Eriko MatsuiHiroki YasumotoAya UchidaRisa Mizuno
Aguu Tensai Ningyou
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2018
Director: Bob Shirohata
Writer: Yuiko Kato
Actor: Aya Uchida, Eriko Matsui, Hidenobu Kiuchi, Hiroki Yasumoto, Kikuko Inoue, M.A.O, Masahito Yabe, Noriko Shibasaki, Risa Mizuno, Satoshi Shibasaki, Seira Ryu, Tetsuro Noda, Tomohiro Shiozaki, Wataru Takagi, Yoshimitsu Shimoyama
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=20901
Website category: Anime 2018
Review date: 11 February 2020
Agu Tensai Ningyo
This is an unpopular opinion, but I quite liked this show. It's a Chinese anime with bad art from Tencent Animation & Comics, but I found the story interesting.
It's horror-tinged. I wouldn't call it horror, but it's playing with that level of nasty ideas. Its concept of aguu is borderline offensive, frankly, but that's what makes it startling to watch. (It also has a cool and slightly disturbing title sequence.)
In the world of this show, there's no such thing as just being talented or clever. Genius is something that needs explaining away. If someone's doing better than all her classmates, this has nothing to do with ability or hard work. Instead, it's because she's had one or more aguu sewn into her body and so these little monsters are moving her on strings, like a puppet.
HOW TO MAKE AN AGUU
1. Find a natural genius.
2. Sew up their mouth, sew their limbs together and pickle them into a tiny, plum-like thing that will live forever in that state, in non-stop pain.
3. Implant it in your body and bingo!
This is revolting. Now expand the concept to include a world of tailors (who make, sell and use aguu), their clients and other messed-up people. (a) Ai and Machi are ballet dancers and best friends, but Ai has always been jealous of Machi's natural, effortless brilliance. (b) There's a frighteningly pushy mother who's so determined to get the best for her meek son that she'll spend stupid amounts of money to get him into a school he isn't clever enough for. Sounds to me like a recipe for misery. (c) There's a catastrophically broken love triangle. (d) Oh, and one of those tailors is 800 years old and so bored with killing heroes that he leaves one alive just because he can't be bothered not to.
In outline, that's a strong story. In practice, it's flawed.
1. I wasn't convinced by the Ai-Machi relationship, which went through multiple implausible reverses for the sake of story convenience. There's strong dramatic material there, but it's being undermined by Ai's inconsistency. She'll deeply believe one thing one minute, then its opposite the next.
2. Then there's Rafu the brat. He's annoying, albeit in a familiar "battle-crazed shounen hero" way. Then he suffers a satisfying reversal. Then he drops out of the plot less than halfway through and never returns. Eh? This is probably a good thing, though, since Rafu turns the show into a dumb magical battle anime that's making all the least interesting choices with its ideas.
3. "Sweary Ugly" from the jail in ep.8 is nuclear-fuelled obnoxiousness. She ends up being interesting and pretty cool, eventually, but getting there is like eating rusty nails. Furthermore, the show's shoddy art means that this supposedly pig-ugly character looks prettier than characters who are supposed to be attractive. (She has freckles. This is a bigger deal in East Asia than it is for me.)
4. The "love at first sight" revelation flashback scene in ep.8 felt silly at the time, although later episodes sold it.
5. When a tailor is about to perform aguu surgery in ep.2, the surgery's recipient is wearing a bikini made of bandages. She hasn't even been cut yet, but she's wearing strategically placed bandages. Let's do a survey of real hospitals and see how often that's standard practice.
6. Ep.8 has the characters visiting Bitch Law Offices.
7. The big reveal in ep.12 opens up all kinds of interesting narrative directions, but it's also an eye-rolling cheat. Yeah, right. Is everyone a SPOILER, then?
This is a shoddy show, from ham-fisted writers incapable of making the most of their ideas. The art is almost primitive. Someone who's been burned almost to death looks the same as usual afterwards, but with a suntan and some bandages. Her "beauty has been burned away"... ahahaha, no.
Despite all that, though, I still mostly enjoyed the show. (Apart from the spectacularly dislikable ep.8.) The baddies are cartoonish, but so sadistically evil that they're effective anyway. They love torture. "It's so fun to hear the bones in your own leg breaking. You'll get to hear it five times per leg." "I start crying tears of joy just listening to those screams."
This show's usual pattern is to introduce a story point badly, then take it somewhere good. I couldn't buy the zigzagging Ai-Machi relationship of the first few episodes, but it'll be a strong character basis later on, once it's been established. The Ri family are so boring that you'll want to fast-forward when they're introduced in ep.4, but their story later goes in some surprising, powerful directions. Grandad Rashou is cool. The show's choices of protagonist won't always be what you'd have predicted. It's an adaptation of a Chinese comic, which I presume was written by someone who's not ready for professional publication and doesn't really know what they're doing... but they should probably stick with it, because they have potential.