In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom (Aoi Bungaku 5-6)

The story is told in two episodes, and it’s about as far as you can get from the “No Longer Human” story. For one thing, it’s a lot less murky. Our hero Shigemaru, doing the usual bandit things, abducts a woman whom he immediately falls in love with. He’s her immediate sap and when she tells him to kill his other wives (maybe the first male in anime history who actually possesses a harem), he barely objects. Meanwhile, the new wife sings a little song.

Nothing like a nice song during the carnage.

As you can see from the above image, this story is heavy on the style. Song and dance numbers during a murder is only one of the jolts they toss at you. Shigemaru, off hunting with his bow, listens to an Ipod. Townspeople whip out cell phones. They lapse into deformed mode like this is really a high school comedy. Much of it is in the opening scenes, so for the first few minutes I didn’t know what on earth this show is trying to do.

Like “No Longer Human” I had never heard of Ango Sakaguchi’s story before, and could only rely on Introduction Man and a few googles to fill me in, which means I have roughly the same knowledge of the original as a middle-schooler writing a book report. But it’s fair to say that according to Sakaguchi (and his character Shigemaru), cherry blossoms aren’t quite the lovely things Japanese society makes them out to be. The show suggests their malevolence even as it shows their beauty.

Not only blood-red, but budding in a sickening lavender light, or petals whipping around like snowflakes in a storm, and it’s suggested that they drove Shigemaru mad long ago, and the final act was his return to his madness. Maybe. Another running theme, that of country life vs. city life and the disconnect the latter can bring, seems to belie that idea, especially in the way they show the new wife, a cosmopolitan woman who often sings when the cruelest things surround her and the whole thing looks like a music video. I am not going to begin to suggest an answer, because I do not have one, not at this moment. All I’ll say is that it’s one of the most amazing two eps I’ve seen in a long time, well done in every respect, and it makes me wonder if I can find a copy of the original somewhere.

Let’s see, what can I possibly watch after that … I know!

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