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.