Shoujo-ai with a dollop of confusion and whimsy
Not what I was expecting, but still solid. That's probably the first idea that comes to mind when I think of YamiBou. There was a lot going on here, this review will probably be a bit choppy (and long) but bear with me. So let's start with what I was expecting (and what anybody would've expected after watching the 1st ep)... What I was expecting was a typical one-sided shoujo-ai love story that eventually evolves into a two-sided relationship. But this is not at all the focus of this series. Hatsuki and Hatsumi's actual relationship is only in the forefront for maybe 2 half eps outside of the 1st ep. Obviously this is the sole motivating factor, but the majority of this series consists of Hatsuki's journey to find Hatsumi after she mysteriously vanishes. Basically, I don't mind giving a little bit of backstory here because otherwise it would be impossible to understand the series anyway. Very quickly you find out that Hatsumi is actually Eve, an omnipotent being that goes from universe to universe (leaving on her 16th birthday) making a profound impact on each one she visits; always leaving things better than she found it. That's really vague, but if I went into any more detail I'd probably confuse myself to be honest. The full backstory is a very complex and I think clever play on the story of Adam and Eve and the creation of man. I definitely wish this backstory was more integrated and developed into the series itself. Frankly I think this should've been a 24 ep series anyway which I'll get to more later. So as far as the overarching story of this anime goes, it's not great. Hatsuki and Hatsumi's relationship is certainly compelling, but it's not well-developed. The progression seems rushed since as I've already alluded to this is not the main focus of the series. But to put a positive spin on this, in spite of the fact that it's not in direct focus for the majority of the series, Hatsuki and Hatsumi's relationship is very compelling, absolutely. But now I'd like to take some time and talk about the little subplots that drive the majority of the series. The structure of this series is that of a collection of interrelated (some more directly, some more indirectly) short stories, each of which take place in a different universe. Ordinarily in this scenario I would give a brief outline of each short story, but we're not talking 3 or 4 in this series (more like 1 per ep with exceptions) so I won't go that far, just some highlights. First, the story of little Miruka (eps 6-7). You've seen this story before: little innocent girl, has some sort of disease (not the case here, she just can't age), asks a lot of questions which makes the main character look introspectively on him/herself. Like I said, you've seen it before, but it always works. A really compelling story, also does well to show Hatsuki's soft side, so a good "climax" to the series. I use quotes because it's not a true climax, just a highly enthralling mini-story that happens to occur in the middle of the series. Also, this seemed like a quasi Golden Compass parody (what with the white tiger and all) which was interesting. But the best short story is believe-it-or-not the one that was not in the original eroge (of which the anime is based). **Warning mini-rant** And before you insist that was a sarcastic remark, think again. Some eroge do indeed have very compelling stories (exhibit A, Yume Miru Kusuri). It would be a fool's game to claim this as the majority, but the exceptions cannot be ignored. Eroge is certainly held to a higher standard than hen in my mind. So don't dog it till you've tried it as they say. **End of mini-rant** Now that I've blown off some steam, I can continue. The original-to-the-anime short story is a quasi-parody of the Gundam series (eps 10-11). This subplot takes place on a colonization ship which has been searching for 200 yrs for a habitable planet. Presumably recently, all the adults on the ship became "immobilized." This leads to a very powerful and eerie scene in which Reira (the female centerpiece of this universe) is speaking to her mother and she is completely unaware of the fact that her mother is long dead. Lastly, with regards to the plot, is the ending. After ep 12, I feared that YamiBou would blow the ending. Fortunately, this wasn't really the case. The ending wasn't great, but for the most part it was appropriate. I definitely appreciated that there was some sense of resolution for Hatsuki, the whole play on the Virgin Mary was definitely over my head, and the scene where Lilith (Ririsu in my sub) and Eve are suggestively laying head to crotch with each other just threw me (though this wasn't the only could've-been-hen moment of the series). That concludes the story/plot portion of the review (don't worry the rest is brief). The animation is textbook, and commendable I would think for something that came out in 2003. As far as the sound, the BGM is adequate, the OP I quite like, and the ED is terrible. So now we come to the characters. Hatsuki is far and away the best. She's both badass and has a deep emotional profile. The other character I'd like to note is Ken-chan. This fat little bird provides consistently hilarious comic relief to the series. The last thing I'd like to briefly bring up as I mentioned earlier, is that YamiBou probably should have been a full 24 eps. This series is overshadowed by its backstory. If not for the little paragraph on the backstory provided by most fansubs, anyone would be totally lost watching this series. Let's face it, even with this paragraph I was still lost at times with the story. There's so much more content they could have explored, they could have properly developed Hatsuki and Hatsumi's relationship (which in turn would probably yield a more satisfying ending). And if nothing else, they could have further developed Hatsuki's character since she really had the potential to be phenomenal. But all in all, as it stands, YamiBou is good-not-great series. The unconventional storytelling is clever and handled with grace, but still sparks a good deal of confusion and you shudder to call this a true romance anime. Nonetheless, worth watching for a change of pace, 6.5 out of 10.