Ghost Stories Part 2

This is the second of two reviews of anime ghost stories. The first was posted last Wednesday.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (黄昏乙女×アムネジア — the first two kanji translate as yellow-dark, AKA twilight, the last two as second-place young girl, which for some reason emphasizes her purity, so maiden, rather than just girl; the X tends to be used as with in the anime titles I’ve seen (although at least one other was translated of), and Amnesia is in katakana, so it’s the English loan word. Her name is Kanoe Yuuko, and she’s a ghost. She died in the school 60 years ago, and cannot remember her former life or the circumstances of her death. She understands happiness (and maybe a little jealousy), but not loneliness or hate or anger, and there’s only two people who can see her.

The essence of the whole program is set up in episode 1, which opens with Okonogi Momoe, the chronologically oldest but emotionally youngest and most enthusiastic of the members of the Paranormal Investigation Club sitting down to write her report. Meanwhile, her teacup gets moved, her purse charm dangles in front of her face, and her report pages fly up and are shuffled by unseen hands. She manages to be looking in the wrong direction every time, and remains oblivious.

Is he sharing deep secrets with the dead?

Late arrivals to the club meeting are Niiya Teiichi (our male protagonist), and Kanoe Kirie, the other two members of the club.

There follows a somewhat enigmatic conversation that confuses Okonogi – at one point she thinks Teiichi is talking to a spirit, and later on, she thinks he might be reading her mind. To test this, she stares at him and thinks “Where was the cradle of Mesopotamian civilization?” He looks back at her with a quizzical expression and says “I don’t know”.

Okonogi then reads her report, and takes them to the hall where there’s an unused dumbwaiter. She says it’s been known to start by itself and the rumor is that the ghost maiden Yuuko lures in students who stay late, and abducts them to another world. Suddenly, the dumbwaiter opens, Teiichi is sucked in, and it departs for places unknown. End of episode 1 part 1.

After the commercial break, we replay the first half of the episode again, only this time we see the ghost Yuuko slouching about the room in her 1950’s sailor suit, bored. She fiddles with the cat charm, she drinks Okonogi’s tea, and she reads through the manuscript.

Or is he trying not to look at her bra?

When the other two come in, she’s all over Teiichi, much to Kanoe’s disgust. Then Okonogi stares fixedly at Teiichi, and Yuuko asks him “Why is that girl staring at you?”, to which he replies “I don’t know.”

Out in the hallway, while Okonogi is reading her report, Yuuko starts up the dumbwaiter and shoves Teiichi into it, then jumps in herself. Okonogi and Kanoe race to the top floor, where the dumbwaiter opens. Teiichi and Yuuko are inside the tiny compartment, in a very compromising position. Of course, Okonogi only sees Teiichi.

This sets the tone for the first part of the series. Teiichi can see Yuuko because he’s psychic the grandson of a girl that Yuuko saved, and besides, the two of them are in love. Kanoe can see her because she (as it turns out, note the family names) is Yuuko’s grand-niece. Teiichi opens a door labeled Open this door and you will be cursed and finds Yuuko’s bones, buried beneath the clubroom (Yuuko is embarrassed at being seen so naked). Yuuko takes Teiichi around the labyrinthine school as they try to find out about her forgotten past. Along the way, they find a curse stone that rumor says will cause your death if your name is carved on it. Teiichi is shocked to find that his name is on it, and starts to panic, until she shows him her magic marker. The episodes continue, getting darker and darker. The two episode arc on their school culture festival, where the club hosts a haunted house with a real ghost starts out fun, but almost ends in tragedy for an unrelated student also named Yuuko.

What girl doesn’t have a past

It turns out there’s a “shadow Yuuko”, of evil appearance, onto whom our Yuuko has dumped all her negative emotions, all her hate and anger and loneliness. At the end, Taiichi goes back through the memories of shadow Yuuko to find that Yuuko was left in an underground shrine to die 60 years ago by superstitious villagers trying to fend off a plague. He manages to convince the two to merge, and out comes a well-rounded ghost, capable of a full range of emotions.

In the last episode, Yuuko takes him on a “date”, even though her ghost is tied to the school grounds, and tells him that he has helped her overcome all her regrets, and it’s time for her to move on. They share their bittersweet first and last kiss, and despite his protests, she slowly fades away. [Note: This is all for the best, of course, because what happens when he graduates, and what kind of life would their children have?] Despondent, he returns to the club room, and finds a box marked Open this and you will be cursed. He opens it, and finds out what his immediate future will hold.

This is a very good anime, with an equal balance of fun and horror. The flashback scenes are particularly well handled — the viewer is riding in the head of the subject, and can’t close his eyes or look away or change anything. The ending song is interesting because Yuuko is singing in it. I’ll be ordering it from overseas, because Amazon and RightStuff don’t carry it.

Discussion
As I said last week, Japanese horror is all about atmosphere, and both these anime are able to create the right sort of atmosphere for their topic. The horror in Another is unrelenting, from the ubiquitous crows to the run-down town to the erratic cell phone reception. Dusk Maiden, on the other hand, saves the horror and creepiness for those specific moments when it will do the most good. In Another, you know that everyone is going to die, while in Dusk Maiden you are not sure at first that anyone has or will suffer any trauma. Yuuko is a ghost, so she has to have died, but you don’t figure out until later that her death was painful and alone, and you don’t find out until near the end that it was horrific as well.

Each of these anime are good in their own way. Another is a straight up horror blood-fest. Dusk Maiden is a romance that just happens to have a supernatural aspect. Pick one for viewing at home depending on what your girlfriend is like. Another is a bury-her-head-in-your-chest sort of flick that will bring out your protective instincts. Dusk Maiden has a three-hanky ending that will let her see your sensitive side.

For the rest of my anime reviews, click on the Anime tag, below

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