If there’s a curse at play here, it’s that I was just about ready to drop this series and dammit, now I can’t – this episode got me interested again.
There’s no question in my mind that Dusk Maiden works better as a suspense thriller with hints of ecchi and humor than the all-out sex farce it seemed determined to be for the first two episodes. Of course Silver Link is adapting this out of order, but I’m glad I didn’t drop this after the premiere (which I rarely do unless I truly hate a show, truth be told) because I don’t think I would have wanted to watch that show for 12 episodes. There were funny moments and it looked pretty, but it was trying too hard – the humor was too insistent and the dialogue too contrived. The addition of Kirie – or re-addition, as she was present in the premiere – brought a welcome contrast to to the three characters at the center of the show, and signaled a transition to something darker and edgier. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she’s played by the great Kitamura Eri, the best actor in this cast and a marvel as long as she’s not playing a boy.
It must be said that Silver Link, in truth, uses all of their trademark visual tics, oddly lighted still-shots, close-ups and facial distortions as a method of disguising the fact that their animation is actually of mediocre quality – as does SHAFT. That’s fine, as not everybody can afford to produce and QC a product like KyoAni – but there are times when that style simply overwhelms the material. With the disjointed, paranoid story being told this week that style was perfect. And it was a good story too, with Kirie coming to warn Teiichi that the sexy ghost he was cavorting with was actually a vengeful spirit ready to drag him to the other side. As a relative of Yuuko (that was obvious from the character names) there’s a special edge to her self-appointed role here, and though intellectually I knew she’d be proven wrong there was a good chunk of the episode that had me believing she just might be right about Yuuko. The conceit that Yuuko appears as others expect to see her is a clever one, and allows for some interesting storytelling possibilities in the future.
Also an interesting conceit – and the source of the best comedy in the series – is Yuuko’s quite logical trait of being much more embarrassed at Teiichi seeing her bones than her spirit body. The scene where she quivered in embarrassment not at being naked but at the notion that he was about to go look at her corpse was extremely clever and well-written. The existence of that creepy shrine below the school changes the paradigm completely, and it seems clear that we’re looking at the very real possibility of legitimately scary events taking place at this weird old school. I still don’t feel totally confident in what I’m going to get from Dusk Maiden, as one ep does not a series make. Maybe it will shift wildly from week to week, who knows – but for me, I’d be much happier if the show stuck closer to the recipe they used this time, because that’s putting its best foot forward.