It was the worst of times, it was the slightly better of times.
It may seem paradoxical to say that was both the best episode of Hoshi no Samidare so far and the most disappointing. But for this manga reader it was, though I’m more curious than ever about how it played with a broader audience. Setting aside the dire production values (seemingly settled in at about the just-tolerable level they were at last week), this is where we really started to get into the meat of the story. And where The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer starts to distinguish itself from the conventional fantasy series it starts out resembling.
And there’s the paradox. This was better – because the material was better. Mizukami’s writing elevates the material, but the problem is that the anime does nothing to help. It animates (barely) the panels – that’s about it. If it doesn’t come across you’ll just have to trust me, but Yuuhi’s backstory is a really powerful one. I can’t help but compare it against Baraou no Souretsu, which likewise tells the tale (albeit in bizarre fashion) of a character with pathos up the wazoo. That show seemingly had even less budget than Samidare – it barely had any animation at all. But it at least, between the cast and the art design, made some attempt to distinguish itself. I certainly wouldn’t wish either of these treatments on a fan of any manga, but between the two I think I’d actually take Baraou.
Yuuhi’s life story has plenty of pathos, that’s for sure. His father murdered in the line of duty (he was a detective), betrayed by his partner. His mother loses it and abandons him. And his grandfather is so shattered by these repeated examples of human cruelty and treachery that he emotionally brutalizes the boy in an attempt to get him to close his heart off permanently. The insult on top of that injury is that in less than a year living with his aunt and younger cousin, the grandfather sees the error or his ways and tries to apologize to Yuuhi for everything he’s done to him.
This – for me at least – has almost no emotional heft the way it’s presented here. It’s just a chain-of-events explaining why Yuuhi is the way he is.. And because of that, Yuuhi’s decision to use his wish on saving his grandfather comes off as misguided. If this were an original anime I’d say it was misguided. His grandfather is old, and what he did to Yuuhi goes beyond easy forgiveness. But in the manga Mizukami is able to convey the depth of Yuuhi’s feelings, both why he’s as scarred as he is and why he elected to save the old man (he did it for the sake of his cousin, basically). Understanding the depth of Yuuhi’s pain makes the nobility of his decision far more potent dramatically.
Wishing won’t make this happen. As is, it was okay – each ep has been better than the prior (just as it goes with the early part of the manga). The golem fight was pretty janky but the dream sequences with Samidare were pretty good (and gives a little taste of the recurring mythology Mizukami uses in multiple series). We also meet another knight, Shinonome Hangetsu (Iwase Shuuhei), and his canine partner Ludo Chevalier (Ishige Shouya). Shinonome is obviously a lot more experience in combat than Yuuhi judging by the way he has Samidare on a string. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the cast is concerned, but with two cours the anime at least should be able to work everybody in.