Review/discussion about: Mayoiga
The needle struck me once. Twice. Thrice.
By the fourth time, I was ready to scream, to run out of the room because I couldn’t endure the pain any longer.
It was my first time being administered anesthesia, but the nurse had continually missed my vein. Now, to this day, whenever I go into the doctor’s office for a shot, I tend to close my eyes and look away because of the mini ordeal I went through.
I wouldn’t call it a phobia, but this experience from my past certainly affected me. Mayoiga scares me slightly, too, but for unintended reasons.
Mayoiga starts off with a bus, a rainy night, and a crew bent on ditching their old lives. The goal? Make it to the fabled Nanaki Village, a place known for its mystery and seclusion. However, when the group gets there, not all is as it seems….
In the same way that Mayoiga goes the metaphorical route, the best way to understand the anime is through an extended metaphor.
This anime is a puzzle-piece set put together by a toddler: Everything is there but not in the right places, so the bigger picture is lost.
Let’s start with the bigger picture since it can be seen in full on the front of the box this puzzle comes in. The anime is about facing one’s past. More specifically, it is about facing the past and embracing it.
That’s a nice theme. Mostly because it’s one that the audience can relate to. Arguably everybody has gone through a tough time at one point or another. Yes, such events may not be as vile as bee torture or as cruel as an abusive debtor, but nearly everyone has a demon, a part of their past that they would rather just forget.
When the box is unwrapped and the cover lifted, what pieces lie inside? In other words, what elements go towards creating this bigger picture?
The most obvious (arguably the most important) are the Nanaki. According to Mayoiga, the Nanaki are the demons of Mitsumine’s, Hayato’s, and everyone else’s pasts. But it’s more than that. These Nanaki are physical manifestations of the psychological turmoil the cast have experienced before.
A lot of power exists in simply making them actual entities. For instance, “running away from one’s fears” is no longer a figurative phrase but a literal action the characters take. There’s also the personalized nature of the Nanaki. I.e., rather than having it be one, evil monster the group must defeat, they each have an individualized issue that must be confronted.
Moving on but still related, the effects of foregoing one’s Nanaki are another puzzle piece. The show first alludes to the notion with sleepy characters, later confirmed by the researcher, and finally witnessed as the cast find themselves severely fatigued. It stems from those that don’t face their Nanaki – they slowly vanish away into nothingness. Meaning, like life, one must conquer those demons lest he or she find himself or herself ruled by them.
The village itself is also a puzzle piece. Those who stayed behind hold the implication that this same set of events has happened before. That’s why it appeared that the village was used until just recently; the people back then vanished from not accepting their Nanaki. That is, this theme has repeated itself with multiple groups, across multiple generations.
More puzzle pieces: foreshadowing of death, a ringleader among them causing havoc, the misinformation surrounding the village, the pitch-black tunnel, and the hive-mind mentality leading to atypical violence.
The pieces are all there, out on the table, ready to form that bigger picture.
Then the toddler arrives.
The first misplaced piece is confronting the Nanaki. Yes, some of the characters, like Hayato and Masaki, do face their fears. But, as the ending depicts, the large majority of the characters simply leave the village without any trouble whatsoever. Despite how perilous their situation was throughout the entire season, despite how much importance the Nanaki gain, the anime throws this puzzle piece away.
Instead, that majority magically appear on the bus alongside the main cast with everyone singing the song they sung at the beginning – an off-putting tonal shift considering they just left many potential friends behind.
The fatigue puzzle piece also gets misplaced. The characters were already pretty useless, so this direction made them even more so. Furthermore, it was not a plot point until much later in the anime. While the explanation makes sense, it comes off as convenient rather than established.
Nanaki Village’s puzzle piece is mishandled, too. Despite all of the warnings about staying behind and ignoring one’s Nanaki, it doesn’t seem to matter. Those who choose to stay say they will figure out more about the Nanaki, but all evidence points to that just not being possible. Again, the idea was not to live alongside or battle with one’s Nanaki. The idea was to embrace them.
For some reason, the anime chooses to ignore its death foreshadowing – Lion’s ability to predict the fate of others and literally bringing back a character presumed perished being chief examples.
Everybody just forgives Koharun for not only manipulating them but also nearly getting many of them killed. The same can be said of Jack and Hyouketsu no Judgness but to a lesser extent.
Nobody apparently checked books, newspaper articles, or even just the Internet that would contain the research conducted by the researcher. Plus, he is a living testament of what happens in that village. DNA records, a social security number, or any other piece of identification make it hard to believe that absolutely nobody would listen to what he had to say.
The emphasis placed on the tunnel and what lies beyond does not matter since very many of the crew never actually go through it, and one’s Nanaki can seemingly be confronted anywhere. Worse still, going through the tunnel doesn’t immediately help, and the ominous feelings surrounding the tunnel are moot when the other side is simply more village.
Stone-tipped arrows, getting slammed into a wall, and outrunning behemoths matter not to these people who seem to have skeletons made of steel.
The toddler plays with all of these puzzles pieces. And when he is done playing, the pieces are strewn about every which way. Some are mashed into spots they don’t belong. Some are connected to the wrong connectors. Some even fell off the table in the process.
So when the audience comes in, they do not see a bigger picture about embracing one’s past.
What they do see is one giant mess.
Most of Mayoiga’s art is not too impressive. The village itself lacks detail, the cast find themselves in a dense forest half the time, and the visuals rarely take advantage of nuance or cinematography.
Some of the CG work is no better. Namely, the silicone-implant hermit crab and the giant, fused-fish grandma were more silly looking than scary looking, defeating the purpose of those Nanaki.
Still, the anime did well in creating a horror-esque atmosphere. For example, the constant nighttime setting, the moonlit sky, and the blanketing fog turn Nanaki Village into an unsettling domain. Furthermore, some of the Nanaki can be pretty scary. The massive, malformed bee and the undead grandmother (before becoming a fish monster) receive threatening or spooky designs that let the audience feel the fear that the characters do.
Speaking of designs, those of the characters are at least passable. They are different from one another without treading into overly eccentric territory. Nettaiya’s sexy dress fits her promiscuous personality, Dozaemon is pudgier due to his eating habits, Yura’s thin glasses give him a sense of intelligence, Narna’s beanie makes her out to be more of a tomboy, and Lion’s yellow hoodie fits both her name and her relative estrangement.
Nothing outstanding, but they are at least realistic and varied.
As for Mayoiga’s actual animation, it can go either way. The characters run around a lot, and they have various reactions of shock, terror, happiness, and sadness that shake up the festivities. But they also sit around a lot, too, merely talking to one another without moving or doing too much.
Mayoiga is an anime with an absurdly large cast. Enough people to fill a big bus. Thus, the anime encounters an inherent dilemma: not enough time to properly flesh them all out.
Ignoring the main cast for now, and to the anime’s credit, it does investigate some of its characters. Most notably, Love-pon, Nyanta, Jigoku no Gouka, and Yura each receive backstories that help to center where their central fears originate.
For Love-pon, it was an abusive “monk” who took advantage of her mother. For Nyanta, it was bullying at the hands of both girls and bees. For Jigoku, it was trying his hardest, taking a risk, and still coming up short. For Yura, it was extreme humiliation after a failed promise.
Other side characters also get backstory. Not as much as these four, but it’s still important to point out. Lion’s prediction powers used by her mother for scamming, Yottsun’s classical-instrument-playing parents, Valkana’s workplace problems, and Untensha’s deceased daughter give them, however slightly, more to their respective characters.
And to be as absolutely fair as possible, some side characters have their pasts alluded to without outright delving into them. Nettaiya’s stalker, Pii-tan and Manbe’s disallowed relationship, and Maimai’s boyfriend issue and loss of friends are minimal in detail but details all the same.
Taken together, one big question needs answering: Did Mayoiga do “enough” with its supporting cast?
It’s difficult to say.
On the one hand, the show makes the right call in expounding only on a handful of its side characters and their Nanaki because, realistically, it should be obvious what is going on after witnessing it four or so different times.
On the other hand, the Nanaki are the entire point of the show, so not providing their backstory and not revealing their Nanaki ultimately weakens their collective foundation.
But they also don’t “deserve” the most time; the main cast (Mitsumune, Masaki, and Hayato) do. In other words, the anime simply does not have enough attention to give to roughly thirty separate side characters.
Even so, since the supporting cast impact the anime to such a minimal degree, and since very many of the characters receive next to no attention whatsoever, it’s difficult to argue that Mayoiga did, in fact, do “enough” with them.
Luckily for the anime, its main cast fair better. Not a whole lot better, but they’re an improvement all the same.
Mitsumune is the main protagonist. He’s a naïve teen, but he’s a nice guy who is willing to help out those who need it. His best friend is Hayato, his newfound crush is Masaki, and he believes that his time in Nanaki Village will be worthwhile.
His nice-guy persona, however, gets him into trouble when he gets pinned for killing Yottsun, releasing Jack from prison, and being friendly towards Masaki, the most suspicious person in the whole group. The culmination leads to him getting kidnapped and subsequently saved by his crush.
At this point, the anime finally reveals his demon. Growing up, he had a brother named Tokimune. Where Mitsumune behaved like a good kid, Tokimune did not. As a result, Tokimune always received their mother’s love.
One day, however, Tokimune accidentally dies in a freak accident, causing the mother to break and believe that Mitsumune is actually Tokimune. In order to help his mother and please his father, Mitsumune chooses to “become” his brother, forgoing his own identity in the process.
His whole life, Mitsumune has been “somebody else.” For this reason, he goes to Nanaki Village to simply be himself.
While his background is given all at once, it’s an interesting development since it falls in line with Masaki complimenting his name early on and his general good-guy behavior (because that’s simply who he is).
Shortly after, Hayato pulls a Mitsumune by unveiling his entire past in a minutes-long speech to Mitsumune. Again, this gross exposition comes off as rather lame, but, given how Hayato’s control of Mitsumune mirrored Hayato’s parents’ control of him, it makes sense why he had acted in such a manner.
Their argument allows Mitsumune to confront his Nanaki, speak with his father, and learn about what he has left to do. Namely, save Masaki.
For while everyone believed her to be the culprit, she likewise had problems all her own. Her wanting to go on the trip was to find Reiji, a boy who had essentially looked after her as she grew up.
It gets revealed (through yet more exposition) that Reiji is not real. That he is, in fact, Masaki’s Nanaki. Thus, for her, she is not supposed to embrace her Nanaki but let it go.
Which is odd. Nanaki, up until now, had been these monstrous, evil incarnations that needed to be confronted. But Masaki’s is an imaginary friend who not only helped her out her whole life but also needs to be given up. It’s practically a contradiction of the show’s established rules.
Regardless, this direction once again aids Mitsumune. Having confronted his own Nanaki, he was forced to leave the village. Yet he wanted to go back in to help out both Hayato and, most importantly, Masaki. So he does just that – albeit without a bus license and with a bit of convenience.
Mitsumune’s actions save Hayato from death, and his kindness towards Masaki allows her to realize that, finally, she does not need Reiji any longer. The show ends with all three leaving the village as stronger people. Both on an individual basis and in the relationships they share with Mitsumune.
Altogether, the characters hearken back to that puzzle metaphor. Mayoiga has the pieces there: explanation of Nanaki through its side cast, potential in Mitsumune’s character arc, and the relationships he shares with the two people he cares about most. The problem, however, is that they don’t have the execution necessary to appear worthwhile. The biggest issues being not enough is given about the supporting characters and the delivery of the main cast’s backgrounds.
The opening track has a nice vocalist and a catchy part in the “daijoubu” lyric. The piano, guitar, and drums create a strangely optimistic tone, considering the mood of the anime. Like most of the art, it’s not a memorable piece, but it’s still a cool addition to the show.
The ending track slows it all down. The acoustic guitar and steady drums keep the ED following a methodical pace that carries the audience out of each episode. The singer likewise aids in this endeavor while also adding just a twinge of a bittersweet feeling. One that can only be felt (appropriately enough) at the end of the anime itself. Overall, it’s stronger than the OP but still not all that memorable.
As for the rest of the sound-work, it is very much par for the course. Voice acting sees no notable performances, but the original soundtrack performs better with its surprising amount of compositional variety. Its atmospheric in “Keshi Tai” with its low ambient effects and higher piano notes, happy in “Sukkiri” for those (rare) happier moments, and creepy in “Narihibiku Warabe Uta” with its lullaby music box. They may not be very strong tracks, but the OST is at least fitting for the anime’s horror motif.
Is it morbid of me that I wanted to see some death and chaos? Probably somewhat.
But I won’t lie; that’s what I wanted. Or at least what I was led to believe was going to happen. Shows like that, where people in the cast are systematically picked off one by one, can be quite entertaining. Are my “favorites” going to make it? In what way will he meet his demise? Did she just trip a flag of some kind?
Part of that belief came from the show’s huge cast. It seemed more than likely that the show was gearing itself up to downsize it, but, alas, that never came to pass.
So, unfortunately, I didn’t get to really answer those questions.
Putting aside this misplaced expectation of mine, I can’t say I liked any other part of the anime. The cast were more than forgettable – including the mains. The overall plot was not engaging and not dramatic. The inklings of romance were nice but not fully incorporated.
However, one small bit of happiness creeped into the show: Mitsumune’s second Nanaki. The little fur-ball, with its big eyes, pink ribbon, and silly sounds, made the creature a cute addition that I didn’t anticipate. Suffice it to say, if my own Nanaki ever showed up, I hope it would be even half as adorable as this one.
Mayoiga, despite the events it depicts, never makes it to where it truly wishes to go. The story is a mess, the art is lacking, and the characters needed more focus than what they were given. The elements are there, and the music is even passable. But it is still not enough to save it from itself. It’s at least better than being jabbed with a needle – but that’s not saying a whole lot.
Story: Bad, a puzzle-piece set arranged by a toddler
Animation: Bad, okay artistic direction, shoddy CG, okay character designs, and slightly below average actual animation
Characters: Bad, while the vast majority of the side characters have no impact, and Mitsumune, Masaki, and Hayato’s characters are not handled carefully, traces of competence can be found
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, okay OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, severely uninteresting yet saved by a cute Nanaki
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3