Ghost Slayers Ayashi is yet another good example of how trying to be different does not automatically create an enjoyable show. A memorable, perhaps, but rarely something you will look forward to watching the next episode.
The first major problem with this anime is it’s story. Not only it is episodic to the most part, when it later on tries to have an on-going plot, it rushes to finish it in a most distasteful way. I hear it was cut short because of poor ratings but that is not an excuse; if it had an on-going plot right away the ratings would most likely be satisfactory and it would have double the duration to develop the main idea.
Speaking of the main idea, it is also problematic. It has to do with ghost busters you see. Jap-style. There are dozens of shows around the same concept and trust me when I say this one is one of the most boring ones. The battle scenes are completely dull, lacking interesting choreography or exciting events. Do you believe I was yawning while watching a tremendous supernatural war for the salvation of Japan?
The basic idea in the battles is basically the only notable feature of the whole show. The main hero can transform people to weapons, based on the meaning of the kanji that make up their names. Thus if you happen to know Japanese, you will probably get some kicks out of how grammar becomes part of the action. In the event you are not though (which is the most likely) you will find all that more confusing than exciting. It’s like you are supposed to go study history, philosophy, mythology, Japanese language and oriental traditions just so you can follow the action … which is dull to begin with. I don’t know about you but for me a battle is not a school essay; I want to understand it easier AND be exciting. For example, Neon Genesis had weird symbolisms behind everything and yet it had amazing robot action. Katanagatari was also playing around with meanings of Kanji yet had cute girls, troll events, and fairy tale visuals. Well Ayashi doesn’t have all that; it is plain boring. Not even the whole people turning to weapons is that special if you have watched Soul Eater.
Yet it’s not that the show is badly made. In the contrary, its production values are very good, the setting is very detailed and atmospheric, the soundtrack is fitting the era. And its characters are developed through the use of the kanji/weapon transformation gimmick, thus they are not shallow and mediocre. In theory it plays out wonderfully but it’s simply NOT ENTERTAINING for most people (me included). It just tries to play it special by having grammar instead of people yelling and mountains crumbling, as it usually goes. Well good for it; I bet it will be a hit in Japanese-learning classes. Not on mainstream tv though. The whole thing reminded me of that other show, Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto, which was supposed to be highly historical and atmospheric yet it played out as nothing but a goddamn snorefest of a thousand names and events that had nothing to do with a cursed skull trying to eat up Japan. Yeah, very motivating to learn history just for a plot my little nephew can come up with.
This is one of those shows critics will most likely praise for its unique feeling yet the Average Joe will most surely drop after a few episodes out of lack of sympathy. A theater play is not good if the script is well written; it also requires from the audience to like the characters and be able to follow the story. Trust me; I have taken part in theater plays myself and most people remembered and cared about the vivid performance of a few actors and practically nobody understood a thing about the scenario. And this is the problem with the anime. It is hard to follow and doesn’t motivate you to persist into understanding it. So no, bad choice for casuals yet the weird art design or culture studies people out there will definitely like it. Not me; I like my action to be about swords and sorcery. Not kanji calligraphy for Pete’s sake!