Unlike the previous No Longer Human and the upcoming Kokoro, I have not read the original novel of Ango Sakaguchi’s In the Forest, Under the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom (Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita). After the dramatic, psychological-intense No Longer Human, Aoi Bungaku switches to this more horrifying though slightly comedic story…
I don’t know anything about the original novel, but I’ll admit that most of the Sakura no Mori anime adaptation was kind of bizarre to me. Starting from the beginning of the first episode, with Shigemaru’s strange but humorous attempt at robbing a traveler (what was with his funky armor?) and stealing his clothes and wild boar (which I swear he stole from Ganju from Bleach). From this, I thought the story was going to be a comedy…until the blood went flying as Shigemaru started ruthlessly killing people. The series then went from comedy to horror, though the way it was presented, such as the magical, engrossing, and strangely beautiful sequence when Shigemaru slaughters his harem while Akiko sings and dances, shows that the horror and murder shouldn’t be taken too seriously and are more for symbolism.
The fact that our protagonist himself, Shigemaru, is a murderer who kills for whatever trivial desire comes to his mind without feeling any guilt or remorse, and who feels that “everything” belongs to him, was kind of offsetting at first. But by the end of the story, at least from my interpretation, we find out why Shigemaru did what he did; he was possessed by a demon. The demon disguised itself as a beautiful woman, enticed Shigemaru to do whatever it wanted, even killing countless people, and by the time Shigemaru, driven mad by the sight of the cherry blossoms, turned on Akiko and killed her, the demon had already consumed his soul. Thus, by killing her, he ended up killing himself. This is just my interpretation and I’m open to any others.
Together with its interesting though bizarre story, the Sakura no Mori anime had cool character designs by Tite Kubo and awesome animation by Madhouse. I’m so used to seeing Tite Kubo’s character designs in Studio Pierrot’s animation, so I noticed the quality increase in these Madhouse episodes. Popular seiyuu Nana Mizuki does an excellent job as Akiko, from her taunting tone to her haunting but pretty singing. Though only two episodes long, Sakura no Mori had some really good, memorable scenes, such as Shigemaru’s sickeningly amusing mass beheadings of various people, as well as the aforementioned scene where he kills his former women. And the final scene, where Shigemaru finally kills Akiko and thus himself under the cherry blossoms, together with amazingly suspenseful music and animation, was epically done.
In conclusion, although mixing comedy and horror isn’t really my taste, the anime adaptation of Sakura no Mori was unique and interesting as well as strange and ambiguous. I look forward to the anime adaptation of Kokoro coming up next.