Review/discussion about: Isuca
Many people growing up, at one point or another, encounter a situation in which they have to “prove their worth.” Sometimes it’s small, like performing well on the job to earn a raise. Sometimes it’s huge, like saving someone from a fatal accident. But no matter the severity or the situation, accomplishing such a moment makes that guy or girl grow into an overall better person. And even if they don’t achieve their goal, the experience earned gives them the necessary tools to hopefully make that next opportunity one that’s more positive than the last. Isuca tries to work with this heartfelt message, but it turns out it can’t prove its worth since it’s worth nothing to begin with.
Isuca follows Shinichirou Asano, a young high school boy who happens to cross paths with a girl named Sakuya Shimazu. Through a series of events, it’s revealed that Shinichirou has the ability to give others spiritual energy through kissing and that Isuca fights demons, leading the two on a quest of self-worth.
Where does one begin? Isuca has far and away one of the worst narratives ever conceived in anime form. One of theseveral reasons for this is the show’s inability to carry its drama or plot points from one episode to the next. Most anime have either one overarching story that covers the events that take place, a few arcs that hold relevancy between them, or a series of literal episodic tales. Isuca’s initial downfall is trying to mix these all together. The overarching story makes absolutely zero sense because it goes all over the place. Sakuya has daddy issues, her extended family is looking to out her, her cousin is vying for her leader position; there are so many small ideas at play that never seem to resolve, let alone go anywhere worthwhile. What’s worse is that the show even refuses to utilize its own, established plot points. The two largest grievances are the ending and Sakuya’s “true name.” The former leaves everything open, causing one to come to the realization that nothing happened besides our two main characters coming together. The latter isn’t even used; “Isuca” is Sakuya’s “true name,” which allows her to be controlled by the person who knows it. But it’s used one time and referenced once after the initial discovery. If the anime is given its title by such a device, one would think that it would hold some modicum of importance. But no, Isuca stunningly avoids its own namesake.
The problems continue when looking at each individual episode, rather than the entirety of the series. There are essentially three issues here: the lack of “cause and effect,” the monster formula, and the fan-service. Starting with the largest problem of the three, Isuca, like its total narrative, doesn’t do anything with what happens between episodes. In essence, each episode acts as its own arc, with whatever events that happen to take place in one episode not transitioning to the next (with the exception of the last two episodes). In other words, Isuca tries to tell ninedifferent “stories” at once. But due to their inability to affect one another, it comes off as completely incoherent. These “stories,” though, don’t even stand by themselves. Each becomes a “monster-of-the-week” style, which can be fine if executed nicely. Except here, the exact same events take place: group shows up, Isuca can never defeat the demon, and Shinichirou kisses her to give the energy needed to win. It’s repetitive and pointless. And just to add insult to injury, the fan-service is incredibly weak when it is relied upon. Like the formula, fan-service isn’t automatically bad if it’s done right. But here, not only is it censored at every turn but what is given – dissolving clothes, some underwear shots, a few breasts, etc. – lacks originality, is always lame, and often unattractive to see.
The only “theme” Isuca tries to work with is the one presented in the introduction: “proving one’s worth” to better their person. Besides being lost among the disjointed storytelling and horrible fan-service, it doesn’t make sense. Sakuya wants to demonstrate her powers to both her cousin and the rest of her family due to her “outcast” status and due to her currently holding the top spot. But hearkening back to the repetitive formula, Sakuya always needs Shinichirou’s help – his literal “kiss of life.” That is, she never has the opportunity to “prove her worth” to anyone let alone herself because Shinichirou’s always the one to do the saving. And even when she does get the chance, she’sforbidden from trying her tactics again. The anime literally prevents its own theme from being looked at in favor of the couple kissing one another intermittently. Based on this and the long list of negatives, Isuca’s narrative, simply put, has no redeeming qualities with which to speak of.
Isuca doesn’t continue its downward spiral, because that would imply that it started off rather high. Instead, the show began digging its own grave, with the hole steadily getting deeper the further one goes.
Isuca’s art is as bland as it looks. The locations visited are often devoid of detail, taking on a dreary persona to match the “evil” atmosphere that is generated. Prominently, the show takes place at Sakuya’s mansion, the school, and at random locations that hold no relevancy. Despite being a mansion, it seems to “only” have two rooms: the living room and the kitchen, because nothing else is shown. As for the school, it’s as generic looking as any other. Beyond this, the camera direction isn’t anything to marvel at and everyone involved has an extremely limited set of moves to use – Suseri, Sakuya’s cousin, seems to use one move for the majority of the anime – which brings about less variation and therefore style.
As if it needs to be said, the character designs are rather poor. The only notable person is Sakuya; her long blonde hair, red, blue, and gold outfit, her hair ribbon, and especially her striking green eyes help her to stand out in a sea of mediocrity. The rest of the cast is found in this sea: Shinichirou is painfully plain, Suseri has abnormally large breasts along with her ridiculous haircut, and the evil mage wears all white while touting a silly witch’s staff.
And when the show tries to make everything move, it fails at doing so. A lot of the action that takes place isn’t so much action as it is cardboard cutouts moving across the screen. At most, you’ll see a few arrows flying here and a ferret twirling there, but that’s the extent to which Isuca sees actual animation. In most other cases, the characters are standing around, talking to one another with their poorly detailed designs and their generic backgrounds.
Isuca’s grave-digging continues with its cast, where there is nobody of consequence or purpose when the series concludes, let alone while it is progressing.
The extent of Sakuya’s characterization is so minimal, that’s it’s surprising that she was given one of the top spots within the anime. Her dialogue consists of mainly two phrases: “Shinichirou!” and “Shut up!” Often times, they’re used in tandem. But regardless of when or how many times they are used, that’s it. There is some information given in regards to her father and mother whose marriage apparently ostracized Sakuya when she was smaller. But her plight doesn’t contain any sense of drama due to the aforementioned show’s inability to resolve anything. Conflicts such as Suseri’s quarreling, the rest of the family’s objections, and whoever her father actually is do not amount to anything, therefore making her character’s “development” hold no weight. And many of Sakuya’s issues are directlycaused by her own personality; she’s incredibly standoffish, rude, and angry towards others. This is most likely due to her outing from an early age and her need to, as has been discussed, “prove her worth” in front of everyone. She acts immature and only opens up to Shinichirou very slightly. But not only is it not enough to warrant importance but it holds no relevancy to the issues surrounding her, making her character absolutely useless.
Speaking of Shinichirou, he’s arguably the “best” character within the anime for the simple reason that he’s the most normal. While he has this odd ability to give others spiritual energy, in relation to everyone’s arrows, spells, and dolls, from the outside he seems like any regular dude. He isn’t overpowered, he isn’t interesting, and he isn’t there for any other reason than he’s “a nice guy.” He starts off this way and ends this way, without undergoing any sort of development over the course of the show. He’s relatable because he’s grounded to reality. Yet, without a quirk of his own or experiencing any sort of change throughout the anime, he’s unbelievably stagnant as a character. There’s almost nothing too say about him because he’s so simple of a person.
And regardless of who else you look at, they’re as equally useless or so insignificant that there’s next to nothing to say about any of them. Tamako’s development happens over the course of ten minutes within the first episode, from somewhat evil to obsessively servant-like. Suseri’s emotionless ways prevent her from interacting with any of the characters in a meaningful manner. Nadeshiko, the professor, acts as Sakuya’s pseudo-mother and only provides assistance near the end of the anime, and even then she contributes nothing whatsoever. And the “evil” Isuca harbors some unexplained hatred towards Sakuya and her family – it’s hinted at, but without any clear indication or investigation to her character besides her showing up, performing magic, and shouting a lot, the audience doesn’t learn anything about her besides her one-dimensional despising. The entire cast, from Isuca to Isuca, is an amalgamation of horribleness that clearly indicates the anime’s total ineptitude.
At this point, the grave is filled and the tombstone is being rolled in.
Both the opening and ending themes are generic beyond imagining and contribute nothing to the show’s overall purpose. The OP is named “Never Say Never.” It’s supposed to be about Sakuya and the others never giving up on the problems they face, but it’s drowned out by the simple beat and loud sound effects. And when listening to the ED, it’s supposed to be this “cool” arrangement. But with Isuca’s “mustache” being funny due to how silly it is, and the rest of the track’s unmemorable tone and singing, it isn’t cool but in fact lame.
The rest of the soundtrack is simply there as background filler. There exist “fun” tracks during the naked, fan-service moments, battle-hardened pieces that accompany the “action” that takes place, and tense music that plays when dealing with the demons. But in similar fashion to the OP and ED, it’s either extremely generic or entirely forgettable.
Likewise, the voice-acting involved is somewhere below average, with no special shout-outs to be had.
This anime is astonishing in its capability to fall flat at whatever it is that it’s doing. The show tries to be funny, but it isn’t. As already mentioned, the fan-service is deplorable, with no amount of kissing being able to save it. The fighting that occurs against the demons is boring, the dramatic moments are a slog, the characters are worthless, the execution is nonexistent, the music is insanely not worth listening to, and the narrative is so bad that’s a phenomenon that it managed to have as many episodes as it did in the first place.
While nobody attended Isuca’s own funeral, here’s what its headstone reads: “Here lies Isuca, one of the worst anime of all time.”
Story: Terrible, incoherent plot, unresolved ideas, repetitive in nature, uninspired fan-service, and self-inflicted thematic loss
Animation: Terrible, bad art style, ridiculous character designs, below average actual animation
Characters: Terrible, nobody is worthwhile or developed in the slightest
Sound: Terrible, bad OP, bad ED, forgettable soundtrack, below average VA work
Enjoyment: Terrible, not comedic, not dramatic, not fun, with nothing of value being found
Final Score: 1/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3