Monday, December 9, 2013

Ookami Kakushi - Mask of the Wolf [Anime Review]

There are lots of anime that seem to have evolved from video games. This one does not seem to come from an eroge (which is where a lot of them seem to come from), it is just a normal mystery-adventure style visual novel for the PSP.

Akatsuki - not just in Naruto.
Ōkami Kakushi (おおかみかくし) is a title which seems to be a play on words in Japanese. The word kamikakushi (かみかくし), which means spirited away, coupled with the Japanese word for wolf, ookami (おおかみ). I say this because the English DVD title 'Masque of the Wolf' seems more than a little wrong, the title should actually be something closer to 'Wolfed Away.'

Well, anyway, I will now give my rating and then spend the rest of the time justifying my opinion.

4.0 Stars
This was pretty darn good. It had a very strong story, a good level of mystery, solid characters, and (horray!) ethical questions. You win points with philosophers when you deal with ethical dilemmas.

It's actually 1983, that explains the cassette.
The story begins with our protagonist, Hiroshi Kuzumi (age 15), moving into his families new apartment in Joga, a burgeoning city along a river that separates the old city from the new.

There are some details that I only found by looking up the game, such as the fact that this mystery story takes place in 1983. That makes a few things make a tad more sense, such as the students presenting a cassette tape.

Absolutely Normal.
Well, as soon as Hiroshi arrives at his apartment he encounters his neighbor, a girl his age named Isuzu Tsumuhana. She takes an immediate liking to him. When he goes to class the next day, he is very popular, everyone talking with him, asking him to join clubs. Hiroshi was never that popular at his old school. He thinks it might simply be due to his status as a new transfer student.

Local TV commercials, always irritating, always low budget.
His classmate Kaname Asagiri shoots that idea down. Only she and Nemuru Kushinada, a quiet girl do not fawn over Hiroshi. Nemuru seems to hate him immediately. Kaname likes the books his father writes, occult histories. She is obsessed with the occult, collecting stories and rumors and legends. This town is perfect for her past time, as there are many legends that have come from the region such as the story of the Joga Wolf. 

Old people in groups, almost as creepy as children.
There are other legends as well, such as the tale of the red fireflies. However, the stories of the Joga wolf are the most compelling. A different breed for the usual Japanese wolf, bigger, smarter. They have only been seen in the area around the town, and not for many years. However many local customs stem from belief in the wolves, such as the Hassaku Festival.

It is not long before Hiroshi begins to notice that there is something odd going on in town. The old city does not like residents from the new city, classmates suddenly move away with out warning even if they were planning events far into the future. 
It's all very strange in Joga. 

Masks and glowing eyes.
There is plenty of mystery, most of which is resolved by the end of the series. This is a good thing. I like my mysteries to be done and over with when I'm done with whatever I've been enjoying. 

There is also violin music in the series. I love violin music, it makes such a wonderful interlude. 

I really hate their uniforms. The white sailor suits? Terrible.
And the next episode previews, they are actually a part of the plot. It's important to watch the next episode previews and pay complete attention. There is always a little something important.

Allamaraine, count to four,
Allamaraine, then three more...
But all of these are just fun toppings for what actually turns out to be an ethical dilemma. The problem is that I can't really discuss the wonderful story elements used in the dilemma without ruining the end of the series. Suffice to say there are issues dealing with the trust of outsiders, the importance of group, responsibility, punishment, blame, and revenge.

I really enjoyed how much the series presented a complex issue and showed a possible, albeit insufficient, resolution. A resolution that was far more realistic than one would expect.

I think I've justified my rating, at least so far as I can. It was a good series, I watched it faster than I usually do. It starts a tad slow, the mystery builds up pretty high, and the revelations come at a steady pace. It is well done, and only a few tiny niggling questions remain.

A very worthwhile anime to watch, and it's short at only twelve episodes (including the omake episode). Rent, buy, or watch online. It is good.

Terrible photographer, look at all that red-eye.

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