Seldom do I fall for a new anime series as hard as I have for Kyousougiga. Having missed viewing it for last week’s small round-up of newer more buzzed about anime series, this gem was sadly overlooked. And I must berate myself for having done so. Which means to atone for my mistake I must push this series and make everyone watch it. And you must. Because it is amazing. If you won’t I may just throw a fit.
Kyousogiga (京騒戯画 Kyōsōgiga, lit. Capital Craze Comic) is a new anime TV series continuing or rather revisiting where a short 5 episode original net animation series (ONA) created by the collective Izumi Todo and produced by Toei Animation in collaboration with Banpresto left off. The original ONA debuted in 2011 and periodically released into 2012. Each episode was rather short and is notably somewhat out of order and or digressional so as such details can be a bit tricky to understand and a great deal were simply world building shorts. The new TV series more or less continues what was covered in the original, expanding on the plot and themes more in depth since the episodes for the new TV series are twenty-five minutes long.
The story is very much influenced by Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass in fact the opening to the ONA is more or less a direct homage to the beginning of the former tale and the book itself appears in the lead’s belongings.
The series follows Koto, a fourteen year old girl who seems to belong to some sort of future quasi-military society or faction based in Kyoto called Shrine. The people of this faction seem to be gifted two spirit-like familiars that are rather puckish and have distinct personalities and are treated like family. Her guardian and mentor whose face is obscured with an Inari fox-mask (and is addressed as such by his familiars) talks to her about a mirror world and how he is sure one day she’ll be able to go there herself.
Eventually Koto and her two familiar “brothers” A and Un go looking for her mentor after he presumably left her behind and they run into a black, red eyed rabbit and go follow it; ultimately finding themselves in the Mirror World Inari was talking about, or rather, another Kyoto.
This Kyoto is a bizarre psychedelic and anachronistic jumbled world that rather like real Kyoto blends modernity with traditional elements side by side. Yokkai, ghosts, spirits and seemingly digital creations live alongside humans. Nothing can be destroyed here as things repair themselves and very few seem to age or get older. This realm is ruled by three siblings; an old temple priest Kurama who seems in charge of a science-y police force that has it’s own giant mecha, a hyper-feminine tea-drinking demon named Yase, and a young scooter riding Buddhist monk named Myoe. Why she is there and what she is to the three rulers of the world becomes a big part of the plot. Koto and her brothers settle in under Myoe’s care and cause trouble with a giant collapsible hammer she was given by her mentor.
The series is also built on a beautiful, gentle fairytale of a back-story centered around the founding of the Mirror world and concerns the three sibling rulers and their parents; another monk also named Myoe whose illustrations would come to life and one of his creations the black rabbit goddess of the capital who is also named Koto. Both of whom are extremely relevant to the plot and after viewing the original ONA, you get a much better sense how Koto, and well Koto are actually connected.
While there are many elements here that are on paper are not entirely original or have been seen and done many times before in different anime series, Kyousougiga seems to present them in a way that is fresh and exciting. The way they are presenting the narrative, often in media res or in incomplete flashbacks makes it fresh and interesting to watch as layers slowly peel away and connections are made amongst the mania. Often times details are purely visual and are cues that things there are connected to what comes later. When dealing with the three supernatural rulers things also get additionally trippy.
Kyousougiga however doesn’t anchor itself on its quirkiness and psychedelic visuals alone. It also has a strong emotional component to it concerning what constitutes a family and underlying themes centered around tolerance and prejudice. The original Myoe and Koto are faced with pressure from the local shrine priests and their intolerance of the monk’s eventual unconventional family causes them to flee to the Mirror Kyoto. Meanwhile our lead Koto is implied to be an orphan and adopted by her own mentor and is subtly discriminated against by other members of her community due to being an outsider and her having garnet-red eyes (something that is particularly important to note hint, hint). These emotional touches particularly the one revolving around family actually gives this manic series a greater advantage over any others that may have come before with similar plot-lines as they often lack the subtly and gentleness of the backstory and the messages that the series seems to be trying to make. Even the 7 minute fifth and final episode of the ONA packs an emotional wallop which gets revisited in the “second” TV series episode.
Visually the series is stunning, with beautiful art, cinematography and uses of CGI, interesting and varried character designs and great effects for both serious and comedic scenes. It’s experimentation in visual mediums and elements vaguely brings to mind works of Gainax, particularly FLCL which it at times matches in it’s manic-ness.
The series is also populated with gorgeous visuals with beautiful compositions found throughout and visual motifs that are more than just coincidence, mostly consisting of floral and vegetative symbolism. Recurring images such as pomegranates and morning glory pop up quite frequently. It is also heavily saturated in Japanese folklore and symbolism. The fact there is a rabbit heavily involved in the plot and our Koto carries a giant hammer is something that won’t go unnoticed if you are familiar with the Japanese rabbit in the moon tale.
The jump from the ONA to the TV series amps the visuals and animation quality up even more and up through the roof. It’s clear they’ve been working on this for a long time. Look no further than the first TV episode which was originally a special; 00 “Introductory Chapter”“Yoshū-hen” (予習篇) for some of the coolest fight scenes from the get-go. Another element worth noting is that so far the TV series isn’t terribly fan-servicey either the way a lot of these series tend to be so it’s very female viewer friendly in that regard. It has some to a degree; mainly in the form of the young Myoe’s girlfriend but even there their relationship is pretty darn realistic and mature for despite his flirtatious nature there is nothing that shows Myoe as being anything but monogamous. That in itself is rather refreshing.
Overall I highly encourage people to check out the ONA and then start the TV series! It’s super quick to catch up on. The ONA is easy to find online and the new episodes are easy to find too if you search. In fact as of writing this review the third TV episode will be airing tomorrow!
I were to grade it give it without a doubt a solid “A+”, I hope you all will like it just as much as I do.
See you next week!
Staff Writer/The Doctor