Kami-Memo goes out pretty much as it existed – in that vast, featureless middle zone between really worthwhile and truly mediocre. While it sometimes ventured into either extreme, taken as a whole it was as average as it gets – and I’d say pretty much the same for the ending.
This show has a definite metaphysical bent to it, and there’s no question that was applied to the whole Angel Fix scenario in the end. It’s an interesting notion, this idea that the only way you’ll be able to see the dealers is if you’re on the drug. But as presented it never really took on an air of believability, never rising above the level of interesting gimmick. Likewise interesting was the depiction of Narumi while under the influence. You don’t often see the actual effects of hallucinogenics portrayed in anime from the POV of the user, as it’s obviously highly risky territory. Angel Fix definitely seems like some bad shit – bruises under the eyes, ultra-heightened perception, chemical and psychological dependency – but just exactly how this drug caused it’s users to have the same sort of quasi-religious experience was never really explained. Again, an interesting gimmick but no more.
Equally troubling for me was the notion of basing the entire ending around a character who was virtually absent for almost the entire series. Again, this was the very first major arc in the novels and I really think it might have made more sense if the anime had followed suit, despite the obvious risks to opening with such a story. All of the stuff that happened with Ayaka and her brother was muted emotionally, because there just wasn’t much connection to the character. I liked Ayaka from what little I’d seen of her, but that was so little that it was hard to feel the full weight of her tragedy. It was like hearing about something bad happening to a friend of a friend, rather than someone who was a friend herself – you feel badly, but the emotional impact just isn’t the same.
As for the end itself, I can’t say there were any huge surprises. Ayaka did wake up, if only for a few seconds at the very end. Narumi did get a chance to finally let out some of his pent-up testosterone by beating up on Toshi after the dealers’ den was discovered. The fact that Ayaka had jumped while under the influence of the drug that Hakamizaka had forced her to take was no surprise, though there was a somewhat elegiac moment when Alice reasoned out that she’d actually jumped so that the roof would be closed off during the culture festival, and the private sanctuary she’d built with Narumi could remain theirs alone. It’s pretty preposterous, but I could see someone under the influence of a serious hallucinogen convincing herself that it was worth it.
My overall take is that this is a show that likely didn’t have enough good material for 12 episodes. If they did have enough, JC Staff made some poor choices in what to adapt – because only the first arc, the Renji arc to a lesser extent the concluding one really made much of an impact. For most of it’s run this show was simply boring for me – not unlikeable or infuriating or even bad – just average. If ever a studio existed that was matched to a series, this is it. I started out noting similarities to Gosick, Durarara and Eden of the East and I think those were present, especially Durarara. But Kami-Memo never generated the spark that those shows did. Alice never quite emerged from the prop stage and became a real character, and too few of the rest of the cast established any identity of their own.
Narumi did grow as a lead, changing from the passive punching bad he was at the start of things to a young man with real opinions and a willingness to express them. It took too long (largely, I suspect, because this Angel Fix arc was used too late) but at least it happened. In the end he, Renji and to a lesser extent Min really stood out in three dimensions for me – everyone else was just a prop, even Alice. And Rin was always a bit player apart from one episode, while Renji was absent for 3/4 of the series. That’s a real problem and I think contributes to why so much of the series felt like it lacked any real weight. I also took issue with the hedging of bets regarding The Fourth and his yakuza gang. Only rarely was the dark side of their existence presented in the anime – mostly they were a sanitized, cuddly gang of criminals used for purposes of advancing the plot.
In the end, Kami-Memo is a show I’ll forget pretty quickly. That’s a shame in that I thought it had the capacity for some moments of real transcendence – some of the words Alice uttered in the two-part premiere were some of the most interesting dialogue I’ve seen in an anime this year, and I do think the notion of detectives as speakers for the dead is an interesting one. But mostly, that never really bore fruit and we were left with a distressingly conventional final result. I think it’s fair to say this about JC Staff: they’re probably capable of taking good source material and making a solid adaptation, but they’re totally unable to raise mediocre material up into something better. I think this series would have made a very interesting and captivating OVA if you’d distilled the best bits of it, but there just wasn’t enough there for a notable series.