Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, May 30th 2012
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Episodes 1-6 Streaming
There is a legend at Seikyo Academy – the ghost of a former student named “Yuuko-san” haunts the old wing of the school. But all schools have these stories, right? That doesn't mean that there is any truth to them...or so Teiichi Niiya thinks, at least until he meets Yuuko-san herself. Yuuko doesn't know how or why she died, but she is thrilled that someone exists who can see her. Together she and Teiichi decide to solve the mystery of her death and those things that she can't remember...or doesn't want to.
School Ghost Stories may be a dime a dozen in Japanese pop culture. As such, for one to make an impression it needs to somehow stand out from the pack – it could be hilariously awful, astoundingly good, or simply put the old tale in a new skin. Dusk maiden of Amnesia follows that last trajectory. It definitely retreads some familiar ground (why do so many Japanese schools have abandoned wings/buildings?), but it does so in an interesting and fairly artistic way, giving the story an appeal that its plot alone might otherwise lack.
The story follows Teiichi Niiya, a first year student at private Seikyo Academy. The school is vast, incorporating an old, decrepit wing that has plainly been ignored for a good long time. The newer parts of the school have been built around it, as is clearly shown in episode four, which suggests that perhaps school officials were trying to trap a malevolent spirit so that it could not escape, an actual tactic used a few times in history. One day Teiichi encounters Yuuko Kanoe, a beautiful girl who turns out to be the fabled school ghost. Yuuko died sometime in the fifties or sixties and doesn't really remember how or why. Teiichi, who is one of the few who can actually see and touch her, decides to help her solve the mystery of her death. This has echoes of other Ghost Stories, perhaps most clearly the 1950 American film “D.O.A.” Likewise many of the supernatural occurrences over these six episodes will be familiar to fans of the genre, such as the mysterious gravestone or the cursing rock. It is not, however, the actual events and devices that make this story interesting, but rather how they are carried out. A good example of this would be Kirie Konoe, an older student who joins Teiichi and Yuuko in their Paranormal Investigations club. Like Teiichi, Kirie can see Yuuko, but the ghost she sees is a far cry from the very human one that we view through Teiichi's eyes. Kirie sees Yuuko as she expects to. Teiichi has no preconceived notions of her, and so simply sees her as she is, or at least as she sees herself. This is an interesting concept, and one which the show makes good use of in episode 5 when the club hosts a haunted house.
Seeing itself is a large part of any anime experience, and Dusk maiden of Amnesia does its best to keep your eyes busy. The art style changes frequently, flashing from normal to faces distorted by fear to Japanese woodcut or papercraft style illustrations, making excellent use of the contrast between light and dark. Silent film style is also employed to good effect, particularly in episode six, which has a distinct feeling of psychological horror to it. Another nice touch is the fact that Yuuko wears the older school uniform from her day and it does look both different and more old fashioned than the ones worn by Momose and Kirie. That unfortunately makes her bathing suit appearance a bit unnerving, as she is shown in a contemporary bikini. While there is nothing wrong with the fanservice this provides, it is a jolt in that she has been wearing period appropriate garments previously.
There is a decent amount of fanservice in the show as a whole, with Yuuko on several occasions getting very physical with Teiichi. On one level, this could be seen as dragging the show down, but if we look at it from a character perspective, it makes a certain amount of sense. After all, we have been given to understand that Yuuko has been deprived of any and all human contact for most of the years since her death. Now she has met someone who can see, hear, and feel her. Why wouldn't she crave human contact after so long of doing without?
One of the few sour notes in this show is the fourth main cast member, Momose Okonogi. Momose is supposed to be the amusing, cute character, but during her time on screen, she sucks all of the suspense and tension, not to mention the vague air of melancholy, out of the story. While her antics as the sole member of the club unable to see Yuuko are entertaining at times, for the most part she serves as an unwanted sweetener.
On the whole, Dusk maiden of Amnesia is greater than the sum of its parts. With a primarily dark color scheme that makes skin seem to glow and any bursts of red stand out, a haunting ending theme, and some nice storytelling and animation tricks, this show should appeal to fans of Ghost Stories in particular and the supernatural in general. Each episode has its own tricks and treats, as well as hints about Yuuko's past and death, making it a game to see how they build on each other. Dusk maiden of Amnesia is fascinating, and while it won't keep you up nights, it most certainly will keep you interested in learning the truth.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Episodes build subtly upon each other, good variations on a theme.
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