The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
The Girl in Twilight
How would you rate episode 1 of
Girl in Twilight ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Going in, all I really knew about Girl in Twilight was that it was based on a concept by Kotaro Uchikoshi, the writer of the Zero Escape games (and Punch Line, if we're sticking to anime). Based on my experience with Punch Line, my only expectation was that we'd be getting some sort of puzzlebox-style story, where the overt narrative concept is a great part of the appeal. But having watched this episode, I was happy to be impressed not by the narrative form, but by the convincing nature of all its many small moments. I'm not quite sure where Girl in Twilight will go yet, but this episode's writing is definitely confident enough to keep me intrigued.
Girl in Twilight's greatest strength is definitely its grace of dialogue and characterization. Our introduction to Asuka and her four high school friends felt convincingly scripted the whole way through, and the group bounced off each other in ways that naturally illustrated both their personalities and their mutual bonds. Though members of the group did roughly fit to natural archetypes like “the quiet one” and “the naive proper lady,” the way their conversations developed felt natural enough that I was genuinely invested in their mundane everyday life, even before the main plot started. And Asuka herself is a very strong lead, moving beyond “airheaded and energetic” to demonstrate a clear sense of humor, passion for her hobbies, underhanded side, and a quiet intelligence intentionally masked by her bubbly affect.
As for the actual story, I also appreciated that this episode didn't bury us in exposition, and focused on firmly establishing and humanizing its cast before tossing us into some fantasy adventure. Though I was initially disappointed to see the show switch to CG for its big fight scene, the choreography of that battle sold the choice. This isn't Land of the Lustrous-tier choreography, but it strives for the same sort of spinning aerial ballets, creating dynamic fights that would be nearly impossible in traditional animation. The show actually told a little story across its fight, with moments like other-Asuka eventually learning to target her enemy's roots coming through clearly even without dialogue.
Girl in Twilight doesn't have the strongest visual identity so far, and outside of its dialogue and Asuka specifically, its storytelling is mostly just functional. Still, a strong grasp on character writing is one of the best tools a new show can possess, and Asuka has already demonstrated herself to be a heroine worth following. Girl in Twilight could certainly go in some fairly conventional directions from here, but this premiere demonstrates promise in a variety of ways. If the premise sounds interesting to you, definitely give it a shot.
The Girl in the Twilight immediately had my attention by combining two anime staples that I've come to love: Highschool friends nerding out in an oddly specific club, and paranormal research. The end result wasn't quite as charming or intriguing as I would have hoped, but there's a lot to like in this premiere all the same.
From the get go, I was down with the concept Radio Research society, and I enjoyed getting to know Asuka, Yu, Mia, Nana, and Chloe over the course of the episode's first half. The pacing in these opening ten minutes feels a bit sleepy at times, and the script might have benefitted from some zippier dialogue and humor, but the general aura of small-town friends trying to indulge their hobbies and pass the time felt familiar and enjoyable. The episode switches gears about halfway through, though, when Asuka's perseverance pays off, and the girls really do get flung into another dimension. That's when the club encounters the strangely described “yellow snow demons”, and they're saved by a sword-wielding young woman who bears a striking resemblance to Asuka.
Despite the otherwise middling animation and direction picking up a bit here ( the CG used during the monster fight was surprisingly decent), this second half is actually where The Girl in Twilight started to lose me. Despite experiencing a reality altering adventure, the club seems to mostly shrug off what just happened to them, even as they carry Asuka's unconscious doppelganger to Asuka's house to rest and heal up. Honestly, I was a bit distracted by the way everyone in the show, including Asuka herself, handled the presence of a character who literally looks identical to our lead heroine, save for her slightly deeper voice and longer hair (she's even wearing an identical hair bow!). Though at the end of the episode Asuka Prime reveals that she suspected that Asuka 02 was herself from another reality, the script spends the preceding ten minutes pretending like it's maybe-sort-of-possibly a twist, and I can't for the life of me imagine why. It makes Asuka Prime seem incredibly dense, and it deflates a lot of the mystery surrounding the pair's shared experiences and diverging histories.
We end the premiere with a glimpse at another alternate version of a character – a sinister looking Yu sits perched in a treetop as she watches Asuka 02 make her way back to her own world. Even though this premiere lacks the energy and novelty I would like to see in a new fantasy/science-fiction series, I will admit that I'm intrigued to see where this show goes from here. I think the next few episodes are worth a look, to see if The Girl in Twilight can mine more of the potential from its premise and deliver a truly engaging story to last the fall season.
Hard to remember the last time that a season started with such a strong push; out of the first four titles to come up for the season, this is the third one which stands a good chance of making my watch list for the season.
The concept here is an interesting variation on a classic superhero comic scenario: a person meets their doppelganger from an alternate world and all kinds of issues ensue from this. In this case the Asuka from the twilight world seems well aware of this potential, and it sounds like she might have encountered other versions of herself, but the one from the world that is the primary setting for this series isn't quite as sharp on the uptake. Her friends say they look alike, and she notices it herself in a bath scene, but not until she sees a locket the other Asuka left behind which has a picture of her own (I'm presuming) missing little brother does she start to make the connection. But hey, every ensemble cast needs a stupid character, right? And doesn't it generally work best if the stupid character is the protagonist?
That aside, we don't have enough details yet about this twilight world that they get to by using some fairly old tech, but I'm going to guess it's one of those “space between the dimensions” deals. That offers up some interesting possibilities; will we see other Asukas, or just this one? She's quite the action heroine, too, with some nifty moves that give the series an unexpected serious action potential, but just as importantly, it provides an opportunity for the main character to see what she might have become had she gone down a different path. The angle of the silly, urban legend-grade ritual actually working also creates some enticing irony. On the downside, the rest of the ensemble around the main Asuka is just a very typical array of standard girl-group personality archetypes, so the writing has some work to do to make any of them interesting enough to care much about.
But that's fine; I'm willing to give this one some time because the technical merits are also mostly solid. There were a couple of places in the first episode where the artistic quality slipped enough to be concerning, but on the whole the character designs are attractive, backgrounds are sharp, the action scenes have a lot of movement, and the animation in general isn't bad, with nice touches of fanservice. Basically, this isn't a knock-your-socks-off kind of debut, but it's just good and intriguing enough to merit a mild recommendation.
This is one of those premieres that throws a lot of questions at the audience without providing anything close to an answer. This can be a good way to establish some early intrigue, but it also makes for a somewhat frustrating viewing experience since we're not given any context for what we've just seen. Without that context, the appeal of The Girl in Twilight currently rests entirely on its character dynamics and the basic core of its premise. Whether or not that's enough for the show to find an audience is up for debate.
The girls of the radio club fall pretty neatly into stock character archetypes, with Asuka serving as the energetic center of the group. I'm a little curious about how this particular quintet was assembled, since not all of them seem like they'd hang out with one another of their own volition. Yu and Nana in particular appear to be polar opposites, and Chole doesn't come across as a “group activities” person at all. While most of this could just be character development for another day, I'm a little surprised that we don't get more of an explanation as far as their 4:44 ritual is concerned. We learn that the goal is to make a connection with other worlds, I wish we'd been given some indication of why any of these girls would want to do that in the first place (aside from the obvious answer that there wouldn't be a story if they didn't). At the moment, I'm in a weird middle ground where I neither like nor dislike any of these characters.
The trip to the alternate world features some striking visuals, along with some that aren't so impressive. The color palette of the world is pretty eye-catching, but the CG fight scene is a disappointment. The 3D character models are just way too conspicuous for their own good, and it's usually not a good sign when a show's first action sequence lands with a deafening “meh.” It also would've been nice to get something out of Asuka's alter-ego besides a handful of cryptic lines and an obligatory warning to leave and never come back. I do kind of like the killer snow rabbits, though. Their transition from cute to evil isn't as scary as it probably should be, but that sudden contrast is at least amusing.
The episode improves a little once Asuka and her alternate self get some time alone to talk. It's interesting to see the mix of similarities and differences between their personalities, and it looks like both of them are carrying some significant emotional baggage. If there are parallel versions of the other club members waiting in the wings, then I can see The Girl in Twilight doing some clever things with the idea of getting to know yourself. That's a theme worth exploring, especially in a coming of age story. As it stands, this episode is just intriguing enough to merit sticking around for a week or two, if only to find out what the heck is going on.
I can't help but think that whoever decided that yellow snow in the twilight world our heroines travel to was a good idea doesn't live someplace snowy. It's a silly detail to fixate on, perhaps, but from the moment the girls said the admittedly adorable bunny monsters in the parallel world looked specifically like “snow” rabbits and then Chloe noticed the yellow falling from the sky accumulating on her palm like snow, I was taken right out of the story. Trust me, yellow is the one color of snow you definitely want to avoid, not start cuddling with.
I mention this here because it feels symptomatic of some of the issues with this introductory episode to what is an original anime with a smartphone game tie-in: it's trying very hard to be interesting and quirky but can't quite figure out how to achieve either of those things naturally. The idea of the girls trying to open the door to another world at precisely 4:44 pm ties in well with similar superstitions popular when I was a teenager – specifically that a wish made when all the numbers on a clock are the same will come true if you don't look back at the clock until they've changed – and I like the use of radio waves as a method. But the overemphasis on cassette tapes and (specifically) Sony Walkman players feels like a cheap nostalgia shot, and our-world Asuka's adoration of chikuwa similarly seems like a too-cute quirk. The other girls also feel like very set types thus far, and while it would definitely be outside the scope of a first episode to give everyone a full introduction, theirs still feel sparse.
On the plus side, the quick switch from adorable to pure evil with the bunny monsters is nicely done, and the contrasts between the two Asukas really does work, from Other Asuka figuring out precisely what's going on and trying not to involve Asuka to the little hints she drops about it having been a long time since she slept in a warm bed or eaten well. The mystery of their mutually missing (dead?) little brother is also being set up in an intriguing way, especially since there may be some implication that there's only one little brother between both Asukas – and that he somehow switched worlds and may perhaps be off in a third. I also like that the story thus far really does appear to be set in the early 1990s when CDs and cassettes coexisted – I didn't spot any more modern technology, which would have made the girls' fixation with radio and the Walkman feel too self-conscious.
I'm not quite intrigued enough to say that I'll definitely be giving this a second episode, but it does seem like it will be worth catching up with further down the line. If it can get past its too-obvious attempts to stand out, the story itself may make this worthwhile all on its own.
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