Ghost stories are often told to frighten young children or even terrify adults and the entertainment industry has taken advantage of human nature’s fear of the unknown to create multiple horror stories about demons, psychos and ghosts. However what happens when a ghost story isn’t meant to terrify but meant to be something else entirely? Based off of a manga series which started back in 2009, Tasogare x Amnesia began airing in 2011. Now Sentai Filmworks has brought the series to North America under its new name, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. Does a ghost story with a twist offer something memorable? Let’s find out.
Seikyou Academy is a long standing private school which has been expanded upon over many decades, creating something of a labyrinth. Modern school buildings and hallways connect to traditional Japanese wood buildings and some parts of the school have dilapidated to the point where no one uses them anymore. Since the school is rundown in so many areas and has quite a lineage behind it, many ghost stories have been created about parts of the school.
One brave, or perhaps foolish, boy named Teiichi hears the rumor of a ghost living in an old part of the school and goes to investigate it. Upon doing so he finds that this ghost is not only real, but she is also a teenage girl named Yuuko Kanoe who has taken quite the liking to him. After quite the flirtatious first day with this spirit, Teiichi discovers that Yuuko has no memory of her life or even why she died in the first place. She isn’t too concerned with this, as Teiichi is the first person in sixty years which has acknowledged Yuuko’s existence and she delights in touching, teasing and being with him but when he finds her body, Teiichi insists upon finding out more about Yuuko.
Teiichi and Yuuko form the Paranormal Investigation Club to try and uncover more about Yuuko’s mysterious past and by doing so the club is soon joined by the enthusiastic Momoe Okonogi who loves ghost stories, but has no idea that Yuuko exists and Kirie Kanoe. Kanoe’s last name is familiar thanks to the fact that she is the granddaughter of Yuuko’s younger sister and because of this, she is aware of Yuuko’s presence and she realizes that there is a far darker spirit lurking the halls of the academy. What secrets lie in wait for the group as they look into Yuuko’s past?
Upon starting Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, the first thought that will likely cross a viewer’s mind is that it is a simple harem series. Three girls who are charmed with the male lead that selflessly helps those around him and allows himself to be teased relentlessly by the harem lead is almost a textbook definition of a harem. However this series actually manages to surpass the basic harem romantic comedy structure by placing an intriguing well-written plot as the main focus of the series.
The mystery of Yuuko’s past and her death is slowly unveiled over the course of the series but nothing is blatantly obvious. Thanks to the fact that Yuuko has been haunting the school for over sixty years, many of the ghost stories the group comes across were simply actions that Yuuko performed while she was bored. In fact, there are a number of psychological elements at play throughout the series alongside the supernatural, mostly introduced through Kirie. However for every dead end in the mystery, a little more light is shown upon Yuuko’s past, leading up to an emotional and draining reveal that can be hard to stomach.
The series isn’t all horror however, as it’s romantic element still plays a major part in Dusk Maiden. While a bit haremesque, it is clear from the beginning that Yuuko is the main girl of the series. She begins the series with a childlike glee of being touched and interacted with, so much so that she enjoys teasing and flirting with Teiichi to rather extreme level. However as it progresses and their emotional connection deepens, even the smallest interactions between the two is heartwarming to the point of tears in the final episodes of the series.
We’ve talked about a lot of themes so far and a lesser series likely would have struggled to balance these themes properly. However in Dusk Maiden everything is written so well that it creates a fluid series that works so well. While comedic at numerous points, the comedy is never forced to break tension of ruin a suspenseful moment. There is plenty of horror, romance, drama and love to be had in Dusk Maiden as Yuuko’s past is revealed and it all combines into a series that is simply unforgettable.
Creating an atmospheric world is something that many anime are capable of doing. However many of these worlds are simply fantasy lands or a basic school setting which are rather generic. While Dusk Maiden does take place in a school setting, Silver Link has crafted an atmospheric world that works wonders with the plot and setting of Dusk Maiden. While I usually discuss the characters first, the true highlight of the series’ graphics department is the world itself. Through nice uses of coloration and subdued tones, there are numerous moments throughout the series that are stunning, especially in Blu-ray.
As for the characters themselves, they are nicely handled and have some wonderful facial animations. Yuuko is obviously the highlight here and she receives quite a bit of low-level fan service throughout the series. Her pale complexion and often traditional dress forms a nice comparison with the rest of the cast. It is also worth noting that the series enjoys the use of visual effects such as screen narrowing or highlighting of specific parts of a scene which is something that only a few series have managed to pull off successfully and Dusk Maiden uses these to great effect.
With Dusk Maiden of Amnesia Sentai Filmworks has provided both the original Japanese voice track as well as a newly recorded English dub with this release. Both voice casts are nicely handled in this series and thanks to the limited number of main characters the cast fits their parts nicely. The English dub also does a nice job of handling the numerous emotional scenes throughout the series, with Emily Neves’ Yuuko and Clint Bickham’s Teiichi working well together.
As for the series’ soundtrack, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia sports an impressive collection of background music. Often with anime series the background music simply works as filler and is often forgetful. However with Dusk Maiden each song is played during a fitting scene with a wide range of tunes that fit dramatic scenes, comedic scenes and even the creepy sequences as well. As for an opening and ending theme, the opening song “Choir Jail” by Konomi Suzuki is wonderful and fits the theme of the anime perfectly while the ending song “Calendrier” by Aki Okui has a more emotional impact and receives a bit of variation a couple of times in the series.
Sentai Filmworks actually went far above your standard bonus feature expectations with Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. Sure this release contains your standard clean opening and ending animations as well as trailers for other Sentai products but alongside these bonus features we have an extended version of Episode 12 which adds a little bit to the episode that was cut due to broadcast time.
Alongside this there is a full length OVA episode, which some claim as Episode 13, that takes place after the events of Episode 12 but the OVA is more comedic than anything else as it sees the cast return to simply tracking down ghost stories that existed in the school and more antics between Yuuko and Kirie. Also contained on this release are episode commentaries by the original Japanese voice actors for the series. There are commentaries for all thirteen episodes and they have been subtitled for the viewer’s enjoyment and are a nice addition.
As I mentioned before, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia features an amazing soundtrack and Sentai has included this amazing soundtrack with this release as two soundtrack CDs have been bundled with this release. There are a few re-used pieces of music that are played with different instruments and it is worth noting that for some reason, the opening theme “Choir Jail” is not included on these CDs. However the vocal versions of “Calendrier” and “Requiem” are included on disc. As an added bonus a paper insert includes the translated lyrics for both of these songs.
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia doesn’t seem like a lot from its initial episode which seems like the beginning of a romantic comedy laced with harem antics. However it quickly develops into something far more than that. The small cast of characters work so well together and the story is exceptionally well-written to the point that all of the drama, suspense and mystery feels right at home alongside comedy and romance. Sporting a stellar English dub and a nice collection of bonus features, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is a ghost story that transcends it’s limitations and becomes a truly superb anime.
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