Sabikui Bisco

At some point in the near-future, an apocalypse occurs in which a devastating wind known as the Rust sweeps across the world, infecting all who come into contact with it with a disease that slowly turns them into rust statues. In Japan, vast swathes of the country are turned into wasteland; and although a central government of sorts remains intact, real power resides in the hands of the Prefectural Governors. Years after the disaster, civilisation remains tenuously clinging to life; among the surviving population, the widespread belief is that the Rust was created and spread by the spores of strange species of mushrooms that appeared with the Rust wind. Those who try to preserve these mushrooms and argue that they in fact evolved to devour the Rust – known as Rust Keepers – are widely reviled as criminals. One of the most powerful Prefectures is Imihama, ruled with an iron grip by Governor Kurokawa. The Governor is determined to capture the notorious Mushroom Keeper Bisco Akaboshi; but the latter, accompanied by his mentor Jabi and a giant crab named Actagawa, break into the Prefecture. They are on their way to the distant north of Japan, where they hope to discover a legendary mushroom known as the Sabikui, which can allegedly devour all forms of Rust – and maybe even provide a permanent cure for the disease. But when Governor Kurokawa and his forces try to capture Bisco and his companions, a battle ensues in which a talented young doctor named Milo, his older sister Pawoo (who is also captain of the Imihama Watch), and a young mercenary-cum-trader called Tirol all get reluctantly caught up. The result is a cat-and-mouse chase across the devastated Japanese countryside, in which Bisco, Milo, and the others must combat Governor Kurokawa’s mad scheme to profit from both the disease and its treatment. But they must also race against the clock: both Jabi and Pawoo are infected with Rust, and their time is fast running out…

Based on a series of illustrated novels by Shinji Cobkubo, K Akagashi, and Mocha, Sabikui Bisco was produced by anime studio OZ and premiered in January 2022. Animated in a vibrant visual style that captures both the dynamism of its central character as well as the grim urban and landscape realities of a post-apocalyptic world, Sabikui Bisco proceeds at a headlong pace, as befits what is essentially an extended chase story – culminating in a climactic battle – between Bisco and the group he gathers around him, and the forces of Governor Kurokawa. Some viewers might weary after a while of Bisco’s abrasive surface character, and the fact that he seems to spend most of the series shouting at everyone; but there is no doubt that the pacing provides for non-stop action and entertainment. This, however, arguably comes at the expense of world-building, as we never really learn the origins of the Rust apocalypse – although it is hinted at in the final episodes – and we never get any more than a surface-level glimpse at the society that has evolved in the disaster’s wake. Likewise, the characterisation rarely goes beyond the superficial, although we are given some insight into the relationship between Bisco and Jabi, as well as the bromance that develops between Bisco and Milo. Frenetic and anarchic, though not without moments of both humour and pathos, Sabikui Bisco contains resonances of both Desert Punk and Casshern Sins – and also more than nods in the direction of Attack on Titan, especially towards the end. The result is an entertaining story that might benefit from a second series that better develops the world in which the action takes place.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.