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#SundayReview: Gilgamesh (anime)

 

Sam av

I’m excited to talk about this one today. I’ve been wanting to comment on it for weeks, but I wanted to make sure that I finished it first, and boy, am I glad that I waited!

THAT ENDING.

The Hook

Very simply put, the cover art.

Yes, I judge a story by its cover. I was trying to find something new to watch in a sea of sameness and these stuck out to me. I love the epic of Gilgamesh, and the art was dark and suggestive. Well. You guys know me.

Oddly enough, I only watched an episode or two of it. I don’t remember why I never got to finish it. That was probably in about…2007, 2008? But it was intriguing enough that I never forgot about it, even 8 years later. And so, it has always been on my to-watch list.

The Background

From Wikipedia:

The backdrop of Gilgamesh is the fight between two opposing forces. One of the forces is known as the Gilgamesh, led by Terumichi Madoka (better known as Enkidu), and the other side is the Countess of Werdenberg and the three Orga-Superior children who live with her. In appearance, the Orga-Superior are indistinguishable from humans. However, they carry a special power known as “Dynamis” (a variation of the Greek “Dunamus” meaning “strength” “power” especially “miraculous power”) which allows them to use psychic energy and control objects using only their mind. The overarching theme of Gilgamesh is one of choosing sides.

Music, mystery, intrigues and darkness are central elements of Gilgamesh’s plot. The series shows clear influences from the story known as the Epic of Gilgamesh, and from different scientific and archaeological influences as well.

Gilgamesh aired in 2003-2004 and is 26 episodes, easily watchable over a lazy weekend.

My Initial Reaction

The two main characters, Kiyoko and Tatsuya, are younger brother and older sister. They’re on the run from someone their parents apparently owed a LOT of money, too, so now they’re basically being sold into slavery. Apparently, buying and selling children is commonplace in this world.

The art style took a little getting used to, for me. The color scheme is fairly monochromatic. The colors are generally watered down and pale with occasional splashes of red.

The pacing is pretty slow. This is definitely more of a drama anime than it is an action, though there are definitely quite a few fights. It’s just that the fights are less…flashy…than something like, say, Naruto. This is definitely an anime that is meant to be more thought-provoking, almost philosophical in nature. I’d compare it to Death Note, but comparisons are pretty weak, honestly. Death Note has a lot more talking. Gilgamesh has more expression and heavy silence. Death Note is based on a crime puzzle. Gilgamesh is more of a historical mystery with some dark psychological themes.

Plot

The general premise of the story is that the tomb of Gilgamesh was discovered and studied until the main scientist, Terumichi Madoka, tried to warn everyone that something awful was going to happen, then at the last second, betrayed the world and turned his back on humanity. The result was an explosion that quite literally changed the sky, throwing into place a mirror of sorts that shut down all technology and computers and thrusting the modern world into a post-apocalyptic state.

In the wake of that madness, a small handful of young people mysteriously attain overwhelming powers. You see half of them on the side of Gilgamesh, and half of them on the side of the Countess of Werdenberg. Both sides have contact with Kiyoko and Tatsuya, and both sides vilify the other side and ask the kids to join them.

Ultimately, they do.

Throughout the series, Tatsuya and Kiyoko’s close familial bond is tested and strained. They’ve spent a pretty shitty childhood together, but their paths seem to be diverging at this time, so they have to reevaluate their priorities.

What I Loved

This anime does not shy away from uncomfortable topics. Early on, a character flippantly comments that Tatsuya and Kiyoko might be just a little bit too close. The violence and gore doesn’t get too out of hand, though it is there at times. The characters are constantly challenged with existential crises, from the reason they are even alive to whether they deserve to be alive or want to continue living. They are faced with dark truths about their past, their bonds with friends and family deeply shaken.

The ‘magic’ is not too over the top. The special powers bequeathed upon the superior beings is pretty simple. They can teleport, read minds, and blast, which is pretty similar to Frankie’s Malevolence (though her folk don’t teleport). Some of them can also shape-shift.

The heart-wrenching moments. At one point, there was a plot twist that had me cheering, before the plot twist took a sudden nosedive into another plot twist that had me swearing at the TV.

The taboo moments, which I won’t go into here. I’m always a sucker for things that shouldn’t happen.

AND OH MY GOODNESS…THAT ENDING. I can’t tell you that, obviously. That’d be spoilers.

My Overall Analysis

All in all, I find this to be incredibly unique. There is very little focus on romantic love, and instead the spotlighted relationships are all familial ones. There’s always an air of desperation over each episode. I also appreciate the realism, with the characters falling into emotional pitfalls and muddling through them, taking each day as it comes, never knowing if they will die that very day.

I appreciate the step back from action and special effects and flashy colors that makes so many anime these days popular, as well as the minimized use of any humor. This anime is exactly what it shows you – a gritty, armageddon where we must either evolve or perish. An end of the world that won’t be put off by our personal foibles.


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

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