Dammit anime industry, why are you sabotaging yourself like that?
Kyousougiga could have been a show ranking alongside highly acclaimed titles such as Tatami Galaxy, or Furi Kuri. It had the themes, the budget, the set-up, and the liveliness to achieve greatness.
… And messed it all up.
First things first; the 2013 version is a remake of the older one from the previous year. No reason to watch that one, other than scratching your head with Toei doing 3 versions of the EXACT same thing so close to each other (since there is an even older single episode set in the same universe).
Upon watching THIS version, be prepared to see 90% of the plot in the first episode. I am not kidding; the first episode is basically one huge infodump; introducing a cast of a dozen people, a bizarre setting where pictures can create alternative realities, a world that is like a second feudal Japan where nobody can die or nothing can break, and a bunch of themes that go deep into religion, philosophy, and existentialism. After you are bombarded with a gazillion things happening in a short amount of time, you are just left there wondering what the devil they can do with all that. Because they could do a heck of a lot, expand to anything they like, combine it with everything else, and create a 1000 episode series that is about everything and everyone. And what do they do with it?
… A 10 episode slice of life comedy about a goofy Japanese high school girl breaking stuff with a magic hammer. ARGH!
I am not saying it is not an enjoyable watch. There is a lot of stuff happening in each episode, accompanied by lots of jokes, and motion, and pretty colors, and weird imagery. We get to see how each character feels and acts and how his beliefs affect the world he is living in, a place where nothing changes, everything is perfect, and yet feels boring and sterile. It seems like everybody is looking for someone as means to fill the void in their souls.
… And they do so little with it.
It seems like while everybody REALLY wants to find salvation, they aren’t really looking for it. Each episode shows them being sad and depressed but they are otherwise just fooling around to the most part, taking part in all sorts of silly events and just talk about it. Meaning, they aren’t taking the whole situation seriously and by extension ruin the themes they set up so well in the beginning. Shame, since although it is a fine slice of life comedy, it doesn’t really do much with what it has, and essentially uses the interesting themes as dressing for plotless randomness. Granted, it is way more interesting and memorable thanks to its catchy animation and themes. It has lots of dialogues that offer immersion to the setting and a touch of existentialism pouring through everything. Yet it fails to be something truly amazing in the longrun for not being serious about its own premise. That is what made SE Lain and Haibane Renmei so amazing; the very fact that they weren’t comedies. And if some of you find them boring, well, you are not supposed to be watching them for what they were made to be. Kyousougiga was never made to be a bigshot series; it is sadly nothing more than a nice time waster. Why? Because instead of being about the exploration of interesting themes, it ends up being about a goofy Japanese high school girl breaking stuff with a magic hammer. ARGH!
What I Liked: Energetic and spritely animation, with great imagery and background art that added to the "unreal" feel of the setting. Thought-provoking plot full of reveals. Interesting cast of colourful characters. Buddhist and mythological symbolism out the wazoo. Great OP. Mesmerising and wonderful soundtrack.
What I Didn't: Plot may come off as convoluted to some viewers. Inari, despite all the flashbacks, still lacks motive from the viewer's perspective.
Final Verdict: Hiding within a whimsical and energetic shell is an emotionally-charged and wonderful series awash with Buddhist symbolism and one of the most interesting "families" of the medium. With an amazing soundtrack and brilliant animation, this remake of the ONAs is certainly well worth it (minus the specials, of course). On my Favourite Anime of All Time list.