Let not an Outsider touch thee,
Lest thou shalt be cursed forever.
Once upon a time, in a land far away that was divided into two realms...
The Outside was roamed by teratomorphic creatures who had the power to curse whoever they touched. Humans could live safely only in the Inside. But when a lost little girl from the Inside named Shiva, and a demonic beast-looking Outsider simply known as "Teacher" initiate a quiet coexistence on the same side of the forest, their bond seems to transcend their incompatible natures. It is the beginning of a folktale about two outcasts -one human, one inhuman- who linger in the hazy twilight that separates night from day.
The Girl From the Other Side is the kind of manga that fits perfectly the medium it was born, turning any adaptation pointless. It would be, in truth, pretty tough to translate it into an animation due to it’s simplicity. Nonetheless, this OVA really nailed it, with every frame acting as a gorgeous painting (even presenting a scene that is borderline art house). Considering that all I have seen recently are the most popular animes of the season, this peculiar animation style was truly an endearing breath of fresh air. Well, before I resume this review I must say that I have not read the
manga and my conclusions are based solely on the various screenshots I saw.
With that in mind I can ensure that everything I felt was purely from the animation by itself, as I didn't even have any knowledge about the story beforehand.
Because of it’s length, one might think that anything said about it is a spoiler, but nothing much really happens here. One of the most impressive things I noticed is that this short OVA was capable of conveying the feelings of both characters through the story genuinely, in a way that even myself, who knew nothing of it, could tell. The best example of an art piece that gives me a similar feeling is Yotsuba to!, even resembling a bit of Mushishi, but more simplistic and artsy. I mean, you can really grasp some ideas that are important to the environment and characters, but there is no beginning, middle and end, which in my opinion, certainly turns out not being a problem here. So, if you watched it and wishes to understand more, or know what lead things to become how they had, or wants to know what will happen, maybe that’s the purpose of the OVA, to instigate you to go read the manga. Nevertheless, it sustains itself without the extra information. Even though I’m not going to read the manga, I cannot recommend this OVA enough. Mostly because of the animation and some beautiful screenshots you will witness.
Now I’m going to say some things that might be considered spoilers, so if you believe that spoiler spoils shows or you just really don’t like them, watch the anime and then come back to read the rest.
I found fascinating how the characters are initially shown through neutral lens, then, through the girl’s lens, who is dreaming a dream that becomes a nightmare, and then with the “monster” lens, who faces a sort of nightmare (the idea of losing her), which ends up turning into a dream due to the girl’s innocence and curiosity. This dream (rooted in reality) is shared not only by the two characters but also with us, using the open shoot of the lake. Afterwards, the “monster” fantasizes with being able to hold the girl, however, we are brought back to reality, and although reality can hurt, what welcome us back is the girl smile, telling us that despite everything, it's okay.
Totsukuni no Shoujo tells the tale of a young girl and her otherworldly guardian living amidst of a forlorn forest. At first glance, their life together is harmonious and their relationship heartwarming; on further inspection however, something seems off…
It is hard to shake the sense of eeriness arising from the black-and-white juxtaposition of the young girl and her guardian whose behaviour strikes one as rather odd: during the early sequences of their everyday life he seems to frantically avoid any form of physical contact with the girl, instead opting for workarounds that do not require touching her.
The origin of his peculiar behaviour is slowly unravelled
over the course of the following few scenes: the guardian suffers from a curse that turns every living being he touches into a dark and wretched monster. The mostly muted color palette dominated by dark shades of grey suggests that the origin of this infliction may be the outside world, though nothing is explicitly stated.
The effect this curse has on the protagonists is explored through experimental means: the girls tries to flee from her fear by escaping into her dreams; a wonderful dreamland accentuated by a serene assortment of strings brings her piece of mind, but it quickly turns into a nightmarish dark desert as the curse coursing through her guardian turns her into a monster as well.
Though that isn’t to say that their relationship receives a sinister undertone—in fact it is quite the opposite: knowledge of the curse’s nature recontextualizes the odd behaviour of the guardian and reveals the depth of love and care going into his everyday interactions with the girl, as well as his personal tragedy of being unable to hold those he holds dear. While he may have seemed like an enigma at first, it becomes clear that he is compassionate and does his best to fulfill his duties as the girl’s guardian—however inadequate he may be.
The depth of his attachment to the girl is displayed beautifully when the girl vanishes from the living room: in a state of panic and great emotional distress, he runs around frantically as his vision grows distorted and colorless.
From the jittering shading and outlines to the high-impact black-and-white slow motions and experimental sequences—Director Kubo’s fingerprints are all over the work. The restrictions of the source material’s narrative keep him from becoming self-indulgent however, and the integration of his style is purposeful and seamless. The framework of the narrative allows him to bridge the gap between his usual experimentation and genuine emotion, making this his first opus.
At the same time, Kubo displays directorial prowess at handling narrative works: the storyboards are consistent, showcasing his proficiency at capturing a wide range of emotion as well as proving his eye for impactful and engaging shot composition. Though it is the first of his projects to have characters with a personality, he makes great use of animation as a tool for characterization. This work puts him on the map as one of the names to look out for in the coming decade.
This short is a clear contender for anime of the year—a feat rarely achieved by works of similar length. It is experimental and poignant, with great production values throughout. This one is for everyone.
Now it might just be because I'm an avid follower of the manga that my score is the way it is, after all without prior knowledge of the series it's hard to glean anything totally solid from a 10 minute OVA.
Rather than being something to critique by itself, this short work of art proves itself to be the perfect advertisement for the enchanting manga of the same name, as it was the cover art of the manga that caught my eye to begin with.
There is, however, something to be said about the outstanding visual and audio directing put into this OVA; to be able to
convey emotion without expressing it in words is a gift, and this nails it. From the sprinklings of delicate orchestral pieces to the dedication of sticking exactly to the manga art whilst adding a dash of colour works perfectly to give the audience the feeling of warm solitude. Without ever uttering a single word you learn Shiva and Sensei's bond, what they value, how they see things, what scares them, and most importantly what they want the more than anything.
If this OVA peaked your interest I implore you to read the manga, it will be worth you time.
If you haven't started reading the manga of Totsukuni no Shoujo (The Girl From the Other Side) but is thinking about it,
then this OVA might be helpful to you like it was for me.
The story is visually told (no dialogue) and follows a young girl named Shiva, and a demon-like being called Sensei that takes care of her. But he can't touch her because that would give her an incurable curse.
Since this OVA is only 10 minutes long there isn't much of an overarching story and it's just a day in the their life. But what makes it interesting is the relationship between Shiva and
Sensei. Both are from seemingly different worlds (realms according to the synopsis) and they can't touch each other despite living together.
It made me interested to learn more which I think was the point with this OVA. [7/10]
Art and Animation:
Visually it has one of the most unique artstyles I've ever seen in an anime, and is what caught my eye in the first place. Wit Studio made a great choise to make it similar to the manga's artstyle. Being mostly very bleak and gritty which adds to the overall atmosphere. [10/10]
The animation is very solid overall and since none of the characters speak, most of the emotion are shown visually which I think they did very well.
The characters themselves are very mediocre but you can't expect great characters from a 10 minute long episode. But like I said earlier I found Shiva and Sensei's odd bond to be quite interesting.
We don't get to know how their relationship started but I guess that's just one more reason to read the manga. [5/10]
The music used in this OVA is very atmospheric and is very fittingly used to show the characters emotions in each scene.
The sound effects are also very fitting and made their world feel much more alive. [8/10]
I found Totsukuni no Shoujo to be quite enjoyable which was mostly due to how little they told you about everything. It probably doesn't have the same affect if you're reading the manga already, but it might still be entertaining.
If you have 10 minutes that you don't want to waste on some eye cancer trashshow, then this might be something for you. If you haven't read the manga then this might get you interested in it like it did to me.