Title: Akanesasu Shoujo/The Girl In Twilight
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Mystery, sci-fi, drama, coming-of-age, romance
Year of release: 2018
As an anime original concept, with no concrete suggestion through PVs, synopses or promotional art of what it will actually be, Akanesasu Shoujo (henceforth, Twilight) has an edge in being able to blindside you. And watching it along every week, in-turn, ended up being an experience. With some novel concepts, interesting think-pieces and plenty of time to dig into them, Twilight really uses that edge.
The key concept of the story initially seems rather convoluted, but it quickly changes to become something seemingly more elegant. Five high school girls, despite having almost nothing in common, are a tightly knit group, centring around Asuka, who leads their school’s Radio Club. There’s some throwback retro-tech involved, yes, but what’s more important is that they use this ancient Sony Walkman to tune out of this universe and into parallel ones.
Despite attempting this folklore ritual several times prior to the series’ start, they successfully manage in the first episode. In a ruined, golden world, the girls discover the “Noise”, a monstrous entity that is attempting to destroy parallel universes for their King, as well as the parallel universe Asuka – who, rather hilariously, is almost the exact opposite of the normal universe Asuka. The girls end up returning to their world and then repeating the ritual to go to other worlds with “Seriouska”, where different members of the cast are inserted into their parallel universe selves, as they come to terms with the unique differentiation of the world, the way they differ there, who they themselves are and gradually finding a way to beat the Noise. These arcs comprise about two episodes each until the very impressive final arc begins.
That’s a complex setup, but as I said earlier, it’s actually quite elegant. Character development is efficiently managed through these sequences as characters are forced to react and adapt to vastly different worlds. The worlds themselves differ by quite random ideas such as bringing in mandatory marriage or using cowboy-styled pistol duels to solve all and any dispute, which ends up being more personal than it may seem. The best thing about it is that, despite getting into the nitty gritty of who the central characters are, the cast trying to track down their lost friend have some very watchable (if at times, cliche or forced) banter as they idly mess about it, and the hyper campy portrayals of the world never stop being fun and very watchable. Although, some arcs are simply better handled than others and it creates a wonky experience, but managing to blend its interesting philosophy with entertainment is something that really can’t be ignored.
Asuka, voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa throughout every single alternative universe rendition, is a pleasure to watch. Not only because Kurosawa manages to make conversations with herself – via up to three different unique voices at a time – so gripping, but the character herself is much deeper than her somewhat generic, protagonist-like genki demeanour may suggest. While her development comes much, much later than other characters, it was all the more rewarding for it.
Nana takes the first arc, which is perhaps a little overdramatic and on-the-nose, but as Twilight gets past the sluggish setup of her simple teenage problems, Nana becomes a well-rounded character. She even manages to make light of the things that plagued her prior, further demonstrating the change that she makes over the series.
Mia Silverstone’s arc is set in a cowboy-inspired land, and with the introduction of another alternative universe character as a recurring element, the show begins to really pick up steam. Her arc is equally as silly, but there’s so much campy fun at this point that Twilight had me in its hands.
Chloe’s arc resides in a very peculiar world, and she doesn’t get to interact with many because of it. Meanwhile, the others are really stealing the screentime. Still, she did learn an important lesson through the isolation, and I’m glad the show had the nuance to make it so.
At this point, it’s worth getting back to how the characters defeat the Noise. This is almost always in magical-girl influenced battles, where synchronising with their Walkmans allows transformation into an “Equaliser” to give powers to physically fight and defeat the Noise. It’s fairly simple, but there’s a few problems here.
Frankly, the show’s production fell apart as early as episode two. Art became a hodgepodge of models going off-figure, character animation becoming stiff, storyboarding failing to really capture the scenes and movement tired. Action scenes were all rendered in CGI by a separate studio, and despite actually being relatively strong CG models and backgrounds, the storyboarding of these sequences leaves much to be desired, and the clash of the two styles is a hard pill to swallow.
Secondly, the designs of their Equaliser forms always leave something to be desired. Chloe’s has a talking sidekick strapped onto it for some reason, and despite the clear recognisability, it’s eye-rolly design language. Even the Noise are, generally, pretty poorly designed too.
But after developing its supporting characters, Twilight returns to its main story and its final two characters. An excellently handled tone shift propelled the show into the midsts of the most personal and heart-wrenching handful of shows of 2018. Continuing surprises and strong writing kept the show above water during its finale. The final episode in particular suddenly jumps up from the weak and uninspired production prior, and features intriguing, well-thought-out and creative storyboarding and even signs of novel animation as it does what I love most about anime: resolving its character arcs as the finale – plot and world be damned.
The final of many tricks that Twilight had was that it had the gravity to stage an eloquent heart-to-heart with its protagonist in the final hour, and what’s more, land it so gracefully. What a way to go out.
Twilight was a rollercoaster ride of different ideas, but they all came together for a stunning finale. It’s a hard watch on the back of its weak production and varying competence of arcs, but it’s a terrific ride. The show never stops throwing bones in the forms of surprises, even at its finale, and you might just feel like you’ve fallen deeply in love with the cast as it’s time to say goodbye.