(3 36-minute episodes, 2004)
My previous exposure
After the success of Bakemonogatari and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akiyuki Shinbo barely needs any introduction, and his name should be reason enough to revisit his earlier works. Especially after stumbling onto The Soultaker last year in my half-joke “Spring 2001 in review”, which showed that his directing skills were already impressive more than a decade ago.
I’ve had mixed luck with Shinbo’s back catalog in the past (Soultaker was impressive, Negima!? okay, but I couldn’t get through more than a few episodes of Pani Poni Dash and Hidamari Sketch), but this is a short OVA series, so why not try it out ?
What’s it about ?
Our generic male protagonist mans his uncle’s antique shop while the latter gallivants the world. One day, he stumbles in his inventory onto a cupboard hiding the portrait of a girl. Also, one of the glasses inside allows him to see the image of said girl… and to talk with her.
From that point starts a very creepy relationship, to the increasing concern of his few friends and the local psychic. And that’s before the bodies start piling in.
What did I think of it ?
With the routine use of peculiar angles, the thoughtful composition of every shot, and the use of editing as punctuation, there’s an hypnotic quality to Shinbo’s directing… and by this I mean it often makes me drowse and lose focus if I’m not quite hooked by the story. In his good series, there’s usually a sudden jolt in the plot that forces me to pay attention (Bakemonogatari‘s sudden child abuse flashback, Soultaker‘s descent into insanity, Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei‘s social commentary, everything in PMMM). Here, it’s the twist about the portrait… but that’s in the third episode. So I’m left with two episodes of creepy atmosphere that I couldn’t make much emotional attachment to, and a very good ending that puts a completely different spin on the previous happenings but still makes perfect sense.
So I’m a bit conflicted about this one. The ending was very good indeed, and Shinbo’s craft shines throughout, but I can’t ignore I couldn’t quite care about the first two-thirds of it.