Posted by psgels on 31 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Mouryou no Hako


The past fall season aired a lot of good and great series, but none of them was as good as this series: Mouryou no Hako, Madhouse’s latest masterpiece. 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.

Also, if you thought that shows as Code Geass is disturbing, then you haven’t seen anything yet. I refuse to spoil anything here, but like a few other Madhouse productions, this series breaks taboo after taboo. This is nothing near your average tame detective story.

Then the visuals: they look utterly incredible. Especially in the beginning episodes and 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 only possible turn-off is, like mentioned above, the large amounts of talking: if you don’t like it, then it’s going to be hard to enjoy this series. There are two particular consecutive episodes, where nothing else happens apart from three guys, sitting in a room and talking to each other. This anime isn’t afraid to take risks, even though it might turn off some people.

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.

Storytelling: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10

22 Responses

  1. supertauren says:

    I WILL WATCH THIS SHOW!

  2. L.A says:

    I thought…

    The stroy was okay,
    Characters were really mediocire,
    and Animation was fantastic

    If you like this kind of detective or the mystery series, I recommend you to watch Ghost in the Shell SAC.

  3. Windspirit says:

    “Also, if you thought that shows as Code Geass is disturbing”
    >> LOL.

  4. zakuro says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! The best of 2008! (If ‘Shinrei-Gari/Ghost Hound’ ended early in 2008 counted as a candidate, I’d put this one as the second… but I think GH should be considered 2007.)
    Actually the ‘only talking, nothing happening’ episodes 6th & 7th were the ones completely blown my mind! The camera work (well, can I say ‘camera work’ in animation? I believe so!) in the two eps were extraordinary! I’m so hoping Aero will stick to work on ep. 7 & beyond.

  5. PJ says:

    I watched the first two episodes and I thought the show did a poor job of making the story “digestable”. The girl got pushed into the path of the train, there’s a box of limbs (near the same place she was transferred to since I remember the people driving to check it out and then ran into the hospital), the box in the head, etc. It seems like every element is sort of nonsensical, there’s no sequence and everything’s “just there.” I know the point of the show is to reveal the connections, but when you throw too many characters, things happening and scene changes with different characters – it just becomes extremely annoying. I didn’t watch far enough, but I read on a summary that the girl who got pushed also lost her limbs? I mean, you might as well summarize the story randomly: a dog sneezed on a butterfly and that caused a girl to lose her eye, which was found by a man who turned into the serial killer.

  6. Requiem says:

    I’ve been wanting to watch this series since it was announced but sadly there are no subs for it.

  7. Koh-san says:

    As a followup to my comment for episode 13, I re-watched some parts, and it’s becoming clearer. Reading the English wiki entry for the author Natsuhiko Kyougoku, with its bit about the tsukimono-otoshi, indicates to me that this story strikes a delicate balance. There’s just a slight bit of science fiction in the form of advanced medical technology, and an extensive grounding of supernatural lore, but the story itself is an elaborate, fact-based, detective story. All the talk of spirits by Kyougokudou is to be taken primarily as a metaphor for human psychology. The irony is that Kyougokudou sees himself more as an exorcist than a detective. Yet his brilliant mind sees the connections with the clarity of the best of the empiricists. I’m going to need to watch this again. All the clues are in the show, probably. It’s just not spoon-fed to the audience in a simple-to-digest summary at the end. Also, his sister Atsuko does a lot of legwork for him. His friends Kiba, Sekiguchi, and Aoki also feed him information. He doesn’t divine things in a vacuum.

  8. zakuro says:

    Actually, ‘ve posted a few long comments, and others are posting interesting ones at this blog.
    Be warned: ‘spoilers’ included in the comments there!

  9. chanpon says:

    Just finished this series (with the last 7, subless) and I was blown away. I’m dying to get subs for the last half so I can re-watch and catch all the little details I missed, and I stumbled onto your blog looking to fill in some gaps in what I could make out.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! What a fantastic story – it certainly makes the audience work and think, and I love it. A complex and provocative mystery with a fascinating cast of characters. I appreciate that you can’t watch 2 episodes and label everyone that appears; they’re actually multi-dimensional vs. one-note stereotypes. Loved the atmoshere that was part melancholy, nostalgia and old-fashioned horror rolled into one. I bought the OST to this and highly recommend it, if you liked the music to this show.

  10. zir says:

    Can you upload the ost?

  11. Mark says:

    Ghost Hound was shit, IMO. It offered some promise in the beginning and then totall fell flat on it’s face by the end. I went from intrigue to total disgust and disappointment in a matter of moments. It’s not deserving of any award, except perhaps “Most glaring failure to deliver on it’s promise (of 2007)”

    Mouryou, I agree, seems quite awesome, so far. I’m only on episode 7 so I’m only a bit past the halfway point (due to fansubbing progress) but it seems to be a pretty multi-layered mystery, which I always like. The supernatural and mythological/occult elements also raise interest levels.

    Though I didn’t understand many of the cultural allusions made in those two ‘talking’ episodes, by the second one I was beginning to grasp what they’re getting at, and I can pretty much say my mind = blown.

    The symbolism and the whole mouryou figures as things existing on borders, etc, and the whole box thing is really beginning to make my mind question wtf is going on. I’m coming to expect a lot from this series (so far the only fall 2008 show I find myself caring about) I just hope it manages to deliver in the end, unlike Ghost Hound.

  12. zir says:

    I think Ghost Hound was good, but the ending was kinda dissapointing.

  13. kiyosuke says:

    i have to say i wish that a) i knew japanese or b) subs would come out with episodes past 8. i may have not looked hard enough but i couldnt find subbed eps so i just watched a few raw and finished it by reading these reviews. i really liked this anime and wish i could have finished watching it subbed. it really takes a lot out and by reading these reviews it makes me want to watch it more, reading how good the ending sounded. i guess ill just unfortunately have to wait but until then ill try watching the rest of the eps raw~ thx for the reviews :]

  14. Solaris says:

    So no subs since January… Isn’t this one of the best 2008 series? What else are subbers subbing? Damn!!

  15. Shinkun says:

    It is extremely difficult to translate! :(

  16. specracer says:

    Sweet now that the subs are almost done I can pick it back up

  17. windy says:

    Well, personally I found this series both amazing and way too difficult to understand the whole plot even now that I watched it with subtitles! Too many characters involved, too many diverging facts and occurances, actually I don’t think I got it all right, was it really Yoriko who pushed Kanako, then she IS the “first culprit” isn’t it? Why, because she believed in afterdeath and found out her friend wasn’t “perfect”?! I believe the logic here is particularly twisted. There are a lot of questions unresolved here and there which really disturbs me. Why Kanako ever told Yoriko ” she was her and all that incredible stuff” is still a big mystery for me. Then okay, Amemiya ( at least I managed to get that he had a crush on Kanako, why? Did he fall in love with her while he was raising her along with Youko?! Kinda hard to swallow, all this!) turned out to be behind the abduction of Kanako ( at least of her head)and Youko’s father behind all the other murders, yet again can’t be sure of that one! Then Kiba, or whatever, the one who was thought to be the culprit and who was discovered dead and dismembered, what was his part in it, he killed Yoriko, why the hell ( did he read about her friendship with Kanako in the newspapers, at least I don’t see how else, whi did he accost her and why was she on the list of ” people to be killed”? Did he thought that he may recreate the same “masterpiece” with her head as it was done with the head of Kanako by Amemiya?! And when he went all berserk after seeing Kanako’s shot at the restaurant, it was because he remembered having seen her head “inboxed” in the train?! With all this, I wasn’t able to enjoy this at the fullest, way too confusing and tangled. But nevertheless , it’s still a memorable series for me, really if only they had taken more time to explain all the dubious situations we were put into and had extended this series to at least 26 episodes, that would have been the right choice, because the pace would have been slowed down which would enable us to “follow the tracks” and not to be blown astray on the way! But, yeah, taken that aside, a gorgeous series with lots of creativity and brilliant thoughtfulness behind.

  18. midenz says:

    It was such an amazing series, at first it felt boring, but I’m glad I picked it back up! It’s amazing in every way! Oh did you watch episode 14? I was just wondering since you didn’t have it blogged

  19. mdv says:

    midenz…
    dude… there’s only 13 episodes.

  20. mdv says:

    nvm… it’s a Special…

  21. Fai says:

    So I finally re-watched this series 3 years later (marathon), and not only am I completely blown away, but I also think this has been perhaps one of the most solid story I’ve watched in the past year.

    To anyone who still has questions remaining, I would probably recommend to watch the series again as well as most of your questions have been answered.

    SPOILERS SPOILERS
    To answer some of Windy’s questions:
    – Yes. Amemiya did “kidnap” Kanako because he was obsessed with her
    – No. Kanako’s father was not the one who killed the other women. That was Kubo. He became envious of Kanako’s head in the box and wished to recreate that, not realizing that it would take some really heavy scientific technology.
    – Youko was killed because she was next on list of followers who believed in Kubo’s father (the priest). Although she didn’t follow the cult, her mother did, and once her mother was unable to pay her dues, she was targeted. The list was written in alphabetical order. Although now that it’s mentioned, I wonder how Kubo knew that Youko was friends with Kanako.
    – and yes. I think that’s why he went berserk.
    END SPOILERS

    As psgels has noted earlier, a lot of the things that develop in this series is quite subtle, and that’s what I love about it. The great thing about Mouryou no Hako is that it trusts the reader to fill up the rest of the storyline instead of spoon-feeding us every single message.

  22. GravityBomb says:

    As much as I normally agree with you, I have to argue with you on this one. I don’t really think that this series was 92.5 worthy. (Now don’t be hating guys, I’ll give my reasons :)). Maybe like 75 or so, but not as high. (And I know this is from 2008, but my anime club just watched it this fall semester.)

    To me, this is a series that demonstrates bad anime direction or choice of material to adapt. While I’m not saying that they should’ve spoon-fed us the story or what have you, but even to me, who loves talky shows a lot, this was just a lot of talking heads 70% of the time and suffered from massive ‘Take Our Word For It’. I mean, when you sit down and think about it, the story alone is amazing. No lie there. But the way that it was handled was just batshit insane. Characters that just kind of drop in out of nowhere and then just disappear from the show or return in random spots. The imagery seeming to try and replicate Utena’s weird symbolism. But what drove me nuts was the two episodes dedicated to exposition dropping all about the mouryou, at which point I actually stopped reading the subs and started spacing out. And while the ending episodes were really the better ones, when you info dump about the whole plot in 23 or so minutes while having barely resolved any of the more important aspects beforehand or resolving things that no one really cared for, it says a lot. To me, when that happens, you did something wrong.

    I say this a lot to people, but in this case I think it’s totally justified: this should have been a 26 episode series, and even if it didn’t want to be that long, a few more episodes would have helped a lot (I know that’s not possible, but one can dream). Or, if nothing else, some parts should have been narrowed down and others expanded upon to flesh out the story and motivations more. It just seems like the staff had no idea what part of the story to focus on. It starts out with the whole creepy science building thing, then just whips around to the cult, then u-turns right back to the ‘hospital’ after leaving it out for around 6+ episodes. While I get that adapting a novel that was very detailed (I’m told) can be challenging, there are better ways to adapt a story and this just kinda falls flat.

    While this is a very interesting show and the story is great when you piece everything together, Ryosuke Nakamura (who isn’t a bad director) just kinda fumbled with it. I’ve actually noticed that no one who worked on this series is bad at what they do, it’s just that this series is what I would consider one of their weakest.

    Again, I’m not ragging on anyone who liked the show. Far from it. :) I love the character designs and the show is beautifully animated. It did a great job at creeping me the hell out. The leads are all entertaining to watch (even in their weirder moments) and you wanna know how the whole thing is going to be resolved by these guys, which is really important to a mystery. But the direction was just…everywhere, the choices on what to emphasize odd, the unnecessary two episodes info dumping on the audience when it could’ve been done in easily 6 minutes or less (leaving more room for the actual story) per episode, it seriously needed a more focused path/cutting out the bits that were just unnecessary, and sometimes this series was just too subtle for it’s own good.

    It’s definitely worthy of a 75 (or so)/100 for being unique. :)

    Thanks for reading anyone and please (again) know I’m not bashing!

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • ratsgnoF
    (Wednesday, Jun 1. 2016 05:23 AM)
    Qualidea Code is a collaboration of 3 authors. I look forward to Qualidea Code because it has Watari Wataru involved. He wrote Oregairu, and it was very well written. I’m not entirely sure how much influence Watari will have, but he gives this show some potential. The other 2 Authors involved don’t particularly seem to be anything special, but who knows.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Jun 1. 2016 03:34 AM)
    Ah the moment only Prisma Illya Drei, 91Days and Berserk catch my attention. Everything else is pretty Meh.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Jun 1. 2016 03:32 AM)
    @K-Off, That’s rather disappointing. Playing it now and they really do paint it black and white. Nohr are assholes, Hoshido are super amazing fun people. It’s all rather shallow.
    Considering what my friend told of Zestia it doesn’t give me much hope for the plot and I am not keen on Tales games to begin with.
  • K-Off
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 10:41 PM)
    You mean you don’t look forward to ufotable’s Zestiria X? It’s obviously going to be as good as the game…
  • K-Off
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 10:29 PM)
    @Aidan There were only 2-3 original locations for each, the rest are shared by both games.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 06:02 PM)
    I am beginning to do a write up of next season’s preview and currently doing the research. So far next season isn’t looking good with not many interesting titles.
    When I get something decent made up I will send it out to all you guys to make comments or add your two cents.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 05:41 PM)
    Hmm..I would have thought the missions would be different at least.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 05:39 PM)
    Oh Sure, I will play the easy newcomer version birthright. And after that I will have a scented bath, a nice pedicure and spend the night watching the notebook and sex in the city. Like a pansy.
    Well jokes aside I will be playing birthright first because I am a completion is and I play things in order. But you bet your ass I bought conquest retail.
  • K-Off
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 04:47 PM)
    @Aidan Oh, I wasn’t complaining about the price, I got Conquest & Birthright off a friend for $35. I was complaining about rather how impersonal the decision feels in the overall story, and in terms of narrative one of those games utterly fails since the prologue chapters before 6 obviously pushes for one side of the story. I would not have wanted to drop additional money for a game I didn't feel was worth it, without spoilers all I'll say is both stories are virtually identical except with different skins. Exception being Revelation of course.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 04:21 PM)
    @K-Off, not really. Like I said, you buy one you get the other at a discount. Considering the length of the games its not exactly unfair to charge for both. But the choice is rather superficial though. Do you want to play the peace loving guys or the awesome warmongers? Kinda like asking a kid “Hey do you wanna play as a pillbug or a velocrapter?”

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Flying witch 08c

Flying witch – 08

Watching Flying witch really feel like listening to a classical music, where the long running time flies by and we actually feel it more than try to understand it. This week we continue what was left off last week, with Makoto, Chinatsu, Kei meeting the owners of the café shop and their regular customers. This […]

Mayoiga 09c

Mayoiga – 09

Now the trick to enjoy Mayoiga is to expect the unexpected. Anything could happen, and probably will. The series has successfully tweaked our noses weeks after weeks, then if Mayoiga stops being ridiculous and becomes conventional, I would be very disappointed. The fun is again on par this week and we have one of the […]

Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - 09 2

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World – 09

This week I happened to see the result of delaying the release of Re:Zero on a certain message board. It was pure pandemonium as there were those too lazy to google demanding the next episode, trolls trying to convince people the episode was delayed to next week with fake screenshots of twitter posts, haters and […]

Kiznaiver - 08 1

Kiznaiver – 08

In my last post I assumed that this episode would be about Tenga as the episodes title seems to suggest but it turned out to be more an episode about Agata than anything else. It basically confirmed my previous assumptions about Agata and Noriko being involved with the previous Kiznaiver project when they were children […]

Bungou Stray Dogs 08a

Bungou Stray Dogs – 08

I have to say more than anything this is Bungou Stray Dogs’ special episode, in a sense that in one hand, the show produces one of its most brilliance ever, but on the other hand, there are still many shortcomings along with the greatness, producing an episode that mostly entertainment but uneven. The introduction of […]

Joker Game - 08 1

Joker Game – 08

Well Joker Game managed to pull a twist I didn’t see coming and what makes it rather amusing is that it did it unintentionally. For you see it took the entire episode for me to figure out that I wasn’t watching the antics of another spy of the D-agency only to figure out that this […]

Flying witch 07b

Flying witch – 07

One of the thing that Flying witch always does it right is how it establish the chemistry between any characters, while at the same time maintain the consistency in their personalities. It feels like if you give them any random characters in any random situation, pretty much the show can hit it off. Last week […]

Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - 08 1

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World – 08

I feel bad for the artists and animators who made the opening and ending for this show as they don’t seem to be getting much use. Not that I am complaining of course as if the choice is between a catchy theme song and more content then content wins every time. Though it is a […]

Kiznaiver - 07 4

Kiznaiver – 07

To some this may be the strongest episode of Kiznaiver to date. However to someone like myself I find myself mixed on what I just witnessed. I have said before that what I like about this series are the aspects which are distinctly Trigger which would be it’s sense of wacky humor and character chemistry. […]

Latest Reviews

romance of 3 kingdoms

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 4: Chinese Traditional Animated shows

Welcome to the last part of our Chinese animated guide. This part will cover Chinese traditional art style, for me personally this is the most enjoyable group. The first thing you might notice in these shows are they were in different format ratio, lean more towards the Academy ratio format. I always find their traditional art […]

20160513001913_1

Lucid9: Inciting Incident Video Game Review – 85/100

It’s not often I pick a game up without prior knowledge. I abhor the act of pre-ordering and at least do a google search on the title to get a general idea of it’s overall quality. Gone are the day you walk into a game store and buy something purely on a whim or the […]

The Totem Warrior

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 3: Haoliners inputs

This part we explore one Chinese animation studio’s works. I choose Haoliners partly because they are independent studio, and their works are not hard to find. Just established in 2013, Haoliners is an indie studio but gathered more reputation in the last few years in their homeland. My experience with them through those titles below […]

Cover

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress OST Review

This will be the first time in my anime blogging career that I have ever done one of these anime OST review. It should be known that I have a complete bias for Hiroyuki Sawano as he has become one of the biggest composer for anime in recent years in some of my favorite anime […]

Nüwa’s Growth Diary

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 2: Chinese Anime shows

As much as I hated the term Chinese Anime (Anime stands for Japanese animation, strictly speaking), this is the exact term for those shows. Their influence from the Anime was so heavy that apart from the voice cast and some scene settings, you can’t tell those apart from the original anime. With that said, judge from […]

If anyone have been followed animation closely for the last few years, they will notice a recent rise of Chinese animation (call it a wave if you like), both in feature and in series. While it does not have much of an impact in any English speaking world like anime has been, they are really popular in their mainland and some parts of Asian countries. With the success of Kung Fu Panda (half-produced by China) and its power on movies industry (China IS the main market for feature films now), it is worth it to take a look on this current trend and see how they are different from anime.
While my fellow bloggers are the ones who more specialize in Games and Manga, I will be the one who cover World Animation (by that I mean anything animated other than anime and American big studio animation – they got way too much coverage already). Like majority of you guys I am not from China, my Chinese is as good as my Japanese (which is to say NONE), so this is actually goddamn difficult to look for titles, and the information I could find are sacred here on top of that find a suitable sub for it, most of them does not even have an English name, thus the title and the synopsis that I give you here are just a rough translation. So behold. This is our very first attempt to cover the animation of china.

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 1: Computer Animated Wuxia shows

If anyone have been followed animation closely for the last few years, they will notice a recent rise of Chinese animation (call it a wave if you like), both in feature and in series. While it does not have much of an impact in any English speaking world like anime has been, they are really popular […]

asagao to kase-san

K-Off’s Ongoing Manga Recommendations (embedded links)

If you frequent the frontpage of Imgur or r/manga often, you may have seen some of my past manga recommendation lists before, but here’s some ongoing manga that I’ll recommend for now. This is in no particular order of best-worst, I’ve also embedded the links to the scanlations into the images for your convenience. 1. […]

New Manga Spotlight – Konya wa Tsuki ga Kirei Desu ga, Toriaezu Shi ne, Shoujo Fujuubun and Shimanami Tasogare

New Manga Spotlight – Konya wa Tsuki ga Kirei Desu ga, Toriaezu Shi ne, Shoujo Fujuubun and Shimanami Tasogare

Konya wa Tsuki ga Kirei Desu ga, Toriaezu Shi ne Two chapters so far. Ah love, that sweet nectar which all seek to experience. And truly there is nothing more romantic than gathering up your courage, inviting the girl you love up to the roof, taking her by the shoulders and proclaiming with all your […]

kQtrlYU

Langrisser Re:Incarnation Tensei video game review- 35/100 (avoid it like the plague)

To preface, I’d call this the poor man’s Fire Emblem if it wasn’t so damn expensive for its quality, not to mention so difficult to find. Here in New York City outside of lower Manhattan, there’s game stores in Brooklyn, Queens, Flatiron, and Newport, to a total count of 12 game stores in a 20 […]