OBVIOUS SPOILERS BELOW
I’ve been trying to vary things up with my reviews recently – moving away from the general discussion of music, character plot in a formulaic fashion. Thankfully, all these elements of Kyousou Giga has been discussed to death in these reviews, so I’m going to diverge and talk a bit about what I do and don’t like in this show – any of those more detailed elements are otherwise easily found. I should also clarify that this is largely a criticism. Kyousou Giga is quite positively reviewed, and the majority of the popular reviews here fail to identify some of its major weaknesses – something I hope to address here.
First of all, looking at the narration, I’ve got to recognize the nonconventional (and nonlinear) style. It’s no mystery that I’m a fan of nonchronological works - for a series that explicitly identifies itself as one about destruction and rebirth I find it appropriate. The point of this narration style is that you actually don’t get most of the story in a massive exposition dump, at least unless you’re extremely perceptive or unusually attuned to the nuances. However, I do struggle quite a bit with the way in which Toei uses it. Nonchronological shows rely largely on character development to drive their audience’s interest, relying on the viewers to build the story and work out the details. Did I say nonchronological? Interestingly, most of this story is chronological, but the method of explaining the details absolutely isn’t. Instead, a lot of this character development, and thus the audience’s keys to working it out, is anti-chronological, meaning what we get more and more toward the end.
Now is this a bad thing? Not necessarily – as long as there’s enough to build the story. But what constantly frustrated me throughout my watch-though is that the details we do get don’t have the effect we’re looking for. Remember what I said earlier about character development driving the story? We get plenty of character development, but so little of it helps to push the story forward, all up until the final two or three episodes. Other reviewers have exhaustively discussed the details, so I’ll just use one example here. Inari claims that he wants to die (or disappear, if that’s your intended interpretation) no earlier than halfway through the final episode. Wouldn’t a detail so critical to his character development be valuable earlier on? Wouldn’t that help to draw the rebirth and destruction parallels much more strongly between Myoue and himself? We get plenty about his character throughout the show, but critical details that actually drive the story seem to be largely missing.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s elements of this suspension of details that I do really love in this show. A great example of this might be the purpose of Kurama and Yase’s creation, something that isn’t fully clarified until the second-last episode. But this one is far more cleverly done. Enough hints are given – right from the opening few episodes – of their purpose, hints that are clearly portrayed through character development in the right spots. But my issue lies, again, in importance. Sure, this might be an interesting development, but it really doesn’t help to drive the story forward. As a viewer, I feel as if I’m sent on a variety of interesting but ultimately insignificant side-quests. Some of the really important details are just too obfuscated for me to follow. Again, drawing from a simple example, I didn’t even realize that Myoue and Inari are the same entity until episode 7, which in a 10-episode series, is kind of a shame. Couldn’t we have gotten some more explicit details on a topic that’s so fundamental to the conclusion of this show any earlier?
Moving on, then, onto my other criticisms of this show, I’ve got to do some commentary on where Toei places their focus. We get a lot of character development on Koto, who is a wonderfully strong character in her own right, but relatively little on her older brother, who I’d argue is the more nuanced of the two. What do I mean by this? It’s temping to see his resolution to continue living (again, last episode) as enough, but I think it’s unsatisfying. Do we ever see him coming to terms with being reborn against his own will into a family that he doesn’t belong to? Are we satisfied with his gift and re-gift of the creation beads, which suggest a grasp that he personally holds on his own life? Or are we content with him living because Koto asked him to? Again, I’m sure there’s way more to his character than this, and perhaps I’m just too dense to see it, but I can’t help but wish that we got more of this developed, in its own anti-chronological order, throughout the show.
In a related topic, I’m also a bit frustrated with the use of some of the show’s characters. There’s obviously the main cast, all of whom directly influence the plot and development of the story, but there’s also a surprising amount of others whom I feel are thrown in just to be forgotten later. Inari’s brother, who seems to appear only for the antagonistic moments? Fushimi and Shouko? Even Danji, whose proximity to Myoue you’d think would offer her some more character development throughout the show? It seems that we get relatively little about all these lesser members of the cast, which really diminished the depth of the fantastical world that they live in.
Finally, I’m going to talk about the art style and its relationship with the story. The story is fanatical – whimsical, mythical, whatever you want to call it. The art is as well. The style foregoes all realism for bright colors, large shapes, and clear motifs. And for the most part, the artstyle fits the story; however, I can’t help but feel that in some places, it doesn’t agree with me. I’ve said this about other shows, but there’s no one place I’d like to pause Kyousou Giga and screengrab it for my desktop background. I can’t quite put my finger on what about it bothers me – possibly that something is literally born out of monk’s idle sketches seems a bit excessive. It seems that most people love the artstyle and I’m in the minority here, but I’m throwing out this opinion in case anyone finds familiarity with it.
I have little else to say and am gratified to have for once limited myself in review length. I wouldn’t rewatch this show for myself, nor can I give it more than a mediocre recommendation for whatever spoiler-nuts may be reading this right now. If you like more than a dash of confusion and some ridiculous fantasy, go for it – if you’re looking for serious plot development through pointed characterization, you may want to look elsewhere.