When Kazuya finds himself going to a European school, the last thing he expected was to become some sort of detective. Or at least the assistant to one.
What They Say:
The time is 1924, the place a small nation with a long, majestic history to be proud of, the kingdom of Saubure. The prestigious St. Marguerite's Academy, a school that caters to the children of aristocrats, gets a new arrival, Kujo Kazuya, an exchange student from an Eastern island nation. One day, in a botanical garden at the very top of the academy's library tower, Kazuya encounters a girl who is as beautiful as a doll...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series written by Kazuki Sakuraba and illustrated by Hinata Takeda that spawned a manga as well, Gosick is a twenty-four episode series (which Crunchyroll is listing as twelve) by animation studio Bones that's airing on TV Tokyo. The series is one that steps outside of the norm for anime by taking place in 1924 and in a European country named Saubure (background sites list it as Sauville). Putting it in these elements gives it a different feel overall visually, but a lot of the anime norms are here as well with character designs, uniforms and the like. The show focuses on Kazuya Kujo, an exchange student who has just arrived here at the behest of his older brother.
Kazuya comes across as a decent young man who isn't exactly thrilled to be where he is, but he's discovering quite a lot of beauty there even as other students talk up ghost stories, the grim reaper and other elements of the occult while keeping him at arms length. What seems to set him down a path that will change his life is when he ends up in this lush room where a young woman is sitting on the elaborate floor that looks like a doll and tells him what his future will be like. He's convinced she's a doll but it's actually a fellow student that's never at her desk named Victorique. Victorique lays into him pretty easily as she pins down his personality traits and place in the world which sort of disarms him, but also puts the two rather quickly int a position where they're somewhat comfortable around each other. At least until the handsome dandy with bizarre hair named Grevil arrives and adds the comedic element to the series. Well, outside of some of the more outgoing students we've seen.
Grevil's actually an inspector who has some business with Victorique and he uses Kazuya as a conduit to talk to her about a mystery that happened involving a dead grandmother and an inheritance. While he's trying to get Kazuya to answer with what may have happened in this case, it's more a way of getting Victorique to reveal it as she has the ability to reconstruct such scenes with ease, seeing all the fragments of chaos as she puts it and putting it all together. The back and forth with it is amusing as he won't really give her direct interaction for the most part while talking about it, but when she reveals the killer as someone different than Grevil, Grevil throttles Kazuya about it. The reconstruction is done in fairly classic detective story style, something every Detective Conan fan will recognize, but it's really nicely done in terms of style and animation.
Kazuya's interactions with Grevil later on go a long way towards explaining some of the mysteries that exist here as Grevil gains all the glory from Victorique's exposure of the true criminal. Unlike other leading men, Kazuya goes right to him and demands satisfaction for Victorique but ends up being told that she's not allowed to leave the building without permission. There are some nice little quirks, obvious as they may be, introduced because of this encounter since Kazuya doesn't want Grevil getting away with the attention and the lavish gift. Seeing him being forthright about it and going after Grevil was really nicely done and shows a different face for a lead character, even though he looks to be kept largely under Victorique's heel a lot of the time.
With this being a Bones production, the quality of the production is definitely very good. It's quite light when it comes to the music with only some very minor incidental music used here and there outside of the appealing opening and closing sequences. The animation itself is as strong as you'd suspect, though the simulcast is only at 480p so it loses something compared to a high resolution type. But unlike something like Xam'd, what they do here is largely a very earthy kind of show with lots of brows and darker colors, but not in a way that feels like it's too oppressive. It feels more reflective of the time and locales, though when they're in the library area, it's truly lush and beautiful, standing out unlike other areas of the show. The character designs are just as appealing, with dark uniforms contrasting brighter hair and expressions from most, and Victorique comes across very well in her role as the doll-like lead. Kazuya is a bit bland like a lot of male anime leads are, but it's his personality that helps to separate him at this point.
Gosick is the kind of show that will definitely have its appeal, and being a fan of a number of mystery oriented shows and series over the years (oh Kindaichi, how I miss you), I'm quite keen to see where this is going to go. Opening episodes for series like this can be kind of awkward as it's throwing a lot of things out there, but where it will gel together is in the working relationship that Victorique and Kazuya have as they get to know each other and more details about their pasts slowly come out. The mystery in this episode is largely a cast-off piece used just to show how smart and intuitive Victorique is but also to show how Grevil relies on her while not acknowledging her. The production values here are rock solid, as one would expect from Bones, and it's definitely one of the best ways to kick off the Winter 2011 anime season.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.