Anime Baba’s Countdown to Halloween
It’s that time of year again, the weather cools off (yes, it’s still hot in Florida but it is cool-er), the leaves change color (not here but I’ve heard tell they do), and there’s pumpkin spice everywhere (seriously EVERYwhere—what’s next, pumpkin spice tampons?). But the best part about this time of year is that glorious holiday that brings out the cosplay in all of us—Halloween. It’s a time for tricks, treats, and fun.
For you Anime-niacs out there. I’ve got a list of anime suggestions that range from Blood and Guts to Simply Spooky Fun and we are going to countdown to Halloween with them. You might notice today is the second, not the first. Why? Because I wanted to be different. This year our countdown is going to be every even numbered day of October until Halloween (which has an odd number of days for those of you in the back of the class).
The anime on this countdown will be in no special order; we are counting down the days to Halloween. While horror anime are often known for being a bit heavy on the blood and guts, we will also look at some psychological thrillers, as well as some cute anime that dabbles in the super natural without being overly scary.
We’ll stick to anime that are complete series or movies. Sorry, Angels of Death fans—that anime is off the list owing to the fact that you can only watch the first twelve episodes on Crunchyroll and then you have to figure out where to find the rest (BOOO Kadokawa Pictures). I will try to stick to anime that you can easily access such as things on Crunchyroll, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc., but if I include one that is harder to find streaming I’ll note that as well. So, let’s get started.
Day 1 / 15 – Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
We’ll start our non-traditional countdown with an anime that defies traditional genre labels. I discovered Dusk Maiden of Amnesia years ago around the time it released. It’s one of those anime that tricked me which seems appropriate for a season of tricks and treats. Based on the trailer (above) and the blurb (below), I was sure I was about to watch a horror/mystery series much like the series Another which I’d enjoyed. The blurb sounded so similar:
Seikyou Private Academy, built on the intrigue of traditional occult myths, bears a dark past—for 60 years, it has been haunted by a ghost known as Yuuko, a young woman who mysteriously died in the basement of the old school building. With no memory of her life or death, Yuuko discreetly founds and heads the Paranormal Investigations Club in search of answers.
After a chance meeting leads Yuuko to cling to diligent freshman Teiichi Niiya, who can see the quirky ghost, they quickly grow close, and he decides to help her. Along with Kirie Kanoe, Yuuko’s relative, and the oblivious second year Momoe Okonogi, they delve deep into the infamous Seven Mysteries of the storied school. ~ Source myanimelist.com
Not quite. While there are definitely elements of horror, this is not really scary but it is a solid mystery about a village with a dark past and there’s so much more to it. If you like romance in your anime, then this is a great Halloween anime for you. With only twelve episodes, you can binge watch the entire series in about 8 hours including breaks over at Crunchyroll.
Different but Fun
From episode one, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia tears down genre barriers. This supernatural series offers comedy and slice-of-life style drama, mixed with the tension of a dark mystery and subtly-apparent horror elements. It was this blend that kept me watching after my initial disappointment wore off.
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia opens by mixing comedy and mystery to create a great scenario. Momoe is in the clubroom of the Paranormal Investigation Club writing notes. As she works, little spooky things happen such as as various objects float around, her tea cup moves. Like any average high-schooler confronted with the supernatural alone, she freaks out a bit and then rationalizes everything.
Our “hero” Niiya Teiichi shows up just as she is terrifying herself and they chat. He seems to be reading her mind. Kirie shows up and seems to be fussing at Momoe and Niiya before the meeting officially starts. It’s noted that the president of the club is absent… again. They head to the scene of the first mystery on Momoe’s list, the school’s dumbwaiter. Rumor has it that the vengeful spirit of a student who died when he got this head stuck in there sometimes moves the unused lift. Momoe explains that sometimes after school, the spirit lures lone students in to the dumbwaiter in an attempt to abduct them to another world. Just then the dumbwaiter starts moving. Kirie snarkily remarks that a ghost is doing something which sends a terrified Momoe into fits. We see a creepy silhouette and Niiya goes flying in to the dumbwaiter. Kirie gets angry and Momoe is frantic as the scenes fades to black.
Then the entire episode scene plays again, but this time, our missing club president and resident ghost Yukko is revealed in everyshot. We see how she is responsible for moving the objects, relocating Momoe’s tea, and even the presumed mind reading is explained. Niiya’s answers to Yuuko’s questions simply happened to fit Momoe’s thoughts. At this point, I was sold. The fun mixed so well with supernatural aspects that I gave it a go and I was not disappointed.
Formula but Not Exactly
While on some level this anime is formulaic, it also bends the rules making the formula a little different and a bit more fun. Our main characters are very anime trope characters in that we have Niiya Teiichi as the traditional sensible nice guy and Yuuko Kanoe as our standard romance anime fun-loving girl. Their personalities fit each other so well that it provides a comfortable familiarity against a background of dark secrets and grim mysteries. When you add in the easily excited Momoe and smart-mouthed Kirie, who is interestingly enough Yukko’s grandniece, then you’ve got a complete anime trope ensemble. The juxtaposition of this formula cast against a genre bending story gives this anime its charm, balancing fun with fear.
The music is atmospheric and used well. The simple piano pieces, string quartets, and light instrumentals that would fit into any simple drama, but set against the grim and grungy backgrounds that are very reminiscent of a noir detective series, it come off with the perfect amount of creepy. The bouncier pieces are saved for those light moments when the anime blends its slice-of-school-life kawaii style humor with the disturbing missing memories of Yukko’s back story.
And that’s really the gist here. Yukko is a ghost confined to the school ground with no memory of how she died and no negative emotions like hate, or anger. But as her friends begin to uncover the seven mysteries of the school and in the process bits of Yukko’s memories, they discover that Yukko’s hate, hurt, anger, and betrayal all exist. They walk the school in the form of Shadow Yukko. What horrible tragedy could have occurred in Yukko’s past to create such a split? The answers are revealed as our little group weeds through the history of a village once steeped in death, fear, and superstition. In they end, they come face to face with the horrific things desperate humans will do.
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is an emotionally complex story of romance and mystery, with solid horror elements in the mix. There are some disturbing elements and topics dealt with, as well as your traditional boob falls and maid dress-up. Overall it’s a touching story of love and friendship with a creepy mystery as the plot. I highly recommend it for a Halloween slumber party, girl’s night anime binge, or as a lightweight welcome to the Halloween season.
On Thursday we’ll take a look at another mystery horror that stays true its genre. Until then, enjoy the season!