The Short Review: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

The anime adaptation of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia) is a lot like its title character, Yuuko: both have wild, inconsistent mood swings and moments where you wonder whether you’re still watching the same person, or show. The clumsy cobbling together of different moods and genres makes for a mediocre anime series.

The staff pedigree of Dusk Maiden held out some promise. Silver Link, the spin-off studio headed by SHAFT veteran and Shinbo acolyte Shin Oonuma (ef~a tale of memories/melodies), did a fine job with the Baka Test series in combining quirky humor, Oonuma’s Shinbo-esque visual stylings, and even the occasional serious scene.Maiden’sfirst episode, while gimmicky, promised at least some degree of cleverness in directing and approach. However, in retrospect, the basic strengths and weaknesses of the series were apparent even then: annoying side characters. Yuuko’s mostly appealing capriciousness, occasionally undermined by unnecessary fanservice. A rather diffident, blank slate of a male lead, the sort others have labeled “Insert-kun” or “Yuuji Everylead.”

The promise that is implicit at the beginning of every show, of course, is that we will see changes as it goes on. With the exception of Yuuko, the characters more or less remain the same as they were in episode 1. Our two leads fall in love, of course, though all of the personality and development is on Yuuko’s side. She is the most varied and thus interesting character, though the transitions between her moods are often clumsily handled; she is, in short, the most human character. And she’s dead.

The best moments in this show are simple ones like this.

Only two points seem to make Dusk Maiden stand out. First is Oonuma’s directorial technique, which was first shown to the world as being uniquely suited to portraying trauma in ef, and used to both comedic and dramatic effect in Baka Test. He repeats the performance in the single great episode of this series, episode 10—the flashback to Yuuko’s past. Oonuma’s ability to blend subjective and objective viewpoints, to actually show the fractured feeling of pain, is palpable. The overall way Yuuko’s light and dark halves interact is rather simplistic, but the execution of the flashback elevated it for a moment.

The second is the apparent subtext of the dark/light Yuuko story. Perhaps it is no accident that Yuuko is a ghost from the 1940s, who lives in denial of the terrible things that happened in that era, refusing to remember the acts of brutality that caused her to haunt the characters in the present. Could it be an allegory, albeit a clumsy and inexact one, of the way Japan has often been reluctant to face its own past in the Second World War and acknowledge it as part of their history? The analogy breaks down somewhat when pressed—Yuuko is the victim, not aggressor, though the images of human sacrifice cannot help but remind one of Unit 731 among other things. But Dusk Maiden is not the only series that features haunted schools from that era, and the show’s ending can be interpreted as a call to make peace with the past by taking it on directly.

That, frankly, is more interesting than what the show actually does with Yuuko’s character arc, which is a conventional anime romance marred by the standard “reset” ending, the bane of so many stories that won’t follow through on its convictions. (Even the otherwise wonderful Ano Natsu de Matteru did it.) When creators will learn that such endings destroy the emotional investment of the audience, I do not know. But that, the uneven pacing, and frequent resort to cliche preventDusk Maiden from being more than a mediocre series with occasional high points.

Short Review Rating: 7/10

6 thoughts on “The Short Review: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia”

  1. I actually loved this show ;)

    But it clearly was a disappointment in many ways, and, mostly because it could have been much, much greater! I’d say its amazingly good points (and this surprised me a lot when I began this show with quite low expectations) were the music, the atmosphere, the backgrounds, the animation, everything that’s not the story, in fact.

    Aside from that, I liked Yuuko a lot as a character, and she was very well thought-out, but Teiichi had a slightly annoying voice, and the others were only marginally useful to the story…

    1. Yup, everything you say is good is basically because of the directorial choices. The problem really was the writing and pacing. Oomuma is usually better at the pacing thing though, which is one of many reasons this was a disappointment.

      I really liked Yuuko most of the time, except when she was whiny and petulant, which got worse over time. The fun capriciousness was sometimes like a faint echo of (the much greater) Senjougahara, who is still the gold standard of dark, long-haired, supernatural beauties :) Yuuko honestly was the main reason I kept watching, along with the director.

  2. I thought this was a great show. Loved the OP. Yuuko-san was definitely very cute, super sexy, and oh my, how many real girls can act like that? Very dere-dere ghost, and this ghost is tangible, able to have skinship! Too bad I can’t see any ghost. That red scarf on sailor uniform is very 1940s, but her Japanese sounds very modern, not from the 40s. Ah, she gets jealous when Tei-ichi talks to other girls. So cute!

    The naming is interesting too. Yuuko means “dusk girl.” Tei-ichi means “chastity first.” So ghost doesn’t count even having sexual relationship then.

    It is pretty similar to Aquarion EVOL, the dark side gets separated from your identity, and all that stuff. Is this a literary technique used in writings?

    1. Yuuko is pretty cute, I agree. She was the best character in the show, by far, and the main reason I kept watching. I liked her affectionate teasing Teiichi a lot, though I sometimes felt that she was way too good for him. ;) And yeah, thing is, I don’t think they took the 1940s setting all that seriously beyond the uniform style, my theory about history is really just pure conjecture. I’m probably giving the writers far too much credit, really.

      The dissociated bad self motif, which indeed does show up in a lot of literature and art (from “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” on down), was handled a bit clumsily in my opinion. Part of it is that I fundamentally disagree with that idea; I think human nature is far more murky and mixed and that the “good” and “bad” sides of a person are far more integrated in reality than so separate. (“The line between good and evil is drawn inside every human heart” —Solzhenitsyn) Of course by the end of the story Yuuko’s two sides are reconciled. The motif, however, does work better if it really is an allegory, about the way denial works and how suppressing the past makes things worse.

      That’s some interesting facts about the names. They fit all too well. Teiichi is such a virgin. :)

      1. Haha, yeah, you too! Yes, I also loved this series mainly because of Yuuko-san. I just fell in love with her deredere character.

        I see. Cool, yes, I agree too, human being is not just with two sides, good and evil, but complex. Thanks for the explanation!

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