The Sealed Esoteric History -moon- (秘封活動記録－月－) review, part2 (artwork and story)
Artwork, sound, music and writing
The visual part is probably what this OVA is best at. Sincerely, this was ravishing. The background design is amazing of detail (thank you miss High-definition) and the animation feels really smooth and neat. My only gripe is the slightly awkward character design. Some characters might look a bit weird to some of you. Also, background detail is so high it is even visible on my SD CRT TV! I think they really outdid themselves. Also, as a side note, this makes me realize how outstanding the background work is on Memories of Phantasm too.
The background design is absolutely amazing. Look at that detail. Also, watching a 1080p file on an SDTV? What the hell is wrong with me? For the info, this is a retrogaming-media center PC which is plugged to it. The resolution that’s actually shown is 1280×576 50Hz interlaced with 16:9 mode enabled, coming from VGA-to-SCART conversion (this TV has a 600-TVL tube by the way so the 1280 pixels get smoothed out in a fashion similar to subpixel smoothing in Cleartype). Also, the picture of this TV looks a lot better in real life than it does on these cheap photographs. More details about this setup may be given later on this blog.
The sound part. Probably what we really can’t make an idea about when not having the product in hand. Well, it works. Let’s begin by sound effects. To be honest, they feel a little cheap at times. This is especially true for hard sounds (footsteps, cloth sounds, etc.) and everyday life sounds (lol at the same looped crowd noise we hear at every place Renko and Merry walk around… well, honestly, it’s not that noticeable :P). You can argue it adds a charm. Also, considering there is no voice, this is the only thing your brain will hold (along with the endless lipflaps) and the fact that sometimes they’re a bit too upfront doesn’t really help. All in all, it’s not that disturbing frankly. I think they have a little work to do on this part. On the other side, all other magical, spell card, attack, explosion sounds or anything that’s not supposed to be realistic sound really nice and is on par with Memories of Phantasm.
About sound, what I like the most is the music. Yonder Voice or whoever scored that did a wonderful job. Instead of the fast and rhythmic (and sometimes “mickeymoused”) things we had in Manpuku’s anime, we have a very nice and atmospheric score which deserves its own original soundtrack in my opinion.
Now, the writing… Umm… As I don’t speak Japanese, this will be very hard for me to judge that part. Just like Memories of Phantasm, the characters look like they all have something interesting to say, which I hope is the case (and it is, more or less, read below). In fact, one quality that almost everybody ignored from Manpuku’s anime is how the dialogue is really well written. However, in the meantime, TPD-Subs group released English subtitles (a link to a cleaned up ASS file will come soon) which helped me a lot to understand better what is going on. So, basically, Renko and Merry are considering a trip to the moon but appear to be short on money. While discussing about that, they begin remembering an incident that occured ten years ago (if I understand correctly) where youkai from the Earth tried invading the Moon in order to steal the Hourai Elixir (Elixir of immortality in TPD’s subs) I presume. That’s why we go back and forth between Renko and Merry in what appears to be a futuristic world and events on the moon during the whole movie.
All in all, I really liked how Kyoto Fantasy Troupe tried to push settings and characters not commonly seen and build something around them. That really brings some fresh air (the circle even makes fun of this at the end of the anime). All that makes it a very interesting watch. Also, I don’t think we have original characters there. They seem to be coming from the Cage in Lunatic Runagate story but I can’t recognize the male characters, as TPD probably didn’t transcribe them properly (they can’t be found anywhere on the web and the wiki, the only thing I found were the gatekeepers). I might be mistaken but if it’s more or less basing itself on or taking elements from Cage in Lunatic Runagate (which I didn’t read), we can consider it close to canon… but again, I’m not the best person for that. This alone makes it very desirable over Memories of Phantasm where dialogue is the only thing that add depth to their stories.
Update (2016-3-25): I got confirmed that some of the male characters we see are original and do not come from Cage in Lunatic Runagate, which would explain why no info exist on them. I guess there was some grey area on this aspect of the story that was not detailed in CiLR (I presume) which explains why they improvised a bit. I think they made more or less the right decision (even though some people criticized this decision because it moves away a little bit from canon).
No fan-service, but some unexpected and amusing cameos. Not shown here, but there’s a part showing some posters advertising fictional Touhou events, and Kyoto Fantasy Troupe made its own advertising on them! Also, in case you doubt it, the characters you see are probably cosplays, which makes sense because of said Touhou events.
To be continued on part3 (picture and sound quality)