11 Eyes Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 336 minutes approx.
Why an odd number of eyes you might ask? Perhaps it is because the main protagonist wears an eye-patch over his right eye, and he is surrounded by five friends with perfect vision; yet the covered eye is fully functioning and later a seventh enters the fray, making it a total of 14 (13?) eyes! Then again a lot about this show is confusing…
Kakeru Satsuki has lived at an orphanage from an early age following the suicide of his elder sister, relying on the kindness of fellow orphan Yuka Minase. Kakeru also has Heterochromia, which he hides with an eye patch. After school one day Kakeru and Yuka notice the moon has turned black and suddenly are transported into an alternate reality, where they are chased by demons.
Fortunately the pair are returned to the real world at the very last second, but Yuka is so shaken up Kakeru vows to protect her. The next day this phenomenon they called Red Night happens again but this time they are saved by Misuzu Kusakabe, an older girl from school. While Kakeru asks Misuzu to train him in swordplay, a new transfer student, Shiori Momono, seems to know a lot about Red Night.
Adapting a visual novel into an anime series is quite often beset with problems due to the transition from a multi-stranded narrative controlled by the player to a singular destiny in the hands of a different writer. 11 Eyes is a great example of this, aiming to fit as much of the source material into twelve episodes but ends up collapsing under its own weight.
The Red Night dimension is home to a group of shadows called the Black Knights, hell bent on killing Kakeru and co. Their motives appear to be linked to a girl trapped inside a large crystal who calls for the help to free her but none of this registers with Kakeru, whose fighting skills are not up to par until his right eye suddenly flares up and he is able to defeat a shadow.
According to Shiori, who is a mystery unto herself, Kakeru possesses the Eye of Aeon, capable of the power of foresight, which once belonged to the ancient King of Drasuvania Velad. The others are obliquely referred to as fragments, yielding more questions about their coming together with little in the way of answers. A substantial plot twist in the final stretch not only creates shockwaves within the group but also alters the entire dynamic and direction of the story.
We’ll leave the plot discussion there as not to spoil things but suffice to say this startling revelation is one the better executed facets of this ambitious but underperforming series. It suffers from trying to cram too much into its single cour run and that is not limited to the story either. While it starts as a graphic fantasy/horror mystery, it too often tries to lighten the mood with silly humour and fan service.
The girls’ school uniforms are loosely maid outfit inspired with the flowery skirts that easily ride up for the ubiquitous and gratuitous panty shot. Then there is the slutty school nurse Saeko – short skirt, fishnet stockings and huge acrobatic boobs – while perverted male classmate Tadashi Teruya hits on all the girls and gets hit for his troubles is the comic relief.
It seems no genre is immune from being turned into a pseudo-harem but to be fair to 11 Eyes, this is more of a way to grab the male viewership than to follow through on the conventions of this formula. In fact, the group grows to include another male, pyrokinetic Takahisa Tajima, whose legal guardian is Saeko, himself the target of an admirer in the form of bespectacled ditz Yukiko Hirohara.
Rounding off the group is Kukuri Tachibana, a mute girl and doppelganger of Kakeru’s dead sister who communicates via written notes, while Shiori does become an integral member of the gang as the show progresses. Aside from a couple of misunderstandings from Yuka’s spying on Kakeru and Misuzu’s training, the traditional harem shenanigans are thankfully absent.
Even so the characters are hardly inspiring due to their lack of originality in both design and personality – the crimson coloured school uniforms the girls wear notwithstanding. There is an attempt to build Kakeru up into someone special but like many of his “zero to hero” predecessors his journey is too rushed and his fate sadly predictable. The girls are infinitely more interesting, especially Yukiko, Kukuri and Shiori, the backstories of the latter two coming way too late.
Because the stories of the original visual novels are subject to multiple outcomes the onus on screenwriter Kenichi Kanemaki to tie up the loose ends in a satisfactory manner appears a little too great within such a small amount of time. One bold swerve in the penultimate episode comes across as misfire, and while it was superbly executed what it offered was arguably preferable to what we actually got.
On the plus side the visuals are rather interesting, due in part to the pervasive red hues of the alternate reality. Studio Dogakobo have created an atmospheric world and didn’t scrimp on the animation during the battle sequences either. They maintain this high standard in the cheeky OVA Pink Phantasm where a Pink Night occurs instead of a Red Night, with decidedly prurient results.
With no knowledge of the visual novels I cannot offer any comparisons or discrepancies between them and this anime version, but the feeling is twelve episodes wasn’t enough to explore the full scope of the story, or maybe the extraneous comic frippery should have been excised in favour of a focused plot development.
It is the evident cry for mainstream appeal that prevents 11 Eyes from fulfilling its potential, relying too much on hackneyed ideas and tropes when its core premise was a sufficient foundation to build on.
Acceptable and earnest entertainment but sadly flawed and forgettable.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black