Here is one I’d waited for all winter. Mayoiga, the synopsis alone had me hooked and waiting desperately for the first episode to drop. What is it?
Well firstly a 100% original new IP from Diomedea a studio with a strange track record , over half of their shows have been moe slice of life intercut with an occasional very dark show which I like to imagine being the animators having to take a break from drawing cute girls all day.
Since it wasn’t being based on a manga or LN I put it on a pedestal and raised my expectations for it higher since it was obviously a show that the creators wanted to make and not created for a few quick bucks. Now there is a ton I want to talk about with this show let’s just get right in.
The story is that a bus full of people who have failed or given up on society run away from real-life in search of a mysterious village where they can live in paradise. From the moment they get on the bus the show hits us with questions “Is the village real? What will they find there? What’s in the woods…” that have you thinking and theorizing from the very start.
The story while not a completely new concept is done in a way that is not only fresh but also a great re-telling of a classic mystery novels. Right from the start there are questions being asked and at the end of every episode you’re begging for answers and racing to the forums to make theories.The mystery and tension is so real that I found it impossible to relax not knowing what was going to get thrown into the works next. There’s a lot of twists but none of them feel cheap. It feels like an old school mystery novel akin to Agatha Christie.
The writing here is exceptional.The scale is small enough for every little action to came across as ground-breaking and the writers aren’t shy at dropping hints and tips that serve to fuel fan-theories. The story is told with a seriousness that touches on some very human concepts and ideas I’m sure most people have dealt with at some point. Wanting to run away,feeling overwhelmed with the world or the simple feeling that your life doesn’t matter.
I can guarantee that the tension will keep you not daring to breath.Every twist and turn manages to take us deeper and you can feel a darkness that threatens our characters. However you can’t say what it is exactly or why you feel worried. If that’s off putting I understand this isn’t a show for the easily startled or unnerved. I just simply love the sense of Unease I get while watching Mayoiga. But it’s intercut with enough banality and absurd humour to make it feel grounded and like something that could be going on in our world. It’s an ancient writing mechanic to have your characters chase out something from a story but making it an “ urban legend” and the show explicitly saying that ,is an example of great modernisation and I’m sure most people can imagine sitting with a friend discussing the myth of the “ hidden village “ on a park bench.
Even when discussing the supernatural the writing is relatable and you totally imagine yourself being in the situation and with the characters.
The soundtrack is amazing. But not something you’d want to have on shuffle while you work. Every track is chilling and tense. When coupled with the great writing and masterful use of light it makes the tension so much more tangible as you feel yourself edging closer towards the end of your seat or shrinking further into your bed. Not a surprise as the incredibly talented Masaru Yokoyama doing the music.
Every V.A is perfect and brings their role to life which is quite surprising since most of the cast only have had roles only as supporting characters and still pull their weight in a show where practically every character could be viewed as the main.
This is something I’ll mention later when I talk about the characters and directing but there is a slight insanity to everything that’s going on. None of the characters mention it , in fact most of the time they’re the irrational ones. But just from the first poster that was released there a cold unease in it. You can definitely feel that in the show and it’s always toeing the line of going into straight horror.
The artists clearly thought through every single character design as you feel their personality resonate by just taking a look at them. The designs are colourful and full of style but they weren’t afraid to show the unattractive parts of people. For example when was the last time you saw a chubby person in an anime, not someone who was extremely fat or whose weight was the butt of every joke but just a regular chubby person?
The quirks not only help set them apart but also add to the sense that not everyone on the bus is mentally stable. Best of all they all actually have real defined characters that develop and change as they slowly reveal to us and the group who they really are. Dialogue is not only written well but has a good and natural flow. Every character moves freely and have intricate character animations personal to them. Hair and clothing is done well too. But the most important factor seeing as it is a mystery show is that I desperately wanted to know every character's backstory and why they came on the tour , and when they do show their true selves I was never disappointed.
There’s a lot to cover in the animation department so I’ll get this out of the way; the backgrounds are rather flat and not very interesting to look at however the settings themselves notably the village are far more creative and rich.
Now the lighting, directing and movement are all beautiful. Lighting varies from glowing neon’s to dark shadows its sets the scene where the backgrounds fail to. The way the colours and angles change from one moment to the next is a great tell when something has changed. Something as simple as a slight yellow haze make the scene feels special. The lighting plays with characters actions and sometimes is the most effective thing to drive home the suspense.
Shots are diverse and composition masterfully done. With a clear scene that needs to be set in every shot. The team, understands that what is see is most of the time less effective than what we do so a lot if kept hidden and obscured in a way that’ll make you crane your neck and wish you could just see over the corner.
Since the show is light on the action, animation is rather muted but still very solid. A small gripe I had was the unfortunate use of awkward CGI and 3d textures which really killed some crucial moments for me. However I think these were more the director trying to create fear than a budgeting or issue of laziness situation.
One genuine gripe I do have is the writer's decision to have a 12 episode show with a cast of 30 characters. It’s virtually impossible to develop and flesh out 30 people in that amount of time, so by episode four half the cast is shunned into the background. Had the cast been slimmed down to even half this number, we’d probably have some stronger characters and wouldn’t have to worry about remembering the name of that, that one guy in the background.
I don’t have much to say but if you have a set of nerves strong enough and a group of good friends then you definitely sit down and binge watch Mayoiga in a one sitting. The issue of a second season is rather tricky as I feel this works as a very strong standalone story and a second set of characters could feel emptier and more like a rerun. However if there was serious thought put into characters and a fresh story once again then I’d say that I’d be completely ready for a second season of Mayoiga in a year or two.