In the 20th century an unspeakably bloody war was fought between humans and monsters, with the monsters winning in the end. As the 21st century progresses, things have settled down and humanity has begun to forget what happened, though the monsters (and their human sympathizers, the Monster Union) still remain in charge.
In fact, life in general is pretty good for humans except for the occasional child sacrifice to the monsters, and everyone is eager to maintain the status quo. However, there are still a few who can’t bring themselves to look away from the suffering of others. The Warriors of Melos, who became legendary for fighting the monsters but are now pretty much regarded as myth, are in fact still around, though limited in number. They continue to use their trademark projectile weapons and intelligent bike/weapons called Ivermachines to battle the monsters and seek the true location of Melody of Oblivion, the forgotten melody in the form of an astral image of a girl that only they can see – who is said to hold the key to humanity’s salvation should its physical form ever be found.
Unlike most of his fellow students, Bocca has taken a keen interest in warriors and what has happened before. A fateful encounter one night brings him into contact both with a real Melos warrior and with Sayoko, a pickpocket who seems to be seeking out this particular warrior. A further fateful encounter with a monster causes him to see Melody of Oblivion himself for the first time, now empowering him as a Warrior of Melos. Together with Sayoko and his trusty bow he sets out on a quest to find the Melody of Oblivion and further grow into his role of protector of humanity.
The Melody of Oblivion is a 24 part psychological action/horror anime series developed by J.C. Staff with additional input from GAINAX. Actually, I struggle to put this title in one particular genre, because it comes across very much as a typical male teen’s Shounen show, but contains a lot of subtle horror, tons of sexual innuendo and implied fan-service which doesn’t quite sit so well in that market segment. There is also the over-the-top psychological weirdness of it all that pushes it straight out of the young teen market and firmly establishes it as more mature fare. However, as the story …pushes’ its more mature concepts forward, the silly monster designs, the slightly simplistic animation, the traditional boy’s show battle-scene shortcuts and stock footage (amongst various other things) all beats down the mature aspirations of the show and creates a complete dissonance in term of what type of show this actually is. The seriousness of the story is not once adequately portrayed by the visuals for this show. In fact, if it wasn’t for the superb musical score that does wonders for setting the tones throughout the series, this is one show that should have drowned a miserable death a long time ago.
The story itself is pretty much a coming of age tale for the young warrior Bocca, who seems to have his head in the right place but somehow manages to remain the most two dimensional, cardboard cut-out main character you’ll see in ages. In fact, most of the supporting characters and villains get more character development than what our poor boy hero receives. The story contains a lot of implied horror elements and a lot of psychological daggers, but at the same time, it tries so hard to be clever and twisted that it often ends up falling over itself and then just making things up out of nothing just so that it can progress. It tries to be weird and irrelevant and it does achieve this – think of the milked …cow girls’ if you must – but the problem is that thanks to all this’ stupidity’ a person can’t take the story seriously and in all honesty, you’ll be pretty hard-pressed to watch it all the way to the end. At least, despite its silliness, the series has a decent enough ending, leaving just enough to keep you thinking as the last credits roll.
As I mentioned earlier, artistically this show falls seriously short as a mature title, perhaps on purpose I guess, but it is a pity anyway. The character models are fairly simple and in places a little …sketchy’, while the backgrounds don’t fair much better, being pretty simple and …rough’ in most places. An interesting effect that must be noted though, is the subtle weaving of red into the backgrounds, usually as shadows or highlights of a sort and I can’t help but think that this was intentional, so as to silently emphasise the horror of the war that went on before the events of this story. The mecha designs for the villains are absolutely ludicrous and the stupidity of it all reinforces the idea that you are in fact watching a kiddies show. In fact, all the character designs and costumes reinforce this idea to be honest. – And although the animation isn’t bad at all, the shortcuts used are plenty and as always, battle animations are only okay if you see them once or twice in a series. Seeing the same animation during every battle during every episode is always going to count against you!
On the musical score side of things, The Melody of Oblivion scores much better, featuring a hauntingly brilliant mix of violin and synthesized rock. The music creates the right atmosphere perfectly, from the creepy to the inane and if the Melody of Oblivion does have a selling point, then this would probably be it.
In the end, The Melody of Oblivion does have a story to tell, and while the story in itself contains elements or horror, cheesy romance and drama, any real impact the show might have had is lost because it tries too hard to be weird and twisted and the show’s young teen style of animation simply causes the series to flounder, mainly because you can no longer take it seriously as mature fare.
I’m afraid that straddling genres and age groupings have cost The Melody of Oblivion dearly, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any fans for this series around. You can safely leave this title on the disused, dusty back shelves of your local anime stockist I’m afraid.
Related link: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=3523