OP: 「テレパス」 (Telepath) by (Yorushika)
「天膜の少年」 (Tenmaku no Shōnen)
If there was an anime I was really looking forward to in Winter ‘23 is this one. Ooyukiumi no Kaina or Kaina of the Great Snow Sea is a new series animated by Polygon Pictures and written by Tsutomu Nihei. If you’re privy to that name then you are probably aware of all of the works that antecedent Nihei-sensei. Including Blame!, Knights of Sidonia and most recently Aposimz, most of those works have managed to come out of the underground and become their own anime adaptations over the years. Polygon Pictures has managed to capitalize on some of the amazing storytelling and reach a diverse audience. The clean cell shading style Polygon brings to the picture (no pun intended) does take away from some of the grime and speck found in the panels of Blame! However, I believe most fans would rather have any adaptation than not at all. As the only adaptation to ever come close to really nailing Blame’s atmosphere is the 2003 OVA. However, adapting Blame! without CGi might just be incredibly expensive.
So, Ooyukiumi no Kaina is a completely new story, set in a completely new world, as most of Nihei’s-sensei stories always break from the old and start a new, think Final Fantasy, where every entry is a new story, but some of the previous elements remain. Sensei is known for incredibly bleak landscapes, solitary protagonists, and an incredibly harsh environment that somehow humans still live in. In this case, it seems the planet has been covered in a sea of snow, the trees have grown so much, they have created a film-like canopy over the earth. It almost looks like glass. Basically like an atmosphere. The scenery reminded me of Bloodborne, in the Hunter’s Dream, where you see giant towering tree-like structures that extend over the clouds – I believe Ash Lake also shares similar imagery in Dark Souls. Outside of the canopy nothing but space.
The story starts with Kaina (Hosoya, Yoshimasa) an incredibly looking shonen boy that is hunting some type of space bug, he looks to bring the eggs that the creature holds back to his settlement where he can feed his elderly friends, the small village is able to sustain itself by living inside one of the trees, who apparently is dying out, and no longer produces the same results as it once did, including water and other basic needs, the elders worry that Kaina would be left all alone when they are gone, it is then that Kaina is made to bring food to some Ji-Ji type character who speaks in riddles and refuses to explain any sort of practical detail. Kaina asks what any of that means and the old man just replies beats me. Was Nihei-sensei trying to imbue some type of foreshadowing, since it seems Kaina will soon take on a journey, but not without first meeting someone who will change his world forever?! It is here that some worldbuilding takes place, long ago there were sign readers who would teach other people how to read – or something I guess. The scene seems incredibly out of place for me. Couldn’t Kaina have explained all of this himself, did we really need an old man to explain the world around him? Couldn’t all of this have been kept in the dark and later explained for the viewer to put together, Nihei-sensei isn’t exactly good at explaining the world head-on, but leaving it to the viewer’s interpretation. – but I digress. I believe Nihei-sensei is only responsible for writing the manga that is published alongside the show. So there must have been some sort of adaptation going on. Not truly an original show. And it’s already showing. If Sensei might have been in charge, things would be different I suppose.
With the relationship between Polygon and Nihei-sensei, you would think they would have given him a writer role in the actual production of the show but that seems not the case.
Ah~ I digress – the show makes a 180 turn and pans to the surface of the planet, introducing Liliha (Takahashi, Rie) a girl who has made a pact with a tribe on the surface to reach a thing called a floater, a sort of balloon they must hook onto so that Liliha can float unto the canopy. Things turn dire out of the gate and some pirates straight up show up on their tail. Bringing bloodbath with them, they kill most of her crew however Liliha manages to get up on the balloon thanks to some self-sacrificing from the people on her side. She goes up and passes through one of the holes in the canopy, not without Kaina catching her and managing to pull her down, it seems the balloon keeps on floating out toward space.
The whole pacing of the show was incredibly methodical, almost like meditating, when the action rolled around it almost seemed out of place for me, maybe it was trying too hard to imbue the narrative with a half-baked concept. However, calling it that is a disserve in itself. I hate to say that since it was interesting, Nihei-sensei tends to go above and beyond. Like those structures in Ash Lake, there’s a certain curiosity that begs the question. What’s up there? It’s almost simple human nature – wanting to know what’s beyond the canopy might be almost primordial to us. And that’s the concept of his stories, he explains a far-out image and then uses it to tell a story that is human in character.
As the first episode, it was fine, but I see way too much shonen in this, trying its dam hardest to attract the young crowd, there are way too many restrictions and Nihei-sensei should have been left to run rampant on his own in this one. Where are the confined spaces, the abstract solitude, and the metaphysical seclusion? This premiere didn’t do a great job of explaining what hardships the character might endure. The world is separated into tribes and some of them want to kill each other, but the reason is unknown. The premier explained way too much for a Nihei-sensei anecdote and dotted its storytelling into unnecessary plot points. That felt like unnecessary filler.
I’m being way too critical – I know. But only because it’s Polygon Pictures and the show was advertised as Nihei-sensei being in the forefront. But that is not the case. Might this be once again of the adaptation curse Nihei-sensei seemingly carries on like a crutch, or might this show be the next Fumetsu? At this moment, things are not certain. With an 11-episode runtime, I’ll give it at least four episodes to show its true colors. However, this critical eye will remain. At this moment Tondemo is looking way more fun for coverage. And with Trigun showing up everyone how 3D anime CGi animation should be done, Polygon is looking like it might be left on the curbside. We’ll have to wait and see.
Edit: I do realize I’m being incredibly harsh – don’t get me wrong it comes from a place of love, I might just end up covering the 11 episodes, I just need more information to really get intimate with this one. It might be one of those series that eventually wins me over. It’s just a matter of time.
Full-length images: 48.
ED: 「ジュブナイル」 (Juvenile) by (GReeeeN)