Kyousougiga – 02

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To watch Kyousogiga is to know instinctively that you’re in the presence of greatness.

This season’s is a big anime schedule, and there are a number of quality shows on it – some of which are only one episode into their run and thus, far too young to try and pass judgment on.  That said, there’s something different about Kyousogiga, a show that’s quite unlike any other on the schedule in far more than the obvious stylistic ways.  This is a show that has stature – if I were to try and summarize in one word what sets it apart from most anime, it would be “ambition”.  There are few series that aspire to be great, and the aspiration is by no means a guarantor of its fulfillment.  But I know this for sure – if a show doesn’t try to be great, it isn’t going to be.

Make no mistake, there’s nothing wrong with setting modest goals and achieving them brilliantly,  but while shows that shoot for the stars often crash and burn spectacularly, I always respect that they were willing to take the chance.  Mostly because it’s only due to those few that do make the effort that we have that rarest of all anime gems – a few per year if we’re lucky – a show that aims for greatness and achieves it.  It’s far too soon to know if Kyousogiga will be one of them, but based on what I’ve seen this Fall it’s the only new series that has a chance.

The care and passion that’s gone into this production is clear, even more so than in the spectacularly imaginative but uneven net animations that preceded it.  There’s no true name associated with the creation of the series (“Izumi Todou” being an amalgam of the Toei creative staff) but what seems obvious is that this is a grand and sweeping story, one that was crafted with a great deal of precision and planning.  Toei isn’t a major player in late-night TV anime but they’re a long-standing giant of Japanese animation, and they clearly have both the resources and the talent to bring this vision to life.

Before last week’s episode, effectively the premiere, it was reasonable to have doubts about whether all of the above was true to the extent necessary for Kyousogiga to make the transition from fascinating curiosity to full-fledged narrative triumph.  While the first two true episodes of the TV series have been largely extended versions of the Dainidan short ONAs that followed the original, it’s clear that this larger story was always in the works – as a series Kyousogiga for all its manic unpredictability plays as if it’s sprung onto the screen fully formed, without a drop of improvisation.  I feel as though I’m listening to the individual sections of an orchestra being layered one on top of the others – brass, strings, percussion – each riveting on their own, but only a taste of what the majesty will be like when they’re all brought together in a cohesive whole.

That recording studio “track by track” style is very much the narrative form Kyousigiga is taking, disdaining a linear narrative in order to tell the early parts of the story from the perspective of each of the major players.  Myoue’s perspective dominated the first episode, Koto (the girl) this one, Kurama the next – and presumably this will continue for the next few weeks as the seeds planted in the Dainidan eps are brought to fruition.  It’s a marvelous way to construct a story, but it can only work if the finished product has the structural integrity to support it – which we’ll only know, I suppose, when we get to the second half of the series.  For now it’s enough to appreciate that no element of the production is ordinary – not Shiina Gou’s soaring cinematic score, not the cinematography, nor the art direction or animation.  I can’t thing of a single scene or even single shot in Kyousigiga so far that hasn’t been interesting – the construction of each shot and the way they connect clearly a matter of exacting attention.

I really almost hate to talk about the specifics of the story, because on some level I think that sucks some of the magic out of the experience.  Suffice to say that it’s a massively complex undertaking, combining elements of Alice in Wonderland (I prefer the poem in Japanese to bad Engrish, even if the meter is wrong) with Buddhist themes and a whole lot that’s original.  I notice new things every week that make me wonder – like the OP shot featuring A and Um in human form standing in front of a white rabbit, followed by a shot of the black rabbit in the same place (were they split off from the original Koto’s consciousness?).  Or the way the flowers in the vase in Inari’s “cottage” change every time the new Koto walks past them (the scenes where she walks through the huge complex or rooms and hallways are some of the most brilliant in the series).  Or the way she keeps saying “I have a secret” until the very last scene of the episode – after her encounter with the black rabbit – when it changes to “We have a secret”.

I feel as though many things I instinctively guessed when I first saw then in the ONAs have come to pass, such as A and Um being Inari’s familiars and Inari and the original Myoue being the same person, though I don’t doubt that Kyousogiga is capable of a little misdirection.  Right or wrong my guesses might be, I’m quite confident now that the pieces are going to come together in a way that’s logical and probably even elegant, and that the human side of the series has the legs to keep up with the wildly imaginative story and visuals (the last two episodes have been some of the most emotionally engaging anime of the year).  To be honest I’m going to be very disappointed if this series doesn’t hold together the way I think it will, because all the pieces are in place for something truly special and the evidence suggests that nothing in its construction has been left to chance.  It just feels as if the folks at Toei set out from the beginning to make something great with Kyousogiga, and they’re not going to be satisfied with anything less.

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  1. p

    Haven't started this, but I've been hearing a lot of praises in the blogosphere. It seems to be labelled as the Uchoten Kazoku of the season.

  2. Only in the sense of being a very smart show that impresses visually and works in subtle ways. In terms of theme and structure it's much more an old Gainax series from 10-15 years ago.

  3. A

    Dude, thank you for mentioning Mawaru Penguindrum. I thought I was the only one who was reminded of that show.

  4. H

    A and Un are actually Koto's familiars, Inari's are the white and black ones you see early on in the episode (A and Un even look smaller here and more blobby which I thought was a nice touch). And this episode actually makes me sure now that Inari and Myoue 1.0 are the same person, in the ONAs I don't think we ever got a clear, full shot of Inari's face and the first Myoue had maybe a line or two, heck it was a surprise that there were a first and second Myoue. But the first new scenes in this episode have Koto pulling off Inari's mask and everyone gets a clear view, I don't think they're going for misdirection at this point especially since that connection gives the show even more mysteries than before.

  5. I'm aware of the slight visual differences, but I'm not convinced those familiars are different entities. I have my own theories on how that might have happened but I'll wait and see what pans out. In any event as I said, I almost don't care if my guesses are right as long as the ultimate puzzle comes together as artfully as I hope it does.

  6. s

    I agree that there is no misdirection being had; even the opening of each ep wants to remind us that this is a tale of love, life, and rebirth. My take on everything is that the love of myoe and Koto made it so by the will of (or not) by the gods, they'd always be together. It seems in this series there are multiple universes, as Koto mentioned in episode one when she said bodhivista can see the beginning and the end of all possible universes. The love of myoe and Koto was so strong that it transcended universes, allowing for them to be reborn again and again. This time, in an alternate universe, the rabbit is reborn as the child Koto and Myoe is now her sensei, But in this scenario, they are still together as their hearts wished, even if this rendition is not entirely romantic. My guess is from here on out the series will explore how the main characters dealt with the disappearance of Myoe and Koto, the seemingly serene yet sullen world of mirror kyoto, and how the idea of rebirth and multiple universes play into this. If this series stays character focused while being relevant to the plot, ill be sold on it. I enjoyed ep 1 more than 2 (got annoyed at some points) and im still reserved on whether this series will become profound..right now its just good teetering on great.

  7. k

    Inari's probably the reincarnation of the first Myoe, but I don't think Koto is a reincarnation of Lady Koto. Lady Koto is the black rabbit, which is still there in the picture. If the tv series keeps the same plot of the ONA, Koto might be able to give Lady Koto a human body at the end of the series.

    I agree there's probably no misdirection. Koto calls Inari "dad," and I think it's because she knows he's her real, biological father. Koto also says she wants to meet her mother some day, and I think she knows, somehow, that her mother is the person whom Inari calls "Koto" in his sleep.

  8. D

    I think the flowers in Inari's house are there to represent a bit of reality. The yellow flowers (yes, yellow flowers, I'm not good with the names) show that Koto was awake whilst the purple ones were there when Koto was dreaming. The entire sequence with the black rabbit leading Koto on was a dream, though obviously not meaningless.

    "Life is but a dream."

  9. k

    I don't think that scene was a dream. I think it was a flashback. Remember what Hachiman said after his fight with Koto? He said that Koto was a crybaby weakling in the past, but one day she suddenly changed and became badass. Well, I think this scene is a flashback that shows us why she changed: when Koto discovered that Inari was really her father and that there was another Koto who was a black rabbit and probably her mother, she decided to become stronger so that her father would be proud of her and she could meet her mother one day.

  10. L


    Everyone's been saying it's a dream, but I like the idea that we're seeing Koto change—I never really thought about what Hachiman said (actually, I totally missed that line), but I think you're spot on there.

  11. s

    My thing with kyousogiga is that my only drive for watching this series so far is to try to decipher what the plot may be.Visually, this show is exuberant and appeasing to the eyes but i dont quite feel an attachment to this show just yet. I usually love nonsensical shows that usually have depth under all that eccentricity, but to me, kyousogiga hasnt quite executed that properly. As of right now, it seems like its trying too hard to be perplexing and that is turning me off a bit; plus im not that invested in the characters yet but perhaps and hopefully that will improve with future eps. This is a good series, but not quite great or excellent in any way just yet except visually.

  12. K

    This greatness you speak of is true. I am awe all over with this show.


  13. F

    Finally able to get around to watching this, and I have o admit it is quite good. Greatness though? Not for me personally, but still, very well done.

  14. i

    I didn't expect that this year let alone within the next few years that there would be an anime to match Uchouten Kazoku. I guess that's the wonderful thing about the medium, it constantly surprises even those that have followed it for years.

    It might be early but it is clear that Kyousogiga hits more of the right buttons than any show this season. Its interesting watching it and Kill la Kill in tandem as you can see that superficially they have some similarities but their hooks are completely different. Fanservice (so far only) for one and a highly unique and compelling tale for the other.

    A lot of people liked that anime with that girl called Hajime because it was thematic of something. Well I think Kyousogiga is thematic of something without being preachy or annoying. It combines intelligence with entertainment and fantasy with reality in the same perfect mix of Uchouten Kazoku. No doubt I really want to feel the magic of Kyoto myself now.

  15. L

    Uchouten Kazoku and Kyousougiga—they're both very subtly poetic series (in the same vein as classic renga) that usually get passed over for things that are easier to understand, like Kill la Kill (which is more like the comedic/vulgar haikai). All of them are damn good within their respective genres, but I'd say the UK and Kyou-type are a lot harder to pull off well. And, the fact that they're (as you say) hitting the right buttons is one of the best results a fan could ask for.

    Hajime? That's probably Gatchaman, right? I only know a lot of people watched it for the bubbly, airy atmosphere. It sorta draws out a smile, yeah?

  16. R

    Oh Enzo, this is such a passionately written post, and I love your opening, "To watch Kyousogiga is to know instinctively that you're in the presence of greatness."

    I was wow'd by Kyousogiga last week, and now I think I have fallen in love. I love that this episodes continues to build on the mini-episodes — which I have liked better than the original ONA — and I love that the creators put so much priority in the characters in the beginning of the story. The unconventional storytelling actually works with me — it adds to the subtlety and allows me to piece things together. Every shot is filled with love, and every line is written with care.

    I think the experience of being hooked early on is the same as that of Uchouten. You can see the intention and feel the love of making a great show, and you can tell that the creators just focus on pouring in every imagination and passion that they have in the story and the characters — as simply as that. How can I not fall in love with such passion?

    Like Uchouten, this show also "happens" in Kyoto. This is quite an interesting coincidence. Perhaps the magic of Kyoto inspires people and unlocks their imagination to go wild, and that magic touches the viewers and makes them fall in love with anything Kyoto… For whatever it is, I'm just thrilled to see Kyousogiga come right after Uchouten because, to me, shows like Uchouten and Kyousogiga truly paint the shinning future of anime.

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