Happy Halloween! And with that, a special post just for the holidays. (Or at least, one of my favorite ones and the kick start to the fall/winter festivities.)
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (which has a much fancier Japanese title that I will not insult anybody by trying to write myself) is a Japanese anime that is a combination of murder mystery, horror, slice of life comedy, and romance. It follows a high school paranormal club with the president being a ghost herself! Yuko Kanoe has no memories of her life or how she died, and she has haunted the school for years, leading to many ghost stories to develop. But then Teiichi Niiya sees her (and her remains) and the two team up to try and discover Yuko’s past. But there is a kernel of truth to all the old stories, and there is more to Yuko’s memory loss than they could ever have guessed…
Despite the wildly different genres this story travels between, it actually balances them really well. I never felt mood-whip-lash as I went from horror to something romantic to something mysterious, etc. It all flowed very well together. I thought the fan service was a little too strong with Yuko, but then, I’m not big on fan service in the best of moods, so… The romance was cute and dramatic and full of squee (all good points). But the end game is weird for me. I like my romances to end with a solid base for the future, so I can easily imagine where it is going to go next. But… Half of this couple is a ghost. A teenage ghost at that. What are they going to do as he grows older? What if he ever wants kids? It just sits weird for me. Don’t get me wrong, I bawled like a baby there at the end, but… I sorta wish he’d ended up with the great-niece instead.
The characters weren’t simple constructs, not easy to show in such a short medium. The main three (or who I saw as the main three) had several different dimensions to them. Yuko’s past and her way of dealing with it was heart-wrenching in its self-destruction. Teiichi had to struggle with how far he was willing to go for his feelings or if it was better to just go with the flow. Kirie has to struggle not only with who she thinks Yuko is, but also with who she is and how that affects her life. The rest of the characters were pretty flat, but that only let the focus stay on the main three and bring their issues to the light. And it was awesome.
The story was this quirky mix of everyday little mysteries and some of them stacking together with the longer running series, only in sneaky unexpected ways. The villain was actually something internal, which is also something that really vibes well with me. In something short like this, you don’t have time to play with both internal conflict and external conflicts seriously. You can dabble with one, but it has to resolve itself within the episode because through the series, it will get tangled and possibly get forgotten. They did the right thing and focused on the internal conflict within the group and within the main title character. Sometimes I still wanted to throw a shoe at the TV as it dealt with the day-to-day stuff, but I put up with it because it made the ending all the more bittersweet.
The horror aspects were not as bad as I was afraid they were going to be. This was not Hansel and Gretel all over again. No nightmares (actually, Agents of SHIELD has given more nightmares after season 1), and it actually handled the scary elements well and in ways that made sense. I thought the school was horribly contrived as was the illness from the memories, but it wasn’t something that completely broke my suspension of disbelief. It was just a bit of a push, even for a ghost story. The entire setting was that way, really. It was such a push to make it work, to keep it isolated like they wanted it. I don’t entirely see the purpose of it, unless things in Japan are really quite that different. Really, I think the fanservice though is going to remain the worst part of the whole series.
Overall, I think the series was well done and well written. I mean, even the introduction and closing sequences were well thought out with what happened in the story that particular episode (which was really creepy a couple times). It was a perfect way of doing a short series. It had a resolved ending, it focused on what it wanted to bring out, and it didn’t waste time with everything else. I wish other animes would learn from it. (Like Magical Warfare. Dear GOD, do not get me started on the last few episodes of this first season…)