier overindulgence, despite clear signs. And yet it is.

  23. D

    There’s really nothing I can say about this show that hasn’t already been said. In fact the only thing I can talk about is how little I have to say about it. I watch it and it just feels right. It connects on every level, it hits every note. It’s just all there. My biggest regret is starting it before it finished airing. I just binge-watched all 6 episodes and, much like with Parasyte, I’m probably gonna transition to the manga now. It’s always a bittersweet moment when anime makes me do this. On one hand I really want to experience more of the story and the characters, but at the same time I feel like all the following episodes will lose some of their kick. But the story has gripped me on such a deeply fundamental level that waiting for the next episode would probably drive me insane.

    On a different note, I wanted to congratulate you on your transition to a new blogging space, Enzo. I’m late to the party, but finally have some time again to devote to watching (and reading about) anime. This remains my favourite blog and I wish you all the best in 2016 both on and off the web!

  24. Thanks very much Dein – that’s very kind of you. As for Boku Dake, well – that’s always a tough decision, but I’d wait. I’m holding off on the final few chapters now that I know the manga is ending when the anime is, more or less. But hell – easy for me to say, I know!

  25. Did the story just become too convoluted for my taste? Give me some freakin’ time to process the events. I have so many questions right now and it’s not because I am interested with this series but due to my frustrations.

    Why can’t it be like from episodes 2 to 4? Episodes 5 and 6 lost my sight in seeing this show as great to just very good.

  26. G

    I would attribute the success to its character drama. Anime viewers seem to like self-aware talk (recall Kousei from Shigatsu), and there is some quality of that sensitivity in Satoru. I’m not always a fan of that, since in some anime (not this one), it feels too loaded.

    In terms of the mystery, I am a little confused as to what kind of reaction the mangaka wants us to have. We do have some hints of the murderer’s face, so are we supposed to guess the murder motive, or the identity (is it even someone we know in the story), or the possible links between the murdered children? Not knowing what I should get at does make me a little frustrated.

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