Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 291 minutes approx.
Seikyou Private Academy is just like any other Japanese educational institution with a sports field, swimming pool, science lab, indoor games court, numerous after school activities clubs, an in house nurse and canteen. Oh and a ghost that has been haunting the old dilapidated wing of the school building for sixty years. The troublesome terror comes in the rather shapely form of former student Yuko Kanoe, who seems to have forgotten why she is no longer in this world but her spectral presence at the school has made her a famous urban myth among each successive generation of students, all living in fear of the legendary “Yuko-san”.
Teiichi Niiya is one pupil with no such fear of Yuko at all. Having met her while getting lost on his first day at the Academy, our phantom protagonist seems to have taken a shine to the young lad, resulting in him joining the school’s Paranormal Investigations Club – which Yuko originally founded – in the hope of uncovering the truth behind Yuko’s demise and help her move in with her (after) life. Aided by fellow club members the slightly ditzy ball of energy that is Momoe Okonogi and the cynical, moody Kirie Kanoe – Yuko’s grandniece – the club discover more than they bargain for when investigating the school’s dark past.
Is This A Zombie? can no longer claim to be the only horror based harem comedy with the arrival of Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia to share the spotlight. Created by the enigmatically named mangaka Maybe, this spooky romantic yarn has been given the anime treatment by upstart group Silver Link, who once again call upon the eclectic and creative presentation style they brought to their previous outing Baka & Test: Summon The Beasts. It’s an appealing enough show that attempts to cross genres for wider appeal but ends up confusing both itself and the viewer by being unable to settle for just one particular direction.
The first minor plot cavil that will standout for viewers is why Teiichi and Kirie are the only ones who can see Yuko, the former also being able to touch her, when no-one else can. Kirie gets a sort of nebulous pass through being a distant blood relative but for Teiichi it seems to be a question of empathy on his part that enables this ability – or a rather a contrivance to allow the usual accidental boob grab scenarios this show is sadly rife with.
Yes, even stories involving members of the afterlife can’t escape the deadly disease of fan service; if it isn’t Yuko’s heaving bosoms getting screen time then its Momoe’s in the obligatory swimsuit episode, or for cosplay fans, Kirie is conned into donning a skimpy maid outfit to keep the otaku contingent happy.
Putting this tiresome element aside the first half of the series is a rather light and frothy rom com of sorts as Yuko flirts with the somewhat vanilla but never totally bland Teiichi, who in turn finds himself drawn to the ghostly girl, all the while oblivious to the desperate attempts by Momoe to win his affections and the tacit interest from the more serious Kirie.
Occasionally Yuko will exhibit signs of jealousy towards both rivals, using her invisibility to playfully toy with Momoe, until one occasion when Yuko begins to act uncharacteristically aggressive and sullen. This marks a darker turn for the story as it is revealed that due to her memories being suppressed, the darker side of Yuko has manifested itself into a shadow version of her and is intent on wreaking havoc in her name, providing the first step in revealing the truth behind Yuko’s demise sixty years before.
While both the horror and the comedy elements are competently handles the tonal shift is quite a jarring one, and while the content isn’t particularly gory or scary, it is a grim and unpleasant indictment of the fears of a simple people bound by superstitious beliefs. The final revelation is a little long winded by nonetheless an engaging one, explored via an unusual if rather hokey method and contains some frankly baffling and unnecessary plot twists that undermine some of the credibility the show tries to establish in this half of its run.
The atmosphere from this point on is however decidedly cold and unsettling, reminiscent of recent horror hit Another and it is here that the esoteric artwork with the use of silhouettes, surreal imagery and erratic camera angles works best.
There is an extended version of the final episode for added emotional manipulation which may reduce the impact of the pay off for some viewers, quickly followed by a stand-alone OVA which is another fan service heavy comedy offering. Conversely, the events of the fabulous opening episode are played out twice – first with Yuko missing from the screen so her ghostly teasing confuses poor Momoe, then again with her present which actually adds a greater depth of the humour of the situation.
One wonders if Maybe could have been a bit braver with the denouement but as the central premise was a romantic one, the conclusion we get feels somewhat apt under the circumstances. Not all questions are answered though – along with the aforementioned selective visibility of Yuko, there is no explanation why the Paranormal Investigations Club has only three members or why Teiichi seems to have no male friends at the school, or why Momoe and Kirie should fancy him in the first place, especially the latter who couldn’t be more opposite to him personality wise, and most importantly of all, how Teiichi could fall in love with a ghost!
While fans of both psychological horror and romantic harem comedies are well catered for in Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia the lack of commitment to just one genre could alienate fans of the other. That said it is suitably competent in both areas and delivers enjoyably dark, humorous, visually appealing but occasionally bawdy entertainment.
Japanese Commentaries w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 only:
Episode 12 Extended Version
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black