With Tsurugi trapped in the underworld, Tama tends to an injured Kagami. Back at the ruins of the Tsukuyomi complex, Sasami’s mother gives her drugged daughter one last chance to return to being a Tsukuyomi princess. Sasami refuses, so her mother drugs her further to make her little more than a tool to impregnate with a Tsukuyomi priest she’s procured, in order to bear a new princess to fulfill her duty. Kagami gains consciousness long enough to heave Tsurugi’s devine sword all the way to Kamiomi, who uses it to escape from the mother’s captivity and free Sasami. The mother confronts them, but Tama arrives and take several bites out of her. A portal to the underworld opens, and Tsurugi drags Sasami’s mom in with her.
Once again this episode does a superb job subverting all of our expectations. What were we expecting? For starters, we thought we’d see Tsurugi struggling through the underworld, as depicted in a psychedelic style Shaft is no stranger to. She’d come out stronger than ever, face off against Sasami’s mom, and send her back where she belongs. But Tsurugi hardly does anything this week, and we barely see her. Most of the gruntwork of saving Sasami is left to the grade schooler with the grown-up body, Tama. In the process, we get a bit of backstory about how Tsurugi wasn’t always the perfect older sister, and times were tough for both Tama and Kagami, as could be suspected of new and reformed gods.
The episode’s climax also involves Sasami herself performing a binding spell on her mother that was taught to her by that same mother long ago, as depicted in a flashback in the cold open. There, we see a little more of the mom she remembers, rarely smiling but always kind and curious and loving, like the mother she was pretending to be last week. And for all her twisted methods (drugging and promoting rape), she is utterly convinced all she does is for Sasami’s and the world’s own good. But she’s not Sasami’s mother anymore; she died, and the kindess died with her. The bloodstained plushie Tsurugi overnights to Sasami from the underworld is a symbol of that loss and a memento of that ordeal.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Sasami plays a DVD in Kamiomi’s room entitled “The Sasami Watch Project”, in which he and the Yagami sisters tail Sasami around town as she runs assigned errands meant to embarrass her. The Sasami watching doesn’t remember. When Sasami in the DVD ends up at a VA show, all the attendees reveal they’re of the Tsukuyomi clan, including Sasami’s father, who removes the sarcoma that gave her a third arm. Tsurugi and Kagami intervene, defeating him. The watcher of the DVD turns out to be the Sarcoma in Sasami’s form. Tsurugi made the DVD to appraise her of the situation. Tsurugi hides it sarcoma in the body of Kagami’s pet rabbit, Meat, for safekeeping.
We find ourselves becoming very engrossed with this freewheeling, eclectic, downright loopy carousel of happenings that is Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. It presents a dizzying array of information at a very brisk pace, but manages to bring it all together at the end. It also makes brief synapses tricky. But the whole idea of having Sasami snoop on her brothers stuff – learning he and the sisters documenting her just as she documented her – only for her not to be Sasami at all, is quite a twist, and one that makes perfect sense once you go over everything that had happened. The video is clever in that it’s a prank, a piece of voyeurism, and a record of past events all wrapped into one. It was fun watching “Sasami” (really the Sarcoma) watch and get more confused.
Also, despite more than half of this episode taking place within a previously-filmed video, we’re constantly diving into it, with the narrators Tsurugi and Kamiomi providing punchy commentary and criticism towards Kagami, who just barely manages to get the job done despite much dicking about and getting sleepy. If there’s a weak link to the episode, it’s Tama’s part of the story, in which she’s captured by aliens but eventually befriends them, helping them defeat government agents. It was fun and nutty and all, but pretty darned random and so irrelevant as to be a distraction to the A-story. Fortunately, the episode cut to Tama sparingly, while the much funnier Kagami had a wealth of lines steeped in dry, ascerbic wit.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Tsukuyomi Sasami (Asuma Kana) is a demanding hikikomori (shut-in) who has her faceless older brother Kamiomi do everything for her. When he goes to school, she uses the Oni-chan Kanshi (Brother Surveillance) System to keep tabs on him as he interacts with the three Yagami sisters – Tsurugi (Chiwa Saito), Kagami (Hanazawa Kana), and Tama (Nonaka Ai). When Sasami accidentally turns the world into chocolate, the three of them have to fight the chocolate and return the world to normal.
“Sasami@Unmotivated” is exceedingly bizarre and quirky, but also a heckuva lot of fun to watch, and beautifully rendered, with extensive use of watercolor washes for backgrounds and textures. We were reminded quite a bit of Arakawa Under the Bridge, and not just because Sasami’s brother is voiced by Whitey. Both revel in the absurd, whether it’s a shut-in girl being waited on hand and foot by her brother, or that he is absolutely devoted and obsessed with her, almost to a fault, or that the Sasami has a “brother surveillance system”, or the simple fact that the brother never, ever shows his faaaace. Perhaps most interesting: Sasami may have to stay inside to avoid altering the world.
And that’s only part of the nuttiness. For some reason, all the discussion of Valentine’s Day chocolates suddenly has the world itself turning to chocolate, much to Sasami’s dismay. And after Sasami hangs out with the colorful and eccentric Yagami sisters one by one (although really, everyone’s pretty equally eccentric here), they whip out superpowers and save the world by encasing Sasami in chocolate, which makes her brother ecstatic. Yup, it almost wouldn’t be a proper Shinbou joint without the complicated brother-sister relationship. Like we said, this looked great, sounded great, and moved at a good clip. We’ll see if this quality – and lunacy – can be sustained.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)