Home > Episode Review, Kami-sama no Memo-chou > Kami-sama no Memo-chou 01: Well begun is half done

Kami-sama no Memo-chou 01: Well begun is half done

"To protect the honour of the dead, I will hurt the living."

"To console the living, I will shame the dead."

I love this anime, I really really do.

Statue of Hachikō, Shibuya Station

One of the most important parts of any introduction is the definition of the setting.

Shibuya, Tokyo is known as a fashion center. It’s symptomatic of fast-paced, image-conscious Japanese society.

It’s a place where young adults are under immense pressure to be in tune with the ever-changing prevailing trends, to develop an individual style, to belong to the right social circles.

It’s a place where feelings of loneliness and isolation are exacerbated, and where people will pay to relieve their solitude.

It's a place where desires can be fulfilled for a price.

I like how the focus is immediately thrown on teenage prostitution. Schoolgirls, wanting the latest clothes/accessories, will offer themselves to pay for them. Sometimes the price drops lower than the cost of a bowl of ramen.

It’s an aspect of Japanese culture that the image-conscious Japanese media don’t like to report about and deserves more attention if the government actually wants to bother with ‘cleaning the streets’.

I’m mostly happy that the story’s not afraid of going into the seedy side of Japanese culture for material.

Here’s a TIME interview with a schoolgirl who dabbled in compensated dating, or Enjou Kousai. For a little more social context.

Incidentally, while prefectures can have ordinances that prohibit sexual activities with any minor under 18, the national age of consent, as specified by the Japanese Penal Code Articles 176 and 177, is 13.

The first case of many.

In the course of covering this anime I will comment on the case openings to give a little more social context if possible, and maybe a portion of the proceedings, but I won’t mention the case endings.

J.C. Staff has done a magnificent job on the direction/adaptation. It would be a real shame, after all their efforts on building up the mood and tension, to bypass it all just to find out what happened.

That being said, I will cover the implications and character development of the cast, if any. But that’ll have to wait for a bit.

Anything can be ominous with the appropriate atmosphere.

Special mention must be made of the music backing tracks. They appear to come in three modes.

First is mostly ambient noise or absolute silence. It helps to keep the scenes grounded, to impart that sense of realism. We don’t have a backing track for our lives, much as we may want one.

Second is this small orchestral ensemble that plays during the when the scene is focused on a particular slice-of-life or lighthearted moment, complete with Genshiken-esque music/sound effects. They sound as if they were taken from a Studio Ghibli movie.

Third and most iconic, are the hypnotic, oddly-soothing piano/bell/xylophone-based tracks that play whenever something vital to the case occurs, and during Alice’s final dissertation on the case. It’s very reminiscent of clockwork and wind chimes. Always turns the mood sombre and introspective.

I know I’m doing a terrible job on the descriptions.

Side-note: The composer and arranger is Iwasaki Taku. He’s known for his jazz-like score music, although I can only remember one scene in which a jazz track plays. That double bass plucking.

「カワルミライ」 (Kawaru Mirai) by ちょうちょ (Choucho)

While we’re on the subject of music, I figured that it was good time to talk about the OP.

Then I realized I have very little experience commenting on OPs. It’s certainly good at showcasing the cast, and I like J-Pop, even though I know most J-pop songs sounds pretty much the same.

In a nutshell: It’s nice, and I like it. So there.

Close closed.

I think the most interesting thing about this first case is that while technically a crime was committed, personally I wouldn’t consider the suspect to be guilty of any crime.

It seems that Kami-sama no Memo-chō is not so much about crime, despite the detective work, but rather about the people who are involved in each case. Their motivations and their desires and how they interact to cause and influence ongoing events.

Far too many detective stories emphasize the guilty/innocent aspect and revolve around interrogation, making a suspect trip up. I’m far more interested in the characters’ thoughts and intentions – which is why I like the focus here.

And yet the mystery itself is actually engaging, and what little we see of the detective work is realistic (although I do have my doubts about how a guy dressed in military fatigues follows anyone successfully).

What I liked about how Alice solves the case is that it is logical. Obviously, my hypothesis couldn’t match up with Alice’s entirely, but the fact is that from the same clue there was a similar chain of inductive reasoning. I hope this keeps up. Too many series were ruined by an excess of Bat Deduction.

Alice prefers Apple.

Final Impressions:

I was riveted right from the start. And I didn’t even want to pause when I missed something because I didn’t want to ruin the pacing.

I have to reiterate: J.C. Staff did an amazing job with this first episode. The direction, the music, it just came together really well. I don’t know what I was expecting before I began watching it, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this.

It is perhaps too much to hope that each episode will keep me spellbound right up to series’ end, and with only 13 episodes, it’s likely certain cases will be ruined to try and present an overall character development arc for Alice and Narumi, rather than go with a TWGOK-style case, case, filler, case format.

There is one aspect of the anime that I find a little incongruent: the fanservice.

Now, I felt that the overall mood of the show was one of solemnity. The very name of the anime, God’s Memopad, suggests a matter-of-fact, objective observation of events. I’m partly influenced, and I can tell that I’m reviewing very differently – I don’t want to make a flippant or irrelevant remark.

Some humourous moments are to be expected, but the fanservice scene, which came absolutely out of nowhere, really broke the laboriously crafted air of realism.

Leave the titillation to the doujinshi and fanart, I’ll look for it if I really have to. As long as J.C. Staff concentrates on the characters and their stories, this anime could turn out to be something really special.

Her computers are the windows to others' souls.

  1. July 6, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Exactly. The last bit of fanservice was so Touma stumbling upon Index showering. That was the only black mark upon what i think was a fantastically animated first episode by JC staff. I was even surprised that they were the ones animating it. Maybe they had leftover budget from the horrible two-frame running Hidan no Aria.

  2. Lillu
    July 6, 2011 at 11:12 am

    why is everyone calling that last scene fanservice? in the context of what was happening, it’s purpose seems more to give levity to the episode after it took a sombre turn; to hear someone called a lolicon for such an unintentional circumstance was trully hilarious… this series definitely earns points in my book for even mentioning lolicon, which for most people is a touchy/taboo subject, and is shaping up to be one of my favorites of the year

    • July 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Hilarious as it was, you can’t help but think that it came across as a little bit forced.

      To take a humourous turn after the somewhat serious episode can easily be depicted by a struggling and flailing Alice being dragged to the bath leg-first by Ayaka. It immediately brightens up the mood, and it’s congruous to the child-like appearance of Alice, who can have her own childish tantrums befitting of her age.

      Narumi being called a lolicon for accidentally seeing Alice getting undressed does create the desired effect of being humourous, but it ticks all the boxes to be classified as fanservice. Basically, by definition, it’s “gratuitous titillation”. It’s intentionally adding in the particular scene to give viewers exactly what they want (or for that matter, some people). That being said, it isn’t wrong to include such a scene, but is it necessary? Some may elicit a whoop of delight seeing a half-naked Alice, but to others, it breaks the flow, something that the episode was trying to strive for until that point.

      Never mind lolicon, this anime specifically targets the NEET culture that is prevalent in Japanese society today. That is a more pressing and sensitive issue at hand here. Some may call this anime a glorification of the NEET culture, but regardless of that, I do agree that it’s a wonderfully crafted story. Instead of feeding you all the details, the director allows you to put the pieces together, and the result of discovering the outcome is ultimately very satisfying.

    • JohnnyYandere
      July 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm

      It’s not so much the circumstances themselves, but the depiction. I can accept that Alice and Ayaka forgot that Narumi was in the room, and they would understandably be upset, and Narumi would thereafter be evicted violently. This is all rather logical, if exaggerated. Although the fanservice hints start here – there is no need to strip Alice before she’s even in the bathroom.

      The same scene could have been described through dialogue/struggling noises and a close up of Narumi’s face, leaving events to the viewers’ imagination. And this would have no doubt have provided the humour to counteract the solemn mood.

      But J.C. Staff opted to slowly pan the camera over Alice’s exposed body – which is why it crosses over from comedy to fanservice.

      As regards to the usage of the term ‘lolicon’, I don’t see anything special about it. It’s used only as an insult, and nothing more. No sociological comment on the mindset of the male demographic here. True, most anime don’t use the word, but that’s usually because there aren’t any loli characters in the cast, in which case the more common ‘ecchi’ and ‘hentai’ are used.

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