Sometimes when I watch BONES anime, I get the sense that this studio and I were just destined for each other—it’s as if they’re making anime specifically for me. I love the way BONES does anime, and Gosick [BONES, 2011] is just another in a long line of shows from this studio that I have watched and genuinely enjoyed. Gosick isn’t a spectacular show, but it’s a warm, kind show with a particular awareness for a small selection of themes and an easy charm. I’m glad to give Gosick a 7/10, and place it near very good company in the Rankings.
I’m not really sure why BONES seems to be so much better at in media res than any other studio, but Gosick is another example of the studio dropping the audience into the middle of a story without much set-up and then letting backgrounds and backstories and motivations and personalities unveil themselves through the simple motions of the narrative. And it works well for Gosick, as our main characters, Kujo Kazuya and Victorique de Blois are thrown straight into a mystery by the end of the first episode.
To be totally honest, Gosick is not the type of show I normally go for. I’m not really much of a mystery fan, and the supernatural elements in Gosick are…tenuous at best, framed with ambiguity and superstition. Given the setting, that is, of course, the perfect way to frame Victorique’s powers (if they can be called that at all)—making them appear just as shadowy and nebulous to the audience as they would have been to those who lived in that time period.
But I have managed to somewhat divine the reason Gosick was such an enjoyable experience and, unsurprisingly, the answer is quite simple—it’s the characters, as it most often is. I wrote a while back on how likable characters can save bad shows, and Gosick was not a bad show needing saving in the first place. It’s a good show strengthened, not by a large cast of energetic personalities, but by the simple power of a beautifully presented relationship between its two main characters.
Kujo and Victorique are an OTP if I ever saw one and their loyalty to each other—through childish squabbles, hurt feelings, and life-threatening encounters—is the foundation and adhesive of the entire show. Kujo and Victorique are Gosick; if you don’t like them, I don’t see how you could like the show. Somewhere (perhaps on the Wikipedia page for the light novels on which the anime is based) I read a plot summary describing their adventures as “solving mysteries while forming important bonds with other people.” Honestly, that’s not a very good summary of the show at all. Yes, Kujo and Victorique meet other people during their various adventures, but the most important bond is always the bond between the two of them.
I’m a sucker for this kind of relationship, because there’s no external relationship drama to be found in Gosick. Rather, it’s a relatively simple set-up: how two people learn to love and value each other. It’s clear this was intended to be the focus of the show from the very beginning, which I think raises an interesting question: does the show suffer from having such a deliberate focus on two characters? There are number of really important side characters of whose motivations we know only cursory details. Is that a bad thing?
I say no. While Gosick certainly could have been stronger in some ways with a wider focus, I think it would have ultimately hamstrung the show’s most important element. There are always going to be difficult choices to be made when adapting the dense medium of literature into the barebones structure of the screen, but the choices made in Gosick preserve what’s most important and holds together the rest as necessary.
Thematically, issues of identity, personal value, and parental love all shine through in places, although none strongly enough that I could say Gosick presents any kind of cohesive, definitive message. But it engages its themes intelligently when they appear, and the show’s better for it. Gosick isn’t really a concept piece; it falls squarely into the entertainment category, in which it succeeds. Instead, the themes fill out the show—giving it weight, emotional potency, and universality it would not otherwise have.
Finally, I want to take a moment to touch on the show’s ending, which really consists of the final two episodes. Generally, I have heard from others that the ending was rushed—I disagree heartily. While it’s obvious that a number of plot points and pieces of the story were omitted from the final arc (or perhaps final few arcs), BONES did a phenomenal job of maintaining engagement, reasonable pacing, and emotional resonance to the very end. The scenes chosen to construct the ending of Gosick were smartly selected and placed to move the show to the ending moments (and yes, it’s a real ending), all without creating a sensation of haste. Furthermore, I don’t think it was really in the show’s genes to tackle in-depth the sort of bleak, despair-ridden side of the story that made up most of the final two episodes. On the whole, it’s an excellent adaptation of above-average source material—making for a great experience.
Gosick is, as I said at the beginning, a warm show. It’s a hopeful and kind show. It’s a show worth watching and it’s the type of light novel adaptation that I want to see, one that reaches for the medium’s strengths and avoids its weaknesses.
EDIT: I’m aghast that I neglected to make note of Gosick‘s sonically and visually gorgeous OP sequence. If you do nothing else after reading this review, please at least check out the OP.
I do recommend Gosick to almost anyone. There’s a lot to like, and very little to dislike. It’s also very consistent in quality through the various arcs. Ultimately, though, whether or not you will like Gosick comes down to whether or not you like the main characters—for, as I’ve said, they are one and the same.
Reasons to Watch:
- A central relationship that carries the show in its weakest moments and enhances its best moments, all the way to the final scene of the final episode.
- A penchant for silliness, but without causing emotional whiplash.
- Victorique is a tsundere, but she’s one of the best I’ve seen & she truly does grow throughout the entire series.
- The atmosphere and Gothic setting of the show are unique and interesting.