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 crush 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.