Table of Contents
- Intro to the Analysis
- Story Analysis
- Anime Analysis
- Moral Analysis
- Fan Art
Before I begin, this post isn’t a dummy’s guide to Kagerou (though I have links for that). Instead, it’s for people who are interested and trying to decide if it is worth looking into further or watching the anime.
What you need to be doing to think of entertaining absurdities that take the whole world by storm no one knows except the Japanese. It may have something to do with the fact that life is very boring and you’re desperate to create something so interesting that it distracts you from the mundane life you’re currently occupying.
A couple years ago, a guy known as Jin (じん) created a Vocaloid music video and posted it on Nico Nico Douga (ニコニコ動画), a popular Japanese video host, and the video became a hit in a week. He kept publishing videos, each becoming increasingly popular. Seeing success, he connected his music videos with a story (though I’m inclined to believe he had this story in mind already), publishing a light novel which turned into a manga and now an anime, known as Mekaku City Actors (meant to be the original name of the story).
Intro to the Analysis
The story is about several kids that are drawn to form a group because of their special powers and coincidences in their lives. That about sums up the part that makes sense. If you haven’t read every scrap of material about the show, you may find yourself thoroughly confused. Good news: there is a helpful guide for you to figure out what’s going on:
I imagine you’ve heard at least one song from the project (and hence your interest), and if you’d like to know all of them, here’s the list.
That said, I’m not going to retell you the story, which is still in progress, I’m going to tell you what’s good and bad about the story and the anime… as it is. In a way, it’s like spoilers, but not.
At first, there is that element of mystery. When you listen to the songs, you’re drawn by the mystery, and that attractive mystery carried over into the first pages of the story and in the anime. As you discover more, that mystery will turn into either one of two things: You will either find Kagerou Project fascinating or you will think it’s a mildly uncreative story whose primary attractive elements are the cool rock music and the fact that it was interesting before you figured out what was going on.
Why uncreative? Here are some reasons for you: First, a group of high-school kids with powers. Where have we heard this a dozen times before? It occurs in many more anime than just Fairy Tale. Second, as usual, there is no rhyme or reason to why the powers work the way that they do – you’re simply expected to believe it based on the mechanics of the world. Admittedly, there is fantasy science, but this isn’t StarTrek, it’s fantasy. There is a source of power, but it’s not like details are given. This show rides off of mystery, but then scratches away at that mystery to reveal details that were in TV Tropes ages ago. You could scratch all this by simply noting that creativity isn’t always making something never seen before, it’s taking what is already around and making it new again.
Why is this story fascinating? – It’s new, and it’s weird… in a interesting way. It’s also the shear number of details and the way that they are revealed. Even watching all of the songs and reading all of the details of the story, there is still more that hasn’t been revealed and plenty of questions that haven’t been nor probably ever will be answered. There are lots of bits of creative details, from the randomness of the events described in the popular song, Heat Haze Days (カゲロウデーズ), to the gamer-tsundere-turned-considerate-digipet.
I did manage to figure out some of what was going on in Heat Haze Daze, but for that, you need to watch the fan-made PV and pay close attention to appearance of the red and blue characters and what’s being said near the end of the song.
The world – no matter how large it is supposed to be – is still very small. Everything is a family affair, too many people are merely pawns in the background, and everything is pretty much meaninglessness. I’ll talk about this issue more in the moral analysis. I contrast this story with anime/manga like Trigun, which had various levels of character development (no core group around which everyone else was a pawn).
In short, the story isn’t what I expected, but it is very amusing. I’m still undecided about how I feel about it. It is inspirational, though, and I’d like to create something similar or similarly themed (though more in the direction I thought this story was going to go, lol).
Episode one looked like it would fulfill all of my expectations for being a weird/mysterious show. The story is animated by Shaft, known for Bakemono Gatari and the weird head-tilt. They did an excellent job conveying the mystique and wackiness of the tale – even making it that way where it wasn’t. Notably, they told it in their own way, so there were various inconsistencies between the songs/novels and the animated story. The actual animation itself is rather simple, probably taking from the manga and this latest style trend in Japanese art (“latest”, lol, it’s a few years old). However, for one episode at least, they did try to use 3D animation for the characters… and it fell flat on its face as the most hideous looking animation of the year. (Although some people noted it was a mockery of another anime where things were happy-go-lucky.)
The bummer for fans of the Vocaloid music is that it has all been exchanged by remixes with real people singing, including, I’m told, the original artist, Jin. Reasons? For one thing, it’s new and unique to the anime, and also, they probably didn’t want to deal with Vocaloid licensing.
My usual quitting episode for poor quality anime is episode 6, but despite not liking the premise, I decided to continue. Episode 6 was the most action packed, entertaining episode, having the best versions of the new remixes used throughout the show. Unfortunately, the rest of the show was loaded with dialogue and background explanations for everything, making much of the story in the present time relatively uneventful. The background tales are the amusing part, but even still, the poor newbies watching the show are completely lost. As the show progresses, some key details are revealed to make the story coherent, but you’ll still need to do some research on your own to appreciate the depth of the tale.
This is a show that appeals primarily to people who are already familiar with a great deal of the background. Although notably, if you are familiar with it, what to expect from the show could potentially be spoiled for you right from episode 1.
The music, I’ll say, could be excellent or meh. The opening theme was good; the ending song was excellent. The music for episode 6 as well as the remake of Imagination Forest for episode 10 were really good.
Anime Summary Rating
- Story (anime) – 7/10 – Too much dialogue was required, so not enough action.
- Animation – 5/10 – Cheap, but new style. Sometimes appealing, sometimes ugly.
- Directing – 8/10 – Very entertaining, though some odd shots at times.
- Music – 5/10 – Let down in comparison with the originals, but some awesome versions in the mix. Op and Ed were good.
- Characters – 4/10 – Underdeveloped (too many of them) but unique. You have to read the novels and manga to know them.
This section will contain spoilers.
This is not a show for children.
One of the more peculiar aspects of the story is that the whole freaking premise revolves around the world and powers connected with a Medusa and, of course, snakes. This said Medusa also has crazy powers that allow her to make a world that ultimately allow her to have dead people be transported to it every August 15th. I seem to recall that Medusa was symbolic of evil in ancient Greece, but why not make the story more interesting that way? Objectively speaking, it doesn’t matter, unless you’re bothered by some character walking around with snakes in her hair and an unknown level of power, perhaps over 9k. Oh wait, the snakes. “Why does it have to be snakes?” Despite growing from said monster, they give the monster powers (or so I read somewhere). Sounds like Samson?
The animators decided to go into detail about the background story of said Medusa, showing some ugly static scenes and skulls and revealing one of the more creative, or uncreative, aspects of the story: how it copies the tale of the garden of Eden. The snake from the garden of Eden tricked Eve into creating a whole new (bad) world, same as another snake does to the Medusa character. Notably, the Japanese love to use mythology and occasionally incorporate aspects of Christianity into their stories.
EDIT (8/15/2014): As I noted today, August 15th is the Assumption of Mary, mother of Jesus, into heaven. It is the day where Catholics observe in remembrance Mary’s body being taken into heaven before it became corrupted (as would have happen if she died). Ironic, no?
The snakes at least turn out to be wicked. This leads us to a creepy fact about the show, and a challenge for the main characters to overcome. I do like the fact that there is no blurry line here about who is the real enemy.
Next issue: murder. It happens, and in one arc, everyone is murdered by the guy who should be everybody’s friend. There is a major disregard of the value of human life by certain main characters that comes into play in the story, ultimately resulting in both murders and suicides.
That, and why are parents disposable? This is a very common trope in anime that should stop as it implies adults have no place of interest in adventure.
Related to that, one of the biggest problems I have with this story, and not just any story that gives humans powers, is that toys with the human body and human dignity. It elevates monsters – however humanistic they may appear – to equal status with people, subtracting from the dignity of humanity in this tale. Furthermore, it disregards the immutability of the human, but this is a bit complicated to explain. As someone who greatly respects humans and their form, I find these things upsetting. But also, this goes to show how uninteresting the ordinary human has become his own mind.
I also noted that episode 10 seems to suggest humans are the cruel beings – if you misunderstand the rationale of the actors, you might come to the false conclusion that the decisions of the aggressors are unwarranted, even if they are wrong.
The next problem is that of lying. It seems one of the main characters has a talent for lying, but not only that, he is given an ability to deceive, and, regardless of whether or not this is a good thing in the tale, the author has essentially elevated it to the status of “useful and therefore acceptable”. There is lying from other characters but it is confined within the limits of human nature.
Also, as a former gamer, I’ve come to understand what violence in games does to your mind, and while it is pop culture for Japan, having a character speak flauntingly of being a top dog in a gruesome game, especially when conscience would’ve been the cause for her initial embarrassment, is depressing to say the least, but I’ll save that rant for later.
Finally, what was the point? Entertainment. That’s it. No moral lesson, no rhyme or reason – there isn’t the slightest speck of useful information I can gather from all this except for how to make a pop culture phenomenon (key: good pop music). I was pleased that the story wasn’t totally black – there were good characters, a friendly atmosphere, and thoughtfulness on the part of the individuals involved.
Overall, it wasn’t awful, but I would say this is for ages 18 and up.
Pixiv was bustling with it recently, but I’m just posting links for now.