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Village of the Let’s-Give-Everything-Away-in-the-First-Episode

January 10, 2010

Ookamikakushi felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone that gave away the twist in the first two minutes and insisted on continuing regardless.

The intro sequence showed a glimpse into the future with monsters chasing after a couple of kids and some little girl with a huge scythe amongst the monsters. It wasn’t the most thrilling action scene ever, but it was decent. Then, post-opening credits, it naturally shifted back to cutesy everyday stuff. That was to be expected.

The problem is that once the “everyday” stuff kicks in, the series tries to play up the mystery angle. We already know that there are werewolves or whatever running around this town. We got that from the opening scene. But the anime insists on trying to build a sense of paranoia like Village of the Damned or Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This feeling of dread is well-executed, but it doesn’t have much payoff because we’ve already been shown so much.

At first I thought we were seeing usual “slice of life” antics. Friendly kids are gawking at the new kid. But their enthusiasm grew to the point of creepiness. They weren’t happy to see a new kid, they were like animals circling someone trying to feed them and jockeying for the best position for food. The supposed alpha male wins out, but he’s accosted by the alpha female. It was a well-played sequence of events that would have been intriguing in any other situation.

All of this was wasted because we already know there’s creepy shit going down. We already know someone’s going to get pissed at the obnoxious blonde stalker girl for fawning over the new kid. We already know there are monsters and killer school girls. While I’m sure there’s more to the anime than the “these kids are probably werewolves or wolf spirits” angle, going from the major reveal at the beginning of the episode to a slow boil paranoia just doesn’t work. The pacing is made even worse when we see the alpha male kid apparently get offed by the same mob of monsters and scythe girl from the intro.

Ookami wants it both ways. It wants to shock us with cute kids killing and dying, but it also wants to play up a psychological horror angle. The first episode did a poor job of mixing the two styles. Had the episode not started with that action scene things would have been a little better. There would have been real build-up to the scene where the boy’s being chased by the pack. Even then, showing these monsters in the first episode at all feels like we’re seeing too much. The episode should have stuck with building up the creepy village kid aspect then have the alpha male kid mysteriously “move away” after getting the dirty look from his “leader.” The girl with the scythe should have been a big revelation later in the series.

Instead of being drawn into a creepy story and making me anticipate the next episode, the only feeling I have left is curiosity for what they try to do now that so much has been revealed. It’s no longer a horror anime, it’s just a guessing game.

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