I think I might be starting to understand the new trend in anime. Coming from a generation that adored western-influenced, action-oriented shows, some of the more recent fare seems to be a bit less focused on alpha males and fantastical worlds, and a bit more on buxom girls and cute situational comedy. Not that I really mind, but it takes a bit of getting used to.
This newfound appreciation has led me to sample a pair of shows this season that exhibit a good deal of reliance on cute girls, skintight outfits and semi-serious stories. Both feature ordinary boys (and girls in one case) paired up with paranormal entities who guide and prod at them. Both mix humor and seriousness and both are quite entertaining, at least at first glance.
Tasogare Otome X Amnesia (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia) is another entry into the ghost hunting genre that has had a few notable titles over the years. Drawing parallels to series like Ghost Hunt, it follows the exploits of Teiichi Niiya and the Paranormal Investigation Club at Seikyou Private Academy, a school with both a long history, and its fair share of ghostly encounters. The Paranormal Club, the brainchild of one Yuuko Kanoe and comprised of two other female members, prowls the school after classes, seeking proof of these ghosts or to debunk some of the more outlandish sightings. The twist here is that many of these sightings are actually the result of Yuuko, who it herself a ghost with no memory. She impresses her feelings upon Niiya (in a truly humorous sequence in the pilot) who offers to help her unlock her lost memories, in exchange for assistance of some sort (still working that out myself).
Unlike Ghost Hunt, Dusk Maiden is definitely more lighthearted. The character interactions, in particular those involving young Okonogi, the one student in the Club who cannot see Yuuko, are set up using suspense but end up being comical, a welcome break from the occasional monotony of a ghost hunting show. A good example would be the aforementioned pilot sequence, where Okonogi is pouring over her notes, blissfully oblivious to the supernatural happenings around her at the time, again a result of Yuuko “messing with her,” then fawning over the supposed psychic abilities of Niiya as he converses with the invisible woman. The character design is nothing out of the ordinary, though I did notice that Yuuko bears a slight resemblance to Hitagi Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari in appearance as well as actions. The setting is atmospheric and creepy, especially the lesser used buildings on the grounds, and lends itself very well to the storytelling. All in all, this show has caught my attention and has merited at least a few more episodes of my time.
But Dusk Maiden is downright drama when compared to the second series I’ve chosen to sample this season. Haiyore! Nyarlko-san (The Crawling Darkness Nyarlko), a companion to 2011’s Haiyore! Nyaruani: Remember My Love(Craft), centers around the exploits and amorous intentions of a “Nyarlathotepian” from outer space who comes to Earth to defend young Mahiro Yasaka. Despite being inherently formless, Nyarlko, as she prefers to be called, takes the shape of a silver haired girl and immediately begins thrusting her intentions on the beleaguered boy, while devouring “Earth entertainment, the best in the universe” and doing battle with chaotic hell-spawns that the real HP Lovecraft would have undoubtedly approved. Despite the serious nature of both the source material and (ostensibly) the plot, the show is anything but.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos will have a field day spotting all the obvious references here. And how they are often completely subverted into puns and jokes. Cola of Cthulhu? R’lyeh Direct Ferry Dagon? A roller coaster called Madness Mountain? There are so many of these, it almost put me off the show. And not just references to Lovecraft, but also to other anime and genres. Kamen Rider? Check- Nyarlko turns into a sentai in episode 2. Pokemon, check- she throws a pokeball containing a cuddly Charizard-like monster in the pilot. Hentai? Check- remove the strategically placed bubble and clouds in the book shop, and it would be overflowing. Haiyore! Nyarlko refuses to take itself seriously, which hit me initially as a turnoff, but slowly became appealing over time. Viewers with an appreciation for sarcasm will find something to love (or groan over), and the show’s pacing is swift enough to hold attention without becoming too much of a drag. I’m just waiting for the introduction of “Chibi-thulu” to make my experience complete.
As it stands currently, I am enjoying both shows, and am looking forward to more. They have enough promise from first impressions, though neither could be mistaken for genre-defining or life-altering. They’re entertainment, plain and simple, but solid entertainment. So far, so good.