Alright, time for the best show of the season. My evangelizing has already begun in earnest – last night, I ended up watching the first two episodes again (1 and 2, skipping 0) with one of my housemates. Which, first of all, let me notice a few more nice details in this very well-designed piece. Yase’s lines in the first episode are great, and gain a retroactive poignance given the events of her own episode – when asked if she likes it in the Mirror Capital, she says “Yeah! I love being with Mom, and fun stuff happens all the time. Like that train station that just opened!” Ouch. Koto’s fox-father also wears a mask strongly reminiscent of the one worn by the priest who banished the first Myoe, and at this point it seems beyond question that her fox is Myoe himself.
But beyond seeing more clever details, just letting the show do its thing this second time really ground in exactly how strong this overall production is. There’s just no comparison – if most shows are daytime television, this is film. The aesthetic, the writing, the direction… it’s all great, and the show makes no mistakes.
Which made me think of Eccentric Family, and the kinds of storytelling I really like in anime. Because even though this show’s aesthetics are unimpeachable, it’s hard to deny that this is my kind of storytelling. Letting a world and its conflicts emerge naturally from the slow illustration of characters and the bonds between them. Obviously it takes more than that – I mean, the writing has to be good, for one thing… and I certainly enjoy other genres, too. But when people say “nothing happens” in these shows, it’s difficult for me to even conceive. To me, pure action is nothing. Pure plot is nothing. It’s just empty calories, and I can’t bring myself to care about events just because those events are taking place. Given a choice of watching ciphers go on busy adventures or a handful of people I understand deal with one or two important events… yeah, that’s not a question. I mean, this is how books work – great novels don’t distract you with a shiny new bauble every chapter. They let their craft be their collateral, and tell the story they want to tell in the time it will take to tell it.
Not that this show abandons the strengths of television – it’s clearly making great use of the episodic structure, too. But that slow, confident build is something I too rarely see in a medium that to me seems incredibly well-suited to it.
Anyway. Enough rambling. Off to the Mirror City.
2:20 – Well that’s a big ol’ wall of text to start us off with. Already seems relevant to Myoe, so I guess that’s where we’re going
3:35 – Dear lord. That’s one way to start an episode. The music is very effective here
3:56 – I love all the little human gestures of the characters. There’s another thing that reminds me of Eccentric Family – all the characters’ mannerisms and physical ticks are critical to constructing their identity. You don’t needthis stuff to make believable characters, but it makes everyone feel much more alive if their physical habits reflect their nature
4:15 – Koto gets the best faces
6:05 – They always keep these conversations very dynamic. This also seems like it might be the central hurdle here – in the absence of their parents, each of the siblings has retreated into their own private empire. So will Koto bring them together? Last episode already saw her acting as the conciliatory force between Yase and Kurama. But that kinda seems too simple, and doesn’t really address the theme of being trapped in the past or unable to grow up
6:34 – I like how we’re seeing him from his siblings’ perspectives. That scene with the soda was pretty telling – he’s not the type to discuss or confront his emotions. Whereas Yase’s completely transparent, and Kurama’s more of a big talker than he’d first appear
7:36 – A cynical view, very true to Kurama’s personality. So what, he thinks his brother is too much of a coward to take responsibility for his own life? Well, he would, wouldn’t he – unlike Myoe, he’s actively working to bring about the end of this place
8:04 – Another nice expression from Myoe. That rakish appeal
9:12 – A nice background. And again, the character posture is great
10:05 – Who are you angry at, Myoe?
10:12 – Man, they’re handling this so well. Is he trapped by the beads, or are they just an excuse? Which is a great metaphor for people’s relationships with their parents’ legacies and expectations in general
10:36 – More of these backgrounds
10:55 – Straight to the point!
12:39 – Is this his fear, or wish? That he stand abandoned, watching the house of his parents burn, his responsibility destroyed before his eyes
13:14 – The animation is great here. Specifity of gestures in key emotional moments like this is one of the best possible uses of precise animation – something KyoAni know well
13:53 – It is a very selfish request. Not that most parents need to actually say it out loud
14:26 – These quiet scenes are always so good. At least the actual dog looks happy!
14:54 – Adorable
17:19 – They’re also adorable together. I like Kurama advertising his giant robot and goon squad
18:36 – Once more, from the other side. Another year of duty passes, another chance to throw it away lost
20:03 – God damn, this show.
20:44 – “The beginning and the ending.” Oh boy. Not the promise he’d hoped for, though she may still bring the family together. Looks like he’s going to have to figure things out without waiting for the eventual acknowledgment of his father
22:45 – Alright, what’s the deal with the damn pomegranate? They focused on it on the train as it was leaving, too. Did I miss this before? Does this have some Alice-related significance I’ve forgotten? Are we actually adding Greek symbolism to this mythology-mixture (I mean, that actually does work – it was the fruit that tied Persephone to the underworld, and the beads tie Myoe to this dead world)? Or can we just consider it a marker of their shared burden?
23:16 – So it was real. So there’s the reason he refers to old Myoe as “the priest”… and it also creates a certain distance between him and the siblings of his adopted family
24:02 – Myoe nooo
Jeez, that was a heavy friggin episode. So I guess Myoe’s feelings of displacement and purposelessness run much deeper than his relationship with the priest. Whatever happiness he once felt among his adopted family, it’s gone now – now he lives because he made a promise, and really is waiting to die. No wonder Miss Girlfriend asked Koto to save him – he’s not just trapped, he’s suicidal.
Not that he feels entirely displaced from his family – he did call the black rabbit “our mother,” after all. Though he may feel some odd responsibility to join his original parents, he does not deny the reality of his adopted ones (though he challenged Koto on this with regards to A and Un, as he did with basically everything they had in common this episode). And I guess the priest’s request turns out to not be selfish after all, and perhaps intended to save his son.
Well, we’ve got our characters, our relationships, our world, and our conflicts. I hope this turns out okay. I like this family an awful lot.