Gosick is perhaps one of the most overhyped anime I’ve watched. I came in with high expectations, and left with a bad taste in my mouth. This is a large bone to pick, so bear with me.
Gosick watches like a bad parody of Sherlock Holmes. Our protagonist, Kazuya Kujo, acts the role of Watson, the inquisitive but competent fellow that asks all the questions so that Victorique, our Holmes, will go out of her way to explain the mystery. In traditional Sherlockian fashion, Kujo bumbles along, finding clues and hints that relate to the mystery, and at the end, after a little prompting, Victorique puts it all together. Sherlock is popular for a reason - it’s a winning formula - and Gosick tries very hard to emulate it. It doesn’t even come close, for three very large reasons.
Firstly, in a good detective story, the viewer is presented with all the clues as they are discovered. This offers a chance for the viewer to draw conclusions and solve the mystery as the story progresses. Gosick completely ignores this useful and engaging part of the mystery genre. I came close a few times, but it was impossible for me to predict the solutions in their entirety because inevitably, during her rambling explanations, Victorique would pull information out of her ass that hadn’t been revealed until then. This is frustrating and feels extremely condescending. I couldn’t get involved in the show because the show actively didn’t want me to get involved.
Secondly, Watson, the key character that serves as a foil to the mysterious Holmes, has to be just slightly stupider than the audience. This is the trait allows Kujo to ask Victorique the questions that get her talking. It’s a delicate balance - too stupid, and Watson comes off as a useless idiot that accomplishes nothing. This is exactly what happened to Kujo, creating a show-ruining obstacle that I will elaborate upon a lot in the character section. Suffice to say Kujo felt like a giant brick wall that the story had to struggle over every time he came onstage.
Thirdly, Gosick can’t decide what it wants to be. One moment, we’re solving mysteries. The next, it’s a high school comedy. Suddenly we switch into a stereotypical tsundere loli romance, complete with love triangle. Don’t forget the episode on the train which was an awful rip-off of Baccano! or the Christmas party in which everyone dresses up in costume - yes, this happens. Clearly the director slept through his Modern American Culture course because he fused Halloween and Christmas together. Kujo remains in a rabbit suit for the better part of that episode, even during some very dramatic scenes, which, for a fleeting moment, made the show so bad it was good.
An evil cult, the tool of a villain later on in the show, goes around wearing pink bunny masks as they splatter graffiti on buildings and tip over cars - think the masks from Doubt. This is merely one example of how Gosick tries to be funny and take itself seriously at the same time, and it comes off extremely awkward. I mean, seriously? Pink rabbit cultists? This off-the-rails pacing dogs the story at every step.
Finally, in the most egregious violation of the storytelling process, things actually pick up in the last two episodes. Suddenly there’s a plot; time passes and things happen. The animators cashed in what remained of their budget, and it showed. Despite the hurried conclusion, it was a bit of a saving throw that bails out Gosick at the last moment. Yet, at the same time it begs the question: where was all the awesome the other 22 episodes? Oh, yes, now I remember: wasted on crappy, pointless mysteries that I have no hope of solving that don't even have the decency of providing much character development.
Gosick has more still frames than a manga. The last two episodes were captivating, slick, and action-packed, but it also served to highlight how boring some of the scenes were earlier in the show. Time after time I was confronted with slow, panning shots of everyone standing around talking. It’s 2012. That doesn’t cut it anymore.
Victorique was cute and cuddly; she was a job well done. Kujo was flat, featureless, and dull.
The OP is upbeat and catchy; I listened to it quite a few times. Both ending themes were less so, but captured the mood of the series.
I’ll save the majority of the ranting for the next section, but there was not one episode in which Kujo did not screech Victorique’s name in a pathetic, whining tone, over and over and over. He sounds like a lost puppy pining for his master, and it made me want to choke him out.
Victorique, our miniature Sherlock Holmes, is clearly the star of the show. Her personality has depth; her quirks are entertaining. Her character growth was moving. The overuse of the tsundere archetype in anime is approaching criminal levels, but she works, and works well.
She is a brief shining point in a sea of mediocrity.
Kujo is perhaps one of the most annoying protagonists I’ve had the displeasure of watching, even more than Renton in the first half of Eureka 7. He has very little personality, trending toward the bland, boring anime hero that has an inexplicable passion for laying down his life for the girl he just met. He overacts to situations and jumps to conclusions by default; because of this, he is constantly running from place to place to sort out the cause of his latest worry. Kujo’s natural state is a sprint; it would be tough to find an episode in the latter half of the series in which he isn’t running at some point. I suppose the idea was to lend the show a sense of urgency, but it just makes him look like an idiot. Rather than take a little time and consider his next move, he tears off towards sources of his uneasiness, often leaving behind responsibilities he should have thought twice about and leaving me oounding my head into my desk.
The only useful thing Kujo does is protect Victorique when things get a bit rough and tumble, and he’s pretty crappy at that, too. The fact of the matter is Kujo is a blatant self-insertion character, a slate left purposely blank. That itself isn’t necessarily bad, but I couldn’t tolerate him because he has a brain the size of a peanut. Rather than serve as an important pivot of drama and mystery, he becomes a hurdle to the progress of the story.
To demonstrate how absurd it gets, in about episode 5, the villain of the moment actually convinces him that Victorique doesn’t exist. This is despite the fact that she’s been acknowledged by other characters the previous four episodes. I can still hear his whining, panicked internal monologue, questioning the existence of his own friend. He’s dumber than a sack of rocks, and, frankly, it undermines his entire relationship with Victorique. It makes me feel like she would have attached herself to the first person that showed her a little patience and understanding, cheapening their entire romance.
Finally, Kujo’s reaction at the climactic moment in the final episode of the anime is perhaps the most frustratingly underacted and oddly presented thing I’ve ever seen. That was the moment in which it tipped from hair-ripping annoyance to unforgivable train wreck. I wanted tears. I wanted angst. I wanted him to finally wipe that stupid grin off his face and show me some emotion, some catharsis, some sign that he’d grown a little. But no. What a terrible, terrible waste.
Side characters were the typical anime stock. They serve their purpose as plot devices to shuttle Kujo and Victorique from mystery to mystery. Grevil was somewhat interesting, but unoriginal.
For all its flaws, it made me smile or chuckle here or there, and the conclusion was just barely enough to save it from being a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, despite modestly good production values, the story and the characters are all over the place. Apparently a lot of people like this one, so I expected good things. I was severely disappointed, and I don’t recommend watching it.