This Week: Mysterious Girlfriend X, Occult Academy, Voices of a Distant Star, and Blood-C
Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X)
I remember reading the preview guides when this series launched a year ago, and as I had never heard of the manga before, the concept definitely caught me off guard. It’s not every day where one finds a show that cements its central concept in drool. A few friends and I definitely made fun of its existence several times in the following days. I came across it again in the course of my Roku box browsing the other day, and figured I may as well actually watch it, so I’d at least have the frame of reference for it.
Credit to everyone involved in its production, they set themselves up for a razerwire tightrope act, and actually delivered on making a quality show.
The sound design is very unlike much else I’ve heard in a romance anime; honestly, it’s the kind of sound one would have expected to put in a horror series. Lots of violin stings, droning tense pieces, and several bits for dream sequences that essentially sound like a carnival on Halloween. I think this, in conjunction with the art design (which often looks like it fell right out of the 90’s, in a good way) and the keynote drool bits, does a lot to put the viewer in a very intentional spot to view this relationship from.
Drool is drool, sure. And that can definitely be difficult to get over. But, I can now see the justification for it, as an example of the kind of oddball “this is our thing” shenanigans couples develop between each other that generally look and sound patently insane to an outsider (and given the sound, art, etc, I think the show is definitely trying to actively keep the viewer from inserting themselves into the show, so they can be that outsider), as well as the sort of confusing and fumbling expressions of intimacy and experimentation young couples can come up with. Which is certainly topical in other ways (growing numbers of folks believing oral sex doesn’t count as sex, for instance, while our two leads can’t bring themselves to kiss even though they have this drool thing going on).
All in all, I’m actually really glad I watched it, especially given that I had mocked it previously, and was more than pleasantly surprised by how well it all turned out.
Occult Academy (Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin)
This series really shouldn’t have been a “monster of the week” style show. For a 13 episode series that on its surface wants to be about this mystery surrounding the Nostradamus Key and saving the future before a very strict time limit has elapsed, it takes so many detours and pit-stops completely unrelated to those goals that there was really no sense of pressure or tension.
This wasn’t always a bad thing, as I thought the sentiment behind episodes 9 and 10 was particularly noteworthy. However, they also feel like they’re from a completely different show, and with the number of other detours from the “primary” plot compounding from before this, it added to a sense that there wasn’t much of a central structure really driving anything. The show wasn’t even necessarily bad for what it ended up being, but it just sort of felt like it all “happened”, nothing more. Which is disappointing, as the seeds of a far stronger production focusing on the central mystery and the goal of our two leads were definitely there.
Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no Koe)
I randomly came across this again, and I remember all the lovely words that were said about it at my local anime club when it was released back in 2002, and I hadn’t seen it since, so a re-visitation seemed well in order.
In retrospect, I think it was given a bit too much credit.
Certainly, for a short that was essentially all done by a lone creator on a single computer a decade ago, it’s still a swell technical acheivement to have performed. However, for a story as short as this, it did feel too busy. If the Lysithea had been, say, an exploration ship rather than a military carrier, or perhaps something more akin to the Enterprise in Star Trek, I feel a lot more weight could have been applied to the central character relationship. Mikako could be reflecting on the loneliness and emptiness of deep space, both to herself and in her text messages, as opposed to the time spend on mecha combat sequences fighting an enemy that (because it’s a short, so there’s no time to strongly define them) I have no real need to care about.
It was still a very ambitious production for Shinkai to have undertaken, certainly, don’t get me wrong on that, but I do feel that one change would have made for something that really would have strengthened the overall production and made it hold up better.
Blood-C [1.5 episodes of 12]
Generally speaking, CLAMP series and I don’t tend to get along very well, so I generally don’t pick them up anymore without a specific reason in mind. In this case, mostly everything I’ve heard from reviewers and podcasts I trust have said that this series was a complete mess (I particularly enjoyed this piece) Colony Drop did on it some time ago), so I finally bit the bullet and decided to see what was going on here. While I’m not expecting much, I am hoping that it is at least amusingly bad, given what I’ve heard.
I’ve only seen an episode and a half so far, so there’s not much for me to really give an opinion on about the story or structure yet. However, I can definitely say more mechanical things, such as character proportions changing wildly from scene to scene without reason, have already been particularly noticeable. Jarringly so, in several cases. Production I.G. is usually significantly better about this sort of thing, especially so early in a show, so I am if anything interested to see what kinds of even heavier handed budget cut decisions (if any) were made in the later episodes.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.