Mouryou no Hako (Ep 1)

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Mouryou no Hako is a supernatural horror mystery series by Madhouse Studios, with character designs by CLAMP and adapted from the novels by Natsuhiko Kyougoku. Set in 1950’s Japan the series revolves around a string of particularly gruesome murders, where school girls are being dismembered and put in boxes. The OP “Lost in Blue” and ED “Naked Love” are both by Nightmare, with stunning visuals which really add to the atmosphere of the series.

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What strikes you from the outset of this series besides the particularly nice characters designs is that it possesses a very creepy ambiance, possibly due to the tranquillity and perceivably normal setting of the story, when what is happening is anything but. What begins on a train with a singing head in a box gradually descends into what appears to be a be a ‘Marimite-esq’ “friendship” between two girls.

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The initial protagonist we are introduced to is a teenage girl called Yoriko Kusumoto, a young girl with no friends who apparently due to having no father no one wants to give the time of day to, then steps in the beautiful and intelligent Kanako. A girl who I’m guessing is about as wealthy as she is mysterious, Kanako pretty suddenly decides to take Yoriko under her wing and the girls gradually start to spend quite lengthy amounts of time together, mainly at smart cafes drinking tea and listening to classical music while Kanako divulges information about the latest novel that has taken her interest. It is at one of these such meetings that Kanako asks the now pretty infatuated Yoriko what she thinks about ‘The Five Death Omens of an Angel’. She then precedes to inform Yoriko about the novel, whom seems pretty transfixed, I’m wondering if it’s the words she’s listening to or just staring at Kanako. Upon returning home Yoriko has one of many run ins with her mother, it’s pretty obvious from the outset that she really doesn’t like her mother much. Yoriko later that evening is given a strange doll by a man her mother knows, the doll then proceeds to move as he claims that ‘dolls are boxes in which souls are stored’ , it’s pretty understandable as to why she drops the thing and proceeds to run off to meet Kanako who is standing on a hill bathed in moonlight.

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Kanako tells Yoriko to adsorb as much moonlight as possible as it will prevent them from ageing and will break the binds life has upon them. The pair then proceed to dance in the moonlight amongst the falling sakura petals a very beautiful and touching scene, they are interrupted by Kanako’s guardian and as the girl walks away Yoriko reflects on how she doesn’t even know Kanako’s true identity or much about her. At their next meeting Yoriko ponders as to why Kanako has taken such an interest in her, especially with her lack of a father. This is where Kanako starts getting pretty creepy, she announces she didn’t choose Yoriko but in fact they are reincarnations of each other and hence bound to each other, which she then signifies visually by binding a thread, which she called a charm of fate around Yoriko’s wrist (wow does she ever blush at that) and now claims that Yoriko is now her.

Yoriko has another turbulent run in with her mother regarding her relationship with Kanako (is it just me who’s feeling very Heavenly Creatures about this episode) and she proceeds to tell her that Kanako is her reincarnation, that she will never age and will never be ugly because she bathes herself in the moonlight, he mother makes quite a prominent response, where she claims if she wasn’t to age she would be ‘an evil spirit’, Kanako revealed by the lake that evening that she doesn’t have a relationship with her mother and now lives with her sister, Kanako then proceeds to rein-act how her mother treated her on Yoriko who puts up no struggle but claims she is ok with it if Kanako kills her because she will then just become Kanako. The girls then appear to have quite a romantic boat trip around the lake.

This is where the story appears to take a very dramatic and different turn with the girls meeting at a deserted station, Kanako is visibly very distant and melancholy, Yoriko also notices a pimple on Kanako’s neck (maybe she isn’t so perfect after all) as they await the incoming train. The scene shifts to within the incoming train and a man is haunted by visions of deceased and mutilated soldiers, all the visions suddenly vanish and we pan to a mortified Yoriko, Kanako has jumped in front of the incoming train in an what what appears to be an attempted suicide . Our final image is the haunting smile that Yoriko sees on Kanako’s body as she tells the detective that Kanako is her reincarnation, I’m guessing this isn’t the last we’re going to see of the mysterious Kanako.

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Strange, mysterious and at times stunning to look at I really enjoyed this series. I had heard a little about this series prior to fall season, but I didn’t expect much from it, I was actually shocked just as to how moving it was, the animation production is really good, I like the character designs, I guess it was obvious that I would like anything with any form of yuri subtext. I have to say this was by far the most intriguing and interesting series of the season so far. The premise although originally made me quite curious I was stunned at just how well it flowed and just how creepy and curiously interesting this series came across as. Definitely one I’m following and this really is the hidden gem of the season, especially if you like serious drama and story lines that leave you asking multiple questions. This series really has sparked my curiosity, I find it hard to fathom why there isn’t more interest in this show as it still seems pretty unknown.