Tag Archives: silver link

WataMote 5: Personae

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Summary

In her never ending quest to become more popular, Tomoko attempts three different personality changes: first, inspired by an anime, she tries to become a Yuki Nagato-like “expressionless character.” Not only does it make her even more outcast–silence is natural for someone who’s all alone anyway–it ends up making some people (like her brother) angrier or bewildered (the handsome barista). Apparently that personality only works if a guy is already hanging around you. Next, she attempts to follow other smiling cute couples and get a picture taken at the purikura booth, but after being denied by her friend Yuu and her brother, she ends up going alone, and making only grotesque faces instead. Finally, Tomoko believes that becoming a hostess will improve her social skills, and gets herself ready for the role by learning to light a lighter and mix drinks–only to find out that the red light district of Kabuki-cho isn’t so innocent and friendly.

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Thoughts

This episode is more subdued compared to last week’s extreme situations and raunchy humor, and it highlights one of Tomoko’s key problems: she thinks that a single big change, or a single personality shift, will solve all her problems. While some of this owes more to the structure of the gag-per-chapter original manga, it’s also a perennial temptation for many people who are stuck in bad situations: if only I had x, then I’d… What’s also interesting is that in two of the scenarios, they were both inspired by what Tomoko saw on TV: an anime and a talk show interview. As an otaku, media actually is very influential in Tomoko’s life, informing her fantasy life (hence the reference to AkiraHaruhi Suzumiya, and other shows) and what she considers solutions to her problems.

Her treatment of her brother Tomoki appears to be worsening. She seems to be in the habit of stealing his food and drink–ramen last week, his sports drink this time–and even her lame attempts to be nice usually end up backfiring. Tomoki reacts with predictable irritation and now puts her in a face lock. I remember watching my teenage cousins–also an older sister and younger brother pair–get along not much better, so this sort of interaction is based in reality, minus Tomoko’s doubtlessly anime-fueled attempts to get Tomoki to do things by saying “but it’s your sister…” (Welcome to a non sis-con world, otaku girl. It’s sad that this is actually refreshing in light of all the recent anime trends, but I’ll take what we can get.) I’m beginning to feel more pity for him now than ever before. Enduring someone like Tomoko on a daily basis would try anyone’s patience, and he’s starting to lose it.

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There are some bravura Oonuma directorial moves in this episode, though less on the spastic faces this time and more on the way the scenery moves. The sparer emotional mood, which depends less on outrageousness this time, actually feels somewhat sadder than before. I felt a pang of sympathy when Tomoko fell down at the Starbucks, spilling her terrible concoction of condimented coffee. On the other hand, her bad attitude toward Tomoki is getting less admirable by the episode, which is a reminder that as hapless as she is, she’s also incredibly self-absorbed. It exists alongside her painful self-consciousness and attempts to be someone she’s not, an effort which is always going to end in failure if one isn’t a fantastic actor or actress. The strain is too much. So many of us learned that the hard way in our teenage years. The cost of fitting in is often higher than can be paid.

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