2011: The Anime Year in Review

I’m going to go about this in my usual biased way, ignoring anything that didn’t interest me and selecting the shows that were great, the shows that were good, and the shows that might have been good were it not for some serious flaw. Ongoing series that have not completed a single season will have judgement deferred until next year. (Too often a promising show is ruined by a bad or missing ending.)
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Gosick Ends

A nice ending for a rather good series. I’m not calling it a great classic but “rather good” seems fair enough.

It is only possible to appreciate this show if you look at it the right way. It is not, as it first appears, a detective show. It’s gothic horror/romance. A detective story depends on surprising the audience while keeping them convinced of its logic and plausibility. A gothic story is all about atmosphere and style.

Gosick is loaded with implausibilities (even allowing for the fact that it is set in an alternate universe with an alternate history) but style and atmosphere it has aplenty. Furthermore I find that the characters grow on me, particularly the heroine who starts out seeming obnoxious but becomes increasingly sympathetic and admirable as the story unfolds.

Gosick Explained

I just had a sudden insight about Gosick–which left me feeling rather stupid.

I’ve been enjoying the show but it tends to leave me frustrated. The episodes are a series of mysteries and often include references to classic mystery stories, but the show doesn’t seem to understand how a mystery story should be told. We are given a seemingly inexplicable mystery, then we are brusquely given an explanation, but the explanation never seems particularly plausible. What make the show enjoyable is the interaction between the characters, not the plots.

What I just realized is that despite the format, this isn’t a mystery series at all. It’s a gothic horror story. That’s a very different genre with very different rules. A classic mystery story gives us a situation that seems to defy rational explanation, but then proves that there is a rational explanation after all. In a gothic story the everyday rational world turns out to be just a facade that masks something stranger and more terrifying.

So the reason that Victorica’s explanations seem pat and inadequate is that they are in fact superficial and incomplete. Victorica is evading the real truth, which is that the world is not as rational as she would like it to be.

The show suddenly makes a lot more sense to me. But the reason I feel stupid is that there is a great big clue that I was aware of from the start: “Gosick” and “Gothic” are the same word when written in katakana.

Gosick–Anime First Impressions

Gosick is a series of detective stories based on a series of light novels by Kazuki Sakuraba.

“Gosick” is apparently what you get when you take the Japanese word for “gothic” (GOSHIKKU in katakana) and convert it into Roman characters, either with no knowledge of the original English word, or as a deliberate joke. In either case I suspect that the author had no idea how bad it would sound in English.

The story begins in 1924 in an exclusive private boarding school in the mythical kingdom of Sauville, located between France and Italy. Kazuya Kujou (Takuya Eguchi), the disaffected younger son of a Japanese army officer, is attending the school but is shunned by his fellow students. He forms an unlikely friendship with another misfit student, Victorique de Blois (Aoi Yuuki.) She is small, very arrogant and very smart. She wears gothloli dresses that would have been appropriate half a century earlier. A virtual prisoner at the school, her primary amusement is solving crimes that have baffled the police. This is made possible by her half-brother Grevil (Hidenobu Kiuchi), a flamboyant but incompetent police detective.
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