Saturday, June 9, 2012

Anime Survivor: Spring '12 - Week 7.1

I don't have any good explanations why Accel World lasted so long. Perhaps there was a glimmer of hope in it becoming something more than a game and a bit of intrigue in Haru's character, especially with some clear lines drawn in the love polygons, but those of you who know me know I have a procrastinating side. I probably didn't feel the pressure to vote it out until it lasted further than expected.

Besides, I hated Haru's "cousin". Such a horrible attempt to introduce a new character.

That being said, the first to go in this week's Anime Survivor isn't that hard of a choice. Overwhelmingly, eleven out of twelve voters stuffed the ballot box with this show. Did I not pull the plug on this show soon enough?

The eleventh show to be cast from Spring 2012's Anime Survivor is...

Selling Points: It seems that horror and mystery anime these days have been taking the easy road. If your show isn't about vampires, zombies or "shinigami", then it's not really classifiable as a "horror show" in the modern sense of the word. I mean, have there been any good "ghost" stories since Sadako came crawling out of the well?

You could point that some shows have had the reoccurring secondary ghost character that haunts the school and slowly becomes a part of the harem (Looking at you two, Negima! and To-Love-Ru! - Ed.) However, there hasn't really been much of an appeal to make the ghost the main character and the central device to the show. I suppose that's why Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Tasogare Otome × Amunejia) first appeared so uncertain—are we ready for a ghost story that lasts twelve episodes?

The ghost in question is Yûko Kanoe, the spirit connected to all of Seikyô Academy's seven mysteries. Playful and teasing with a slight jealous streak to her, she finds an endearing attachment to Teiichi Niiya, an easily-flustered first-year student at the school, but has no memories of her past nor of the way she had died long ago. In order to revive those memories, Teiichi agrees to create a paranormal activity club at school.

Surprisingly, the club manages to draw a few members, and unsurprisingly, both are female. Bubbly Momoe joins out of desperation for Teiichi to save her from a school curse, only to end up being the clueless comic relief for the show. The feistier Kirie, however, has an actual connection to Yûko as her grand-niece and thus joins the club to get to the bottom of her mystery, although she herself is an angrier sort and might feel some jealousy towards Yûko. Thus the club begins, the members trying to piece Yûko's memories together.

Defense: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is clearly made for one season, given that we only have four main characters to build from. I first found the whole concept of helping a ghost relieve her amnesia a hard sell, especially when that ghost invoked various sexy poses and awkward embarrassing scenes with Teiichi, but keeping the story short and the cast shorter has helped immensely. Barring any hidden twists, it's great to see the limits drawn so clearly. The attention is squarely on Yûko, even if it is her fawning all over Teiichi.

Dusk Maiden is also strong on conveying the messages artfully. Much like pitch-black night itself, it takes an episode or two to adjust to the contrast of darkness and dusk used in the animation, but it really adds to the mystery surrounding Yûko's origin. While the animation isn't exactly flawless, the animation knows how to use the full potential of the television screen; distant shots provide null space to add to the emptiness, and profile shots don't always frame the character in the center. At times, the show even appears to steal tricks from Shaft, shifting the art style to depict more faceless characters and frames within a frame. Despite the thin plot and intentional trips into comedy, these devices interrupt and counterbalance the story enough to spark interest.

Final Decision: There are times where I really want to like Dusk Maiden of Amnesia for tap-dancing along the edge of horror and suspense. In retrospect, I still feel you can define the show as a suspense mystery, the main characters trying to understand how to psychologically get inside the head of a ghost and read their state of mind. The show isn't at all close to shows like Shiki and Another, as both were not ashamed of depicting violent gory deaths, but both are heads and shoulders ahead in terms of psychological terror. Dusk Maiden is more a high-school play of Macbeth, melodrama played with fake knives.

I suppose I'm also thankful that Teiichi wasn't overcrowded with sexual pandering from classmates, as most of the boob shots are left to Yûko. However, I'm also not impressed with Kirie and Momoe as characters. Kirie can't decide between being a closeted tsundere and a tomboy, while Momoe just sucks the drama out of any room she enters. Comic relief is one thing, but her bubblegum personality more the sort that sticks to the bottom of your shoes; there's no extracting her from the situation.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is aptly titled, as at times I had forgotten that this show existed in the spring line-up, but at the same time, I knew that the show wasn't bad enough to dispose. However, once enough episodes made it through that filter, I've come to know that Teiichi doesn't have enough of a spine to make the right choice when it comes to Yûko, and the ending is bound to be disappointing.

The show's been good up to now, but it's about time to forget...wait. What was I watching again?

Next Time: We narrow Anime Survivor down to our Final Four!

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