WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Rust-Eater Bisco Season 1 Episode 1, "The Man Worth 800,000," now streaming on Funimation and Crunchyroll.
The highly anticipated post-apocalyptic/action-adventure anime, Rust-Eater Bisco, premiered on Jan. 1 as part of the sprawling Winter 2022 lineup. Based on an ongoing series of light novels, the story follows the supposed terrorist Bisco on his journey to find a mushroom capable of reversing the Rusty Wind that has transformed Japan into a desolate, desert wasteland.
Post-apocalyptic stories, especially those featuring climate events, are a pertinent reminder of the effects humanity has had on the environment. Restarting civilization off-planet or finding ways to adapt to a rapidly changing ecosystem are common goals in the genre, but what about fixing the problem at the root -- or rather, fungal -- level? Rust-Eater Bisco may well be taking that approach.
Unsurprisingly, Episode 1 is heavy on the story's worldbuilding exposition. It doesn't open with the titular character's entire backstory though, as Bisco primarily shows up in a wanted poster and as a monk in disguise. The conversation the poster sparks between the gate officials at the city's edge serves to explain how Rust-Eater Bisco's world got to its current, desolate state.
After a catastrophic event that replaced Tokyo with a crater, the Rusty Wind appeared and has since destroyed much of modern civilization. It's thought by many that mushrooms caused the Rusty Wind to appear, resulting in the persecution of anyone who might possess them. Since "Man-eating Mushroom" Bisco's attacks produce an immediate growth of them wherever his arrows land, he's got a giant bounty on his head.
Episode 1 splits time between the disguised Bisco to follow Dr. Milo Nekoyanagi, showing how the Rusty Wind affects people's health. Milo kindly offers his services at little to no cost for the community, with many of his patients getting exposure through their jobs outside the city and therefore directly in the wind's path. Later, when Milo secretly buys mushrooms from a street-food vendor, it's revealed that they actually have healing potential.
As mentioned, anyone found possessing mushrooms is subject to capture by the government's patrol unit, The Watch. Dr. Milo secretly studies the mushrooms in an effort to cure his sister, Pawoo, who's suffering a widespread case of the rust. Episode 1 ends with Bisco attacking the city with his mushroom-spreading arrows and tracking Dr. Milo down, and Pawoo returning to her post as leader of The Watch, leaving plenty of anticipation for Episode 2.
Post-apocalyptic stories often use sci-fi elements like space exploration, colonization and terraforming to start a new society, with the tension hinging on the success and survival of mankind in this new environment. Starting fresh on a different planet sure seems like a better alternative to surviving a planet hell-bent on destroying humans -- see Jyu-Oh-Sei -- but it operates on the idea that Earth is entirely beyond salvation. By having a living organism from the planet hold the potential to restoring the landscape to its original state, Rust-Eater Bisco presents the idea that fixing the planet might not be entirely futile, and the ticket to do so may be under everyone's noses.
With only one episode to go on -- and the light novels and manga still ongoing -- there's no saying how Rust-Eater Bisco might end. Post-apocalyptic tales are shaped by how the natural world changes, so it's inevitable that stories of surviving a hostile world might also take on new forms. Rust-Eater Bisco could be headed down that path, making it not only an exciting trek of an anime, but also an example of a post-apocalyptic world being saved rather than abandoned.