The story follows a series of bizarre murders of schoolgirls who have been dismembered and stuffed into boxes. The private investigator hired by a missing daughter's mother joins forces with an antique book seller and others to unravel the murder spree.
“..If you build an enclosure within your heart, evil things will brew. Those things he called “mouryou.”
Built upon calamities of emotion, Madhouse effectively released a series worthy of a masterpiece. Mouryou no Hako hits a delectable balance, with extensive background in supernatural folklore, mystery, and science fiction – all tying in to a well-done and extensive detective, mystery story. This is how horror and mystery should be done!
At first glance, the story seems to be about two girls – one girl who has problems at home and the other, a seemingly perfect girl, who tells her that she will be the reincarnation of
the other and vice-versa. Then there’s a disturbing part where a mysterious man has a box in his hands, and voices coming out of it. Further down the road, you will follow detective Kiba as he tries to find out what’s going on. Do not be thrown off by the first episode’s foreshadow and its yuri themes (I might also add that Anime News Network found the first episode very compelling with “heart-achingly beautiful yuri.”) It is simply the preamble of Mouryou no Haku as to what you will see. There is also an amazing string of characters (A lot I might add) that tie in to the story and reveal connections. Indeed, Mouryou no Hako can be confusing at first, but as you follow the series, everything opens up in a mythological-like story. The story offers metaphors shrouded in secrecy, your mind questioning the whole box stuff (WTF moments too), and eventually leaving you blown as it all ties together in the end.
Mouryou no Hako is indeed a multi-layered mystery/detective story. It can be complex to the point where the viewer does not understand what’s going on. Of course, this series isn’t spoon-fed to you. You actually have to think, and that’s what makes this series so great.
Art: 10 Sound: 8
The animation, quality, and design were all nicely done. CLAMP finished off the designs with a professional touch while Madhouse did the animation wonderfully. If you thought Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was disturbing (It was actually), then you haven’t seen anything…yet. The gore, limbs, abstract scenes, and other “things” were certainly something. Not just enough for one to go all squeamish, though. The movements were detailed and subtle, with the backgrounds leaving a sense of awe for the viewer. Everything looked so amazing, crisp, and detailed therefore giving this piece a solid 10.
Opening theme: Lost in Blue by Nightmare
Ending theme: Naked Love by Nightmare
The music and insert sounds were also nicely played throughout the series. I actually bought the OST for this. The soundtrack is amazingly nice to listen to. With the opening and ending by Nightmare, it adds a nice touch to this prodigious piece. I would say that this was definitely one of Madhouse’s best OP/ED’s.
No, I can’t rate this a 9. Mouryou no Hako is an amazing series, but everything is not perfect. It falls short due to its amount of talking and occasional scene changes with different characters. This certainly isn’t for everyone and thus, may turn people off. Regardless, the series storytelling is the main selling point that makes this anime so unique and refreshing. It is truly unfortunate this anime has been underrated and highly overlooked. One thing is for sure though. There’s something about this anime that leaves a lasting nostalgia or melancholy – and one that allows a few of us to treasure this wonderful rare jewel.
Have you ever wanted to be a private detective? Asking that, I beg to you another question. What is the degree of depth and detail that needs to be sought out to truly understand the complexity of a criminal mind? Perhaps this is out of my comprehension as an avid anime viewer but I'm sure Mouryou no Hako is not only scratching the surface of the true horrors of a criminal mind, but is inviting me to bathe in it.
Me and dialogue story-telling have never really snuggled up together on the mattress but being a person entirely aware of that, I can wholeheartedly say,
"what a truly astonishing exercise in dialogue driven story-telling we have here". As I stated in the opening segment this show stands as a tribute to detail and the huge amount of research that is required in truly understanding the mind of a criminal, the component of this series that reflects this above all else is the dialogue. Each and every spoken word is like a work of art, each uttered letter is a moment worth savoring, whether it be the simple whisper of a future lover; the withdrawn complacency of an actress; or the intelligent observations of a detective, the essence of the dialogue's writing is phenomenal. All of these moments pervade the entire series that make this an intellectual feast for any sturdy and patient viewer.
As some would know, the Japanese meaning for Mouryou is Goblin and a Goblin bears resemblance to a picturesque description of madness, painting an image of its grotesquely alienating figure. This ideal crosses and intersperses itself in the eyes of its antagonist. What beauty is there, finding solace within the impurities of insanity? Mouryou no Hako answers this question with the act of deforming and preserving human ligaments, the act of preserving the human body after death, a fools hope, but an act that has been carried out by mankind for eons.
I would like to say that the whole story matches up to the quality of dialogue and the mass of clever metaphors within this series, but sadly, the actual story only just missed the cut. Mouryou no Hako follows a series of brutal murders carried out by an anonymous killer, and becomes a philosophical study of the condition of those deemed mentally insane, the series asks many questions about this fortunately never wavering to far from what it originally set out to do.
The negatives that I refer to would actually be the dialogue heavy story-telling. Now this might come across as unusual considering the praise that I have given the dialogue but even its phenomenal quality does not excuse the fact that spent too much time on too many details. There was a particular scene in the middle of the series that was a discussion that took place for two whole episodes. The scene in question though being necessary could probably have been a condensed a bit, as it can be argued very truthfully that it removes a lot of the tension that had been developed up to that point and the other problem with the scene is that while it was very interesting, it didn't contribute as much to the series as was probably intended.
Besides that point, I have little to no problems with the story as it is well made and knew how to keep me guessing until that final moment when the mystery was revealed, which brings me to say that the story is almost masterful in its execution and that alone can make it a true gem in the anime medium's detective genre.
It is not unusual for me to commend Madhouse studios in the art department for any of the series that they have released, but as it stands Mouryou no Hako's art is highly noteworthy simply because of its detail and intense elegance, which helps to accentuate and set up the mood that the series wishes to establish. There are two particular scenes that I want to take note of within this series, mostly because I believe that they capture the insecurities that lie deep within the characters.
Falling cherry blossoms are a foreshadowing of death, two girls dancing a careless waltz in the moonlight, a waltz of death amidst the ascending petals of these blossoms. This scene was almost painful to watch with its melancholy but at the same time it was almost impossible to look away with how truly mesmerizing it was.
The other scene that I would like to mention was a moment of disconnection, a scene of limbs moving without a body, it was highly ostracizing and highlighted a comparison to the feeling of having one's limbs removed from the body whilst in a state of consciousness.
These two scenes delved into what I believe are the true horrors of this series and the art and design of the scenes are what effectively achieved it.
Another aspect that I wished to mention is the attention to detail with all the characters actions, movements and display of emotion, they are fluid actions which have a realistic touch, I will delve into more of this in the character section.
The characters in this series are truly immersed in the story and that is a feat in and of itself. As I stated in the Art section, many of the characters in this have a divine commitment to insanity, and to properly highlight the insecurities that these characters have requires proper development, does Mouryou no Hakou achieve this, yes.
Much of the characters development is heavily influenced by the dialogue on display, and wastes little time in identifying the subtle animosity of one character, the worrisome plight of many observers and the subdued emotionally detached personality of a strong steadfast detective.
Dialogue isn't the only contributor to character development as the creators are fully aware that much of what is spoken is not spoken at all, the art department did well in identifying a realistic approach to the display of body language which is a leap away from much of the quirks of your average anime series. I found this aspect of Mouryou no Hako to be very interesting and in some way refreshing. A particular point that I want to identify is the moment that a girl grins at a friend of hers, that one small action contained an unspeakable malice driving pure fear into me as a viewer and it made me question much of the intentions behind such a smile.
The actions are thought provoking, like the detail and textures of the story the show is detailing, it offers an almost beautiful contrast and reflection of the richness of the series.
Not one character does not contribute to the entirety of the story, which is an excellent feat again, whether it be the man and woman casually preparing for work finding the detached limb of a murdered girl beautifully preserved, just that moment is acknowledged later in the series.
One problem I have with the characters is this, they are not memorable! Even though I commend the show for its detail in its characters and their actions, I simply cannot praise this series characters as much as I want to.
One thing that the OST of Mouryou no Hako has going for it is that it is simply relaxing to listen to, it's not a pumping soundtrack but is more of a sound that is grounded in the traditions of the theater.
There were many moments in the soundtrack that were like sweeping rustlings, carefully placed to build tension, a particular track that I want to commend is "Madoi Hito", that is an orchestration of string instruments that builds a spectacle, almost romantic display of the tension. These tracks seduced me into the moment, which does wonders for the series as the immersion exacerbates the constant build. This build made many scenes all the more potent especially in those moments of horror.
I do love a good murder mystery and Mouryou no Hako is definitely satisfying that sweltering itch but the best thing and most notable thing about it was that it scratched it in the most surprising way possible. That said, it must be said that much of the reasons why I have enjoyed this series have already been listed.
I believe a well made story can contribute to how much I enjoy a show and Mouryou no Hako certainly fits into that category with many twists and turns that constantly enlightened me on the depth that this series had. To its credit any series that can keep me so actively engaged with such heavy dialogue is worthy of being commended, and it is those many moments of dialogue that made this series an absolute delight.
However, I can only enjoy a series such as this so much, thankfully with my large attention span I was able to take in many of the details but on some occasions I found myself yawning during a very long bit of dialogue. Despite being remarkable, at times it just simply stretched out for too long but these moments are few and far between.
Would I rewatch this series? Perhaps. If I were to ever re-watch it, I imagine I would probably like it less because the mystery is so well crafted that I would probably catch on to every single moment when the culprit displayed an important piece of evidence.
Mouryou no Hako is a rare series that does everything (literally) to remove itself from the norm, I probably haven't seen a series so far removed from the norm for quite a long time and for that it gets some points in my book. It is not a perfect series either, with some questionable moments here and there but for the most part many of the scene changes were fluid and the series maintained a height of consistent quality on both a technical level and story-telling level that is rarely seen.
Unfortunately Mouryou no Hako is not a series for everyone and has a particular niche audience in an already niche medium, which is a pity as it is a truly excellent work in many respects that offers an experience like no other.
This is one series that did just about everything right. Obviously it’s not for those who don’t like people talking over and over again, but it’s perfect for those who are looking for mature and complex anime. This is how mystery should be done!
I honestly can’t recall any other anime apart from a Mamoru Oshii-production that puts more emphasis on talking as this one. The series follows a string of bizarre murders, and the people who try to solve it. This whole mystery is multi-layered, it’s full of flashbacks and references, you’ll never know when something that passes the screen is important for the future.
There are lots of scenes that don’t necessarily have any direct meaning, but instead are there to flesh out the setting or throw the viewer on a side-track, and yet the series itself never loses track of its goals, and everything comes together in the end in one of the best endings I’ve seen.
Another big selling-point of the series is its cast of characters. They hardly get as much screen time or background as your average anime, and yet they’re utterly amazing. The animation knows exactly what it needs to do to show their subtle movements and gestures in order to flesh them out while many other things happen, and the background that’s there is meaningful and has a huge impact. Every character has his or her own distinctive presence, with the best ones being Kanako and Akihiko, both for very, very different reasons. The entire cast is colourful and a delight to watch, despite the huge amounts of talking within this series.
Then the visuals: they look utterly incredible. Especially in the beginning episodes, the characters all look crisp and very detailed. The animators throw the most beautiful shots and visual effects at the viewer. Combine that with an awesome soundtrack, and you’ve got some amazing production values.
The soundtrack is amazingly nice to listen to. OPs And EDs are nothing in particular to listen to, but the soundtrack does what it needs to do.
So overall, this has been an amazing series. The script is fresh and creative and has a huge impact. There’s a lot of symbolism, both visual and in the storyline, and an excellent recommendation for those who look for a short mature series. The storytelling is strong yet subtle, and it’s yet another masterpiece by Madhouse.
Hi there! This is going to be my first review ever but because I love this anime very much and I think it's incredibly underrated so I had to jump over my shadow. :)
Mouryou no Hako.. well what can I say. The story about a series of dismembered girls being found and how an investigator figures out what happened sounds rather simple at first, average even. But boy.. it really isn't.
What makes Mouryou no Hako incredibly interesting is the fact that the entire plot gets told through dialogue. Sure, that doesn't sound very exciting at first but it had me on the edge of
my seat. The viewer ought to think for himself and figure out what is happening or what might have happened. And because it's not all laid out for you it's even more enjoyable. Kind of like an interactive anime? If you can call it like that.
You get to see the very unique characters of whom everybody has their own incredibly huge issues, go through a lot of character development in such little time. And to be really honest.. when I first started this I really didn't expect to be hit with such an interesting plot. Even more so because the ending is superb and not foreseeable at all. It's not one of those 'I can see the ending of this anime before I even start it' kind of animes that try to work you up with a lot of suspense but still fail miserably at actually delivering a decent story. Mouryou no Hako feels simple, effortless even when it really isn't. It's quite complex but that's what makes it so interesting. It makes everything seem so casual almost like you're watching a trailer about a summer love story but then the plot hits you and it deals with harsh realities and the ugliness of the world. And Mouryou no Hako is perfectly capable of giving you both of these impressions one second to the next.
The art was immensely beautiful in my book. It had a lot of greyish, soft tones (almost like one of those slightly yellowish old american movies) to it that fit perfectly with the ambience of the anime. There are also a lot of wonderfully, detailed nature scenes that took my breath away.
Anyways if you are somebody who always hopes to get stunned and amazed by plot twists and clever storyline but usually gets disappointed by the sheer abundance of 'we-tried-too-hard-to-make-this-interesting' animes I think Mouryou no Hako can help you out. Once again I'd like to put out there how effortless this anime feels but you just know how much hard work and love they put into this anime. It's a masterpiece to me that deserves to get noticed.