Kyousougiga – 04

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Yep, still great.

I’m seriously starting to worry about Kyousogiga.  It’s not so much the show itself – although approaching the halfway point of a series that has a chance to be a masterpiece, there’s definitely a “Please, for the love of God don’t screw this up!” thing going on – but that I’m going to lapse into fawning over it.  I’ve watched a lot of anime over the years – too damn much if I’m to be honest about it – and I know something truly special when I see it.  Whatever that “it” factor is that separates the contenders for greatness from the pretenders is, this show has it.

How do you put together a great anime?  Well, while Kyousogiga undeniably has a highly unorthodox narrative structure, in truth its recipe couldn’t be simpler.  It’s build on three support pillars that are as fundamental as it gets – story, character and visuals.  If any one of these are exceptional, a series is notable.  If it gets two of them right, it’s generally one of the best of the season.  All three and you’re talking about historical importance in the medium, and Kyousogiga is meeting my threshold so far.

The visuals are the easiest to quantify in a sense, but it’s not so clear-cut as it may seem.  I’ve seen Kyousogiga’s visual brilliance dismissed based on the fact that Toei is a big studio, as if it were somehow a given that a studio having money means that they’ll budget it for an anime, and that the staff will be able to use it to great advantage if they do.  That for my money wholly misses the point – it’s like dismissing Hyouka’s Godly visuals because it’s Kyoto Animation.  Watch any decent amount of KyoAni and you’ll realize what makes Hyouka special isn’t the budget, but the vision – it’s a true work of art, a story told in pictures every week.  And Kyousogiga is the same: it’s not sakuga animation that makes this show arguably the most striking of the year (in truth I would guess the budget is actually not huge) but the seemingly endless levels of imagination and style that go into it.  It has a look that’s inspired by Carroll and Gainax yet is still singular and original, as with Hyouka telling a story of its own like a second dialogue track.

As for character, I think this is an area where Kyousogiga’s unusual structure works to its advantage.  As we experience this world through the eyes of the cast individually, we come to know them to a degree that’s not easily achieved with a traditional narrative flow.  In a way it’s almost a VN adaptation-style omnibus format, without the romance – the pairings are the character and the audience, and everything takes place simultaneously rather than in alternate routes.  This is why a character like Yase can become so engaging despite being probably the least sympathetic member of the cast.  Having seen her as others see her we’ve formed our own opinions based on theirs – but when we see Mirror Kyoto as she sees it and feel what she feels, we realize that there’s more to this strange creature than we realized – and more than we probably ever would in a traditional story with a main POV character and a supporting cast.

The plot of Kyousogiga has been a surprise to say the least, based on the fascinating but seemingly random nature of the ONA.  It was easy to see that the series was going to be interesting, but not that it was going to be so coherent.  It’s clear now that what looked like pure chaos was actually part of an intricately complex but – for now anyway – elegantly interconnected structure.  There’s still a breathless, exhilarating manic quality to the tone but for me, watching the series as opposed to the ONA is like watching The Magic Flute with subtitles rather than simply in German I mostly can’t understand.  I knew what I was seeing was beautiful, but now that I could make sense of the it the experience became altogether more profound.

The other major surprise that the series has delivered is in how emotionally profound it is.  Again, it’s coming to know the characters that makes all the difference.  Kyousogiga is much more sentimental and warm than I initially believed – as I said last week, I think it’s very much a family love story just as Uchouten Kazoku was.  Yase is, quite literally, an ogre – a terrifying figure that in essence is the epitome of selfishness and childish rage.  Yet what drives her, like what drives her siblings, is their love for their parents and their desire to be together with them again.  The Station Opening is an elegant example of the depth and complexity of this series: even in the most literal sense it’s insanely clever, a way to get rid of things in a world where nothing can be destroyed.  But Yase hates the Station Opening (which may be my favorite visual creation in anime this year) because she longs to hold onto her memories, which are the only thing that makes her happy.  Yet the more determined and cerebral Kurama created the Station Opening in the first place (I theorize) in order to try and establish a link with their parents and bring them back.  In point of fact, their mother’s existence in the first place is an act made possible through the power of love – and Mirror Kyoto was created by Inari because of his love for his family, especially in this case Kurama.

There’s a lot going on here – the Buddhist notion of letting go of the material is just barely below the surface of all this.  Each of the children deals with their situation in their way – Yase sulks and grieves for her parents, Kurama plots and schemes to get them back, Myoue embraces the mundane and the physical like the human he is and tries to act tougher than he is.  But they’re all driven by love, existing in a world that was created for love.  Every child’s birth is the result of an act of intimacy, but not necessarily love – in this mythology, things are a little more literal.  And every episode brings us a little piece of the whole truth – the hammer that can destroy things in a world where things can’t be destroyed, Myoue’s refusal to part with his prayer beads at any cost, the little rabbit Koto carries with her.  But the emotional truth is being built brick by brick at the same time, though Kurama’s gift of his own cup to replace the one Yase has lost, and her eventual expression of gratitude.  Both of these are constructions of great ambition and scope, but Kyousogiga gives every indication that the finished products will be both beautiful and structurally sound.

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  1. b

    And next week will be the expnasion of ONA 4….

    The true challenge for kyousogiga to be a masterpiece or horribly fail will be episode 5.5 onward. That's when they have to develop an episode from scratch instead expand an already existed ONA.

  2. A

    There were little things from the episode that I really enjoyed, like the inside of Yase's mansion, the whole concept of the station opening, and everything about the rabbit, but I think Yase's grief was either overplayed or kind of shallow. I don't know if it's just my anxiety to finish with the introductions and get to the conflict of the show, or the memory of how great episode 1 was building drama, but most of Yase's flashbacks came off as monotone to me. It makes sense in concept, but I don't think it was presented really well.

    Anyways, next episode is my absolute favorite of the ONAs, specially soundtrack-wise, so I'm actually hoping the didn't change much about the last couple minutes.

  3. R

    Same here…that was my favourite of the 5 ONAs, and the BGM was beautiful. Can't wait for the next episode to come.

  4. s

    Of all the anime's airing this fall season, Kyousogiga has been the show to me that exudes the most potential in becoming a great series and yet so far it has still just been good (although from what ive seen of the preview, it looks like my opinion of this series is going to be elevated even more in no time at all). Even so, im enjoying this on a far more cerebral level than any other show this season and that's definitely a great accomplishment in my opinion and which is why i expect so much from it.

    Having watched an enormous amount of anime i throughout the years, ive found that i can enjoy most anime, find a good amount of them to be well….good…a fair amount of them great, a few to be surperb, and only a handful that i consider masterpieces. Kyousogiga indeed has all the elements needed to be a truly great series and so far its handling its narrative with sublime dexterity that its has graceful caught my attention, sweeping underneath my subconscious before i even knew it. Kyousogiga may not be running on a huge budget (backgrounds are grainy and drawn with little detail, faces disappear on the fly, animations are repeated, a few in-betweens could use some work, and it doesnt have the flashiest of technical affects like blooming or whatnot) but the art does have ambition, popping with lucid colors, creating viusal flair through stylistic uses of shadowing and scene cuts and upping the animation when it needs to in order to give its viewers something to look in awe at. It’s not about the budget but how you use; the recent movie "Gravity" has a lower budget than the transformers or pirate of the Caribbean movies and it yet it is so much more technically superior; a beautiful piece of cinematography with a compelling narrative to boot.

    The narrative for Kyousogiga is still good and while I would have rather preferred a traditional narrative structure for a story like this about family, love, and rebirth, what i have seen so far definitely strikes confidence and tells me that this series knows exactly what it’s doing. I can see the advantage taking this segmented story-telling route gives for its characters (arguably its harder to do what this show has accomplished with its characters in such a short time with traditional story-telling; which is why i praise a narrative that can make you so absorbed with its characters with a traditional story telling style. There's something about leaving tibids of character info within certain areas of a narrative and watching them sequentially quantify and build up exponentially into a satisfying culmination of character development that i find so titillating) but its definitely no misstep. Lain's story-telling was completely avante-garde and non-traditional yet i find it to be one of the best anime, no best series ever made and my favorite anime.

    With this ep, Im coming to find Kurama to be more and more of a walking contradiction: he presents himself as a person who is in control of his emotions; very poise and detached from worldly things as in the practice of buddha, but he still holds on to his lingering sentiments; using the station as a way to rid the world of unneeded things, but all so he can connect with the things that he has yet to let go (I dont think he created the station as it seems that its always been around, even in their childhood. If anything, it was perhaps Inari who designed this as a way to fix certain problems that came with this perpetual world). There's a bit of resentment in Kurama, something that he probably sees as ambition towards his goals. He's got this systematic outlook on things and has this thought process that everything must have a rational and logical implication (such as his little quip about unneeded things being unable to break, therefore it lacks comprehension) but he has yet to see that his resentment and his pursuit of his goals is out of love and longing, desires he most likely feels he doesnt have because he's "the emotional strong one of the family).

  5. F

    You know, this series is a prime example of a series that is technically "smarter" in many ways and better done than anything else this season – and in a lot of ways, and I am very much aware of that and can appreciate it. But it lacks one crucial element for me, and that is the level to which it is able to engage me. In this regard Gingitsune and Golden Time, while both being not as well done are series I anticipate.

    It is purely on a personal interest level, and I agree that as a series it deserves more attention in general, but I find myself unable to get as invested in it as the other two above mentioned series. Interesting how that works sometimes, eh? ^^

    Must admit that I do appreciate the chara depth of Yase in this ep and Kurama in the previous ep, though. :-)

  6. Z

    I'm in the same boat. It's a series I feel I should like more than I do (at least so far). So far I haven't really been impressed by the characters background reveals (again, so far).

  7. F

    I actually liked the bg material of Yase as well as Kuruma. There are qualities about both of them in the pain of their loss of their parents that I can really relate to, and which ring very true to life for me. And yet still…. Ah well. :-)

  8. Z

    I see what you mean but I somehow expected more, especially from Yase. I was thinking is that it?

  9. t

    kyousogiga is indeed unusal in those 3 main terms: visuals, characters and story, and you described it well.
    but what makes all of it, is not noly in how unusal each feature is, but how they are combined together in a way each feature gets his own influence(in his very unique way you described) on the anime.
    that is to say, it's all connected and interacting in harmony.
    the visuals seems lively and colorful, fits themselves to the crazy stuff going on and the atmosphere. yet, let's not forget that the mirror world, even as lively as it seems, it is like a prison or trap-world for our MCs, some of them stuck in it too long. we saw that on our poor Yase. she misses her mom deeply.
    so the animation kinda comes in contrast to that feeling of the characters. what makes things interesting enough.
    the characters are also comes in contrast. first half of them are happy while the other half (who stuck for a long time) are simply indifference to the world.
    there is more – Yase who is a demon, is actually the most emotional, and Kurama who is supposed to be the calm and the "adult" is actually scheming something, and it probably would end up pretty bad for some other characters.

    I found it kinda weird for Yase "thanking" kurama. I really don't see what there is to thank for after all he has done. and it seems like she knows his future action will end up in a bad way..but that's just a guess.

    so there is a bit of everything in all matters, and they've mangaed so far to express it so well within the episodes.

    next ep is the POV of the monk (monk?priest?I don't see much difference in those terms somehow lol).
    it makes me wonder how the series gonna continue when we almost covered the POVs and there is still a long way to go (after all we are not even reach the half of the series).
    we'll see about that. it's the test for kyosogiga. not now..but later on.

    I hope we will get POV-episode for the 2 brats 😛

  10. F

    Fwiw both priests and monks dedicate themselves to a religious belief, but priests generally are involved in the rites or leading public worship whereas monks generally do not, focusing primarily on the inner aspects of becoming a religious adherent. They are not so much an either or as opposed to both dedicating tnemselvesto something and having their specialized areas of focus.

  11. Yes, don't tell a monk or a priest there's no difference, either Buddhist or Christian!

    I thought it was perfectly natural for Yase to thank Kurama, because he gave up something precious to try and give her a little peace. I think she knows he's more sentimental than he lets on, and she probably thought of those times from their childhood like when he found her bunny doll for her when she lost it.

  12. R

    Yes, that was the part I really liked. It's just a mug, but it's simple yet effective to show the bonds amongst siblings. The build-up of Kyousogiga is very subtle — it's bits and pieces layering on top of one another — and that effectively draws me in immensely.

  13. b

    "it makes me wonder how the series gonna continue when we almost covered the POVs and there is still a long way to go (after all we are not even reach the half of the series)."

    They even still don't use 10% of PV scene

  14. R

    Another nice write-up, Enzo. I'm still loving this show — it's definitely my favourite of the season. The seemingly disjointed narrative — which may put some viewers off — works perfectly for me. It does require more mental effort to weave the pieces together, but this is what draws me in. What I like the most is how the show has been consistently doing great at fleshing out the characters and making the emotion connections with its viewers — well, at least with me. It makes me feel like the story is driven by these characters — whom I have come to feel for — and their desire. I'm just happy to have the chance to appreciate all the imaginations, detailed thoughts, immense creativity, and love behind the creation of Kyousogiga as presented to us week by week.

  15. i

    I'm amazed you have so much to write about when it comes Kyousogiga. I just feel speechless after each episode, unable to search through my twenty+ years of vocabulary in a multitude of languages for the right words to express it well. I found it interesting and amusing that some people like KlK over Kyousogiga because one to me is crass, stupid perversity with no meaning beyond wetting adolescent pants while the other is chaos controlled in a world – Mirror Kyoto – that is being used to shape something profound. I think of a turbulent mix of water that appears haphazard at first but as I look closer I can see how it's more a coiled stream of fluid that has a complex but beautiful shape.

    Those Gatcha-thing and KlK are pale imitations of what profound insanity are, where they are just inane while Kyousogiga, Uchouten Kazoku (I still think Kyousogiga has some way to go before I like it as much as PA's masterpiece) and to a lesser extent Mawaru Penguindrum are genius. It's a thread thin difference but it's very distinct.

  16. p

    Your forgot to mention Shin Sekai Yori, which is probably the best out of all of the lot :p

  17. p

    Whilst White Album 2 is the favourite of the season based on my heart, Kyousogiga is the favourite of the season based on my mind. It has an absolutely fascinating world, engaging themes and some of the best visual imagery and imagination I have seen in recent years.

    2013 so far has been very good on the upper end of things. We had Shin Sekai Yori's 2nd half in Winter, Uchouten Kazoku and Watamote in the Summer and now Kyousogiga and White Album 2 (I haven't caught up on Samurai Flamenco, but I've been hearing a lot of praises) in the currently airing Fall. But it's captivating and intellectually stimulating series like SSY, UK and Kyousogiga that keeps me watching anime.

    The only thing I'm worried about is if this series can go the distance. Uchouten Kazoku started a bit slowly but by the end it was a magnificent and a lasting experience that I will remember for a very long time. Although I would say Kyousogiga has been slightly better and I've enjoyed it more in its 4 episodes compared to when Uchouten Kazoku aired its first 4 episodes, I'm not sure if the remaining episodes of Kyousogiga will be as good. I like series that start off slowly, build up and then finish with a strong or satisfactory impression, rather than have a stagnant middle.

  18. h

    I want to thank you for praising this show so much that I absolutely had to go back last week and rewatch the first three episodes. Ah! Now I get it! I'm still not ready to use the word "masterpiece" — like Flower, I still find my emotions not much engaged. And I'm not that interested in the "intellectual" aspect of things. But the aesthetics of this, from the drawing/animation to the movement of what I, for lack of a better word, will call the "plot," are remarkable. I feel emotionally a bit removed from the characters, but to see the way their natures and feelings are being portrayed is fascinating and rewarding.

    The opening of the station was a wonderful conceit, and wonderfully animated. Yase's transformations into ogre and back again were very strong, and this is the most I have ever enjoyed Kitamura Eri's work. It's a simple thing, but her all-black eyes, with the little glint in them, are simply great visual invention, conveying her inhuman nature at a glance.

    Up to this episode, I had little use for koto. As you know, I do not like violent little pills like her and Hikari (Nagi no Asukara). But her approach to Yase, and her assimilation to KoTo (if I can indicate it that way) started to get me on her side, and to help me feel some real emotion from this show.

  19. I'm very glad to hear it. Interestingly it's probably Koto I feel least connected to among all the major characters, but generally speaking I am just as engaged emotionally as I am intellectually.

  20. E

    I love the life and creativity breathed into the art in this show. When she went to go retrieve the cup that Kurama just threw in the sky, I felt a feeling swell up inside me that I could be in for the treat of watching her somehow fly up to grab it. It didn't happen but the fact that I thought it could happen is a testimony to the imagination the show radiates.

    And I love when plots overlap and connections are made between episodes. It shows the brilliance of the story. I mean it's obvious in hindsight but I can't believe I didn't realize that Koto had her teddy bear the entire time! The lightbulb flashed and I must say I was tricked till the end. Pleasantly surprised by the small things this anime does.

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