Title: Mayoiga aka The Lost Village
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 1 Apr 2016 – 18 Jun 2016
Synopsis: Nanaki village cannot be found on any map, nor is it known to house a single inhabitant. Despite its potential nonexistance, 30 individuals sign up for a bus trip in hopes of reaching the mysterious settlement, each with their own hopes of starting a new life. Miraculously, they find the unexplored village. But soon discrepancies are revealed that raise suspicion about the whole excursion and distrust erupts among the group. Almost as soon as they enter, they choose to leave, but there seems to be no way to escape the village. There are no roads from Nanaki, not without facing monsters from one’s past.
Cast: Large size has the effect of playing every piano key at once.
Emotions: Come in two varieties, nonexistent and over the top.
Exposition: Disguises info dumps with loads of screaming and awkwardly timed flashbacks.
Payoff: Lack of nuance and abrupt escalation of drama leaves things ringing hollow.
Sense of scope is vital when it comes to creating any form of fiction. While one could, at their own discretion, make the story of a dentist visit the length of War and Peace, it would most likely be a skyscraper of futons in terms of padding. Likewise, trying to lay out the War of the Roses in detail would be a near impossibility in the space of a single comic strip. Considering the immense cast, one would assume that Mayoiga would suffer primarily from the latter extreme. Astonishingly though, it is the former that it suffers from. For an anime that sets it self up to be dense, even to a fault, there is very little to be found.
Naturally with a cast of over 30, it would be a herculean task to give each and every character an arc to do them justice. Like any sensible series, only a minibus worth of characters is given any semblance of characterization beyond their initial introduction. Good for the ten or so relevant cast members, or it would be were they not underwritten and utterly lacking in nuance. Regardless of importance to the plot, there is not one character who cannot be summed up in a concise description like aggressive control freak, hopeless codependent, or angsty primadonna. The personal demons each character faces justifies the intense focus on singlular traits to an extent, with backstory presented through heavy handed flashbacks. However, knowing what makes a character tick is not the same as them having depth beyond their insecurities; even the most developed of the bunch may as well be light bulbs without dimmer switches. And with each bulb at maximum brightness, it becomes difficult to keep track of individuals.
The further along Mayoiga goes, the more the large cast sheet reveals the hollowness of its narrative. In theory, the village of Nanaki is a crucible where pretense is burned away and fear is laid bare. In reality, it is personality that goes up in flames. As the narrative ups the tension, individual personalities becomes less of an entity. Once suspicions pervert into witch hunts, the cast becomes a selection of interchangeable and paper thin masks for a two man play between paranoia and sanity. Though a potentially effective metaphor, the delivery comes down to the two states of mind arguing over each other through dueling exposition, switching masks, in the form of different speaking characters, in order to simulate mass hysteria. The fact that the delivery is overly vociferous invokes not an ounce of pathos, even at the reveal of characters’ experiences with victimization, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD.
Thanks in no small part to how the lifeless setting of Nanaki Village plays unconvincingly with the cast’s psychology, Mayoiga spoils its own mystery before it can get off the ground. To return to the aforementioned light bulb, drama and psychological horror is switched on without foreshowing and is switched off when it is convenient to wrap up the story. Spoon fed from beginning to end, the info dumps that comprise the series resolution raise no insights and only a single question: “What was accomplished and why should I care?” For two creators who have proven capable of producing layered and compelling anime, director Mizushima Tsutomu and writer Okada Mari have only succeeded in creating an anime with all the subtlety of an airhorn.
The Rating: 3
Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx