Based on the manga series by Matsumoto Youko, Yami no Matsuei is very bishounen in style. As a fan of the manga series, I was rather curious to see how the anime would turn out, especially given the concept of the afterlife being such a bureaucracy. Likewise, I really enjoy the art-style of the manga. As to how well it turned out in the anime, there is much to be said for and against pre-knowledge. Being familiar with the whole concept and storyline was decidedly useful and yet, at the same time, detracting from the viewing experience. Helpful because certain storyline aspects was easier to understand and I was already familiar with the various characters and their personalities; detracting because there's just a bit too much fan service present.
This first episode starts off with lots of attempted humour as it introduces the many characters whom we'll see more of as the series progresses. And I do mean attempted. While the scenes are humourous enough, they tend to come across as a bit too contrived and unnatural and serve little purpose. Indeed, the humour and gag aspects of the show so early on merely detracts and confuses the viewer, and may annoy some people as well. Perhaps because I'm familiar with the manga, these "humourous" aspects are in fact made worse simply because I don't expect the characters to interact the way they are so early in the series.
Even though we meet many of the primary characters of Jyuuou-cho in this first episode, most characters' roles are very minor. As a result, we really have no idea as to who they are beyond possibly catching a name and having a hint of an idea of their job or personality. The only characters we truly get a feel for in this first episode are Tsuzuki Asato (main character), Kurosaki Hisoka (his partner) and Gushoosin, one of the librarians. And while the voices themselves are decent matches for the characters, the voice acting is not up to normal Japanese standards. The voice actors seem to be unsure of their characters and sound that bit unnatural in delivery. Time will tell whether this will improve.
The story itself moves too quickly through this episode and doesn't develop the ideas surrounding the current situation sufficiently. Likewise, character reactions to situations do not make much sense to viewers as they try to get a feel not only for the characters they are being introduced to, but also to understand how they interact with one another and their relationships. Even though this confusing aspect does lessen with repeated viewing, the detracting aspects of the running gags makes it an annoying watch at best.
To make matters worse, the music is less than impressive. Sometimes mediocre scenes can be made more interesting thanks to a good musical score, however, this is one anime where the music fails miserably at its job. Not even really suiting the atmosphere of a scene, the music was sometimes annoying, other times unsuitable and at best nondescript. Likewise, most anime will have at least one solid theme song, yet both opening and closing songs for Yami Matsu were tolerable at best but otherwise painful. No one's going to win any music awards for the soundtrack in Yami Matsu that's for sure.
If there's a saving grace for this first episode, it's the animation. While clearly CGI, some of it is truly beautifully rendered, particularly the opening credits (until you enter the office area), and the summoning of Suzaku. Whether this will remain the case waits to be seen. More than anything, I think I'd like to see this in a computer game, but that's just me.
Personally, I'd say if they dumped the gags and concentrated more on developing the story, it would make a decent watch. As it is, things moved far too quickly to get a real feel for the story before it jumped right into the middle of things. Definitely not a good start to this anime, I'm not sure I really want to see how things continue. On the other hand, after repeated viewings, it starts to grow on you, sort of like a fungus.
- JYN, 2001.04.24