Sonny Boy Episode 8
Now that all of the students have departed, we had a rather quiet episode this week. Nozomi also didn’t make an appearance until the very end. Instead, this week was an episode dedicated to Yamabiko’s backstory.
It begins with Mizuho and Nagara asking Yamabiko to explain how and why he became a dog. His transformation happened 5,000 years in the past so his memory is shaky, but Yamabiko does his best to remember. As Yamabiko tells the story of his past, he along with Mizuho and Nagara are on some kind of journey. I’m guessing they are drifting between worlds as it’s revealed at the end of the episode that time flowed differently for their trio.
So in the beginning after first starting to drift, Yamabiko was moving through space-time alone. My understanding was that he chose to drift alone rather than be with his classmates because that would be “easier” for him, as in he wouldn’t have to feel responsible for the feelings or concerns of others. As a result, Yamabiko lived a life of no emotion with nothing eventful ever happening aside from his drifting between worlds. Just one foot in front of the other, day after day. It must have been a very depressing existence, if depression even registered on his emotional radar.
One day Yamabiko goes to sleep on a hill of bones and wakes up underwater in another world. But this world has people on it, kids his own age! A young girl with short blonde hair and pale green eyes pulls him out of the water and gets him indoors. Her name is Kodama, and she has the power to “direct all things.” The small group of students with Kodama on this world trust her immeasurably and follow her guidance always.
After being so alone and shut inside himself for so long, Yamabiko repeatedly rejects Kodama’s attempts to be nice to him. He’s convinced that she wants something from him and he doesn’t trust her nor the other students.
It is only when Kodama insists on bringing Yamabiko dinner, despite his running away from the camp to travel alone again, that Yamabiko finally cracks and reluctantly accepts Kodama’s outstretched hand. Yamabiko explains to Nagara and Mizuho that at the time he was embarrassed and frustrated with himself, but also a bit happy that someone was being kind to him.
Sometime after Yamabiko arrives on Kodama’s world, the students start coming down with a type of plague. The virus causes red lesions to grow on the skin and they get bigger every day. And for the first time, Kodama’s powers do not work. She’s not able to heal her peers. Yamabiko, however, never gets sick.
The lesions are eventually traced back to a sick man found hiding in a cave. Against his better instinct and wanting only to support Kodama, Yamabiko agrees with her that she should try to help this strange man in order to learn more about the tumors. Kodama hopes that if she can figure out how the tumors work, then she can use her powers to try to heal everyone.
However everyone continues to get sicker, including Kodama herself, as their tumors grow larger. Yamabiko, who has by now spontaneously turned into a dog, is still healthy. No, Yamabiko never fulls explains why he became a dog. The man found in the cave recovers somehow and returns to normal. If you call wearing a giant hat and a cape covered with medals “normal.” >_>
It’s at this point that Yamabiko speaks with the unknown stranger alone. The latter tells Yamabiko that his power is the ability to manifest what was in his mind. Therefore, without initially knowing it himself, Yamabiko was the creator of the world that Kodama and the others discovered and inhabited. After these words are spoken to him, Yamabiko instinctually knows that the stranger is correct.
The unknown man, whose name is War, also shares with Yamabiko that the tumors are created not from a plague or virus but are actually like a taint from another drifting world, one called Scar Art. On that world mental wounds manifest as tumors. Yamabiko never gets sick because he has no mental wounds, no emotional trauma. He is shut up inside himself and therefore the taint from Scar Art couldn’t harm him.
War says that the tumors are the result of “events” happening somewhere outside of the world the students were inhabiting. The tumors could be cured by the students changing themselves to fix those “events.”
In particular, it seems that because Yamabiko didn’t come out of his shell to Kodama, the students continued to get sick. After Kodama dies, Yamabiko realizes the meaning behind War’s words. Kodama’s wish had been to walk together with Yamabiko in the outside world, but because Yamabiko never fully opened up to Kodama, that wish could never be realized and thus Kodama continued to grow sicker with her tumors. Yamabiko had several chances to “save” Kodama, and he ignored them all.
To be honest, I only partially understand this explanation from War. I wish Sonny Boy was a little bit clearer when explaining its mechanics and concepts. Maybe it’s deliberately meant to be vague and confusing, but I’m a little slow and I usually appreciate an explanation that’s better defined versus something that I’m meant to piece together on my own. Well, with puzzles like Sonny Boy anyways.
Yamabiko’s story brings about some self-reflection for Nagara. He can see himself in Yamabiko’s old self and wonders if he’ll also be able to “take off” one day, the way Yamabiko was able to leave the world he created. Yamabiko reassures Nagara that he’ll be able to. I’m hoping this means that Nagara will eventually be able to “take off” and get himself, Mizuho and Nozomi back home again. Hopefully Yamabiko can go with them too!
Back safe on their island world and reunited with Nozomi, Yamabiko theorizes that War was fighting against God. But, even if War is somehow able to defeat God, would it even change anything? Would the students all return home or would they be stuck out in space-time?
The episode closes with a peaceful melody, a tinny-sounding musicbox score. Given that this episode was the most laidback episode so far, I felt like it was an appropriate ending.
There are 4 episodes left and I’m still very unsure of where Sonny Boy could go next. Maybe we’ll get some of Nozomi’s backstory next? Maybe the students will return? I miss Rajdhani. T_T I continue to be encouraged by Nagara’s continued personal growth as he works to figure himself out and grow confidence in himself.
Every time I think I understand what Sonny Boy is up to, it veers off in another direction I don’t expect. Like the students leaving the island, for example. On one hand it’s exciting and encourages me to keep watching to see if the situation will resolve itself, but I also am a person who likes predictability to a degree, and so not knowing makes me nervous.
I will say, this episode felt particularly beautiful. Although they were shown with no context, the different places Nagara, Yamabiko and Mizuho were traveling to together felt very bright, fresh and vibrant. And while this style of animation is not necessarily my cup of tea, I feel like Madhouse is doing a great job. ^_^v