Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions, Gosick > Gosick Episode 1 – The Game’s Afoot

Gosick Episode 1 – The Game’s Afoot

“Anime is a medium, not a genre” is one of those refrains that defenders of Japanese animation have to come back to again and again. Having said that, anime shows as a whole lean toward certain genres more than others. One type of show that we don’t see every season (or even every year) is the mystery show.

That might have to do with the unfortunate reality that while anime writers have no trouble writing conspiracy stories—there, one just has to be deliberate vague until the time comes for the reveal—good mystery writing requires a degree of cleverness than many authors can’t pull off properly. Giving enough hints for the audience to feel like they could have guessed the solution, without making it so obvious that they actually do, is a very fine line to tread.

I’m not certain if Gosick will succeed in pulling off that balance, at least consistently. But this first offering inclines me to think that it will.

St. Marguerite Academy's extensive grounds look like most expansive manors. The tower library, by contrast, looks like something out of Harry Potter

Gosick (I’m guessing it’s a failed transliteration of Gothic, but it could be something else entirely) takes place in the fiction country of Sauville (located between France and Italy) in 1924. Japan is slowly being recognized as a rising power, which along with his intelligence earns Kazuya Kujou a place as a foreign exchange student at the absurdly wealthy St. Marguerite Academy.

Given the show’s probable sources of inspiration, and even the title, I think the setting might have been better placed within the Victorian era itself. but it needs to be set post-World War I (or at least post-Russo-Japanese War) to explain the presence of the Japanese Kujou in Europe. Not just a throw-away casting to ensure that the Japanese audience have someone to relate to, that Kujou is Japanese, and thus an outsider, becomes a trigger for the larger plot.

Due to his darker skin and eyes, Kujou is identified with the school's legend of the "springtime grim reaper." Ironically, without this appellation he likely never would have met Victorique

After a suggestion for how to relate to his fellow students leads him to the library, he encounters another outsider at the school. Victorique de Blois apparently resides on the top floor of the library tower, alternating her time between reading and being bored out of her mind. She is also quite brilliant, successfully predicting their first meeting and his return appearance the following day, based on likely probabilities.

This brilliance, apparently, makes her the most valuable resource of her brother Grevil, an inspector who plays the Lestrade to Victorique’s Sherlock. While taking public credit for the insights he gains from consulting her (and refusing to even admit he’s talking to her in the first place), he is now dependent on her abilities, and with good reason: Victorique solves the “closed room” murder case he presents to her in less than a minute.

While reviewing Shiki has increased my tolerance for odd hairstyles, Grevil's still deserves note. Unlike most other cases of crazy anime hair, everyone notices (and makes fun of) him for it

The case itself is clever without being too complicated, which is fine as an introduction to the series. More intriguing is the prospect that the mystery is still ongoing: the culprit, who escapes from custody, has a motive which implies a deeper plot at work. When Victorique and Kujou find a suspicious invitation to the murder victim during an outing the pair extorted from Grevil, the two agree to investigate further.

Gosick, then, has a solid opening episode, which wisely wraps up the first mystery while still providing a direct link to the next episode. I don’t know if the plot here will stretch for the entire series run or whether it will be the first in a series of hand-offs, but the basic concept of solving one crime while deepening the underlying narrative is one that works well in the right hands.

Roxane, the elderly murder victim, was found shot dead in a locked room with no murder weapon in sight. The solution seems remarkably similar to one in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, although the two were written around the same time

The show also manages to make the most of its cast. The tiny loner girl who looks like a doll is an overused trope by this point, particularly if she has maturity issues. Victorique is all this and more, but still manages to be endearing rather than trite. Perhaps it’s because Kujou is willing to stand up to some of her antics, or because she truly is isolated and alone, she seems far more child victim than childish victimizer.

In some ways, the show’s main mystery is Victorique herself. Grevil lets slip that she needs permission from him just to leave the school; her obvious wonder as she sees the outside world attests to that. There’s also some (deliberate) ambiguity about whether her genius is wholly natural in origin; her first conversation with Kujou implies some form of supernatural knowledge, but her demeanor notably changes in their later conversations.

Something as simple as a train ride is outside of Victorique's normal experience. Her sense of joy at such little things makes it hard to dislike her when she's unreasonable

At the moment these feel like questions in need of answers, not plot holes in need of papering over. Kujou explicitly notes the difference in her behavior, meaning its likely to come up later. And Victorique’s isolation is better explained with some outside force responsible. Rather than naturally shy, she’s a girl who has been prevented from engaging with the outside world. I look forward to seeing how she matures as the story progresses.

Gosick is clearly making allusions to Sherlock Holmes, with Kujou earning himself the role of Watson—and specifically, a Jude Law Watson to babysit Victorique’s Robert Downey Jr. Holmes. While toying with that, and other conventions, at the moment it avoids being captured by any of them. (Not to mention it being based on material which predates the latest Sherlock incarnation by several years.) It might not be a completely unique offering, but it is different. And that alone makes it worth checking out.

Roxane seems to have been not just a fortune teller but a cult leader. Her first scene, which kicks off the series, is the main clue to the deeper conspiracy surrounding her death

You can watch the episode here.

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