Thursday, October 31, 2013

Anime Review No. 67-Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

"Ghostbusting, silly!"
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
2012 TV Series
Studio: Silver Link, Director: Shin Oonuma, Writers: Katsuhiko Takayama and Ayumi Sekine

Well, its Halloween once more, so you all know what to expect-a Halloween themed anime review. In 2011, it was Master of Mosquiton, a quirky fantasy tale with vampires. Last year, I covered Vampire Princess Miyu, a straight laced horror story involving encounters of the supernatural. So, what am I looking at this year? Well, in case you couldn't tell from the title,
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia.... (also spoilers)

Most Awkward Phone Convo Evah...
Teiichi Niiya is a student at Seikyou Academy, leading what might seem to be a normal life. Well, it would be normal except for one thing: His girlfriend is a ghost, that only he can see. Yuuko, as she is called, is the spirit of a girl who died of mysterious circumstances several decades ago and has no memories of her past. Together, they formed the Paranormal Investigations Club, with the mission of solving not just Yuuko's mysterious death but also several other strange happenings at the school. They are joined by blond ditz Okonogi and tomboy Kirie, who may have an unexpected connection with Yuuko.

Fantasy  vs. Reality? 
So, what makes this series so good? Well, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia does an excellent job blending the genres of romantic comedy/drama, school slice of life and horror mystery. The nice thing is that this series is more than capable of maintaining interest even when it shifts in tone or mood. An example of this is from the screencaps above, from when Yuuko is chasing Kirie down a hallway. On the left is how Kirie views Yuuko-a terrifying ghost who is out for blood. However, on the right is how Teiichi (and by extension the audience/viewer) sees Yuuko-a friendly and kind ghost whose spirit masks a hidden loneliness and sadness. Yuuko in many ways serves as a representative of the ambivalent nature of the series-at times its funny and light-hearted, at other times its depressing and dark.

One of the cute Endcards of (L-R) Kirie, Yuuko and Okonogi ^_^
The story at its essential core is a mystery story: Who is Yuuko and what circumstances led to her death? In addition, what dark secret haunts Yuuko that is in connection with her death, and does that have anything to do with her amnesia? These questions are thankfully answered and then some. The running theme of Yuuko’s story seems to be regret and redemption. Motifs abound like the Stone of Curses, the shadowy figure of ‘Akahito’ and a mysterious epidemic that plague the town long ago. At times, it gets really dark and at the end of the day rather depressing. Yuuko’s death scene, for instance, is perhaps one of the most harrowing and heart-rendering moments in anime that I have seen recently. Of course, the core is peppered with elements from school slice of life and romantic drama/comedy so as to keep things lively as well as couch the core story into a setting/situations that are familiar to people that watch anime. Heck, even the 13th episode/OVA is a bit of good-natured fun, however superfluous it may be.

A rather touching moment, in context
The characters are quite nice and likeable. Teiichi and Yuuko, I must admit, make a good couple and work well together. Their journey in maintaining their relationship is another storyline that follows along with the core mystery plot. Of course, there are two other main characters: Okonogi, who is very much comic relief genki girl and Kirie, who while serves as a potential haremette and slight tsundere, is also interesting in that she forms up somewhat of a love triangle.

Oh, pretty backdrop....
Of course, a story isn’t much with the animation, music and the voice acting. Luckily, the animation is rather solid. Though, as I was watching this, it seem to be rather familiar. Well, it turns out that Silver Link is made of mostly former Studio Shaft members; heck, even director Shin Oonuma was a director there as well, helming Pani Poni Dash and the Ef series. As such, the animation is very art-house and experimental in terms of execution. Certainly not as crazy as Shinbou (no head tilts) but certainly ventures into that territory. Good thing we are dealing with a horror mystery story, so plenty of shadows and darkness so that fits the mood as well as save money on the production side, I’m sure. Not to say that Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is cheap looking; it has a decently consistent look and feel.

Something about this looks familiar... but I can't put my finger on it
Sound is very crucial in this sort of horror mystery series, as it helps to build mood and atmosphere. Of course, not only just natural sounds that permeate the background, the BGM is suitable to the occasion. The music is especially haunting with use of melancholic cellos, piano and percussion combined with soft lilting pieces of flute and woodwinds. The DVD set for this series also came with 2 OST CDs, which are quite a treat to listen to.

Another Good EndCard
Lastly, the voice acting of the English dub is perhaps one of my favorite efforts by Sentai Filmworks. The dub is helmed by Chris Ayres, who also helmed Bodacious Space Pirates and the Ef series, among others. He has to be one of my favorite recent directors of English dub anime currently. He seems to be rather good in terms of getting a good vocal performance out of the actors alongside strong writing that’s adaptive enough that it feels natural to the ear. It is noteworthy in that the entire dub cast consists of just our main four characters-Teiichi, Yuuko, Kirie and Okonogi. Luckily, each one is expertly casted. Clint Bickham and Emily Neves as Teiichi and Yuuko respectively deliver strong compelling performances. Jessica Boone and Brittney Karbowski (as Kirie and Okonogi) do a good job as well, though they are not as great.

So, overall, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is a wonderful series with a neat blending of genres, touching and emotional story, engaging characters, decent animation, and a fantastic English dub. If you need something spooky yet heartwarming show this Halloween, you can do no wrong by watching this.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is available from Sentai Filmworks, on both Blu-ray and DVD.

On Sunday (November 3rd), I should have the next three entries (#7, #6, #5) in the Anime Favorites page on my blog. Then I will post up #4 and #3 the following month. Then, 3 more reviews this year (two in November, one in December) before I take a brief break until January.

See you laterz, gals and gents…

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