Reviews of yesteryear: Mnemosyne

Well, we’re nearing the end of yuri anime month and so far the only anime I’ve watched that was completely new to me was Yuru Yuri. So I’m taking a risk this week and watching Mnemosyne. Written by Onogi Hiroshi who also wrote several episodes of Rahxephon, that can’t be a bad sign, and the anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist. Of course, he was also involved in the completely unimpressive Aquarion anime and there is a big difference between adapting the work of others decently and being able to write your own. It’s from Xebec and Genco, both of whom have done some really good and really bad work. So, I have no idea what to expect. Let’s take a look and find out.

The story is actually really simple. The Nordic world tree, Yggdrasil, exists. It releases spores that make women immortal and men into short lived angels who can consume the immortal women. The story follows two immortals, Mimi and Rin, as they fill their time solving mysteries for humans over several decades and eventually face the greatest mystery they’re aware of, the truth behind Yggdrasil. To be fair, there are some interesting ideas here and that’s where my praise for the story is going to end because the execution is horrendous.

The first issue you encounter is that the mysteries aren’t interesting. What makes a mystery interesting is going through the deductive process to find the solution, even if you’re being walked through by Sherlock Holmes or Harry Dresden. The issue with Mnemosyne is that there’s no reasoning. They present the mystery, they go to informants possibly after piddling around accomplishing nothing, and then they’re told the solution. There’s no intrigue and nothing compelling about it. Yes, this isn’t technically a mystery anime, but the boring “investigations” take up a lot of time and they never do anything interesting with them. I’m not going to go into great detail about the second issue that comes up since, frankly, it’s really gross. All you need to know is this simple phrase “sexualised torture scenes.” Another major issue is that it’s just boring. There are long stretches where nothing important happens and the first four episodes are really repetitive, all following the same basic arc. When something does happen it’s generally not something that you’ll want to see. Just reread the previous issue for the details. Then there’s the romance, or more appropriately, sex scenes as the characters are given very little in terms of actual emotional connections. Obviously, my problem isn’t with the yuri. What I do have a problem with is that a lot of these scenes have dubious consent or even lack consent completely. Yeah, these are real issues but where an anime like Berserk treats sexual assault seriously, Mnemosyne just has it as a thing that happens and never deals with the repercussions and it certainly isn’t respectful for how horrible it actually is.

I’ll end with some story problems that aren’t thoroughly unpleasant. One is going to be another issue with the romance, and that’s that the romance that thankfully does have consent isn’t developed very well. To give an example, two characters meet in one episode and have roughly a half dozen shared scenes. In the next episode they’re married for no adequately explained reason and that, sadly, is the best that Mnemosyne does with the issue of love. This is also an anime that doesn’t establish its universe’s rules very well. The final episode adds several new ones that were never mentioned or even alluded to. The result is that they seem to come out of nowhere. It’s not quite a deus ex moment, but it comes really close. There’s a lot of really stilted dialogue for the sake of exposition. Then there’s the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, just in case there’s someone who still wants to watch it, but the ending is awful. It’s rushed, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s really really really really times ten to the hundredth power stupid.

The characters aren’t exactly helpful. Yeah, great characters couldn’t exactly save Mnemosyne from its myriad story issues, but they could at least make it somewhat bearable. The problem is that the characters are roughly as well done as the story. Most of them barely have personalities. Yes, the anime is short, but that’s not an excuse. The Read or Die OVA is short too, shorter in fact, and it manages to have developed characters. Mnemosyne doesn’t bother. The only three characters that I can really talk about beyond a very short description are Rin, Mimi and Apos and even they don’t have a whole lot to them. Mimi is… supportive of Rin and good at hacking. Rin is… kind of a blank slate. She has a vaguely tortured past that barely gets touched on. She’s always shown as being ready to help people who need it, but other than that her personality kind of varies based on what Hiroshi needs her to do for that episode. Apos spends most of the series being vaguely evil. You don’t learn anything about his motivations until the final episode and it’s not worth the wait. He ends up just being a really cliche villain.

The art is decent, for the most part. A lot of the backgrounds are pretty plain but the character designs are pretty well done. My biggest issue is the massive amount of fan-service. A lot of it is just used for gratuitous sex scenes, but there are also the sexualised torture scenes that I’m trying not to mention because I care about your mental state more than this anime does. The action scenes are pretty lazy. They tend to last for short bursts and several end abruptly without any kind of satisfying conclusion. Still, the art is probably the best part of the anime.

Now we move on to the voice acting. Now, I know for a fact that Kugimiya Rie, Ishida Akira and Noto Mamiko can not only act, but they can do it magnificently. I’ve heard each of them do it on multiple occasions. That being said, their performances in this aren’t very good. Honestly, they don’t even sound like they’re trying. In fact, the only cast member who seems to be putting in any effort is Nazuka Kaori. That isn’t to say that the acting is bad, it just seems like it’s “phoned in.” The music is all rather underwhelming, sounding rather typical for a horror action series. Except for the themes, which involve heavy engrish and are kind of annoying. No, it’s not funny engrish like Black Lagoon has.

The yuri factor on this one has to be a 10/10. There are lesbian sex scenes. None of the women really develop an emotional connection and some of the scenes are just thrown in randomly, but you still can’t get a whole lot more blatant than that with your yuri without going into pornographic territory.

So, how is Mnemosyne overall? Well, it has some ideas that could’ve been interesting and the art is pretty well done but the story is an absolute mess, the characters have very little personality and there’s just no substance. I also have to wonder just who the target audience is. People who watch anime for a good story certainly won’t find it here. It’s definitely not funny nor does it claim to be. The action scenes aren’t very good so action fans are out. It’s labeled as horror, but there’s nothing remotely frightening in the entire series so horror fans will be uninterested. Yuri fans might enjoy some of the sex scenes but will likely be disappointed by how little you get of actual relationships and by the fact that het ultimately plays a bigger role. It’s probably too tame for torture porn fans, even though some of those scenes do get pretty graphic. I guess that just leaves the easily impressed and people who can be fooled by the illusion of substance, maybe people who want to watch torture porn and have some room for denial. If you’re in one of those groups you might enjoy Mnemosyne, as for me I’m giving it a 1.4/10. Ultimately, the few good ideas don’t make up for the complete lack of anything redeemable in the actual story or from the characters. If you want to see immortality mixed with other supernatural, mythical and sci-fi elements in a show that deals with sexuality and is actually competently done, check out the first two seasons of Torchwood. They’re much better than this. Actually, even the bad seasons of Torchwood are still better than this. I need to watch something decent after that. So next week I’ll end yuri anime month with a look at Sasameki Koto.

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