Mind Game and 2008’s sublime Kaiba. Honestly, without that factor, I likely wouldn’t have bothered giving a chance to this funny-looking, apparently very serious anime about flesh-eating monsters masquerading as people and the modern-day samurai/gangster types who fight them – and what happens when Romeo and Juliet-style, a couple is formed from one from each side.
And I’m glad I watched. I’m not going to say ‘Where else can you see the bad guy’s head sprouting legs and running along while a comedy monkey deeply kisses a part of the baddie’s flesh that is in the form of a lady monkey?’ because, well, in the big scheme of quirky anime, I’m sure I’ll see things at least as strange again. But though I started watching a pretty long time ago, this hardly took up very much of my time and it was a lot of fun to watch once it got going. There’s one episode about paralysis and a mysterious 20-foot-tall mobster (who becomes a regular character) that is one of the funniest I’ve seen. As with Mind Game, the surrealism, mature themes and seriousness predominate, but once the spotlight is on something funny, Yuasa really comes into his own.
There’s a reason he’s one of the big names of anime direction, and the studios let him do this crazy stuff. There’s a reason that Ankama went to him to give their Nox episode such a distinctive aesthetic. And there’s a real skill to how he juggles his different themes. This is my least favourite of his works – Mind Game was more heartfelt and also crazier, while Kaiba was much more conventional but also wonderfully strange in its peculiar cuteness – but it was still definitely enjoyable.
Next is The Tatami Galaxy. I’m looking forward to it – it certainly seems to be Yuasa’s work that has made the most impact, even if I seriously doubt I’m going to like it nearly as much as I liked Kaiba.