Tasogare Otome x Amnesia Review

Title: Tasogare Otome x Amnesia / Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes + 1 x 24 minute OVA episode
Genre: Harem, supernatural, slice-of-life, romance
Year of release: 2012

I am not, nor have ever been, a girlfriend-desperate teenage boy. However, if I was, I think I’d be able to gain something from this entirely transparent fantasy. As it stands, the multiple personality disorder of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, attempting to blend supernatural drama, romance and club anime shenanigans, falls flat on its face. With only the ability to give its target demographic cute (and perverted) fuzzies, it serves everybody else a cringe over the sickeningly sweet and overlong sequences of unearned, unfeeling PDA.

While Tasogare Otome x Amnesia picks a clear ‘horse’ in its harem race, the ongoing dilemma for 3/4 of its run is ‘which girl do you pick???’, undeniably venturing into harem territory. It was never a question that the horny ghost girl, Yuuko, was who the wet-towel protagonist, Teichi, was going to pick – because she’s only one pushy enough to ask.

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That’s a two-pronged problem, but let’s reel down to the ultimate problem: Teichi. Teichi doesn’t have a strand of agency throughout the whole show, and the entire show crumbles in his absence. The only time he possesses anything close to thought is when he ‘agrees’ to something. Perpetually going along with everything in that ‘nice, but not really meaningful’ way, Teichi builds a harem from the most desperate girls in the supernatural investigation club, simply because he’s the only guy in the series. Hell, Yuuko only likes him because he’s the first person that can see her, youknow, being a ghost and all, but we’ll get to the supernatural drivel later. Teichi’s pursuing of a romance with Yuuko comes as the only narrative option for his character, because there’s no other instilled plot-thread or character beat that he could potentially follow except for Yuuko’s persistence.

I’ve already described Yuuko in quite excruciating detail, but I haven’t quite sold her various gimmicks. She’s exceptionally assertive, forcing Teichi to do her bidding with a mixture of gimmicks, such as sad puppy eyes or literally kicking him into an old elevator and putting his hands on her chest. Believe it or not, but I’m very up for seeing a believably written female character with a sex drive, but Yuuko is not that – her sex drive is plastered over with enough narratively-dishonest innocence and uncomfortable convenience that it never comes across as her true sexuality. Even when the series begins to get serious, she talks about her ‘purity’, as a gentle reminder that her sex drive was only ever meant to imbue Teichi with some moments to be masturbated over. It’s clear that from her audacity, compared to the other girl’s more reserved archetypes, that she is the only member of Teichi’s opportunistically and convolutedly formed harem that could lead the mannequin of a main character into a genuinely romantic situation. To be blunt, while this is a harem, it forgoes any tension as it asks ‘but who will they pick?’, and the plotting to funnel that preconceived decision is arbitrary humdrum.

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The slate’s harem is rounded out firstly by Okonogi, an excitable ditz who can’t see Yuuko and who has literally no other trait other than a pre-determined attraction to the main character, and, secondly, by Kirie, who deserves the rest of the paragraph… for better or worse. Kirie’s pair of red (sometimes flashing) auricle piercings and her cold demeanour put her squarely into the ‘cool’ trope of the troop, and this leads to her being the one delivering almost all of the supernatural exposition. Though, it goes without saying, the supernatural elements are so poorly thought out that this never escapes pure conjecture assumed as fact. Frustratingly, though, she’s given a weak side, as she is afraid of the dark; this is the way that she finds herself falling for the pathetic protagonist, because he’s literally the only man with a face or dialogue, and is given the most basic opportunity to appear ‘manly’ – which is simply continuing to be unreactive! The shared conversation between Teichi and Kirie never amounts to more than this fumbled exposition, and the shared conversation between Okonogi and Teichi never amounts to more than cheap gags at her expense or just her being jealous. Because it’s a harem.

The earlier mentioned club atmosphere and daily shenanigans in school-life, despite being run by such uncompelling cogs, occasionally works on the back of the show’s amusing slapstick style. As Okonogi cannot see Yuuko, the smart visual direction lets the shallow and menial routines become quite funny. The sharp letterboxing and strong animation manage to sell the darker aspects of the series, too – or, they do until you take the simplest bit of analysis and realise that the supernatural elements have no backbone, a symptom of poor plotting, trivial world-building and dire characterisation. But it certainly looks convincing.

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And then it all comes back to the fanservice – the one place this show finds any success, though not nearly enough. The latter series features ‘dating’, which is as sickening as you’d expect from a show plucked right out of an adolescent’s reveries. Much of the fanserivce is admittedly racy with sensual sequences of Yuuko pulling up her tights. Then again, the show features far too many accidental boob grabs – seriously, I thought once was enough to get the horny teenage demographic onboard in the first episode, but it continues deep throughout the series and one of the climactic plot-points even uses one accidental-grope to force a supernatural sequence. Attempting to tell a good story is tertiary to the fanservice and the harem-building romance nonsense, and Tasogare Otome x Amnesia reeks of that decision.

If only the series could have stuck to one genre, it might have faired better outside of vicariously-enjoyed trite. Dipping its toes into so many genres, it never excelled at any. Shallowly drudging on through the motions of its paper-thin cast and the menial harem writing, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia finally ends with the illusion of a stake – before putting its foot in its mouth, one final time, and pretending it never existed! O the joys of having fiction, where your self-insert extension of yourself can have it all.

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