Review: Gosick

[Synopsis]: After transferring to St. Marguerite Academy in Sauville, Kujo Kazuya (Eguchi, Takuya) chances upon a small, golden haired girl named Victorique (Yuuki, Aoi) at the top of the school’s library. Arrogant, eccentric, and possessing a genius level intellect, Victorique helps Kujo unravel the mysteries of the school and Sauviille in order to sate her boredom and inquisitiveness. Together, the two unearth the country’s strange histories and folktales and learn of Victorique’s complicated past and heritage.

[Characters]:

Gosick has a decently sized cast of characters and while the bulk of them are introduced and forgotten within their respective mini arcs, there are around a dozen recurring characters of some import which helped the show feel more familiar throughout its sometimes less relevant stories.

The male lead and protagonist, Kujo, struck me as a pretty vanilla character and while he had a few positive attributes he didn’t do much to separate himself or stand out even amongst the cast. His best quality is his endearing attitude towards Victorique however he is also the unfortunate subject of one of the few problems of the show. He does not come off as a particuarly intellegent character to begin with and often makes some unintelligent decisions because of this however his stupidity is unfairly exagurated because of the show’s often simplsitc mysteries. While it is a problem in and of itself that the mysteries are sometimes very simple, having Kujo always be the one who Victorique explains things to and having him be surprised each time in order to capture the reveal dumbs down the character considerably due to no fault of his own.

Vitorique is a much stronger character than Kujo in my opinion and has a fair amount of well-executed and believeble development throughout the show. She starts off quite thorny and her arrogance and classic Tsundere demeanor make her less than enjoyable however, as a starting point, she progresses a good deal beyond this in several ways and her growth is perhaps the best part of her dynamic with Kujo. Her intelligence is also sometimes wasted on the show’s occasionally lackluster mysteries however it feels good to have a character who is on top of things and she will sometimes reveal something that is genuinely interesting. I was also surprised by how she acted, even initially – typically her arrogant brilliance along with her Tsundere qualities would dictate that she rarely lose composure and always be in control however these traits are very quickly undermined in the exploration of the first mystery and she feels like a far more complex and complete character because of these variances.

The rest of the cast is fairly strong overall with some exceptions here and there. Avril Bradley in particular struck me as somewhat of a superfluous character as her legitimacy as a romantic interest was poor at best and she never grew beyond that trait. I found all of the characters involved in Victorique’s past highly compelling and their recurring rolls were part of what gave the second half of the show its strength.

[Art/Animation]:

The art was quite good and never showed any notable reduction in quality. The strongest point concerning the show’s art was definitely its ability to control the atmosphere and present a consistent and comfortable image of the 1920’s; despite the gothic influence . The character designs are fairly reserved with the exception of Grevil however as backstory is provided for his outlandish appearance the aesthetic feels at home albeit different from those that surround him. The animation was occasionally interesting and sometimes delivered a scene particularly well however for the most part it simply did its job – the motion of things felt at home within the world.

[Story]:

The story starts off with a series of somewhat formulaic mini arcs after we are introduced to the main duo of characters and the few mainstays at St. Marguerite Academy. These short mystery stories help establish the tone of the show quite well and are each enjoyable however they come with their share of negatives as well. At least in the early parts of the show, Gosick had a bad habit of over-involving people in it’s mysteries – in linking clues and evidence in order to get to the bottom of the story, a single, newly introduced character or a single story element would often act as a magnet for the evidence and somehow everything the story had drudged up would relate to them despite seeming unbelievable. This wasn’t a huge problem for the show and it quickly grew beyond this however there were a few more issues with the formulaic mystery approach.

The problem that really bugged me was the way the show would introduce the mystery – a folktale, ghost story, or legend would always come up in complete isolation from the actual events of the episode before being brought together to form the mystery itself. It is all well and good that Sauville is rich in its history of urban legends and horror stories and thematically, the way the show ties these together in the later parts, it is a strong part of the show however the way it initially uses these things to introduce the mini arcs felt frustratingly coincidental. The way that the characters would suddenly come into possession of a certain book or a story just as the very same mystery began to unfold elsewhere and separately was almost laughably painful to watch and one of the cornier parts of the show.

My last negative comment concerning the mysteries of the show has to do with the simplicity of the mysteries themselves. A popular dynamic of the mystery show is to provide actual evidence that allows the viewer to follow along and often solve the puzzle themselves before the characters arrive at their own conclusion and this has been done in the past with varying degrees of success however Gosick somewhat messes up during this process. It allows for a good deal of dramatic irony in that the viewer knows a great deal of whats going on and can reach a proper conclusion sometimes a great deal before Victorique decides to reveal the whole of the story however this is done in such a way that by the time she begins to explain things, it feels like she is revealing very matter of fact and obvious things in a revolutionary fashion as Kujo reacts surprisingly – the way in which some of the mysteries are laid out somewhat cheapens Victorique’s brilliance and unfairly accentuates Kujo’s foolishness.

With all of that aside, the story begins growing more self-referential after a time and the mysteries begin weaving together to form a more grand picture – one more compelling than any of the individual stories beforehand in my opinion. We get some insight into Victorique’s past in the first half of the show however it becomes much more central in the second half and things grow thematically much darker which I think worked well for the show. In this way, the show, which was not unenjoyable to begin with, got progressively better as it continued on. The show began relying less and less on the individual mysteries it had started with and aimed to execute a greater narrative that tied everything in the show together which I found to be a pleasurable manner of progression. The ending unfortunately felt a little rushed and not everything was explained in crystal clear detail however the content of the ending was quite good and very enjoyable despite its somewhat hasty delivery. The story, while lackluster in some regards, was the strongest part of Gosick 

[Music]:

Given the setting and tone of the show I was surprised at how involved and epic the music sometimes got. The soundtrack did very well in emphasizing moments of tension and drama and only occasionally did I feel the song was oddly juxtaposed to the scene – sometimes the formidable score seemed over-dramatic for the situation however very infrequently. The music was fun, had plenty of time in the spotlight, and was a positive addition to the show overall.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

Gosick may have had it’s ups and downs however I think it was ultimately pretty good despite its negative aspects. It was easy to get into because it launched right into its first mystery almost immediately after introducing a few characters and so I was glad to be spared the typical school setting at least initially and the quick beginning gave me a sense for the tone of the show from the get go which I found effective. The ending was definitely rushed and if I could change one major thing about the plot then I would have given the end of the story a bit more room to breathe however I think it was a decent trade overall as the show ended quite strongly and in a memorable way.

Rating: 7

I gave Gosick a 7 because, while some of its early content may have felt over-coincidental and a little predictable, the show grew into something more elaborate over time and the characters became more endearing and complex as time went on. It’s simple approach as well as some of its cruder story elements held it back a bit however the end result was quite pleasing and a few of the characters like Victorique surprised me with their uniqueness and kept the show consistently fresh. Lastly, I think one of the most fun elements of the show was how it began tying previously individual elements together and while some of these things felt a little forced I think the idea itself was good.

[Recommendations]:

While the show might have stumbled a couple times in the design of its mysteries they were still enjoyable and the show is definitely a mystery show first and foremost. It was a pretty decent romance however it didn’t spend as much time on the romantic aspect of things like a true romance show might and so its content here might be a little light. The drama of the show is probably its best executed element and so I would recommend it for that reason as well – the show’s later half becomes far more interesting in this regard and so if one finds themselves engaged with the story and the characters early on, then they are in for a good time.

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