OP: 「幻想ドライブ」 (Gensou Drive) by Wajima Ami
“Look Before You Leap”
So Many Characters – And They’re All Weirdos:
30 strangers go on a bus tour to a nonexistent village. They’re all batshit crazy. They’re all using fake or online names (like “Soy Latte”). They appear to hate the world and all want to go somewhere new and start afresh. They sing a ridiculous song about a hippopotamus. One girl sobs before professing her sadness for said hippopotamus. Everyone apparently has written a suicide note for the trip and they laugh along as someone acts their out. The driver hates how much these youngster hate the world and therefore decides to crash the bus and kill them all. One boy named Jack elbows him in the face. The hippopotamus girl then vomits over him and saves the day. Oh, and there’s also an exploding basketball.
Pardon my French, but this episode was fucking bonkers. And guess what? I loved it! It’s very easy to assume that a series with 30 characters and only 12 episodes is going to be chaotic. Based on the reactions I’ve seen, people seem to be repeating the line: “I’m never going to remember the names of all these characters!”. And to that I say: “That doesn’t matter! Half of them will probably be dead within a week anyway!”. And for what it’s worth, I think many of the characters were distinctive enough that I will at least remember their name, face, or whatever random piece of info they gave about themselves in the opening minutes of the episode. What could have felt excessive and off putting ended up working because of how damn weird everyone was. In fact, weird is too kind a word; this cast is something else entirely.
What’s Worth Nothing?:
If there are two characters you should remember, it would be our leads, Mitsumune (Sakai Koudai), and Masaki (Aisaka Yuuka), aka the hippopotamus girl. Funnily enough, them being main characters doesn’t stop them from being just as strange as the rest of their travelling companions. In fact, Masaki was one of the weirdest of the bunch. As for Mitsumune, there’s definitely something off about him. We see hints of him falling off a wall (suicide?) and then surviving, but then watching as his parents run over to another version of himself. The first thought that came into my mind was whether these characters are already dead? What if they’re all in purgatory? That’s my initial theory, but I’m not going to get knee-deep into the possibilities for the mystery quite yet, as this episode mainly focused on introducing the extensive cast, and on the whole, I think Mayoiga did a good job. As I say, most of them are likely going to die very shortly (just look at the four key visuals and you’ll see who will survive across the series – does that count as spoilers?). If you can’t keep up, then don’t worry! Just buckle up and enjoy the ride. And join in on the hippopotamus song while you’re at it!
The Bumpy Ride Ahead – But Who’s Driving?:
In case you weren’t aware, Mayoiga is directed by Mizushima Tsutomu (Another, SHIROBAKO, xxxHOLIC) and written by Okada Mari (GOSICK, Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans, Zetsuen no Tempest). If you know anything about anime, you’ve likely heard these two names before. Mizushima is a very good director who has done plenty of noteworthy originals (his last one was my personal pick for 2015 Anime of the Year), but not everything he does is great. Similarly, Okada Mari has her reputation, though I have enjoyed almost everything that I’ve seen from her – but I tend to enjoy melodrama, so that comes down to my own personal taste. Whatever you may think of these two, this is a combination you can’t ignore. And going by this opener, it’s certain to be entertaining.
Overview – First Impressions:
This was perhaps my most anticipated anime of the spring season, and after watching this episode I’m really looking forward to seeing where things go. It’s very, very, (very) likely that Mayoiga will burst at the seams before it finishes its run, and part of me won’t mind if that happens. If the tone of this episode was anything to go by, this should be a camp, silly thrill ride. If it delivers on that, then I’m happy. But at the same time, the premise of a massive cast of characters pissed off with the world all running away to start a new life in a village that nobody can find is a compelling premise. Will it be the next Battle Royale? What awaits us in the village of Nanakimura? I have absolutely no idea, but I sure as hell can’t wait to find out.
ED: 「結露」 (Ketsuro) by Katahira Hina