Final Review: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (9/10)

Dusk Maiden of Amensia is a fusion romance/mystery show about a guy and a ghost girl trying to solve the mystery of her murder, with really awesome backgrounds. Am I the only one who thinks romance series and pretty background art go well together? If I’m not the only one, read on to find out why I liked this show as much as I did.

Dusk_Maiden-1

Exhibit A

Character Designs: Smooth enough to do the job [Yukiko Ban]

For the most part, there’s not much remarkable about the character designs in this series. They’re decently expressive, but not exceptionally great or subpar. The one particularly different thing about the character designs is the male lead, Niiya Teiichi, who has a pair of reading glasses. So sometimes he wears them, other times he doesn’t. It gives the staff a little more room to be playful.

1/1 (Average, but not a detriment to the show.)

Soundtrack: Not great, but well-managed [Ryuuichi Takada, SD – Toshiki Kamiyama]

The default atmosphere of the clubroom most frequented by the cast in this anime ia a casual one, and the soundtrack does a good job of presenting a light, playful tone. However, when the ominous shadow lurking in the background becomes more prominent, the soundtrack busts out an effective combination of bells and high-frequency strings to match the atmosphere and add to a mounting sense of uneasiness. When the shadow vanishes, silence is used just as effectively towards the same end.

2/2 (Not the best, but smartly handled and blends well with the atmosphere.)

Writing: A solid story that’s good once they start telling it [Katsuhiko Takayama]

Amnesia opens very intriguingly, with a clever opening episode that plays the fact that one character is an invisible ghost for great comedic effect. Despite that, this show does suffer for incorporating a nontrivial amount of needless fanservice in certain scenes the first half, and using said scenes to avoid focusing on the actual characters.

The cast itself, though, is fundamentally solid. Yuuko, the female lead and title character, provides a particularly interesting case of a human reaction to trauma, trauma that we eventually experience as close to firsthand as possible (more on that in the next section). The amnesia in the title comes from the fact that she has developed a habit of forcing unpleasant things out of her mind and not confronting them thanks to one particular memory that overwhelmed her. This leads to a gradually more and more uneasy situation, as she begins to lose aspects of her personality with a frequency that seems random to the rest of the cast. As the show progresses, her self-inflicted amnesia becomes more severe, and she starts losing aspects of her personality critical to her relationships with the people she knows. Ultimately, she and the rest of the cast find a method of resolution that feels totally in keeping with the characters established in the slower-moving first half.

2/3 (There’s a very nice story, but it takes time to get there.)

Direction: Packed with well-chosen color and visual variety [Shin Oonuma]

The colors and backgrounds in the show are flat-out amazing. It’s characteristic for shows by Oonuma Shin to spend plenty of time and money on pretty color schemes that match the moods of the characters, but this show goes above and beyond his typical effort. While it keeps a more traditional standard gear, it’s very free about putting extreme amounts of detail into a throwaway background shot. The series also plays well with colors, giving the scenery a 360 degree tour around the color wheel in a hardworking effort to accentuate the mood. It largely succeeds at doing so, and stands out as a really good model for making low-energy scenes into interesting ones.

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Even when gray is the only color

What’s more, there’s a particular episode that’s shot ~80% from first-person perspective, complete with shaky camera effects. The other ~20% of said episode shows the male lead (experiencing the events via a memory dive) watching the events unfold in a facsimilie of projector room. It’s a scrumptious not-quite-decoupled experience; the perspective is delivered via the former, and the body language is delivered by the latter (who has no freedom of movement for the duration of the episode). It’s one of the most creative flashback episodes I’ve seen while watching anime, definitely the one that put me most in the shoes of the character experiencing the flashback.

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Thank god the movie wasn’t Space Mutiny

It’s a shame Shin Oonuma hasn’t made a commercial hit in years, with the one show that was showing potential to do so, Kokoro Connect, being derailed by a boneheaded PR disaster over which he had no control. The man really can direct, he just gets unlucky a lot with his source material and co-workers. I count it a blessing that he’ll be working on a hype-heavy show this summer (Prismer Ilya). Maybe some success will finally roll his way.

4/4 (Does a fantastic job of conveying emotions, and the backgrounds are artbook-worthy.)

Overall: 9/10 (An entertaining combination of cute romance and ominous mystery that’s totally worth a watch.)

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