Welcome back everyone, to another (late) episode of Now and Then, Here and There! Hey, remember when everyone kept telling me in the comments to get ready, it’s going to get dark? Well that’s what happened this week, with no punches pulled. We have a lot to talk about with that so lets dive right into it!
Production-wise this episode was, sadly, not as strong as the first. And I don’t just mean in the animation department, though that was less consistent as well. I mean in the direction and shot-composition. Now to be clear, there are still a lot of great shots in Now and Then. Stuff like Hamdo’s interrogation with the cat or Shu’s fight with Nabuca, those were good! But I also feel like Now and Then’s limited style is starting to work against it a bit. It’s going for these very picturesque shots, with beautiful framing and backgrounds, only to linger on these really limited character designs for like… 20 seconds. It’s necessary for the pacing sure, really driving up the tension. But it’s also not very visually interesting, like with the final shot of Shu in the cell. All in all I would call it passable but slightly disappointing after last week.
Moving on to the narrative, this is where thing’s start to get crazy, in a good way. This week introduced a lot of new characters and really started to flesh out the world. Take Hamdo for instance, this guy is crazy but in an interesting way. I really like how Now and Then portrayed his paranoia and madness. Being kind and understanding when trying to get what he wants, only to flip on a dime when told now. One could argue it’s kind of stereotypical but I don’t care. If you ask me that’s only a negative when the stereotype is done poorly and that isn’t the case here. Both the engaging editing, with the cat and reveal it was dead the whole time, and “Kouji Ishii’s” vocal performance worked together to sell me on this character. And it worked!
The only negative I have for Hamdo is his exposition. Half of his scene was him just explaining the geopolitics and situation of the world Shu is stuck in. Lore-dumping us where Shu is, why Lala Ru is trapped here and what they want for her. This all felt rather hamfisted and unnecessary, added in for this one clear purpose. I would have preferred if this information could have been given in a more natural way. You know… maybe let Lala Ru be a character and she can talk about it a bit, something other than Hamdo randomly expositing. That said, Now and Then is clearly aiming for Lala Ru to be a more mysterious character so she can’t really do much yet. With that in mind I can’t think of many alternatives for how this was handled. Is it great? Not really. But it was necessary and, luckily, short.
Next up I want to talk about the kids, as this seems to be where our main allies will come from. I’m of course talking about Nabuca here, who has been presented as a very honest and good kid. Sure he’s a tad radicalized by Hamdo and where he lives, but he seems to treat everyone well. Focusing on getting the jobs done, making sure no one gets in trouble and not allowing Lala Ru to come to harm. On top of that he also seems to recognize Shu’s actions for what they are: Honest help. I think that meeting someone like Shu, inevitably hearing about Japan and his homeland and how the world can be better than it is, will be what inspires Nabuca to help them out. Whether or not he succeeds is a different story. But I expect him, and Boo, to join up with Shu.
On the other end of the spectrum though we have Tabool. Where Hamdo is our endgame villain, I expect Tabool to be our early game one. Threatening to overthrow Nabuca, always looking over his shoulder to get him in trouble with Hamdo, etc. He seems very stereotypically evil in the way he abuses Lala Ru and is constantly looking for ways to improve his position. It’s possible that Now and Then will try to surprise me here, maybe give him a sad backstory and turn him around. But I’m honestly expecting him to kill Nabuca over anything else, and right when he joins Shu and Lala Ru to. Now and Then took a turn for the dark this episode and that would be a great way to hammer home the “tragedy” aspect of the show.
Speaking of the dark, GOD DAMN. That happened fast! You all have said it multiple times in the comments across Escaflowne and in the first episode but I wasn’t expecting it to go this far this fast. The atmosphere was just… fantastic. My favorite part was easily the phone call with Hamdo and the Cat, and the noise it made. Only for that same cat to reappear in Shu’s interrogation scene, laying down as if it was alive only to reveal it was dead the whole time. And the way those shots were framed, foreshadowing how Hamdo will toss Abelia aside just like he did the cat? That was some top tier shit if you ask me. One of the best tonal shifts I’ve had in a long time as we go from “sci-fi adventure” to “lets torture a child but only show/play his screams in the distance”.
So yeah all in all I think this was a really good episode of Now and Then. Production took a bit of a hit but that isn’t totally unexpected, happens even in modern anime. Hell especially in modern anime. As if to make up for that though the narrative and atmosphere were kicked up to 11. I talked about a number of things in this post but there were still so many others I cut for time. I’m talking about going into specifics regarding Hamdo’s lore dump and this idea of compressed water with people fighting over limited natural resources. Or the implication of child labor in this society and the clear disparity between those who have and those who have not. There’s even the girl trapped inside Shu’s cell that we will no doubt meet next week!