In the early 20th century, Kazuya transfers to a prestigious academy as part of an exchange program between Japan and Saubure, a small European country. But while Kazuya would love to make friends and have a typical school life, the boy is shunned by his ghost story-loving peers who believe that he's a "Black Reaper" to be feared. Things change one day when Kazuya wanders to the top of the library and discovers a lush botanical garden, and a beautiful, small, blonde-haired girl named Victorique who rarely leaves the building and is fascinated by unsolved mysteries. Together, the two develop a budding friendship and take on many chilling and dangerous cases that even the famous local detective Grevil can't solve.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS Detective stories used to be about middle aged men and women with high intelligence solving cases of murder or robbery. It was always a procedure of analysing data, looking for clues, learning hidden info by onlookers and suspects. After a long line of thought processing, you would get an answer that would leave you saying “Oh, I get it now; it makes sense”. And then Japan takes this concept and makes a joke out of it. If you think about it, all anime with detectives have an element of supernatural, magic, psionics, mind-control, reality alteration or something similar. None is 100% pure reality check because of that. Ok, most famous detectives in western literature also have a bit of fringe science in them from time to time but it is a very minor aspect; anime end up being MOSTLY fantasy because the investigators or detectives are using reason to solve supernatural cases. It ends up feeling forced and unnatural after awhile. Until recently, detectives in anime were mostly ingenious teenagers and kids (protagonists just HAVE to be young in order to appeal the majority of the viewers) and despite the heavy element of fantasy, they were still using a basic line of thought in their work. The most famous anime amongst them is Meitantei Conan (aka Case Closed) which despite its episodic structure and simplistic characters, managed to keep going for decades thanks to its usually interesting cases and colourful cast. Unfortunately quality in storytelling has gone down the drain the past years and thus we went from interesting mystery shows like Death Note and Monster to retarded loli garbage like Milky Holmes, Gosick, Dantalian no Shoka and Kamisama Memo-chu. Everything mush have loli tsunderes and coolderes. It just has to. IT MUST HAVE LOLIS OR GTFO! I have nothing against lolis if they are used in genres they belong to (lesbian incestuous tentacle megane nekomimi maid hentais) but it is very off to see them now being present EVERYWHERE even when they don’t fit at all. I understand that it is a very easy trope that sells TOO well these days but that does not mean it is quality material. Before you get started with the show, let me give you the heads-up regarding who made it. The animation is done by studio BONES, which is highly regarded in the anime fandom as one of the best in terms of production quality. And indeed, the guys made a great job. Something though most people will NOT admit about them is how they have the bad habit of ruining their storylines along the way to the point the ending in all their shows is a big mess of rushed and poorly presented events that are more confusing or stupid, than exciting or satisfactory. Really, these guys just have no idea of how to make a good storyboard all the way to the end. It doesn’t help much to give the directing to Nanba Hitoshi, a minor name in the industry whose only other known works are the cool but eventually shallow and passable Baki the Grappler and the most horribly lame Heroman. This guy simply doesn’t have much of a talent in making interesting shows. So placing these names together is already spelling doom for what to expect. SPECIFICS The premise of the show is actually very interesting as it has to do with a fictional country in the Victorian era, the supernatural, a prophesy of impending doom, and lots of weird mysteries. All that of course are underplayed in favour of the interaction between the two lead characters to the point the anime is NOT detective/mystery/historical/adventure but slice of life comedy with hints of drama. And if you go really light with the show it is not hard to be immersed into the mood of it; not in terms of the story as much as the atmosphere. The production values are very good and you get yourself mesmerized with the well-depicted Victorian setting and the classical music. It is not SUPER good though; lots of lazily drawn scenes as well as forgettable songs. The main heroine is Victorique, a goth loli cooldere/tsundere with a tragic past and super intelligence that is not voiced by Rie Kugumiya (it’s a miracle!). She is basically Sherlock Holmes turned loli (even smokes a bubbly pipe) and is named after the era of the show. She roams around solving mysteries while looking all cute for the otakus and does get development after her past is revealed and the prophesy of doom is all over the place. A problem with how she does her thing is that because each case is short, the resolution comes fast and hard in most cases and thus the mystery aspect of the show is not very exciting. You end up watching for her cuteness and not for the mystery. This is not a bad thing but definitely takes out the detective element from a DETECTIVE series. In theory, if each arc was longer the hints would be better scattered and there would be time to let her analyze the data in a way that doesn’t feel like it came out of nowhere. Ok, it would also make it more simple and boring than it already is so it could only be saved by dealing with more than one cases at once or having the war prophesy taking place sooner. Anyways, that is all just big “ifs” and the bottom line is that Victorique is an ok character in terms of backdrop story, mediocre as an archetype, and damn annoying when she seems to solve everything so easily without giving us time to understand her line of thought. Kujo is her aid and is nothing but the usual wimp boy who is her personal toy and of course she likes him a lot for that. But the truth is nobody likes this idiot, he is completely boring and supposed that helps the viewer to identify with him or something. Well I don’t identify with these boneheads; I like my leads to be GAR. He is otherwise just there because there needs to be someone carrying her luggage as well as someone to talk to about her thoughts, her cases, her story and generally EVERYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH HER OR THE STORY AND NOT HIM. His is not just irritatingly spineless but also has zero purpose in the show other than being a tired plot devise for the loli to do her things. It doesn’t even make much sense how in just one episode (the pilot) he turned from being terrified of her to being her best friend and later her platonic boyfriend. It never makes sense why anime girls (lolis or otherwise) are attracted to useless idiots and not GAR bad boys. Bad storytelling I guess, just like the handling of the cases. Not that most of the anime community seems to care though; they are used to having these useless pieces of meat in all modern show and just put up with them taking space. In general, the overall plot of the show is plain bad. Most cases are not interesting, the silly moments are very average, and when the need for some development is needed, like adding tragedy or romantic interest, it again feels like it came out of nowhere because we don’t get to see or believe the turnaround. Like lots of internal monologues, or proper cinematics, or enough duration in foreshadowing. The dialogues are not helpful either as most sound plain silly and not fitting with the mystery/drama of the show. Not even the whole “prophesy of doom” is handled properly as it is again nothing but a cheap plot devise to insert thriller in a light comedy show that solves all its problems fast and hard. It doesn’t work. The support cast is not captivating in overall (although definitely more than that fail that is Kujo) because they are treated as mostly comic relief characters and not serious people, doing serious work, and being part of serious crimes. I mean, what the hell is wrong with that other guy’s hairdo? Why is the female teacher in the school such an airhead? There is no way to take them seriously, no matter how much the scriptwriter tried to make them dramatic later on. FINAL THOUGHTS So overall Gosick is not something to “go sick” with its bad storytelling but not something to love either. It just has a loli with hax powers and a dork breezing though silly mysteries before in the finale they suddenly go all serious just to win final impressions. Well I am not impressed. It is a barely above average show that aims at moeblob fans and people who only care about the superficial aspects (the artwork or the music). I have to admit that is a lot more memorable than most other storyless moe school comedies for trying to have abit more story and a bit more special setting but other than that, it is very far from a good detective show with ingenious mysteries and unforgettable characters. It is (just like most mainstream anime a mostly light and silly watch for mass pleasing and nothing close to what could make it an all-time classic. And sure, most people will say it is amazing, just because they would compare it with your average moeblob instead of your average detective story. It can be good if you see it like that but bad if you see it like the other case. And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 8/10 General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed) Animation 1/2 (basic) Visual Effects 2/2 (good use of lightning) SOUND SECTION: 7/10 Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series) Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess) STORY SECTION: 5/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 1/2 (erratic) Complexity 1/2 (not much) Plausibility 0/2 (none) Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy) CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 Presence 1/2 (generic) Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there) Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there) VALUE SECTION: 3/10 Historical Value 0/3 (none) Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot) Memorability 2/4 (good visuals but otherwise meh) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10 Art 1/1 (looks nice) Sound 0/2 (sounds typical) Story 1/3 (feels generic) Characters 0/4 (they are generic) VERDICT: 5/10
Story (4.5/10) 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. Animation (6/10) 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. Sound (6/10) 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. Characters (3/10) 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. Overall (4.5/10) 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.
One of the most endearing qualities of Gosick is its solid plot. While at first it seems to be somewhat episodic, one quickly finds that the conflicts and mysteries of each episode are inextricably linked and all point to a grander scheme. This show is easy to continue watching all the way through; rather than being easy to watch, it's difficult not to watch. Also, unlike many animes, it doesn't leave one with a dissatisfied feeling resulting from an unresolved conflict or love triangle. None of that here. There are a couple of character flaws in the main cast, but given their circumstances and the era this anime is set in, they make sense for the most part and make the characters more interesting. There are of course one or two cliché characters around, but they don't seem to negatively affect the show. To sum it up: If you enjoy mystery / suspense, if you like an anime that doesn't require you to slowly trudge through 15 episodes of filler in the middle, or if you like anything with an interesting plot and a solid ending, give Gosick a try.
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