Starting the story in what seems to be either a video game or a military simulation, viewers are literally dropped in the middle of the story. Left to one's own devices, it's up to the viewer to determine what's happening, what the story is about, where things are coming from and where they will go from here. However, not all is so straight forward, and the inklings of the story that are revealed and the way they are revealed hint at the direction and the way the story will unfold.
It is the direction that is so very important to this episode. If not for the strong direction, viewers would very quickly lose interest at the slow story development and the concentration on events which have no clear purpose. Combined with the strong hints of background story, viewers are left in the dark about so much. But, it is the hints of a much greater story and the flashback scenes of the previous ritual that act as very strong lures for keeping viewers intrigued.
Since information is revealed so very slowly and deliberately, younger viewers or those who are expecting an action packed feature may get bored with this episode and series. However, those people with the staying power to go through the story at the director's pace are in for a treat. So many hints of what happened in the past, yet so little information, it can be very frustrating at times! Many questions arise within the first half of the episode and yet when they will be answered remains a mystery.
Eight years. So often mentioned yet so very little information. The strong direction and the hints of story to come are not the only things which work to keep viewers attention. The soundtrack is also very strong at enhancing the overall atmosphere of the episode. With about half the episode devoted to the gasara mai, this episode draws heavily on traditional Japanese Noh dance and music. For viewers, this could be rather offputting or intriguing depending on their musical tastes. I have to admit, the more I watch the series in general, the more I enjoy the music. I wonder how the soundtrack will be on its own. The opening and closing themes are somewhat unusual in that they are not your typical J-pop boppy musical themes. But then, that wouldn't suit the overall mood of the feature. Rather they are much more minor in tone. The opening is a touch annoying in that parts are somewhat flat at times. Listening to the CD for the closing theme, it becomes so very clear how important voice can be in comparison to the harmony.
The animation is also quite nice and is very effective in portraying the scene at hand. From "static" in the picture due to poor signals and picture feeds, to some good detail in the characters themselves, the animation can be both rich as well as stark depending on the scene. My only peeve would be the opening scenes to this episode which has a certain "video game" feel to them. I couldn't determine initially if this was a game or some other form of simulation until the dialogue clarified matters.
And it is the dialogue and the background newsflashes which will provide so much of the information to be gleaned as the story progresses. From newscasters reading their stories to the various members of the Gowa clan, the Japanese seiyuu do a great job at portraying their characters. I have to admit, the hints of story, characters and their personalities and relationships, the music, animation and direction have me firmly entranced. And while I haven't been tempted to do a major Gasaraki fest per se, the story does make a strong impression.
So many questions and so few answers. This will never make action of the year and may well not become one of the more popular titles. The demands it places on viewer attention span and the deliberacy through which it slowly reveals information will easily lose many viewers. Yet, it has an incredibly suspenseful story for those who enjoy dramatic, suspenses.
- JYN, 2001.06.22