Manga-anime series adaptations has been a common exercise in Japan. There are those that succeed, and those that don’t, because the manga series had not been concluded before the airing of the anime adaptation. I am totally unfamiliar with the manga “Dusk Maiden of Amnesia” so I will have to stick to what I know of the anime series with the same title. Directed by Shin Oonuma and Takashi Sakamoto, the series can be classified as a ‘harem anime’ (stories with one male and a majority of females) mixed in with elements of romantic comedy and supernatural horror. Honestly, this anime wouldn’t exactly be my cup of tea, since I hate romantic comedies, but I do have to admit that this series has its redeeming factors that make it a decent overall experience.
The set up is pretty standard and brings to light just how so many schools have their own share of unique ghost stories and some of them may actually be true. A freshman named Teiichi Niiya (Tsubasa Yonaga) stumbles into the school’s unused wing and he encounters Yuuko Kanoe (Yumi Hara), a sexy teenager who may or may be the source of all the school’s creepy stories. Yuuko is playful and kind, and quite pleasant to be with. It is also odd the Teiichi is able to see and touch her. Yuuko cannot remember the circumstances of her death or details of her past life, and so Teiichi forms the “Paranormal Investigation Club” with Yuuko as the unseen president. Soon, the club draws in two other students, an eager young girl who has a fondness for ghost stories named Okonogi Momoe (Misato Fukuen) and the granddaughter of Yuuko’s younger sister, Kirie Kanoe (Eri Kitamura). The three come together to solve the school’s many myths and lore. But then, things begin to take a turn for the worst, as a shadowy ghost appears to torment Yuuko herself.
This bluray collection includes the 13 episodes of the series, even though the 13th OVA episode “Maiden of Exorcism” had been re-titled “Ghost Girl” for the American release. The series have strong themes of tragic love, sacrifice and does have the capability to mix in horror and comedy successfully. The film does pick up rather quickly as episode one (actually occurs after episode three) comes forth with a very playful and humorous overtone as Yuuko plays around with an unsuspecting Okonogi, as an almost embarrassed Teiichi tries to work around the pranks. It was a nice touch, two scenes were combined creatively to make the episode much more effective in setting its tempo. After the conclusion of episode three, the series goes forth with the development of its characters as well as setting the groundwork for its core plot. The series establishes the mystery behind Yuuko’s ghost and the possibilities as to why she seemed stuck to this world.
I did enjoy how the series defined ‘a ghost’. Ghosts are energy and a left-over cycle of emotions, and the way people see ghosts are actually expressions of their personal fears. The relationship between Teiichi and Yuuko do take the center stage, and much of the series’ devices do revolve around them. I did enjoy the way the humor was timed (when they weren’t fan service) and how the story was developed. It did make several credible moves to make the viewer develop an attachment to the main characters. After episode 6, the series does take a relatively darker turn. As the clues and the groundwork set in the first 5 episodes begin to make sense. By episode 8, I felt as if the series was really going to go somewhere, as the mystery behind Yuuko’s ghost and her lack of memory begin to unfold. There is a very human theme that I liked in the series, as to how experiences define a person and how something tragic can indeed traumatize an individual. Its themes of acceptance and love were strong in its script, and they all served to make the final episodes much more effective. All the themes that I cared about began to drive the series’ momentum by episode 9.
The series does have amazing visuals. The layouts and set pieces were done in a way that truly felt like an old school. The camera shots were used to maximize the use of colors, as outdoor scenes feel much brighter than the indoor scenes, and the cinematography exuded an atmosphere that feels familiar and yet unique to this “Seikyou Academy”. The character designs were cleverly rendered, as Yuuko had the awesome figure (magnificently voiced by Yumi Hara), Kirie had the slender body but her legs are magnificent, and Okonogi appeared to be going through puberty a little too early. Teiichi does appear to be a little dorky, but he had his charm as he appeared to be a lot shorter than Yuuko. The animation work was done in a way that displayed artistic flair, it is curious that anime appears to take focus on visuals these days, rather than the development of a strong narrative.
There were creative touches that salvaged the series for me, given that I did not care much for the silly antics that had been called ‘fan service’, I thought the series could’ve done well enough without such things. I know, this is a romantic series at its core, and the display of boobs and such were a way to express the curiosity of the hot-blooded Japanese teenagers, but really, they did little to advance its plot. I did feel that the series could’ve done better if it focused on its horror elements and the mystery at its core. Much as the comedy felt pleasant, they did feel as if they set up the ‘fan service’. The series could’ve done just as well without the recurring cleavage shots and hinted sexuality. Don't get me wrong, I know they were there to make a point, but there were times that the boob shots were overplayed. The series also had some ‘fillers’ and it could’ve done without the inclusion of certain scenes.
Yes, the screenplay wasn’t as smooth as I could’ve wished, but “Dusk Maiden of Amnesia” had several strong points that almost outweighed the weak areas. I really enjoyed the way the emotions were brought into exposition in episodes 10-12. The way the series connected Yuuko’s suffering to everything else that were introduced in the series saved the series for me. It all made sense, and it does become a series not birthed for ‘fan service’ but rather a thoughtful one with ‘fan service’ as its major flaw. I also did not like the ending in episode 12 as it ruined the power of its tragic love story. Still, I believe that “Dusk Maiden of Amnesia” could find an audience, and it is worthy enough of a RENTAL. [3 Out of 5 Stars]
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