FEATURE: Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog: “Kyousougiga”

What’s “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?


Sometimes being an anime fan is like running the Red Queen’s race, where you have to jog as fast as you can just to stay in one place. Consider this column as a road-map for that eternal marathon. The purpose of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is to provide otaku with additional information and cultural context so that they can determine whether they’d like to take an unknown series for a test-drive.



What’s Kyousougiga?


Kyousougiga is an original net animation from 2011 – 2012 that was revised and expanded into an unconventional 13 episode anime TV series in 2013. The series is directed by Rie Matsumoto (Blood Blockade Battlefront) and features animation by Toei Animation. Crunchyroll describes Kyousougiga as follows:


In a “mirror city” that is Kyoto and yet not Kyoto, where humans, monsters, and robots all live, 14-year-old Koto searches for her mother. She encounters a monk named Myoe who’s waiting for his father to return. Family and the mirror city itself are at stake as this action fantasy unfolds.”


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Kyousougiga is also one of the most colorful and visually imaginative TV series in recent memory. It’s up there with Space Dandy in terms of production design, and similar to FLCL in terms of themes and symbolic story-telling.


Down the Rabbit Hole.


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(Above: Illustrations by Sir John Tenniel from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.)


Regarding Kyousougiga‘s influences and inspirations, the most obvious to Western viewers is Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, more specifically the sequel novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Kyousougiga even quotes the poem that concludes Carroll’s novel, “A boat beneath a sunny sky”, both in English and in Japanese.


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(Above: An excerpt from the Chōjū-giga.)


More obvious to Japanese viewers is the influence of the Chōjū-giga, a series of scrolls created in the 12th and 13th centuries that depict animals such as frogs, rabbits, and monkeys frolicking, wrestling, and playing in an entirely human manner. The Chōjū-giga is considered by historians to be the progenitor of the manga artform.


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Strange Structure.


Because it began life as an original net animation, Kyousougiga isn’t structured like a typical 1 cour anime. The first episode (“Episode 0”) throws viewers into the deep end of the pool without a floatie ring, and it takes intense concentration just to keep up with all of the frenetic action onscreen. Each episode is further divided into 3 chapters, and although the show presents a deluge of visual and narrative information, once you adapt to Kyousougiga‘s rapid-fire pace, it’s easy to follow along.


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Rather than a typical mid-series recap, the show devotes an entire episode to exploring the locations and history that inform the setting of Kyousougiga. Viewers that want a recap can tune in to Episode 10.5, which serves as a capstone for the entire series with commentary from the voice actors. I wish that more anime would have the courage to pull back the curtain on the creative process in this manner.


Family is Fantastic.


Although Kyousougiga at first glance appears to be a madcap action-fantasy filled with gods, Buddhas, robots, monsters, and parallel worlds, ultimately it’s a story about love and reconciliation within a family. As in real life, in Kyousougiga the concept of family can be messy, frustrating, confusing, and painful, but also rewarding in ways we’d never anticipate.


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For those that are curious about what the show has to offer, Crunchyroll currently streams Kyousougiga in 114 countries worldwide. The series is available in Japanese with subtitles in English, Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Portuguese, and German. Discotek Media has also licensed the series for DVD home video release in the United States and Canada, but at the time of this writing, this version has not yet been published.


Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.