Amnesia Complete Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 290 minutes approx.
Memories are a precious thing for us all. The fond and happy ones are to be cherished, the unpleasant ones serve as our battle scars. But what if we were to lose those memories, even of the simplest things that allow us to function in everyday society? This is exactly what befalls the unnamed heroine of this adaptation of a visual novel series by Idea Factory.
The anonymous amnesiac – we’ll call her Miss A – wakes up in the back room of the cafe she works at, clueless to her surroundings, her co-workers and her own identity, which is never revealed during the series. She only learns of her predicament when a peculiarly dressed fairy boy named Orion, whom only she can see and hear, appears before her. Orion explains that Miss A lost her memories on August 1st which was his fault and offers to help restore them
Adopting what initially appears to be a reverse harem concept but actually isn’t (more on this later) Miss A is surrounded by a bevy of sharp featured, funky attired young men, all sporting an emblem relative to the four suits of playing cards. Miss A’s childhood friend Shin (hearts) is the first to claim to be her boyfriend, while a sliver of a memory about Shin admitting to killing someone reappears. On a work trip the next day Miss A panics when other memories return and she runs away, ending up falling over a cliff, as you do.
When she awakens Miss A is very briefly visited by Orion who explains Miss A has been transported to another world within the same timeline before disappearing. And it just happens to be August 1st again. Once the issue with Shin is finally resolved, Miss A is hit by a truck and killed only to awaken again, on August 1st, this time with work colleague Ikki (spades) acting as her paramour.
Confused? It gets worse. There is an explanation but we have to wait until the very last episode for it and where there is a kernel of sense and congruity to it, this isn’t enough to prevent it from being placed into the deus ex machina category. It’s whacky and convoluted and would have merit if certain elements and the character it relates to was given a better build up, or indeed if most of the stuff in between didn’t happen.
The chap in question is Ukyo, a mysterious green haired figure who is in every timeline and seems to be on hand to prevent Miss A from dying. Along with Shin, Ikki and two other work colleagues Toma (diamonds) and Kento (clubs), Ukyo declares himself Miss A‘s lover, which of course she doesn’t remember. But Ukyo isn’t quite the hero he seems either as we eventually find out.
Had the story been more about Ukyo and Miss A, there is the potential for this to have been a chilling mystery, as the sudden change in pace and actual excitement present in the concluding chapter sadly demonstrates. However, and this is the show’s biggest handicap, all of this is compromised and debatably wasted due to Amnesia’s origins as a visual novel.
Because of the nature of visual novels, in which the reader/player influences the direction the main character from a number of different storylines options, in this case Miss A and her quintet of suitors, this adaptation is somewhat beholden to replicate at least some of this. However it just doesn’t translate that smoothly and the writers only really have one route to take as opposed to the varied options of the game.
That is not to say that this isn’t possible – Amagami SS is a good example of a successful adaptation but the same amount of thought which went into that show has not been applied here. The result sees the male characters receive little build-up or have much depth to them, their personalities only revealed through circumstance and extraneous matters, such as Ikki having a fan club of jealous girls which becomes a recurring subplot.
Miss A herself is a weak and dull protagonist. having lost her memory one would think she would embark on a journey to regain them as soon as possible, but instead she goes to work a she is told to and struggles with the confusing daily life ahead of her. The amnesia ailment is both manipulated by some and ignored by others, and Miss A’s inability to stand up for herself engenders nothing but infuriation and ennui in the audience.
Rarely, if ever, smiling – okay, she has a good reason not to – Miss A’s appearance is rather plain and uninspiring, with whatever it is that makes her so irresistible to the men a bigger mystery than the cause of her amnesia. The male character designs are typical of the pretty boy/shonen ai templates with one notable twist – their eyes are an extraordinary mix of colours, with a solid top half and a different coloured bottom half, giving them an odd robotic look.
Brain’s Base to their credit have made an effort with the visually detailed backgrounds but it is not enough that save this from being an ultimately unspectacular looking show. The artwork also fails to offset the occasionally lazy animation and overuse of still shots to illustrate the passing of time or periods of reflection.
The story may be a confusing mish-mash of ideas thrown into the pot and poured into four separate bowls, but it is sadly a flavourless feast. With the exception of the last episode, the pacing is slow and deliberate, often soporifically so, threatening to put the viewer into a slumber as deep as the one’s Miss A spends much of her time in.
For what could have been a decent multi-layered mystery series, Amnesia is instead an uncoordinated, soulless and disappointing journey that goes nowhere and, ironically, isn’t particularly memorable.
Disc 2 Only:
Lost Diary Entries
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black