Within the anime world, there exists a disappointingly large genre gap, especially in recent years: that of a good murder mystery. Thankfully, Gosick has ventured forward to help fill that gap, and it does so with the confidence and aplomb of a good detective.
The show takes place in the fictional European nation of Saubure, a country where superstition is a way of life. The many frightful tales whispered between the students at the prestigious St. Marguerite Academy serve as an anchor point for the mysteries that unfold in the series. Our hero, Kujo Kazuya, is a Japanese exchange student at this school for the elite, and himself the recipient of an ominous title from one such legend: The Dark Reaper, thanks to his dark hair and untimely arrival.
His counterpart, the doll-like Victorique de Blois, nicknamed The Golden Fairy by many (and The Gray Wolf by others – a great allusion to her ostracized and estranged status with her family), is also similar to another, real-world fairy tale. She is like the hapless golden-haired Rapunzel, locked and isolated in her tower until a prince – the third son of a Japanese imperial soldier, actually – comes to free her from her boredom and loneliness, guided by a strand of her shimmering hair.
As unlikely a pair Victorique and Kazuya may be at first, they are an excellent analog to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, even going so far as to show Victorique placing a ceramic pipe between her lips as she prepares to reveal the secret to a mystery she has just solved, while Kazuya is the brave and capable companion whom she relies on greatly – her Watson. She also shares in Holmes’ eccentricity and non-existent humility towards her vast intellect.
However, the way that Victorique solves mysteries is perhaps closer to that of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or later Hercule Poirot stories. Holmes’ style of detective work is much more geared towards finding clues and gathering information in order to piece together the events of the story. Miss Marple and latter Poirot investigations tend to delve more into the human psyche, which is where one of Victorique’s greatest strengths lies. She is able to pick out subtle nuances in human behavior and use those to identify important clues.
Victorique also possesses a fount of knowledge from her voracious consumption of reading material in her library of solitude. This puts her in a similar league to Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown, who utilizes his vast, encyclopedic knowledge to solve mysteries. Victorique uses such knowledge, as well as an eclectic collection of experiences – such as knowing the difference in flavors between a recent vintage wine and a more aged brew – as part of her mystery-solving repertoire. This coupled with her extensive attention to detail and inhuman memory makes for an incredible investigative arsenal.
Finally, there is a seemingly supernatural twist to Victorique’s incredible problem-solving abilities, which she refers to as the Wellspring of Wisdom. This enigmatic Wellspring is apparently the source of her incredible insight, allowing her to make seemingly unrelated leaps of deduction that defies logic. With this ability, Victorique can instantly solve mysteries simply from the information brought to her second hand.
Gosick is more than just a mystery; it’s also about the characters. Both Victorique and Kazuya have a fascinating depth to their characters that make them very interesting to watch.
Kazuya is quite capable as an academic, as he had to pass difficult exams to be selected as an exchange student to St. Marguerite’s Academy; and as a hand-to-hand combatant, as he had fought his father and older brothers in a dojo shown in flashbacks. However, he’s emotionally vulnerable to advances from the opposite sex, perhaps due to naiveté, and his smaller size leaves him physically weak against larger opponents – he has trouble fighting against adults. He’s in a foreign country and actively avoided by the other students, and this has an obvious emotional impact on him, which leaves him to cherish his relationship with Victorique even early on.
On the other hand, despite her amazing abilities, Victorique has been kept in isolation for so long that she has no idea how to deal with people. She is, by definition, every bit the tsundere character, displaying outward hostility and superiority over Kazuya, but inwardly treasuring her time with him. Even the simple, everyday occurrences of the outside world are new to her, so she faces each new experience with childlike wonder. And though she faces each threat with stalwart grace, she reveals her vulnerabilities to Kazuya with little hesitation.
There is a certain dynamic to these two vastly different personalities that make their interactions fun to watch and, at times, more interesting than the mysteries themselves.
There are also stylistic choices in presentation that make Gosick worthy of watching. Bones (Eureka Seven, Ouran Host Club), the animation studio responsible for Gosick’s production, manages to bring vivid color even to a world composed mostly of blacks and grays in 1924 Saubure. Fashion and technology seems to mix in about 20 years’ worth of development between the Victorian era and the Roaring 20s. Victorique and Kazuya’s choice of clothing seem to illustrate this best, though the apparent wooden façade of the Queen Berry and the carriage that they ride in also provide some clues. It’s an interesting mix that makes the differences between Kazuya and Victorique more remarkable.
Gosick is broken up into mini-arcs, which really helps to build up a mystery and even allows an episode to end on a particularly nail-biting cliffhanger. This is a great storytelling format for mysteries, which allows the show to introduce the characters, instigate the mysterious incident, build the story to a climax, and bring about closure at a good pace. The only drawback is the wait time between episodes!
The show seems to promise more interesting stories to come, based on the opening credits montage. Speaking of the credits, both the OP and ED songs are quite catchy. I’m especially enamored by Lisa Komine’s deep alto voice in her rendition of Resuscitated Hope, the ED song, but all said and told, that’s just the icing on the cake.
Whenever I read a commentary on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s popularity, the typical answer includes reasons why Haruhi is revered and why she shouldn’t be. She is often characterized as a cute but bossy girl with a take-no-prisoners approach to the high school experience. She does what she wants and doesn’t ask for your approval, yielding only to Kyon and only on occasion. Mostly tsun tsun with just a hint of dere dere.
Yet I believe that something deeper underlies this devotional wave. Haruhi is divine but hardly benevolent; she acts as though the world revolves around her because it literally does. She’s capricious and selfish, overbearing at times, capable of jealousy, insecurity but also kindness. In short, she behaves like many gods do.
The catch is that she isn’t consciously aware that her emotions cause reality to fray. Haruhi’s power to remake the world may grant her wishes but it has paradoxically left her utterly alone as the nexus of creation. Out of her solitude is born the SOS Brigade, her attempt to interact with others. This loneliness is the fountainhead of her behaviors, achingly palpable in the series and makes her relatable to a wide audience.
She’s a god, but like everyone else Haruhi longs to connect. She does so with the only person whose self she leaves (mostly) untouched: Kyon. He is a normal human but as the only human Haruhi reaches out to, he is extraordinary. Viewers who have someone like Haruhi in their lives will see themselves in Kyon’s sighs and reluctant participation in her myriad schemes. He is endearingly blasé about his importance to the world’s continued existence, but Kyon gives voice to the audience’s thoughts and through him the series is accessible and grounded.
Since she lives her life on her own terms, Haruhi is an escapist fantasy for all viewers who wish to be more like her. She is the antithesis of the sweet, accommodating, and generally docile female type common in a great deal of anime series. Not only does she get away with this behavior, she finds acceptance from the other members of her brigade. Even Kyon is susceptible to her playfulness and forms a bond with Haruhi that keeps viewers tuned in while providing an overarching dramatic thread for the story.
Since the series rarely deviates from the activities of everyday life, viewers can begin to believe that they each possess the internal will necessary to change their realities as Haruhi does. Beyond the referential humor and crackling dialogue, the universality of loneliness, a yearning for acceptance and the hope that our personal key to empowerment is within us make The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya unique and essential viewing.
Many times when a series is widely known or created, it is due to the particular vision of an author. The author firmly establishes a concrete world with its own rules of nature and solidifies it with a memorable cast of characters with clearly defined motives and a fairly linear story. Fans everywhere are welcomed into this new world and taken along for the ride, and while they are prone to diverge into their own fantasies as to how the story should work it they are ultimately bound by exactly what is given to them. Such is the way with just about every successful anime and videogame series that most of us are familiar with.
However, imagine if there was a media franchise that had a large cast of memorable characters and a fantasy setting, but little else to tie everything together. And then imagine that instead of using a single publisher to distribute this series, you instead use the power of the internet to directly link it to the fans. And then let’s suppose your devoted fanbase uses the power of the internet to strengthen the community to such an extent that “fanon” has become just as widely known, if not more so, than whatever loose cannon the series has decided upon.
In the world of Nico Nico Douga and possibly the rest of the otaku community, what I have described is known as the Touhou Project. Though it is unknown to most of the world at large and even considered underground to most anime fans, those who have at least dabbled into the wonderful world of Gensokyo will never forget it.
The mastermind behind the entire Touhou franchise is an individual known as ZUN. The idea of the series began with his desire to create games that he would like to play. One of his first ideas was a game about shrine maidens, since this was a kind of game that was lacking at the time. This, coupled with his love for the shooter Darius Gaiden, was the birth of the concept for Touhou. When he attended Tokyo Denki University, he created the first five Touhou games under the video game development club Amusement Makers. When he left to create his own one-man game company, he took Touhou with him and proceeded to refine it into the game that people all across the internet would revel in. By 2002, the first Touhou game available for Windows was released and history was made. Since then, it has become a fan favorite amongst Japanese indie gamers everywhere.
As mentioned before the Touhou Project games are mostly top-down shooters, but not just any ordinary shooter. Rather than a fairly straightforward shoot’em up this game series is known as a danmaku game, which literally means “fire curtain” in English; though a better term for this kind of a game is what fans call “bullet hell”. Not content with merely shooting in your general direction, enemies will unleash elaborate patterns of bullets that fill the screen to such an extent that players are more likely to concentrate on finding a safe spot on the screen rather than shooting down all enemies. The bosses for each level are especially notable for having beautiful but insanely difficult bullet patterns that are nearly impossible to figure out on the first try. For those who really feel like challenging the game, Touhou even offers bonus points to players brave enough to allow a bullet to pass through their sprite while avoid the collision box. It is this kind of insane difficulty that draws in a lot of gaming fans, and every Touhou game since then have been known to ramp up the challenge with new characters and new boss patterns. To get through the game on normal mode is one thing, but to get through the game on lunatic mode is bound to test even the most experienced gamers’ reflexes.
In addition to its insanely difficult game play, Touhou has received acclaim for its unique character designs and its memorable soundtrack. Though ZUN is by no means a professional artist and his characters fit a general theme of “cute girls in frilly dresses”, every single one of them has a very distinct design and personality. The sheer breath of characters to choose from can range anywhere between shrine maidens, goddesses, celestials, witches, demons, youkai, cat girls, bunny girls, ghosts, and just about anything else in between. In addition to their unique looks, ZUN had also composed an entire soundtrack for each of these games, taking care to give every character their own theme. Show any fan a picture of any given character from Touhou or play any song and I guarantee that it can be easily identified and attributed to anyone in the large cast.
Speaking of the fandom, this is what I feel is the driving force of the entire phenomenon. While ZUN himself is content with focusing on the games, the large community of fans has taken it upon themselves to form their own doujin groups to pay homage to Touhou Project. In fact, it seems more likely that the growth of the Touhou fanbase is not because of widespread distribution of the game itself, but rather the almost endless amount of music videos, memes, manga, and various other material that are able to attract those who may not be interested in playing a round of “bullet hell”. The fact that so much is left up to the imagination of the players contributes greatly to the now developing fanon that’s steadily growing within the ranks. For example, who would ever guess that a failed ASCII picture of Marisa Kirasame telling Reimu Hakurei to “Take it easy” would lead to the creation of Yukkuris, blob-like creatures that resemble the super deformed heads of the citizens of Gensokyo. Or that the once stoic and aloof Alice Margatroid would be considered by most of the fans to be a sensitive girl seeking Marisa’s affection? Bits and pieces of the fandom’s humor also manage to blur the line between canon and fanon, which contributes to the unique culture that the Touhou fandom has created amongst itself. It may take new fans a while to understand the implications of the word “PAD”, why anyone would steal someone else’s precious thing, or why armpits cause such riotous laughter, but when they do they’ll be in for a truly unique community that spans throughout the world.
While it may seem that Touhou Project is nothing more than just an overhyped underground video game, the impact that this series has amongst the anime fanbase cannot be denied. More and more cons are starting to see cosplayers sporting outfits from the citizens of Gensokyo as the gatherings for such cosplayers continue to grow. In Japan, Touhou doujin circles are popping all around Comiket to further expand the world of Gensokyo. There is even a convention dedicated solely to Touhou known as the Hakurei Shrine Reitaisei which started in 2004 and featured a total of 114 doujin circles participating in the festivities.
On the musical side of the spectrum, one only needs to look up the name IYOSYS, the doujin group responsible for most of the flash-based music videos featuring remixes of ZUN’s soundtracks. Cool and Create are also notable among the Touhou music lovers for performing live versions of Touhou songs, with a full audience of fans singing along. This isn’t even including the endless number of other musical covers that any given Nico Nico Douga user or Youtuber would be able to post up. In fact, next to Idolm@ster and Vocaloid, Touhou is one of the most searched videos in all of Nico Nico Douga. Not bad for an indie shooting game, is it?
What I have just explained right here is only the tip of the iceberg for a media franchise with humble beginnings and a highly dedicated fanbase. ZUN could have never imagined that his personal pet project would’ve exploded into such a phenomenon enjoyed by people all over the world. And though the fanbase outside of Japan is relatively tiny, the ranks are slowly growing as more Touhou material is released, including an original animation that could easily be a professional production. Nobody knows what new materials will arise in the years to come, but it will certainly be a blast to see.
Battle ensues between Aizen and Ichigo. His nineties-level Kido attack easily deflected, Aizen further evolves to best Ichigo. But Ichigo, now fully aware of why Tensa Zangetsu was reluctant to teach him the Final Getsugatensho, has come to possess amazing powers.
Ryuji attends a society party as a breaker where he runs into a mysterious young girl and gets to see Rose in a dress. However, the wolf girl Odd Eye appears at the party to steal Lost Preciouses! Ryuji barely manages to fend off Ai's attack. Why did she attack? Why does she oppose the society? A new foe closes in on Ryuji!
Every day, we try to bring you one great deal on anime/gaming merchandise. We negotiate and work directly with merchants for deep discounts. When you buy, it's handled directly through CR. You will be supporting a site you trust, and we pass even bigger savings onto you!
Over the past week, we've released some amazing products that appeals to the sensibilities of any anime fan looking to fill his/her collection.
We've featured great products like a 1-Year Subscription to Otaku USA:
Ruroni Kenshin Figure Set:
Death Note Bookends:
And many more! We try and keep the deals as fresh as possible, so keep your eyes open for the next great deal to hit before you miss it! For more information, check it out here
Did you know in FLCL, Haruko is seen wearing a bunny suit and flying on her guitar to face a giant monster. This is a direct reference to one of Gainax's earliest films, the animated intro to DAICON IV