In the December of 2011, the Kyousou Giga ONA was released. By all accounts it was 25 minutes of colourful, interesting and imaginative confusion and borderline nonsense. I wouldn’t know though; I didn’t watch it. Why not? It was only ever made available in low-definition streaming quality, and as a result looked like ass. For what seemed like a one-off, it didn’t seem worth the trouble for me. But some people were quite intrigued by it, because while it was incomprehensible, it seemed like there was definitely some sort of story there waiting to be told, if only it had more time to do so. And come the following year, a series of shorter ONAs were released showing more of the world from the original ONA as well as some wacky shenanigans and whatnot. It was clearly not the proper story, and it was also only released in eyecancer quality so I skipped over them as well. Still, this little project was generating a lot of buzz, so I was very curious to see what could come out of it.
Flash forward to this year, and Kyousou Giga finally gets a proper TV series! With full-length episodes in real visual quality and everything! Naturally, I took this opportunity to jump into it, and was greeted by a strange, inspired and original story about family, love and rebirth.
Still a little confusing though.
Kyousou Giga is the story of a family that rules the weird and unusual city known as ‘Mirror Kyoto’, which has quite the origin. Y’see, Myoue was a priest of a mountain shrine in Kyoto, Japan, but he was ostracized by the community due to his strange power to bring anything he draws to life. After a while, a black rabbit he had drawn named Koto fell in love with him, but of course Myoue never noticed. A Buddha did, however, and allowed the rabbit to borrow her body for a while to pursue Myoue’s love. Koto was now a tall, excited and energetic woman with silver hair and piercing red eyes, and in time Myoue came to love her as well. And in more time they came to have children: Yakushimaru, a human boy; Kurama, a frail boy created by Myoue; and Yase, a fancy and fanciful Oni. Together, they lived a peaceful and happy family life, until circumstances forced Myoue to take his family and flee to The City Through the Looking Glass – Mirror Kyoto.
Unfortunately, and much to the sadness and disappointment of the three children, Koto and Myoue both have to leave Mirror Kyoto, promising to return together and bringing with them the Beginning and the End. Yakushimaru becomes the high priest of the city and inherits the name Myoue; Kurama becomes a monk that only travels on a floating chair of some kind; and Yase retreats with her demon cohort up to a mansion on a mountain, pining for her mother and wiling away her time with tea parties and banquets in comfort and opulence. Together they rule and organise Mirror Kyoto as the triumvirate, albeit not exactly in a friendly or necessarily cooperative manner, and a relative peacefulness and stability is attained while they wait for their parent’s return.
Until, of course, a mysterious and energetic young girl breaks through into Mirror Kyoto, with brown hair and piercing red eyes, wielding a magical hammer, calling herself Koto and searching for a black rabbit…
To discuss the plot in any depth beyond just the premise would probably give too much away; the pasts of key characters, revelations behind certain relationships, and just some general twists are scattered throughout the series and very few episodes can be detailed without spoiling something, and while few could be considered major spoilers these little surprises do add a lot to the first viewing, and are definitely part of the charm. But what I can say is that the story is compelling, energetic as hell, and really quite moving when it counts. A lot of the early episodes are dedicated to world-building and exploring the characters inhabiting Mirror Kyoto, primarily through Koto talking with them, helping them, or just wrecking their shit and annoying the hell out of them. But as the episodes progress, a greater focus is given to the parents Koto (hereafter Lady Koto) and Myoue.
I have nothing but good to say about Kyousou Giga’s plot, aside from one thing that is a common criticism – it is quite hard to follow, and often confuses as a result. This largely comes as a result of the incredibly fast pace (which is due to the high energy levels as opposed to the creators rushing), the affinity for big, significant events over small points of progression, and a preference to show, not tell, a lot of things. Many characters are left underexplained, making their origins and intentions a bit oblique, although their significance is usually quite clear. A lot of the things that happen – particularly when it comes to what Koto does and can do – happen very suddenly, with how it was accomplished rarely explicitly detailed. And what happened to Lady Koto and Myoue after they left is very much left up in the air. It adds up to a series that can jump around a lot and leave the viewer wondering why stuff is happening the way it is, and that can be off-putting. Personally though, it doesn’t strike me as a result of poor writing, but rather a decision to focus the story almost entirely around Koto and High Priest Myoue at the exclusion of anything largely irrelevant to their personal stories. And I get the impression that a second viewing would make the pieces fit together a lot more neatly.
But beyond that, I have no real complaints! Kyousou Giga is an absolute ton of fun, a blast from start to finish. There’s a fantastic amount of energy and passion to everything that happens, making a dumb conversation between Koto and High Priest Myoue as enjoyable as Koto smashing apart a giant robot (controlled by a mad scientist girl using her PSP, obviously) with her ridiculous hammer. The speedy pacing of the plot and the huge variance in what could be going on helps keep the energy up and ensures that there’s never any time for you to get bored with what’s happening. Slapstick comedy is prevalent, typically with High Priest Myoue as the unfortunate recipient of Koto’s (and her weird spirit friends A and Un’s) chaotic shenanigans, and the timing and execution of it is great, but of course it’s not the only type of comedy… basically, there’s a lot here to be entertained by.
One of the biggest strengths is the characters, who are all developed really quite well and are pretty endearing and likable. Koto’s passion, straightforwardness and honest, coupled with her boundless energy and excitement, makes her a great lead and super fun to watch. High Priest Myoue, in contrast, is quite subdued, quiet, cynical, and resents Myoue for leaving them, making him sympathetic and easily relatable, but due to basically being the opposite to Koto in a lot of ways the two play off each other splendidly. Kurama’s interesting due to his scheming and almost utilitarian approach to matters, but you can’t help but like him when he occasionally shows his softer and more caring side to his siblings. And Yase’s an absolutely charming and enchanting figure, a real high-class lady with beautifully creep eyes, who deeply misses her mother and has a habit of turning into a real destructive monster when upset. The way that the triumvirate all have their own plans for Koto and are all generally working against each other, contrasted with the fact that they are siblings and that Koto implicitly trusts and likes all of them makes for some really interesting and fun interactions.
What I adore about Kyousou Giga is just how much heart it has. From the very beginning, Lady Koto’s love for Myoue is clear, super passionate and incredibly eccentric and that never lets up. The way their three children all love their parents and desperately want to see them again makes for some moving and powerful scenes, and it’s obvious that they do care for each other even though a sibling rivalry of sorts is out in full force. Koto’s passion, intensity and amazing optimism towards everything is catching, and this is reflected across the entire series – even though conflict and negativity does exist, the overall impression I get is one of positivity. I mean, every episode starts by saying that this a certain family’s story of love and rebirth, which is precisely what Kyousou Giga is about – family, love, and discovering all of this over again. It’s hard not to be swept up in those sentiments, because the show presents and explores them with such conviction.
And this allows for some really emotional and moving scenes and episodes. When Yase loses her favourite teacup – a memento of Lady Koto’s – she gets amazingly upset and while there’s a lot of wackiness inherent with her hulking out and wrecking shit it gives way to the image of a young woman who hasn’t quite matured and deeply misses her mother. And the episodes exploring Koto and High Priest Myoue’s backstories show a pair of people troubled by problems not so dissimilar, allowing the two to bond that much more closely.
The imaginativeness of Kyousou Giga can’t be understated, and while it’s obvious just through the eccentricities of the plot and events in the story, the aesthetic and presentation shows this even more so. Mirror Kyoto is a bright, colourful, and vibrant place full of weird looking background people where nothing stays permanently broken and all other manner of strangeness. A mansion full of demons, a mad scientist girl with a personal retinue of Mafioso-like bodyguards all dressed in white, it’s what you’d expect considering it comes straight out of the imagination of an already unusual individual.
The stylistic touches are also evidence of this in a really cool way. Remember how Mirror Kyoto is literally a drawing, right? You see reminders of that everywhere. There’s a certain ‘sketchiness’ to the background (and even foreground) scenery reminding you of its artistic basis, and the design of many buildings shows a lack of constraint from any physics you’d expect in a more normal reality. Hell, even the stars in the sky are essentially just white ink spots! The cohesiveness of the setting with the premise is really impressive, and gives Kyousou Giga a wonderful aesthetic appeal.
Kyousou Giga is just really satisfying. The themes are consistent, fantastically explored and strongly presented, and the fact that it’s all about familial love (combined with the overall positivity) means that the show has so much heart. It’s imaginative as heck and incredibly fun with wonderful characters, and while the plot can be quite confusing it nonetheless comes across as intelligent and well thought-out. Basically – this series is something special. And I really, really enjoyed it.