Friday, November 20, 2009

Aoi Bungaku 05-06: Crazy, Meet Insane

A bandit, a beautiful lady, a cherryblossom tree in full bloom and bloodshed. This is a love story.
In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom
EPISODE 05: Chapter 1
More Screencaps from Aoi Bungaku 05

Shigemaru is a bandit who preys on travelers passing by a mountain he considers his own. He has a hut full of women -- his wives -- and feels a certain horrific fascination for cherryblossoms. One day, he meets a beautiful lady and falls in love with her at first sight. After killing her escorts, he takes her back to his hut to become his wife. However, the lady proves to be no ordinary woman as she decides that she can't live with all of Shigemaru's former wives and asks him to kill them.

In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom
EPISODE 06: Chapter 2
More Screencaps from Aoi Bungaku 06

Shigemaru and his wife move to town and try to make a life there. But Shigemaru quickly realizes that he knows nothing about town life and townspeople. His wife demands that he give her some form of entertainment by bringing her back trinkets that belong to the townspeople. So Shigemaru does what he does best and goes around from house to house, stealing things and killing people. Along with the trinkets, he brings back to his wife the decapitated heads of his victims, which his wife plays with like they were dolls. Soon, Shigemaru grows dissatisfied and decides that he wants to go back to the mountain even if his wife won't come with him.


This is...a love story? If it is, then it's very strange. And even if it wasn't a love story, it's still a very strange story.

Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita
("In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom") is a novel by Ango Sakaguchi. Roughly, it's about a high-maintenance girl meeting a rustic, getting involved, and the thing ends. In this case, in a most tragic, horrifying, nonsensical way possible.

What is the point, you ask? The point is, there is no point. The essence of In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom is its structure. It's supposed to be a story within a story sort of thing. Think Shakespear's The Taming of the Shrew, where the story within the story -- i.e. Kate's story -- takes precedence over the original -- i.e. the drunkard who was tricked into thinking he was the king -- until the latter is all but forgotten.

In this case, however, the anime emphasizes the love story between Shigemaru and the lady when it should have focused more on the play that the lady was making with the decapitated heads. That's why you don't see the structure. And that's why the arc doesn't make a lot of sense.

The play is the real story; Shigemaru and his lady are just an excuse to tell said story, which story is in turn just an excuse to bring out the visuals. Because the visuals are what In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom is really about and boy, what visuals.

Character designs for this arc is Kubo Tite, whom most people probably heard of, thanks to his very popular shounen series, Bleach. Not only that, I think Kubo-sensei is also the mind behind the anachronisms (ipods and camera phones in 12th Century Japan) that abound in this 2-episode arc.

The comedic moments are flat-out hilarious and serve as respite from an otherwise gruesome, disturbing tale. Make no mistake, the tale is gruesome and disturbing and the humor doesn't really balance it all out but it puts the little light of sanity on so much insanity. This is essential as it sets the arc apart from No Longer Human. Even the colors are different. Where No Longer Human was all about dark hues and earth tones, In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom spreads out in an explosion of colors -- pink, purple, orange, yellow -- all the bright and crazy colors you can think of.

And for the first time, we hear the series' OP theme. I don't know what it's called and who performs it but it's another anachronism -- funk jazz in the 12th Century. Whatever, I love it and want to know its title.