Sabikui Bisco is one of those wild shounen anime that brings back fun memories of a bygone era in the world of anime. And I really like it.

Hang on a second while I crank up my giant crab, and we’ll get started.

There was a time in anime where comedy, particularly shounen, was helter-skelter, crazy fun, every moment full of some ridiculous, unbelievable gag or trope. Often it would then turn quickly from that to some quiet, sad moment, and do it effectively. This show is definitely reminiscent of that kind of anime. The characters are yelling wildly at one moment, and the next they’re sitting under a night sky sharing some heartfelt moment with their newfound compatriot and the audience. The action is unbelievable, even for anime—unbelievable in the sense that it’s too crazy to even give credence too. And the story is just insane. 

I love these kinds of shows. When I say shows like this are reminiscent of the past, I mean it in the sense that oftentimes these days anime isn’t like this. Some comedies still draw on those roots, but rarely do any other kinds of anime. I’m quickly a fan whenever a new show tries to imitate that style. These shows are a wild ride. If they’re done right, you can hardly stop watching them, regardless of what’s happening in the show. 

That’s definitely the case with Sabikui Bisco. It’s short, tons of fun, and very memorable. It’s not going to win any awards for much of anything ever, but at its core it’s what anime should be: extremely entertaining. A hard recommend on this one.

I apologize ahead of time for filling this article with pictures of Pawoo Nekonayagi, but, you know….

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 7

Mushrooms.

Never mind. Story section.

The characters are all very creatively designed. Not in a once-in-a-lifetime kind of way by any means, but certainly in an instantly entertaining kind of way. They’re a lot of fun.

Bisco Akabayoshi is the main co-protagonist of this series. He does stuff with mushrooms. Right. Anyway, he’s fighting the bad guys who want to control the mushrooms and oppress the common folk. Bisco is out to get those people and spread his mushroom stuff.

And he rides a giant crab.

And he shoots arrows that sprout giant mushrooms.

Giant mushrooms?

Story section. But don’t get your hopes up about any grand explanation. It’s mushrooms. Giant mushrooms.

Like this.

I like this character’s design. He’s definitely one of the primary elements of this anime that makes me nostalgic about pre-2000s shounen. Bisco is wild, irascible, messy, loyal, energetic, principled to a fault, a guy’s guy. He definitely reminds me of Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail more than a little, though he’s a bit more of a punk than Natsu. And he has a wild, giant heart to go along with it all. 

Ryouta Suzuki provides the voice for this character. HIs biggest role to this point is probably Ishigami from Kaguya-sama: Love is War, but you don’t get any sense of that performance in his voice for Bisco. You’ll never hear Ishigami calling anybody timme or yaro, let alone speak in a tone where one might use those pejoratives. Suzuki does a nice job pulling off the delinquent guy voice in this show, all while making that voice very sympathetic and human.

The other co-protagonist is a doctor dude named Milo Nekoyanagi. While Bisco could be subjected to the charge of fitting a certain shounen protagonist mold with his attitude and appearance (though I only agree with that a little, and in a positive sense at that), Milo is pretty unique. He’s the sidekick who gets picked up along the way, sure, but his design is creative enough that any typicalness in his role is mostly overshadowed. The guy’s nickname is Panda, because one of his eyes has a black spot all around it. Huh? Like a black eye? Kind of, but that’s not what it is. I’m not sure this aspect of his design is ever explained, nor does it need to be. It’s another of those kind of crazy, creative features that make shows like this interesting. 

I’m gonna throw this show in the “bromance” category. I hate that term. But people struggle with what to call strong friendships that form between males, and this show edges close enough to yaoi at times to make you wonder if it’s portraying more than just friendship. I won’t go into that any further, as I don’t think this show is trying to go there at all. But the bond between Bisco and Milo is very strong, and the show makes this very clear with the scenes they share and the crazy storyline surrounding them. So we’ll stick with the somewhat undefined but sufficiently understood term “bromance” to sum up the relationship between these two. 

Their differences are obvious but not insurmountable.

I kind of like it. I’m not a fan of yaoi. Nor am I going to dive into a discussion of yaoi versus yuri and get into all that. But this show is not yaoi, and it’s okay for men to have strong relationships without having to discuss it in sexual or romantic terms. These two are very attached to each other, and it’s fun and even somewhat beautiful to watch. People should be able to share bonds without having to feel the discomfort of unspoken romantic feelings if they want to, even if it means watching it in a show like this. And I like the way this is handled in this show. Bisco and Milo are definitely bound together inextricably, and it’s fun to watch.

And I’ve gone on way too long in this Character section already without addressing the one character who really got my heart pumping in this show. Oh she’s wild, oh she’s wonderful, and oh yes I want to get married!

I love Pawoo Nekoyanagi. Somewhere between a knight character like Saber from the Fate/ series or Alicetaria from Re:Creators and Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill, astride her magnificent motorcycle, crushing enemies left and right in her power, sturdy body and massive black hair flying around everywhere—I was in love from first sight. 

I love how her face is scarred, and how her hair drapes over those scars (“rust” technically–more on that later). I love her big blue eyes, only one of which is usually visible. I love how big and strong she is. I love her intensity and her devotion to justice, even if that is a very old character trope. I love her power and how she throws it around confidently. I love her military overcoat design. I love her serious face and angry brow. Yep, she’s got me.

She’s…yeah, none of the words are good enough.

Just because a girl character is all those things doesn’t mean I’ll automatically like her. I’m inclined that way very easily if all that’s the case, but it’s not to this extent automatically. There’s something about Pawoo that makes my senses tingle the moment I see her or the moment I hear her voice. Put aside whatever’s exactly going on in my head, for a character to do that to a viewer says something about that character’s design and execution. It’s more than just a character. I know lots of anime fans get into the waifu thing and all that, and that’s fine, but I’m not a participant in that. I can love an anime character without having to go there. Pawoo is one of those rare characters that makes me stop thinking—the way you stop thinking when you see someone you love to the point that you can’t actually think. So while I won’t ever say anything about “waifus” or any of that, I’m only partially joking when I say I’d instantly want to marry someone if she was like Pawoo. Girls that are like her beware—or not.

One curious thing in this show is how Pawoo is depicted visually. I don’t mean her design: I mean cinematographically, for lack of a correlate anime word. You mostly either see her face or her on her bike, and the overcoat thing kind of blends her with the bike so that you can’t discern her outline. I have a pretty good guess why this is: because this show steadfastly avoids fan service. And if you see Pawoo from the manga, and even an occasional, unavoidable frame in the anime—she’s got it. It’s astounding. But for better or worse, the creators behind this show went out of their way to avoid putting any aspect of hers in that regard on screen. I don’t mind that—I’m not a fan of fan service—but at times it seemed a little too obvious. She really was just a face in most of her frames, way more so than is typical of a character in any anime. I find myself wanting to see more of her, but that’s likely just me and my heart that fell for her. I don’t mind the attempt at avoiding fan service. That’s not a part of this show, as wild as it is, so it makes sense to avoid it with Pawoo.

Reina Kondou has mostly done supporting supporting (yes I said it twice) roles during her career, like Sakura Kouno in Horimiya. That’s kind of the case here, though I’d say Pawoo is simply a supporting character rather than the double supporting thing mentioned above. But like everything else, I love the voice. It’s the typical big strong girl anime voice, but I love that voice anyway, and Kondou-san does it very well. 

With age comes wisdom.

I thought about this a little and figure Pawoo is similar enough to Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail) to at least partly explain my infatuation with her. Erza is the one—nobody’s badass and heart-stopping gorgeous like Erza. But this girl reminds me a lot of her. Give Erza a motorcycle and see what happens! That’s a fun thought. She might kick some serious giga-spider ass too! But I do see the two distinctly. It took me some time to make a connection between Erza and Pawoo. I definitely would never lump them together. Similarities they share, yes, but they’re both unique in their own way, and I love them both for it.

The bad guy in this series is a yakuza-like thug named Kurokawa. He’s out to hide the truth—about mushrooms and rust (rust as termed in this story, not like rust in our world). This guy has some strong bad guy moments, moments where I had murder on my mind. But mostly this character was effective because of his VA, the prolific Kenjirou Tsuda. The man just has the perfect voice for bad guys. He can pull off good guys like Kento Nanami (Jujutsu Kaisen) or Bacchus (Fairy Tail, though he’s also partly a bad guy), but he’s so much more effective as villains like Kai Chisaki (MHA) or Silver (Fairy Tail). He makes this character. That voice grinds on you every time you hear it in this show. It makes Kurokawa a much badder bad guy, even given how evil he is in this show. 

There are several other supporting characters who come and go. Tirol probably had the most screen time of any of these. She’s another wild character reminiscent of similar character types in the past. She’s all over the place, both literally and emotionally and loyalty-wise. She’s fun though not super memorable. Jabi is the stereotypical aged master type, stiff and immobile when all is calm but super strong when the action hits. He adds humor and wisdom to the show. I forget the details about the boys in the abandoned city or whatever that was—they were kind of annoying. The gatekeeper at the beginning and the end of the series was funny, also reminiscent of those passing, roleplaying characters of older anime like this.

I think the theme with these characters is “old style.” Sometimes old style is the best style. I don’t think anime should ever lose sight of its past, good or bad, but this kind of style in particular is very fun and should not be forgotten. Wild bad boy protagonists, powerful and gorgeous girls, and a wide variety of supporting characters with lots of personality and often unreasonable but understandable amounts of screen time—ah it brings back lots of memories! That’s the biggest thing I love about this set of character from Sabikui Bisco. They help keep the dream alive, as it were, in their own way.

Artwork

Rating: 8

It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s full of mushrooms. 

Giant mushrooms.

I honestly don’t get it, but I like it. There’re only so many ways to draw mushrooms, and this story chose giant ones. Giant like bigger than skyscrapers. They are everywhere once things get heated up, and it’s hilarious.

But if mushrooms were the only thing I could talk about artwork-wise, then this section would be finished already. Fortunately it’s not. The artwork is energetic and colorful, and the animation is a lot of fun.

For an anime with a space-western kind of feel, there’s a decent amount of color. There is a predictable amount of sand color and gray and black in bleak, dilapidated city settings, but Bisco and Milo are very colorful, red and blue hair jumping out at you in every scene. Pawoo is pretty standard color-wise, featuring a lot of large areas of white, but she has splashes of color too, if subdued. Her eyes are a deep blue, which I dream about.

Two things jump out at me the most about this artwork. The first is the aforementioned strict avoidance of fan service. We only have Pawoo really who could even give occasion for this (apart from the weird thing with the ladies that Milo treats, whatever line of business they’re in), but even there we see a bare minimum, no pun intended. As I said above, I don’t mind this. The show isn’t supposed to be about that, and often such things are a distraction when featured in a setting that doesn’t call for it at all. Is it ever called for Hawk? Anyway, I wish I could see more of Pawoo more often, but it’s okay. I get it, and I don’t mind it at all.

This flashed by in an instant, but I found it. Yes I did.

The interesting result of this rigid avoidance of anything resembling fan service is that we get a lot of face shots. The faces are a lot of fun in this show (and sometimes astoundingly beautiful). Bisco has all those punk expressions where one eye is always doing something different than the other, which is always fun (don’t get me started about girls that do this). Milo’s dark patch around his eye gives his expressions an interesting feel. Of course Pawoo has raven hair over half of her face and her amazing blue eyes. Even some of the shots of Kurokawa are nicely done, accentuating his edgy evilness. It shows you what you can do when you don’t always focus on the bodies of characters in every frame.

The other thing is the odd “rust” disease that is a big part of the story. This “rust” manifests in dark patches on the skin of humans, and you’d expect it to be very unsightly. While it definitely looks like it doesn’t belong there, it actually adds a bit of edginess to the look of the characters. They don’t end up looking sick, but more like they have large blocks of solid tattoos. If it didn’t have the disease aspect I’d like it a lot, so since it is deadly as per the story I simply appreciate its visual effect.

Pawoo’s rust particularly is interesting, as it covers the one side of her face that her hair covers, and peeks around those gorgeous locks to give her a battle-scarred look. It also coils around her ample breasts, so when we get brief glimpses of that amazing wonderland you see the black creeping in at the edges of her very unreasonably open outfit, and it’s more sexy than anything. It makes me so sad realizing she has the fatal disease, and every time I saw it that was the overwhelming feeling, but visually it’s a nice touch on her, adding to her badassness.

A little glimpse of the rust effect on Pawoo’s appearance. She’d look hot in anything.

Not all animation in action anime is equal. This animation probably isn’t going to wow anybody like Demon Slayer or MHA, but it’s very nicely done and has some powerful moments. The arrows being fired and the resulting mushroom blossoms are well done. The action in the scene with Kurokawa and Milo indoors will get your heart rate up a bit. Oh and there’s a titan thingamajig at the end that they all fight, and that’s fun.

One other standout in this show’s artwork is the sheer number of frames that instantly prompt that heart-racing smile from me. Most of these are closeups of characters’ faces, aforementioned. Anytime an anime prompts that kind of a response from me, you know it’s doing something right. A lot of that has to do with other parts of the anime that those frames become a visual representation of in my mind, but the artwork itself has to do the work. And those frames in this show definitely carry that weight effectively.

I like it. This artwork isn’t going to win any awards probably, but it’s really nice for this kind of a show. Everything is how you’d expect it to be, in a good sense, and there are some fun extra features to go along with those fundamental aspects. Sabikui Bisco is a fun visual experience. I keep using the word “fun” because it’s what keeps popping into my head every time I see this show’s artwork. For anime, that’s usually a very good thing. It definitely is here.

Oh, and that scene where Milo extracts that creature from Tirol…never mind.

Story

Rating: 6

Giant mushrooms. You waited for it. It’s here.

The basic premise of the story is that a disease called “rust,” the Japanese word being “sabi,” is a prevalent feature of this post-apocalyptic, Mad Max kind of world. Supposedly the rust comes from giant mushrooms, but if I remember correctly this is refuted somewhere along the way. Bisco-san belongs to a dwindling group who tries to spread mushrooms and find a cure for the rust disease, fighting the powers that be who want to control the proles with mushrooms and rust.

It’s totally ridiculous. When I say giant mushrooms, I mean giant. Not mushrooms the size of cars, not mushrooms the size of elephants, but mushrooms the size of buildings and bigger. They cause a lot of damage when they sprout, as they explode to full size nearly instantly. This makes it easy for the ruling class to frame the Mushroom Keepers, the group Bisco belongs to, as the bad guys. But I stray. Giant mushrooms are the order of the day.

I love this kind of wild, zany shounen. I love the titanic mushrooms. I love that this world is desert and dust and metal. I even love the durable fabrics and the ragged clothing worn for too long either for sentiment or lack of a suitable replacement. I love that Bisco fires arrows and jumps so high even birds don’t go there. I love that the animals are unrecognizable, far more reminiscent of Made in Abyss than the island of Japan. I love the exaggerated structures and behaviors. I love the harshness of the world, which is at times comical and at times a cause of hardship.

I think the apparent differences between brother and sister was an effective dynamic in many ways. I love how visually different they are here, and how that highlights the best parts of each of them. She’s amazing by the way.

All of these things work together to make lots of other little elements I like in this kind of show. A good example is the harsh environment. It allows for wild things like arrows and mushrooms and “rust.” It allows for monstrous, domesticated (mostly) crabs. It allows for ridiculous humor and crushing sadness, and those quick transitions between them characteristic of older shounen of this kind. It makes for a lot of fun and even emotional moments. It’s unusual for a simple setting or physical environment, the oft-termed “world building,” of an anime to play such an extensive factor in a story. The setting was a great choice for Sabikui Bisco.

I’m still not over the giant mushrooms, and you probably aren’t yet either. This is the biggest bit of wildness that this environment in the show allows for. I can’t imagine a guy shooting arrows that bloom giant mushrooms in a UA High environment, no matter who diverse the student Quirks are in MHA. While Pawoo might share similarities with Erza Scarlet, I can’t imagine her doing the things she does in this story in a Fairy Tail setting. That one is close, but still the difference is still apparent. It makes much more sense here in this Western, alien kind of environment. This setting is the only way you pull off giant mushrooms blooming from arrows, and the writers of this story recognized this and did a good job with it.

It’s the craziness that makes it all work. It’s weird, because the environment enables the craziness, but also the craziness enables the environment. It allows the story to go places and set up situations that are insanely unbelievable, yet me in the audience swallows it without a second thought. Spoilers coming, so be warned. Outside of giant, ridable crabs or mushroom blossoming arrows, Bisco literally dies and reincarnates first inside of Milo and then afterwards in the ruins of the titan thing after it’s defeated, since that thing spawned in the lava lake that claimed Bisco’s life. What? But even as ridiculous as this is, I laugh at it and shake my head and think “Oh well!” Normally I probably would say something like “That’s crazy! This isn’t believable, anime or not!” Many anime fans did say this very kind of thing about this show. But for me, it’s that very intentional wildness, the intentional unbelievableness, that makes this all work.

That element of unbelievability is a big part of shounen. Some anime do it better than others. Sabikui Bisco is a great example of how the story can serve that element and do it right. It takes a page out of anime history and pulls it off in our modern anime world. I really like that.

Overall: 7

Wildness and nostalgia—that’s a pretty interesting combination. No kidding: this show has both and it makes it a ton of fun.

The music is equally wild. Or at least the OP is. All of the music is that kind of loose, fun stuff that works for anime like this, but the opening was all Mad Max full throttle impact and boom and drive and I could go on and on wildly and more wildly. I loved it.

This is another of those anime that falls squarely in the “entertainment” category. If I even considered approaching this anime from an academic standpoint, I’d instantly start complaining. That completely misses the point of a show like this. It’s wild, all over the place, and totally fun. It’s entertaining. I like to say sometimes shows “know what they are.” Shows that stay true to their nature and don’t seem to care how anybody might complain about them are usually very entertaining. Sabikui Bisco knows it’s a crazy shounen anime with a ridiculous story, compelling and entertaining characters, and fun artwork to support it all. It throws it all at you and doesn’t look back. I always like that.

This show was relatively unknown going in and probably will continue to be so hereafter. I wish that wasn’t the case. Why it was relatively unknown at the outset is something I cannot shed light on (you know I don’t read manga or LNs), but I muse from time to time over the reason a show like this isn’t more popular. It’s fun, it’s pretty, it’s evocative, all the things good anime should be. The reason it isn’t more popular might simply be because of poor marketing or tough competition in its season (which it definitely had, with Demon Slayer S2, part 2 of Attack on Titan’s final season, and splash hits like My Dress Up Darling). But part of me wonders if it has more to do with that thing I liked about this anime: it’s like it’s from a different age. A prior age. It makes me wonder if the world of anime has outgrown this kind of anime.

Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty

It’s a small matter ultimately, and this isn’t the proper forum for a larger discussion on this subject, but I wonder if shounen anime has gone to a place nowadays (August 2022) where this older style of shounen action anime isn’t desirable to shounen audiences. I wonder if shounen has outgrown those elder days. I hope not. There’s no reason this style of shounen can’t coexist with shows more in the style of My Hero Academia. Both styles have big positives, and the latter has clearly grown out of the former, so I hope that the world of anime hasn’t gone to a place where it can’t recognize and appreciate the wonder of this older style of shounen.

I stray. Whatever the community may think at large, I know those with lots of experience in anime will recognize and appreciate what Sabikui Bisco is and what it tries to be. I know I enjoyed it to the max. If you love pure entertainment, action-packed, crazy unbelievable style anime (and crazy amazing girls like Pawoo Nekoyanagi), this is right your alley. This whole experience from episode one to the last period in this review has been lightweight and lots of fun. This show is easy to watch, easy to enjoy, easy to feel nostalgia through. It’s a small star, but the sky is made up of many stars, and if it were not so, it would not be so beautiful. Little stars like Sabikui Bisco are important and, in this case, no end of fun as well.

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