Mouryou no Hako really isn't an ideal show to have large gaps in-between episodes. When you watch the first episode in the fall, and then finish it up two winters later, there's going to be some hasty sweeping to clear out the cobwebs. Even as distinctive as the characters are, and as admittedly helpful a few old blog posts can be, it can take away some of the impact the staff intends for the audience... Or, rather, clarity, because I still fucking loved this.
The final five episodes are really difficult to sum up concisely, so I'll just leave a few observations (primarily dealing with episodes eleven and twelve):
- I don't know who to attribute the amazing art to. Hidetoshi Kaneko's art direction here and in both Shigurui and Texhnolyze is stunning; however, Hamazaki and Nakamura have also proven to have a knack for striking visuals, and the other shows on his resume aren't exactly Storaro incarnate...
- Episode eleven has the only instance in anime (that I've come across) where Japan's imperialistic ideals and actions before and during World War II are mentioned in an explicitly negative light: the Nanking reference and Kyogokudo's explanation of his position in the military both threw me. I'm not familiar enough with Japanese literature to know how often this kind of criticism is brought up, whether casually or overtly, but I cannot imagine that it comes anywhere close to the number of works that either aren't concerned with portraying or alluding to the larger context, or else have the audacity to whitewash the situation altogether.
- I love how the revelations are portrayed in episode twelve. It's a straightforward yet still unnerving touch that conveys just how fucked up the situation is:
- Kyogokudo ends up as my favorite character, largely because of his reserved charisma -- episode ten is a particular highlight -- due in no small part to his voice. It has a kind of composure that I can't recall coming across in any other anime.
- Enokizu, as great as he is, isn't as pivotal in the climax and denouement as I hoped. Is he more involved in the other novels?
- The final episode itself is surprisingly restrained after the conflict is resolved. These kind of epilogues aren't uncommon, but it's refreshing how it really works more as a tone piece than the usually contrived attempt at giving resolution to the major (and occasionally minor) characters' lives.
- Best anime series from 2008, easily. Unless Sentai is willing to put down the money for it, I don't see this being licensed here. Just have to settle and hope for Vertical to pick up the novel. (I'll eventually get around to reading my copy of The Summer of Ubume.)