Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mouryou no Hako Review


Earlier this year, I held a contest where the winner would decide what would be my 50th review. That honor went to Bukkiteer TielFigs who chose Speed Grapher. However, the runner up didn’t get nothing out of it. In fact, SkyCetacean got the chance to pick a future review. Guess where this show came from?

Mouryou no Hako is a 13 episode Horror/Mystery anime based on the 1995 novel from Natsuhiko Kyogoku. A live action film and a manga series were both released in 2007 with Masato Harada and Aki Shimizu as film director and manga author respectfully. The anime by director Ryosuke Nakamura and studio Madhouse was released in the fall of 2008. Sadly, as of this review, the series is unlicensed.

The story follows a series of bizarre murders of schoolgirls who have been dismembered and stuffed into boxes. The private investigator hired by a missing daughter’s mother joins forces with an antique book seller and others to unravel the murder spree.

The animation for this series is really simplistic and uses darker tones to give that mysterious sense. The series does has its moments, animation wise, that stand out to create something beautiful and jarring at the same time. Some left me in awe while others left me uncomfortable. Adding in the character designs from CLAMP and you get this series. I find it odd that CLAMP went and assisted this project. This is the first time I have seen them involved in a solemn uncolorful project. xxxHolic may have been in a similar genre as this show, but even that had a lot of color to it. To me, this is a good thing, as I have not seen or read a lot of CLAMP works aside from xxxHolic, Tsubasa, and some Chobits but this makes the group more versatile. As for the soundtrack it’s filled with a lot of your typical ambience sounds with no real stand out tracks. But I did like the opening theme, regardless of whether it did fit or not.

The story takes a while to follow because it's shown in bits and pieces. One minute we’re with Detective Kiba watching over Kanako’s family and the next we spend two episodes, mid series, learning about corpse eating demons with a couple other major characters. It also doesn’t help that the show is very dialogue heavy and can drag the episodes out for a long time. Again we can use that two episodes mid way as an example. Sometimes that’s the difficulty of adaptations. I do have to give credit though for making sure every single detail is accounted for so we, the viewer, are able to follow the story as best we can. Granted it's only at a slow progression, but we are able to get some understanding by the end. But only because, like any mystery story, we learn everything by the end. I will admit it was difficult for me to get through this series. Partly because of work and wonderful internet, but also partly because I had a lot of difficultly trying to latch on to the show. I managed to by the last couple of episodes, but it was too little too late for me.

There are way too many characters to keep track of in this series, and I can’t even begin to remember all their names. From our four main male characters and the many many important side characters, the viewer can understand this problem very well. It also doesn’t help that the story jumps around, making it difficult for the viewer to latch on to a particular character. Somehow, through all the pieces that were shown to me, I managed to enjoy Sekiguchi the most (I think that’s his name...). On the surface, this young author seems to have it all together, however as the viewer gets to see, he is fair from normal. His obsession with boxes and the man he met on the train in the first episode turns into something insane that is played out for most of the series. The downside is how he is by series end, but that's going into a tiny bit of spoiler territory. As for the rest of the cast, there aren’t really any stand outs. Some characters were funny and others were odd. Not really anything special.

As of this review, Mouryou has not been licensed in the states and it doesn’t look like it ever will be. But I can see why it wouldn’t be. The dialogue makes many references to culture and lore from Japan and Buddhism that if it were to get a release in the states most people would get confused. As for the Japanese cast, it was fun to listen to. Hidenobu Kiuchi as Sekiguchi and Toshiyuki Morikawa as Enokizu were among the stand outs for me. Most of the other cast members give decent performances, but, again, not a lot of stand outs here. This doesn’t mean that the Japanese cast was terrible or anything, just nothing really impressive.

By the time this case is solved, Mouryou no Hako is a typical mystery show that doesn’t really do a lot to stand out among its genre. It has good ideas and it looks well made, but in the end it’s the execution as a whole that becomes it’s own downfall. I don’t suggest watching this as a new anime viewer, but if you’re really into the mystery/horror genre like I am then I say give it a go. Cause you’ll probably be trying to figure this series out like I was.

Next time, we visit an old friend of ours. Until then, otaku on my friends.

Final Rating - 5/10 An average mystery for the die hards.


Special thanks to SkyCetacean for this series!

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