OP: 「träumerei」 by LiSA
「太陽の黒点」 (Taiyou no kokuten)
“Dark Spot of the Sun”
Style. Miles and miles of style. And pain.
The Theme is Fortune
One of the things that most impressed me about this show so far is how thematically tight it is. Everything is wrapped around the idea of fortune, from the tarot cards to Akari’s mom to the mysterious things the most knowing characters are saying, and it’s all shot through with a sense of mysticism and mystery that goes well with the idea of fortune and fortune-telling. As a storyteller myself, trust me when I say it’s difficult to construct a story so tightly around one central idea. It makes it easy to grasp the essence of the show, even while the central plot is still being opaque (by design).
There Will Be Blood
It’s inevitable that this show will be compared to Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, but while that one waited a few episodes before bodies started turning up, this show wasted no time. As near as I can tell, the idea is that there are corrupt tarot cards – perhaps symbolizing corrupt futures or corrupt fortunes? – which cause calamities in the real world. Enter our team of heroes, who take care of these problems whenever they arise.
That’s all well and good. What I didn’t expect was not only a corpse showing up in episode 1, but for our main character’s cousin(?) Shinzaki Fuyuna (Sakura Ayane) to be erased entirely from existence. This contributed to the acute sense of “wrongness” the show exudes, and gave the feeling that these girls are living their lives a half-step outside of reality, as Fuyuna’s body disappears without a trace and our main character Taiyou Akari (Kadowaki Mai) can run into a burning building and then be carried out straight through a crowd without anyone the wiser. It appears that theirs is a world of dreams and monsters, different from reality but constantly impinging upon it, with disastrous consequences.
Style For Days
What first drew me to this show, other than the fact that it’s an original series – and I like to think my preference for original series is well-known by now – was the art style. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of using animation – and paintings, and music, and words, and etc. – to paint not so much the reality of the world, but the essence of it. If we want to see what something truly looks like, we have pictures and video that can do that, but a Van Gogh still holds up because it shows the world as perceived through the artist’s mind. Enzo once referred to Shinkai Makoto’s work as “more real than real”, and it certainly is in the way he meant it, but to me that phrase has always most resonated when an artist deliberately paints the world not as it appears, but how it is. The truth behind it, not just the reality that we see.
Along those lines, the style of Gen’ei is well suited to tell the story they’re trying to tell. The character designs are both cute but frail, with thin limbs that look like they could be snapped between thumb and forefinger. Their expressive faces are perfect for showing anguish and pain, and all of them can easily take on more fantastic forms without breaking immersion. In a way, the unrealistic art serves the unrealistic plot – were a live action actor to be dressed up like this and carry an unconscious girl out of a burning building unseen, it would look laughably absurd. Here it evokes wonder. The art prepares you for the world you must accept in order to take part in this story.
The plot is still well into mysteriousville, but with the introduction of the other three main characters – Hoshikawa Seira (Kitamura Eri), Shirokane Ginka (Tatsumi Yuiko), and Tsukuyomi Luna (Tokui Sora) – I expect some light to be shed on their world next episode, as Akari dives further into the rabbit hole. I don’t usually pay attention to coming episode titles, but episode 2 will be called “The Blood-Soaked Future”, so it sounds like things are going to get a lot worse for our heroes before they get better…if they ever do at all. Should be fun.
I’m not sure whether I’ll pick this up, though I’m toying with covering it for at least an episode or two more, to see how it develops. We’ll see. I’ll say something about it on my twitter either way. Until then, enjoy~
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Mysterious, bloody, “wrong”, painful, thematic, & stylish as hell. Potential sleeper? You have my attention, #genei
- In case you didn’t catch it, Fuyuna was reading L’Étranger by Albert Camus, i.e. The Stranger, which is a book that explores (among other schools of thought) existentialism, determinism, nihilism, and absurdism. It’s also about a murder. That’s a sign.
- Akari’s adopted parents are way too nice. There’s no way she can have a happy life, just no way. How twisted is that?
- Another animation technique I really liked was how the picture kept getting staticky when the mirror world encroached upon reality. It’s a good way to illustrate the interference while also adding to that sense of wrongness.
- Akari said that Fuyuna could do anything. You’re wrong. She couldn’t be like you. The sun is bright…
- Finally, Akari’s sun card has connotations that bring future happiness and prosperity to all, but could also bring about great calamities. I like this. She will either be the hero she’s being set up to be, or fall down to hell and take everybody with her. Excellent.
For more from yours truly, check out my blog on writing, art, and the book I’m working on at stiltsoutloud.com.
Full-length images: 07.
ED: 「-Mirage-」 by 岡本菜摘 (Okamoto Natsumi)