Gosick is one of those animes that you have to go in with a pre-tuned mindset. At first, I was underwhelmed by the anime and judged it on my mind as another one of these kinds of anime. I almost lost interest in it initially. Which would have been a colossal lost in my part as towards the end, the anime becomes one of the best examples of storytelling and character development.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Like I said, the anime starts very slowly and very confusingly. The first episodes don't seem to have any connecting plot besides establishing the characters. And since the anime industry has the tendency to recycle old character settings, we are very familiar with Gosick's cast of character types. The main characters are an overly proud tsudere and a way too friendly male, who we all know will end up falling for one another. There is also the nosy teacher and a cheerful love-interest that we all know will never go anywhere. But that's about the extent of familiarity this anime has to offer.
First of all, it's not unheard of for animes to take place in the western victorian era (technically after victorian era). There are animes such as Baccano and Kuroshitsuji that use the setting very well, but plotwise neither of them really has to take place in that era. Gosick manages to use its setting so well that it would not work in any other period. It also manages to use the setting very creatively by tapping into the mysteries of the era. Magicians are very integral to the plot, but unlike most animes, Gosick takes the time to explain that they are not users of magic, but mere illusionists.
That so happens to be one of the problems if you enter the anime without a pre-tuned mindset. All the tricks, teleporting characters and so-called inhuman-but-very-normal-in-anime powers that every anime has are not in Gosick. Therefore you will miss many hints thinking they're just an anime style human abilities and then later find out everything was a trick. The anime makes you feel stupid, because you didn't question them at the time.
As for the plot, it's all very familiar at first. The main character Kujou Kazaya finds a weird girl on the library who happens to possess genious detective skills. Like a lot of other detective animes, the pair goes around solving mysteries that no one else can and manage to stay relatively safe throughout the cases. At first. Once we start to delve into the past of the detective girl things start to get more interesting. And once it fully starts to focus on her, the plot is one of the best ever. With the last few episodes being downright cruel.
To make a decent storyline however, more is needed than a good plot. Character development is integral to making a working story and in that area Gosick shines way brightest. The anime start with a pair of cliched character archetypes and throughout the anime we see them slowly, but surely warm to one another. Nothing weird here, but where most animes make the development feel a bit awkward and weird, Gosick manages to make the transition smooth and realistic. It's not as much a love story as it is about becoming friends and from there into something more. It could be because of the dense nature of the male lead, but it feels like natural progression rather than a forced development.
The ending in particular seems almost tear-inducingly beautiful. Not only because it's a happy ending, but because it ties up every loose end and actually makes a proper ending. Which in this sequel-bate ridden world is a huuuuuuge plus in its favour.
In conclusion, Gosick is one of the finest example of storytelling and use of setting. It's biggest downside is the slow start, but even they are interesting enough in their own right. It's a must see anime for anyone who enjoys good stories. Just remember to go in forgetting everything you know about anime in general.
As a parting gift - my new favorite ending: