Chiwa SaitoKenichi SuzumuraEiji TakemotoNoriko Hidaka
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2013
Writer/director: Rie Matsumoto
Actor: Akira Ishida, Aya Hisakawa, Chiwa Saito, Eiji Takemoto, Eri Kitamura, Kazuki Yao, Kenichi Suzumura, Noriko Hidaka, Rie Kugimiya, Ryoko Shiraishi, Shigeru Nakahara
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 10 normal TV episodes and three specials, not counting the ONA net episodes it's based on
Website category: Anime 2013
Review date: 1 May 2024
Some people think it's amazing. Others think it's overrated. I'm mostly in the latter camp, alas, but calling it "amazing" is clearly true as well. My problem is that I don't really care about visuals and I'm usually focused on storytelling... and, on that criterion, for me, I thought this show was a bit rubbish.
It's about a weird family who live in an Alice in Wonderland dimension where nothing can be destroyed and no one can die. They sit around doing nothing after mum and dad disappear. There's eventually some stuff about destroying the multiverse, but ultimately it's all about family... but in a vague, open-ended way that doesn't really resolve anything and seems mostly inspired by: (a) Eastern religion, and (b) perhaps a bit of Nisio Isin's Monogatari. I've seen this show called a "humanistic conception of Buddhist dogma, which is allegorized by the family's intergenerational dysfunction", which sounds cool. Unfortunately, though, my knowledge of Buddhism is relatively shallow and so I didn't get much from it on that level, beyond spotting a few references. (Towards the end, mind you, I think the show's also quite interesting as a literal interpretation of Christianity, including the Holy Trinity. What would it be like actually to be God, or to have God as your unnecessarily hands-off father?)
One of the family wants to commit suicide and can't, so he asks his sister to kill him. What happened there? Did he get his wish? Don't ask me. Characters are literally gods, or in one case a 12th century Buddhist monk who's still remembered and studied today. The best of the three special episodes is a live-action trip around Kyouto with some of the voice actors, showing us the show's Buddhist roots and the locations and statues that it accurately depicted.
I liked the cast. I loved the demon daughter, which is interesting given the show's theological basis. Dad's artist powers are wacky, as if he had the ability to become one of the show's animators (although it's not taken to that level of meta). Koto Jr. is great fun and could be interpreted as a magical girl, in a show created by the Toei minds behind PreCure. Episodes are often lively and fun, but too often I'd find myself zoning out as I watched them. They're works of visual art, but not always big on dramatic content.
This is, though, a trip. The ideas are wild and the visuals are triumphant. They're aiming higher than the vast majority of the anime industry, with art and character design that had people drawing comparisons with Studio Trigger, Kunihiko Ikuhara and Masaaki Yuasa.
Would I recommend this? Nope. Personally, I wouldn't even call it a good show... but there are people out there who rate it very highly indeed. By all means, give it a whirl. If it presses your buttons, you might think it's amazing too.