The Fall 2021 Preview Guide
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window ?
What is this?
The story follows a book store owner who sees supernatural happenings through a triangle window. He begins working together with an exorcist to solve mysteries.
How was the first episode?
I like to think I'm pretty laid back when it comes to consuming anime—or reviewing it for that matter. Even when I watch a “bad” anime, I can usually find something interesting about it—something it does that is novel or well-executed despite its other failures. Even with a show that bores me, I can see why it would appeal to others even if I'm not the target. Thus, I don't tend to have strong negative reactions to anime. I simply watch it and move on with my life.
That said, I would have turned The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window off five minutes in if I weren't being paid to write my impressions about it.
It's not the BL aspect that puts me off. Sure, as a straight male, there's no titillation to be found in the genre for me, but a good love story is a good love story—regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters. What made me want to shut the thing off is just how incredibly rapey Rihito comes off as.
Not only is every word that comes out of his mouth dripping with sexual innuendo, but the act of exorcism is very plainly likened to that of an orgasm as well. So if we strip away the supernatural aspects, what basically happens is that Rihito just walks up to Mikado in a bookstore, shoves a hand down his pants, and forcibly jacks him off. He then treats everything like it's okay because it felt good.
I mean, looking at it that way, Rihito is just a sexual predator who uses Mikado's fear and trauma to groom him into accepting his repeated sexual assaults as something normal. That's fucked up. I have no interest in watching such a despicable, irredeemable character. I value my limited time on this planet too much to waste my time with that.
Now, all that aside, the back half of the episode is a bit more interesting once the murder mystery part gets started. The idea of two psychics teaming up—one who can see the dead and one who can hear the dead—is a cool concept. One being the mentor and the other being the newbie (i.e., viewer proxy) is likewise a solid place to start. I also liked the idea that there is something big Rihito isn't telling Mikado which adds a bit of suspense into their relationship.
But in the end, none of that can save the show. Perhaps those who are into BL and have a rape fetish will enjoy this one but as for me, I am out.
Given the season, it's not surprising that ghosts and other spookies are in the air, and The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is the second premiere in this day alone that concerns a protagonist that has been cursed with the ability to see the spirits of the dead walking about Japan. What's truly shocking is that Tricornered Window is somehow even hornier than Mieruko-chan, though in this case all of the sexual subtext is thrust upon our protagonist Mikado's partnership with Hiyakawa, the would-be exorcist and ghost hunter.
I'm sorry, did I say subtext? Silly me—the only thing that is “sub” in Tricornered Window is Mikado's role in the very sexual dynamic between him and Hiyakawa. Sure, the penetration that Hiyakawa is performing concerns Mikado's soul, instead of any of the usual orifices, but we all know what's going on here. Whenever Hiyakawa penetrates Mikado's core, it is framed exactly like a sex scene, from how the characters are positioned to the dialogue that Hiyakawa whispers in Mikado's ear (“I'm entering you”, “It feels good for me too”, etc). Mikado even explicitly points out that these exorcism sessions leave him feeling lustful and physically spent, and that's before Hiyakawa starts biting Mikado's back from behind while he's bent over a bathtub.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, the overtly homoerotic elements of our protagonists' ghost-hunting work isn't something that bothers me. If anything, my problem is that the show isn't lewd enough. Now, I'm a straight guy, so most of my ability to appreciate guy-on-guy action comes purely from the abstract; I can only guess at whether or not it is doing the job of turning on its intended audience. To me, though, the sloppy direction and lackluster animation sapped all of the premiere's pseudo-sex scenes of any of their erotic energy. There was none of the weight, substance, or texture to Mikado and Hiyakwa's physicality that I usually associate with good anime sex scenes (because that's what the exorcism scenes are, at the end of the day). All of the arched backs and love bites come across as awkward, rather than being appropriately steamy.
Maybe that's merely a limitation of my own personal perspective, though; what really kills this show's sexiness is the utter lack of chemistry between the two leads. We barely get thirty seconds' worth of introduction for Mikado before Hiyakawa comes in and starts taking his soul from the rear, so there's no real sense of who he is and what kind of dynamic he'll have with Hiyakawa, who for his part is just mysterious and vaguely threatening. It makes all of the blunt sexual innuendo feel forced and lame, when it should feel like the playful banter of two dudes who are getting it on, body and soul.
All too often, when a straight guy starts complaining about male characters being involved in an unabashedly sexual relationship, it's because of blatant homophobia, and I hope it's clear that I'm not about any of that. The fact is that, with such cheap-looking visuals and a story that doesn't really go anywhere particularly interesting, the homoerotic angle is about the only thing that Tricornered Window has going for it…and just I don't think it's very sexy at all.
The most damning thing I can say about The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is that while it has effectively made me want to read the manga, I have absolutely zero desire to watch another episode. I wonder if Tomoko Yamashita, who wrote the original manga, feels insulted by what they've done with her work, robbing it of all personality and chemistry.
It takes a special level of incompetence to so badly fuck up what is, by my understanding, a well-regarded manga with a solid premise. Mikado can see ghosts, distinguishing them from the living by taking off his glasses to see if their edges remain sharp while everything else goes blurry. He catches the notice of a blonde man named Hiyakawa, who can fight ghosts but can't see them. Hiyakawa combines their powers by touching their souls together, which basically feels like orgasming, as Mikado learns the first time they meet. It seems like more or less a gimme that even if it weren't well-written, it would be at least a little bit of a fun, sexy time for us, right?
Alas, I have never seen something try so hard to be sexy and turn out so utterly sexless. How did things go so wrong?
As far as I can tell… everything. From top to bottom, pun retroactively intended.
A sense of life is essential to eroticism, and the animation in Tricornered Window is as stiff and lifeless as they come. Most of the time characters stand stock-still while their mouths waggle open and closed; when Mikado and Hiyakawa cling together, they look more like posed mannequins than people with bones and muscles and beating hearts. The adapted character designs are quite unattractive, with Mikado looking like an old lady in cardigans and granny glasses, while Hiyakawa looks kind of like a low-budget BL version of internet sex symbol Reigen Arataka. I'm also positive I've encountered the exact idea of a partnership between a person who can see ghosts but can't fight them, and a person who can fight ghosts but can't see them before, though I can't put my finger on it. The chemistry is what's supposed to set this apart, but instead I'm wracking my brain trying to remember what the other thing is. (Please, if you know what I'm talking about, tell me in the forum. It's torturing me.)
The script tries, but it's constantly betrayed by the visuals. The innuendos the characters drop about “entering” and “pulling out” would be goofy in any case, but with such weak visual direction, they're just awkward instead of cheeky. Meanwhile, it shies away from any actual discussion of sex or sense that Bargain-Bin Reigen and Granny Mikado have a relationship that could develop beyond professional.
It always hurts to see a terrible execution of a good idea, and The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is exactly that. I'll definitely be using the money I'm making from writing this to buy the manga, at least.
Woah there Tricornered Window, hold your horses. Yes, I like me some horror. Yes, I'm open to mixing that horror with some eroticism, and I'm also open to seeing some handsome dudes do that mixing together. But you've gotta take things slow, let it progress organically, and at least buy me dinner before you drop multiple scenes of our heroes soul-cumming to exorcise ghosts, capiche?
That's more or less my biggest issue with this premiere. While its premise is certainly out there, I actually kind of respect how blatant and shameless this episode is about its...is euphemism the right word? Like the guys aren't physically orgasming, but everything about how the act of our two leads touching souls is displayed makes the subtext into regular text. Saying this isn't sex is like saying “soaking” doesn't count (note: do not google that term if you value your sanity). But for that concept to work as something beyond a punchline at its own expense, you need to actually build up chemistry and rapport between Mikado and Hiyakawa, and there's just no room for that here. This premiere runs full pelt what feels like a full volume's worth of setup and payoff in record time, and there are a lot of seams showing from what's been cut. Multiple bits of exposition are glossed over, including some likely vital character moments, and we essentially speedrun our leads becoming a ghost-hunting team, making for an introduction that just isn't compelling.
It doesn't help that the animation is largely functional at best. There's a distinct lack of energy in the direction or staging of anything meant to be horrifying, leaving the supernatural elements of the premise feeling totally weightless. It's especially unfortunate considering I watched this right after Mieruko-chan, a show that, for all its faults, managed to nail the otherworldly terror of its spirits. Compared to that premiere, it's hard to take Mikado's fear of dull-faced regular people with a green filter seriously. That's pretty much the nail in the coffin there, honestly. If this show can't make the spectral aspects of its core premise engaging, then all that's left is a pair of underdeveloped guys fisting each other's souls, and that's just not enough to keep me around.
I hadn't forgotten how much innuendo there is in the first part of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window, but it certainly is striking. When compared with later parts of the source manga, it definitely stands out as the author trying to figure out how the story is going to be told, and here it feels as if playing up the BL angle is intended to bring our two protagonists closer together as they form what is on Mikado's part a fairly reluctant partnership. It's hard to blame him – Mikado can see ghosts, and often the only way he can tell them apart from the living is to take off his glasses. Even with his poor eyesight, he can still see the deceased perfectly clearly, which, as someone with poor eyesight myself, I can testify would just add to the terror. So when a random fellow named Hiyakawa who claims to be an exorcist comes up and basically conscripts Mikado to be his new work partner, it's easy to understand why Mikado would be more than a little reluctant.
Even if you discount the whole “touching souls feels really good” angle, which clearly freaks Mikado out a bit, especially since he doesn't have a physical reaction to the very sexual feelings, Hiyakawa definitely comes on strong. He's very keen on getting in Mikado's personal space and touching him (soul-wise and just plain old physically), and that plus his occasionally odd speech make Mikado both uncertain of the other man and uncomfortable. All Hiyakawa will say is that he was never “very chatty,” but that doesn't explain his apparent lack of other social skills. He can be charming and persuasive (to people who aren't Mikado), but there's a real sense that something is very off about him. Is it just his job as an exorcist? Or is there something more going on here?
Even though there's a supernatural mystery going on, as well as a regular old police mystery, it's the question of Hiyakawa and what his deal is that's really striking about the episode. He's eager to back up his own abilities (hearing the dead and being about to “clobber” them, an unfortunate word choice perhaps intended to convey his awkward speech) with Mikado's sight, but there seems to be something beyond just a desire to be better at his job at play. His exclamations when he meets Mikado about “fated partners” and “destiny” speak of a different wish, one that may well be sexual or romantic but could also simply be for someone who can understand him and his line of work. Hiyakawa's charm looks to be surface-level only, something that Hanzawa, his police connection, seems aware of. Does Hiyakawa think that Mikado has other things that he lacks beyond the ability to see ghosts?
While the animation is a bit stiff and Hanzawa's character design didn't translate particularly well from the manga, this is still off to a good start. If the innuendo turns you off but you like the supernatural angle – or the delightfully evil introduction of Hiura Erika – give this a few more episodes, because in the manga that does tone down, and the story is the kind of creepy that Halloween was made for.
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