Ξ October 27th, 2009 | → 6 Comments | ∇ The Anime Annals |
Who is Maria? You’ll see!
Ever since the earliest days (and nights) of humankind we’ve always delighted in scaring the daylights out of one another, whether gathered in a dimly-lit cave around a flickering fire, or in a cavernous theater with scratchy black-and-white images on the silver screen, or in a darkened den accompanied only by the storyteller behind the television screen or computer monitor illuminating the pitch of the night…
Welcome to the 21st Century: We’re still at it!
It’s that time of year again, when ghosts and goblins roam the land looking for unsuspecting victims lured to them through trick-and-treatery. And then there’s the spooky little kids with bags half-stuffed with candy running around too! So be careful out there. Or you could end up just like them (and I don’t mean the kids)! And so, for your consideration, this Halloween-themed Alastor’s entry
But first, how about a little song for Maria, since Halloween is her favorite day? Er, night. She’s one of the stars of Umineko no Naku Koro ni (“When the Seagulls Cry”), which is a follow-up to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (“When the Cicadas Cry”). Both of the shows serve as fine examples of the most chilling, horrific, and mind-fucking animes ever produced. I kid you not. Don’t believe me? I’LL SHOW YOU!!! *shakes fist at you* …in due time. Heh. I mean MWUU-HAHAHAHAAAAA~~~
Maria’s the youngest cast member, but also the most heavily into/exceedingly aware about Occult matters. In fact, she’s something of an expert. Don’t let her innocent little facade fool you! At times she behaves almost as if “developmentally disabled,” and is in the habit of saying “uu-uu” at the most inappropriate moments. Maria is a downright creepy little girl, but at other times, so cute! You just never know what the author of these two seminal works will throw at you next. Ryukishi07 whips up distinctive characters, multiple paths, and twisting plots mixed in with random perspective shifts and extra-dimensional realities along with witches and pinches of Shroedinger’s Cat for good measure. He removes your brain and plays with it without mercy!
But you wouldn’t expect mercy on Halloween…
So, Happy Halloween for Maria! This is Maria’s Character Song, and sung by her seiyuu Yui Horie (in character, duh), who is one of my favorite Japanese voice actresses (she also did Ayu from Kanon, and a slew of other roles). Those of you unfamiliar with J-Pop might want to pass on this syrupy-sweet (yet strangely sinister) offering and head straight to the horror-show.
Okay, now that that’s over, time to put the kiddies to bed! Seriously. Because we’re going to look into both Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, and Elfen Lied, two of the most chilling, gory, and bloody animes ever shown. But here the pathos is secondary; the truth of the matter is that these are two great stories. With blood on them. And dismemberment. A bit of (tame) nudity. Some uncompromising scenes of child abuse. What can ya do? It’s not like they’re the only horror-show in town, am I right? And horror stories are horriffic… especially the ones which poses the question of just who, really, are the monsters?
It won’t do any good whatsoever in attempting to describe Higurashi beyond its ANN synopsis above. I recall actually being pissed that I didn’t get what was happening. I was just advised to “keep watching.” The story is told in a series of arcs that range from about 4-8 episodes, in which one of the characters somehow becomes deranged and ultimately psychotic. The “somehow” is constantly changing as each arc is told from a different character’s perspective along with several key “pieces” of the puzzle being added with each one. And wow… after a deceptively simple beginning, it really takes you on a hell of a ride. And one that you won’t easily forget.
While it’s true that Studio Deen doesn’t exactly do Ryukishi07′s work any favors with its animation, the studio did improve over time, and honestly I think they got a bad rap overall. It’s one of my all-time favorite works despite its flaws. The story really towers over all though… I needed two forums in order to decrypt it all! In fact, bookmark the following for later if you want any further info. You’ll need to investigate the Q&A and TIPS threads for sure, once you get involved: AnimeSuki’s Higurashi Sub-Forum But be careful about what you read! Spoilericious, donchaknow. Great anime forum, by the way (my favorite) :-)
Anyway: One of Higurashi‘s secrets is that it juxtaposes sweetness with evil, and hi-jinx with mayhem; one moment you’re at a Cotton Drifting Festival and the next witnessing a brutal murder that just doesn’t get explained easily, or to your satisfaction. Because it’s made to get inside your head, and get your brain to working, you never really know what’s going on until the pieces start adding up. Season One is 26 episodes long, and even then at its end you don’t have a full sense of closure. It’s comprised of the Higurashi game’s “Question Arcs” plus one “Answer Arc”; Season Two (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai) has the rest of the Answers, and while much less bloody, keeps building in intensity and complexity until you almost have all the pieces of the puzzle in your hand. It doesn’t really close until Season Two’s last episode, and even that last scene opens up a whole new can o’ worms, best taken with some Umineko as a chaser!
Gotta admire a writer who doesn’t make it easy for you but makes your journey so worthwhile and rewarding. So, I’ll present to you the first episode (in three parts) of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, in all its YouTube “glory”. Bear in mind that if you BUY the DVDs that the clarity is of a quality magnitudes higher than these, which are just to whet your whistle So make sure that the kiddies are out of the picture (that is, secured for the night); the following is all for Mature Visitors…
…and make sure that you watch it in the dark. And in FULL SCREEN!
If you insist upon watching it after all that, then make sure you watch through at least episode 5, where the story’s devices become a little bit clearer. It’ll help just a bit. Just.
And now we come to the anime that pretty much changed my life: Elfen Lied. I’ve probably already gone into detail about how this show shattered my preconceptions about how childish and cartoonish anime was; that it was just fodder for children on their Saturdays home from school. So. Very. Wrong. Well, that’s only because what we do get over here on network TV is only the most marketable series on offer (Pokemon and Naruto and the like, dubbed in typical over-the-top English), and that the more mature and diverse shows simply don’t get aired as they should. That’s changed somewhat in recent years with Adult Swim and other channels offering a smattering of episodes (usually out of order or aborted runs), and now, finally, streaming anime is bringing more and more into our caves. Er, dens. Um, “homes”. Yeah.
From the first moments of Elfen Lied though, from the OPs beautiful “Lilium” sung in Latin, to the Gustav Klimdt-inspired paintings it plays over, it had me firmly in its grasp. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing! And then the SHOW started… and… wow. It’s obvious why Elfen Lied’s opening ten minutes are considered among the most disturbing and provocative segments in all of anime history. Be forewarned, that’s all I can say. Don’t come cryng to me later.
Similar to Higurashi in that it contrasts scenes of domesticity and silliness with those of absolute violence and decapitation as if it was its second nature, Elfen Lied tells a deep and complex story of a mutant strain that is on the verge of wiping out humanity: the Diclonius, a horned humanoid who is anything but, and the efforts to contain it. Kept in captivity and in isolation for years, and cruelly experimented upon, the 13-episode series asks that question: Who are the monsters? And when we consider the possibilities inherent in every human… the scenes are all that more believable. And disturbing…
The heart of the story is between Kouta (the male lead) and Lucy (whom you’ll… “meet”). I can’t give away anything else because it’s full of spoilery material if I even hint, and this story is best discovered on your own. And in the dark. Every character is clearly and cleverly motivated; Lynn Okamoto really crafted such a compelling story, and he filled it with sympathetic (and malevolent) people who deal with things as they must, however grim they might get. And they do get quite grim… Also of note is Mamoru Kanbe’s excellent direction; there are many superb flourishes and touches that manage to convey much more than the scene shows. And when the scene needs to show something, he doesn’t pull any punches…
But why don’t I let you get on with it, if you dare. And don’t say I didn’t warn you! IT’S GRAPHIC, MM-KAY? It’s got nudity, violence, and uncomfortable situations! So don’t complain! I hate whiners and handwringers, jeez… Anyway, now that they’re gone, please “enjoy” this first episode (in three parts) of Elfen Lied. Lights out and FULL-SCREEN; c’mon, I dare ya!
Okay. NOW you’re all set for Halloween! And hey, if you’re intrigued by this series, the 13-episode set is available for a pretty good price if you look around. Ditto for Higurashi, although Kai hasn’t been released yet. The only way the art-form can survive is by buying those shows that you like in order to support the creators, as they should be. But until they provide the newer shows though… get ‘em where you can (the unreleased ones that is). They’re made to be SEEN, not sat on for two years until interest has passed. THEN they release them and wonder why they don’t sell. Duh.
DAMN THAT SLIPPERY SLOPE!!!
Don’t eat too much candy now
And Happy Halloween, Maria!
If you’d like to leave a comment, please feel free; I don’t bite! (Much.) Heh. Heh. Heh…