For an anime about the romance between a high school boy and the ghost wandering around the campus, “experimental” might not be one of the first words you’d think about. And yet that is exactly what I’d use to describe Dusk Maiden of Amnesia.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing kinds of works are those which have a promising premise and setting, but utterly fail in their execution. For Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, it takes the overdone premise of the (mostly-)ordinary high school boy meeting a supernatural girl and goes to town with it.

So let’s talk about what is probably the greatest strength of Dusk Maiden: execution.

Among the things that Dusk Maiden excels at is the use of unusual cuts, copious use of Japanese characters splattered on the screen for atmospheric effect, and backgrounds with fantastic color composition. And indeed, it seems that director Shin Oonuma has worked with Studio SHAFT, a studio that’s infamous for abusing insane art direction like no tomorrow.

The background art consists of evocative scenes which take place in the sunset, or nighttime scenes under a sky with unusual colors. These scenes are especially beautiful when coupled with the romantic elements of the show. The horror elements, meanwhile, are accompanied with insane art direction, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of Higurashi’s brand of horror coupled with Studio SHAFT’s infamous animation-related antics.

Complementing the fantastic visuals and art direction is the highly-varied and atmospheric soundtrack, ranging from ominous chants in Japanese, to lonely piano pieces, to music fit for comedy hijinks. The opening theme, CHOIR JAIL, is perhaps one of the best opening sequences this season in terms of both the visuals and the song. The lyrics and visuals put together create an evocative image of flames and passion (Burn, I tell myself; passion is not a sin, is it?), which ties back to the core love story. The ending theme, Calendier (カランドリエ) is set to Yuuko Kanoe singing the song while sitting by a window overlooking a sunset. It’s a mystifying, melancholic piece highly reminiscent of the music played in certain Japanese festivals to the gods.

Watashi yo moeteeee~

Dusk Maiden‘s limited cast consists only of the four main characters and three or four one-shot characters. A limited cast isn’t a flaw in any way — in fact, having a limited cast allows the show to focus more on the plot. However, the show tends to forget that it has more than one character to take care of.  The protagonist, Teiichi Niiya, is your typical dense, harem lead who is only a character whenever he’s around Yuuko. Kirie Kanoe suffers from having a vaguely-defined character trait (having a complex about Yuuko), and often being relegated to the role of expositor. Momoe Okonogi is completely out of the loop, and thus only exists to “normalize” the cast and provide some trouble for the main couple.

As far as individual characters go, only Yuuko Kanoe stands out as truly memorable: her teasing, playful personality is very reminiscent of Hitagi Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari. It’s true that the rest of the cast is underdeveloped, but it’s possible to see it the other way around and say that Yuuko simply overshadows the rest of the cast. This isn’t quite a bad thing though, because Yuuko is the central, titular character, and a strong, likable lead is far more important to a show like Dusk Maiden.

The biggest flaw of Dusk Maiden is when it goes back to its fanservice-comedy roots. The show is at its strongest whenever it uses its fantastic atmosphere to complement the more dramatic parts of its story, and at its weakest whenever it uses Yuuko’s character to create risque situations. Unfortunately, the weak link also drags down Dusk Maiden‘s strengths, the most jarring of which is a particular scene in episode 8 which ruins an otherwise-dramatic scene. Yes, there’s a thematic call-back in that scene, but when you use a boob grab as an important thematic element, there is likely a problem with the way you’re directing things.

Which begs the question: is there a way to write this show without resorting to using fanservice-y scenes? I realize that Yuuko’s and Teiichi’s personalities almost make it inevitable that risque comedy will happen, but I think that particular scene could’ve been saved from a total dramatic flop if they used something other than a goddamn boob grab to symbolize Yuuko’s desire to feel the warmth of others.

And for the record, the heart isn’t underneath the right boob.

I wonder how the staff came to the conclusion that a boob grab is the perfect way to close off an epic confession.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia attempts to do so many things at once, hence why I describe it as “experimental”. It’s not revolutionary, and there are some elements that it adds to the story that are just superfluous or even self-defeating (ahem, boob-grab). I feel that the show will work better if it just dropped the ecchi elements at the point where the anime diverges from the manga and just go for the serious direction. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the show; the things it does right are more than enough to keep me watching it. I recommend Dusk Maiden of Amnesia if you’re in the mood for unusual romance or if you’re looking for a good ghost story.

Of course, if you’re a fan of ecchi comedy, you’d probably love this show.

Cheesy romance: now with 100% more SHAFT.

Overall score: 7.5/10 (Good enough to keep you watching, but has many flaws that need to be addressed)