I’m still not quite sure what we have with Amnesia, but it’s an intriguing mix of elements just the same.
I don’t really think that Brains Base is capable of making an anime that isn’t pretty to look at, so it’s almost a given that Amnesia would be one of the most visually compelling series of the season. I was a little put off by the multicolored jewel eyes for a while, but hey, at least they’re unusual – and the character designs are as bishie as it gets. As is so often the case with this studio it doesn’t overwhelm the senses with lush detail like KyoAni, but rather with a distinct sense of style that means nothing that happens visually is ever boring.
Where I’m taking things on faith, more or less, is with the content. To be blunt Amnesia still hasn’t grabbed me after two episodes, but I’m certainly not bored – there are elements that are intriguing enough, and I haven’t plumbed all the mysteries of the premise yet. Brains Base’s track record suggest that when they adapt, they choose challenging and intelligent material, so my hope is that Amnesia might just be a little slow in revealing its charms from a story standpoint. Indeed, there’s a niggling sense in my mind that this could turn out to be another Zetsuen no Tempest – a show that I enjoyed purely for its sense of style before it grew it found its wings and turned out to be something really special. But I can’t exactly point to any specific evidence to support that hunch, so for now it may as well be wishful thinking.
In addition to the bushel o’ bishies we had last week, added to the mix are Ikki (the excellent Taniyama Kishou), another co-worker of Heroine’s who’s “good at anything he does with his hands”, and Ukyou (Miyata Kouki). He’s the creepy fellow who popped up at the end of the premiere and now appears to be stalking Heroine and making insane-guy faces. In the interest of equal opportunity we have two female co-workers too, Sawa (Moriya Satomi) and Mine (Akutsu Kana). This time around the whole lot of them pile into the Shinkansen to head off for an island retreat, apparent a kind of employee-bonding exercise, as well as a chance to view a meteor shower (which was Heroine’s idea, though of course she doesn’t remember it).
At this point it’s easy to see that this is based on an otome VN, because Heroine is very much filling the viewer avatar role we’ve seen countless males fill in these adaptations – to the point where she’s honoring the concept by being pretty much a cipher. Part of that is her character’s situation, of course, but Heroine isn’t giving much at this point – it’s hard to muster much rooting interest in someone so entirely passive. I have limitless faith in Nazuka Kaori and there’s still time to turn that around, but for now most of the interest is coming from the premise itself and the side characters. I quite like Orion, who’s certainly not a new concept but whose bright and slightly daft personality makes him a refreshing change of pace from the Neo-Gothic emo vibe projected by the rest of the cast.
As to that premise, while I don’t know the source material this has the feeling of a route being played out, and judging by the events at the end of the episode it’s most likely Shin’s. I’m assuming the anime will cover at least a few of them, presumably not in omnibus fashion, but for now Shin is clearly at center stage. There’s a lingering memory in Heroine’s mind of his telling her he’s killed someone, but there’s also evidence that her memories may be faulty. More telling, perhaps, is Shin’s somewhat unsettling behavior on the meteor shower trip, which ends with Heroine falling over a cliff while fleeing from him (to be fair, without a concrete reason to do so). When she awakens, she’s in a hospital, she's gone back a week in time, and Shin is acting the role of her boyfriend. And Orion is missing as well, though it’s clear that Heroine’s memories from before his arrival haven’t returned. None of this is exactly gripping yet, but I’m interested enough to stay with it for at least a while, especially given how strong the production values are. Here’s hoping Brains Base maintains their track record of picking winners – artistically at least, if not commercially.