"Melody of Oblivion": Oblivion Sounds About Right
Gainax. A studio known for classic anime such as Evangelion, FLCL and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. JC Staff is known for anime such as Excel Saga, Tsukihime and Azumanga Daioh. Both studios have great directors, writers, animators and great people in general. So, one would think that the result of them working on the same project should be great as well, right? Recently, that assertion was put to the test with their joint project, Melody of Oblivion, and while it’s visually quite nice, the story and direction are emblematic of what is often wrong in anime today: it’s slow and derivative.
The basic premise is as follows: in the 20th Century, there was a massive war between humans and monsters. After violence unparalleled, the monsters won the day. Eventually, people resigned themselves to their fate and carried about their business under the thumb of these monsters. However, there are still some people who fight them, fabled Warriors of Melos. The first disc focuses on a young man’s journey as a new Warrior of Melos.
Bocca was your average angsty High School kid (think Shinji from Eva with a bit of Noata from FLCL) with a bit of a delinquent streak. He didn’t always do well on tests, he hung around a crazy mechanic and Bocca generally drifted through life, though always feeling that something was wrong about the world. One day, he discovers that not only do monsters exist, but that he also has the power to fight them as a Warrior of Melos. So, the crazy mechanic gives him an IverMachine (a sentient motorcycle that could fly if it were complete), and he sets off to battle monsters with a companion, Sayoko, who is not only very reminiscent of Haruko from FLCL in personality, but she’s even got a handcuff chain around her wrist too. The cuff even serves the same function: it’s a detector for a particular Melos Warrior she is searching for, much like Haruko’s handcuff was a detector for Atomsk. Sayoko tags along with Bocca, hoping that they’ll run into and join up with that Melos Warrior. Along the way, Bocca and Sayoko run into a seaside village that is being terrorized by monsters and Bocca tries to get to the bottom of the mystery, but it’s a three part episode and we only get the first two parts of the three parter on this disc, so I’ve got no clue how it plays out.
Now, that is not to say there are only two episodes on the disc because there are four. Alas, it takes two episodes to set up the premise and three for the first story as a Melos warrior, and that’s the problem: it’s gratuitously slow. The concept seems like its going to be really hot-blooded and action packed, but it’s unfittingly slow and ambient, like many anime series these days. Add to that the lack of originality (I know Gainax likes to be self referential, and that it was their 20th Anniversary when they produced the show so they’d be even more self-referential in celebration of that, but they didn’t have to be so obvious about it), and the show just falls flat. It’s not painful to watch, it’s just not that engaging or entertaining either. It’s just there, bringing nothing new to the table, slowly.
It’s a shame too because it’s great from a technical standpoint. Gorgeous backgrounds and color design, good character design, fluid animation, excellent compositing and great music all come together to have the technical elements in check. The voice acting out of both casts is quite listenable as well, particularly Sayoko’s VAs. Really made that character fun at least.
Geneon doesn’t help matters though by yet again slacking off on the extras. The whole creditless opening only bit (even though the opening is great, and perhaps the best part of Melody of Oblivion), is just lame, especially at 30 bucks a disc.
All in all, I can’t recommend buying Melody of Oblivion to anybody. Pity, it’s so close to being cool. It just needs about 13 fewer episodes.