I’m all aboard ghostlightning’s Enokido Yoji and Ikuhara Kunihiko hype
train car, what with this year having been the ultimate way of reviving interest in Utena and its creators. Sure, Enokido has done plenty in the past 14 years since Utena, all bearing his unmistakable mark, but Star Driver has to at least be his most exciting work in the last five years—nevermind his work on Redline which, while probably overstated, has nonetheless brought about fascinating results.
Then we have Ikuhara coming back from the relative dead to do Mawaru Penguindrum, and make no mistake that this is a big deal. Something else I was watching this season had a commercial for Penguindrum that started with the announcer saying “the new project from Ikuhara Kunihiko!” I think everyone sees this show more than anything as his revival, which can mean good or bad for the poor show that has to stand up to such lofty expectations. All of this is happening at the same time as the remastered Utena DVDs getting a US release.
Obviously, if Utena is a big deal *now* it was a big fucking deal *before,* too. Ikuhara hasn’t been around much until now, but of course there had to be other producers out there who recognized the force of Be-papas (did I mention Utena is an award-winning show? it is).
After Utena, Enokido’s next work was FLCL, another hugely ambitious and completely awesome project, now even more renowned as a classic than Utena. Like Utena, FLCL is another big collaboration of badasses, but this one with even more voices and the stylistic backing of being a GAINAX show (plus the quality insurance of also being a Production I.G. show lololol).
Keeping this in mind, the fact that Enokido wrote four episodes of RahXephon is important to understanding his position, because RahXephon is basically what happened when a bunch of crazy writers and directors were thrown into a show, given their own episodes, and they ran wild. The writers in Enokido’s company on this show included Chiaki J. Fucking Konaka (Serial Experiments Lain, Texhnolyze, The Big O, Ghost Hound, Narutaru), Aikawa Shou (created and wrote Neo-Ranga, writer for Nadesico), Oonogi Hiroshi (Arjuna, Zeta Gundam, later worked on Noein and Eureka Seven), Iso Mitsuo (worked on Evangelion, later directed and wrote Dennou Coil), and so on and so forth.
Clearly, Enokido was a badass, the success of Utena was ripe for the picking, and this is the only reason I can think of for Melody of Oblivion. A show that, you’ll notice, no one talks about.
Enokido composed and wrote the entirety of the series. Hasegawa Shinya, the Be-Papas member who worked with the character designs for Utena (but believe me, Utena owes its designs to the manga-ka, and Hasegawa is a hack), handled the designs for Melody as well. Kobayashi Shichiro returned as the art director. The series was a collaboration between J.C. Staff, who produced Utena, and GAINAX, who clearly liked Enokido (and continued to like him, as he did Diebuster right afterwards, and Ikuhara even showed up to work on the second episode. J.C. Staff must still like him, too, since he wrote the second season of Nodame Cantabile). I’m sure that many, especially those who hate Index, will spring to blame director Nishikori Hiroshi (Angelic Layer, Azumanga Daioh, Gad Guard, Jyu Ou Sei, Index) for the show’s failure. The man is a capable, if mediocre director.
I really don’t know what went wrong. Maybe Enokido was given too much free reign. Maybe it just wasn’t that well thought-out. Honestly, the shitty character designs make up a lot of the problem. They’re so hard to look at that it makes the whole experience feel even worse. Whatever it is, it doesn’t take coming off of an Utena high to watch an episode of Melody and go, “this doesn’t seem very good.” (And if you’re on an Utena high, don’t expect to last five minutes.) I want to look at this series through the lens of someone who’s seen other, better Enokido shows, and ultimately I want to get one step closer to understanding how far the breakdown between various creators on a show goes and draw even more knowledge about influences out.
So, here’s my thoughts on episode 1:
As with any Enokido series, sexuality plays a big role in the character interactions. However, unlike Utena or Star Driver, Melody of Oblivion isn’t sexy, which poses a major problem. It doesn’t well illustrate the sexual tension when the characters aren’t beautiful princes and queens who can make you jizz yourself with a facial expression. The main character’s childhood friend/love interest is all over his dick throughout the episode, but I failed to find her attractive in the slightest. All she has going for her is huge tits, and those aren’t drawn well enough to matter. Not to speak of how the lead is among the ugliest leads in anime.
The high level of sexuality only works for the show at its most playful. The episode villain is at least almost believably good-looking (well, he always has his shirt open), and in one scene he makes a female secretary orgasm just by speaking to her (pictured above). That was the best scene in the episode, but more just for what it was than for how it was presented.
While Kobayashi Shichiro is a legendary art director with a hundred great works under his belt, Melody of Oblivion has to be among his worst. The backgrounds are often weirdly stark and uninviting, with little in the way of creativity. When there actually are little splashes of creativity, they’re minor and come across as forced, like the show remembered it was supposed to be stylish and made a last-ditch effort to accomplish such.
Most of the dialog was pretty uninteresting, not for lack of being obtuse and flowery, but for lack of any interesting characters doing the talking. Lots of vague stuff is alluded to, some plot is developed, and the rest is the main character being kind of a douchebag while his girlfriend tries to ride his junk.
Oh, and there’s transforming heroes on motorcycles and shit. But I’ll get into that next time.