Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is a show with a serious split personality disorder. Sometimes the show wants to be a dark and edgy supernatural show about teenage sacrifice, and at other times it wants to be an ecchi romance comedy. Thanks to this indecisiveness the show ends up being a jumbled mess of ideas that fails on nearly all fronts.
The premise to Dusk Maiden is simple enough; teenage boy finds a ghost girl at his school called Yuuko Kanoe and falls in love with her. She can’t remember what happened in her past life (hence the title of Amnesia) and wants to find out more about herself. Well she does sometimes, but then other times she wants nothing to do with her old life and “Uses her Amnesia” to forget everything that she just learnt. The story starts strong, hinting that the maiden is more than she seems and has evil ulterior motives, but then falls into the trap of being a boring harem show with the twist that one of the girls is a ghost. Latter parts of the show try to weave in “Dark” versions of Yuuko to try and create an antagonist, but her involvement in the story makes things even more silly and nonsensical.
In most shows, if the story is bad then the characters won’t fair very well either. This stands true with Dusk Maiden. It’s not that the characters are bad, but that they are complete one sided bland stereotypes typical to the genre. The worst offence is the main character Niiya. Throughout the entire show he is a bland and empty protagonist, there’s nothing special or unique about him, he’s a plain hero who does nothing other than repeat people’s names when they get upset. This lack of personality apparently makes every girl he meets want to have sex with him, as all of the four girls he meets immediately want to get into bed with him. Counter this with the fact he doesn’t like to see girls naked or touch them, it creates a completely asexual character that is completely impossible for the majority of teenagers to relate too. This guy has girls stripping in front of him and telling him he can look daily, and he retaliates by acting squeamish and running away.
The girls don’t do any better sadly. There’s the one girl whos overly ambitious about ghosts and obviously in love with Niiya, the blonde girl who appears in one episode just to cause trouble and fall in love with Niiya, the ghost girl Yuuko who practacly forces herself onto Niiya, and Yuuko’s great granddaughter Kirie. All of these characters lack any small form development throughout the show and never grow as independent people; they always rely on Niiya to do something for them. However there is one girl who does go through some character development, all be it a small amount; Kirie.
Kirie is the one character I honestly cared about, she’s a typical tsundere who acts tough on the outside but is horribly lonely within. The fact she’s a tsundere isn’t the interesting bit, it’s the fact she’s Yuuko’s great granddaughter. She has to live each day seeing the ghost of a family member who was brutally murdered making sexual advances on the person she loves. No matter what she does to try and impress Niiya, she knows she will fail to someone who is just an older and more sexualized version of herself. At one point she wears a maid outfit and hair extensions, and begins to have a mental break down because she only sees Yuuko. She wants to be her own person, but is cursed to have the stigma of being part of the Kanoe family. In the end it’s not made clear if she embraces who she is, and it’s left to the viewer to decide if she finally moves away from being in Yuuko’s shadow and becomes her person. Maybe I’m just looking too deep for something to praise, but this little bit of character development was the one true thing keeping me going through this show.
An issue I had with the show was the over sexualisation of the characters, namely Yuuko. In every episode (yes EVERY episode) Niiya “accidently” grabs onto Yuuko’s breasts or sees her naked body. At first it seems to be a little joke to take away from the dark themes in the first few episodes, but it keeps happening at random intervals with no real meaning. Yuuko keeps wanting him to do it because “It’s the first place he touched her and she likes being touched” (you can see where the ecchi elements can come into play). Whenever he wasn’t seeing her naked or coping a feel, he was staring down at her cleavage with the camera doing an extreme close up on the tops of her breasts, at these points the animation forgets about continuity and makes her boobs three or four times bigger than they are in every other shot. I get that some people are turned on by big breasted dead 75 year olds, but it feels a bit weird watching this blatant sexualisation of a character occur in every episode. If ecchi is your thing then great! But I think that pandering to the audience too much can affect the overall story negatively, changing something that’s meant to be a supernatural anime into light porn.
There is one reason to check out the show, or at least the first episode; the animation. Sweet mama jama does this show look amazing! The first episode really stands out as a well made piece of anime by having the first half be a meeting played out when we can’t see Yuuko, then again when we can see her. Watching the scene with Yuuko in it completely changes the dialogues meaning, and watching as things that were originally moving on their own now having Yuuko physically moving them makes you realize how well crafted anime can be. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s a great episode with loads of interesting and risky camera tricks and symbolic shots not often found in the medium. If you want to see an overall well made and beautiful first episode, Dusk Maiden is where to look.
I’m not the biggest fan of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. The story is full of holes, the majority of the characters are unlikeable and unreliable, and the show can’t figure out if it wants to be scary or sexy. I hoesntly don’t know who I can recommend this too. People who want ecchi are going to find a small amount compared to other ecchi shows, but horror and supernatural fans are going to be disappointed because the show builds up to this massive scary moment that never comes. If you want to see a show full of potential that manages to waste it all, or if you want to know how not to tell a complex love story, then maybe watch Dusk Maiden.
Other anime recommendations
Horror anime: Shiki
Psychological mystery: Ghost Hunt
Thanks to MVM Entertainment for providing a review copy