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Mysterious Disappearances
Episodes 1-2

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Mysterious Disappearances ?
Community score: 3.8

How would you rate episode 2 of
Mysterious Disappearances ?
Community score: 3.8


You can never go back. That's a truth that Sumireko is struggling with across both of these episodes; a successful teenage novelist, she hasn't been able to replicate her success as an adult, and that's taken a real toll on her mental health. Although this is laid out in episode one, it's episode two that really looks at it with more nuance – the opening scenes show the feedback she received from editors as a teen and as an adult, with the former lauding her emotional maturity and thematic work while the latter rips both of those things apart. What a fifteen-year-old is expected to be able to do is very different from what a twenty-eight-year-old is, after all, and what was mature for one is immature for the other. Sumireko seems to think that if she could return to being her teen self, she could once again be a good author, but that's all in her head.

Or at least, it is until she stumbles across a Curiosity. Curiosities are books with strange supernatural powers, and the one Sumireko finds is the earliest anthology of Japanese poetry, the Man'youshu from the Nara period (710-794 C.E.), and reciting one of the poems contained therein allows her body to regress to childhood. But the important detail here is that it's just her body: internally, she's still approaching thirty. But since her problem is all in her head anyway (although we could argue that it's also a manifestation of the worship of youth in society), simply looking younger is enough for her to feel like she can write well again. And really, that's the problem with internalized issues, because if they're “in your head,” there's no easy way to reach in and take them out. This isn't Locke & Key, after all.

What does all of this have to do with siblings Ren and Oto? Right now that's an open question. Ren works with Sumireko at a bookshop while Oto attends a prestigious girls' middle school straight out of a Class S yuri story, and both of them are decidedly not of this world. When Sumireko is possessed by the Man'youshu, Ren is the one to help her and free her of at least part of its curse, and that brings her into their strange inner circle. Ren and Oto can see the warning signs that a Curiosity has taken a victim, but they don't appear to be hunting Curiosities because that's their job. Instead, Ren wants to return Oto to Yami (meaning “darkness”) and the Curiosities appear to be the currency needed to buy the ticket. I said in the Preview Guide that this reminds me a bit of the middle-grade horror series Horror Collector. While that's a little less marked in episode two, the relationship between the siblings still feels that way. They and Sumireko look to be the linking elements of this anthology-style horror story, but at least Ren and Oto's motivations are unclear.

Also interesting is the fact that neither Ren nor Oto appear to be able to use the power of Curiosities. Sumireko, because she was cursed by one, can now recite a poem from Man'youshu and change her physical age, which is how she ends up helping with a second case of Curiosity possession involving the 1822 novel Senkyo Ibun, a Japanese classic work exploring tengu and the phenomenon of being spirited away. The novel is the likely culprit behind mysterious vanishings at Oto's school, and since Ren can't infiltrate himself, he sends Sumireko instead, much to Oto's disgust. Although Sumireko is thrilled to be reliving her youth (or at least experiencing her S Class fantasies), it's clear that something is off about this picture-perfect place. As Sumireko notes, the students' assertion that there's no bullying in a school that comprises both middle and high school feels odd. When you add a teacher seemingly obsessed with finding bullies lurking in classrooms, the pieces start to come together. Like Sumireko, the teacher is busy trying to live out her lost dreams. In her case, she wants to be the ultimate ally teacher, the one who stands up for the victims and becomes everyone's emotional support system. It's just as unhealthy a fantasy as Sumireko's desire to return to her youth and likely just as fed by society's random whims. But where Sumireko was only harming herself, this woman is hurting others, and that cannot stand.

Why Sumireko nearly died because of her transformation in episode one and has no problems in episode two is a glaring issue, although not as distracting as the show's insistence on cheesecake shots; the camera always starts above the knee and below the neck when a woman is the focus, and that feels unnecessary. There are also copious bodily fluids across these episodes – blood and saliva – that may gross some viewers out (the spit got me), but those feel more important to the story than the fanservice. Despite these issues, this is fascinating. I love the use of classic literature to drive the story, especially how it relies on interpretations of the texts rather than their obvious plots. I wasn't sure I would enjoy this after episode one, but it's safe to say that I'm hooked now and looking forward to finding out what happens next.


Mysterious Disappearances is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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