Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Gosick: The Complete Series
BD+DVD - Part Two
As the political situation heats up in Saubure, actions from the past begin to resurface to haunt Victorique and Kazuya in the present. Both of them find themselves caught in a trap of the Marquis de Blois' making as his true purpose in fathering Victorique on Cordelia Gallo of the mythical Grey Wolves becomes clear. Victorique's brother, meanwhile, is torn between loyalty to his father and his feelings for his half-sister as racial tensions build in a world careening towards a second world war.
If historical accuracy is important to you, the second half of the otherwise good Gosick may annoy you unduly. This is largely because the show decides to move the timeline of WWII up for its own reasons, starting the war in 1925 and ending it in 1929, which means it not only begins before the Nazis actually rose to power (1933), but also ends ten years before the actual official start of the hostilities. Granted, France and Belgium did occupy a section of Germany between 1923 and 1925 (known as the Occupation of the Ruhr), but that's clearly not what the show is making allusion to. To be perfectly honest, I can see no reason for this to have been done, and given the general lack of proper 1920s costuming, the story would perhaps have worked better in the pre-WWI era, which would still have allowed the creators to use similar themes and tied in just as well with Victorique's Holmesian traits, if not better. Regretfully, the series also makes it difficult to ignore the 1920s setting, as frequent mention is made of the dates onscreen.
That persnickety detail aside, the story itself definitely heats up in this second half. With Victorique and Kazuya wobbling on the verge of admitting their feelings for each other, there's a more personal stake in the machinations of the Marquis de Blois as well as the well-being of the nation of Saubure. We've known for a while that the Marquis' plan was to use Victorique as a weapon of sorts as the war looms on the horizon, but for the first time we get a fuller sense of what ends he was willing to go to in order to “procure” her. It turns out that the statement that Victorique's mother was his “mistress” is a gross exaggeration – it would be far more accurate to call her a survivor of his brutality, because there's a very strong implication that he kidnapped and raped her in order to impregnate a Grey Wolf with his child. That he doesn't see this as a crime is both a sign of his depravity and one of his inability to see people different from himself as people, a running theme in this half of the series. To the Marquis, Victorique and Cordelia are simply tools that he is using, perhaps even less human than a hunting dog would be. His status as a nobleman and a man allows him to use them as he sees fit, tormenting them for his own benefit and expecting his son to feel the same. That Gréville does not is a vote in his favor – he does still clearly fall for some of his father's ploys (or perhaps is too afraid of the Marquis to defy him too openly), but he ultimately will err on the side of kindness if he can. There's also a comparison to be made between the Marquis and the king of Saubure, Rupert, whose treatment of his French queen Cocoa Rose mirrors some of the Marquis' sentiments about other races, while also providing an interesting parallel to Marie-Antoinette's relationship with the French nobles of the late 18th century. (It's worth noting that the Saubure palace bears no small resemblance to the palaces of that same time period.)
As the story moves closer to World War Two, the racial tensions within the plot show a marked increase. Kazuya is much more remarked upon as an “Oriental” (the dub's use of the now-pejorative term is at first jarring but does work) and early episodes in the set touch on the European colonization of African nations, while later ones deal with interracial romances and the lack of acceptance for them at the time. This heavy material is handled relatively well without getting too political or overt. While it might have been nice to see a bit more done with it, as all of it is central to some of Victorique's mysteries, that it is touched upon at all is fairly remarkable. The mysteries themselves are largely based in the idea that the story takes place during the between-the-wars period, and there's less emphasis on them as interpersonal tensions rise, which feels like it may be due at least in part to the sheer volume of source material being squeezed into twenty-four episodes. While this half feels less rushed in general than the first, there's still a clear sense of things being condensed to fit the episode requirements.
Despite some of these issues, the show is still enjoyable, albeit much darker than its first half. There are some fun references to pop culture of the time, such as a “detective versus illusionist” showdown (a popular literary conceit of the Golden Age of Mystery) and a train-set murder mystery, a plotline immortalized by Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express although used by a variety of period authors. Characters' behavior at the theatre is also a shout-out to how people acted at live shows of the time, and Cordelia's tenure as a dancer at a Folies Bergère-style dance hall is also a great detail. The dub continues strong as well, with Aphia Yu doing a particularly good job as Victorique as the emotions run higher, even if no one in English can properly pronounce the name “Blois.”
Gosick manages to pull itself along despite glaring historical inaccuracies with a strong storyline and characters. As things get dark for Victorique and Kazuya it's easy to become invested in their continued well-being, and the looming shadow of war is well-used despite the sped-up timeline. There are episodes where the animation is definitely lacking, but on the whole this is a strong story that comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Beautiful and disturbing imagery, strong performances, and a story that builds well
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