- Nightsong of Splendour (1989: Magic Bus) 4/4 eps.
Staff and Background
This little known OAV is based on an equally little known manga by Makiko Hirata, so little known that I only found out about it via this fansite. What is important about this OAV is that it is directed by Osamu Dezaki, aka maybe the greatest anime director ever. He is the man behind Aim for the Ace, Tomorrow’s Joe, the Black Jacks OVAs, and Brother, Dear Brother. Not everything he makes is great, or even good, but they are always interesting and he was always trying to push the medium.
I want to give a shout out to Iquix Subs for this one. IIRC there were some really shitting Hong Kong subs for this back in the VHS days but those have since been lost and we have been without English subtitles for this show ever since, I believe Arabic ones are available bizarrely. Iquix Subs have recently been working on this and are close to releasing the fansubs into the wild (It has been a year since I originally wrote this and as of now the fansubs have been fully completed with the help of Orphan) But they were kind enough to give me their rough work in progress subs to watch this show with, which was nice. So big shout out to them for working on this kind of project as it is crazy that anything Dezaki had no subs!
Story and Characters
This show is a romance drama set in 1923 Tokyo. Many of you may know that that year heralded a certain event, that does play into the show, but it also was a year of love and bizarre decisions apparently. Akiko is a wealthy heiress who is engaged to a ‘boring’ but generally good guy, so unsurprisingly she is bored out of her mind. One day she and her maid, Sara, go into a rougher part of town where they encounter some thugs. They are saved from these goons by Taka who is an up and coming Yakuza. Akiko falls desperately in love with him seemingly because he is so different from everything else she knows. So she hatches a plan. She knows Sara fancies her fiancé so she tries to hook them up leaving her free to go after Taka. Things don’t exactly work out and what we end up with is a bit of a mess of people randomly falling in love for no apparent reason as well as being dicks. Just take Akiko; she saw met Taka maybe 3 times in the whole show and yet she pined over him desperately the entire time. I mean, he wasn’t even nice to her when they met! It doesn’t help that the ending is so open and anticlimactic. In fact it is kind of infuriating. Character A is in Shanghai waiting for character B. Character C knows character A is in Shanghai and meets character B, C then proceed to not tell B that A is in Shanghai and instead seemingly tries to get it on with B despite never showing all that much interest in them! Nothing is fucking resolved and characters act like dicks!
This is a shame because that first episode is really strong and sets up the characters well but as it goes along it seems like the author didn’t know where the story was going and so things just happen. The show still manages to have some really emotionally gripping moments though so I do think it is worth watching. Though, the show is quite slow at times, despite moving super quick at others, so if that isn’t your thing then you’d best avoid this.
Audio and Visuals
The visuals on this thing, even on what I believe to be a VHS rip, are beautiful. As always, Dezaki’s partner in crime Akio Sugino created some wonderful character designs that really shine with personality. In addition, Dezaki’s brilliant visual direction made the story easy and engaging to follow even with rough subs, I didn’t really need subs at all except for some of the finer details. The animation wasn’t the greatest ever but the show didn’t demand it and when great animation was needed the show brought it’s A game. On the audio front, I thought the voice acting was pretty good all around. The VAs all played right into that slight (or not so slight at times) melodrama that Dezaki loves and there were some fantastic passionate deliveries at times. What was a disappointment was the music. All the tracks were actually really good, with the main theme perfectly capturing the feel of the show. Unfortunately, there seemed to only be about 3 different tracks and so you were sick to death of them by the second episode.
Nightsong of Splendour is a disappointment but I do think it is still watching. The characters are kind of a mess in terms of their decisions and actions but despite that I was still compelled to follow them and see how everything would play out. Sadly, that ending left a bitter taste and so I can’t say that this show is good. It is still worth watching to see Dezaki’s masterful directing but even he can’t make these characters make sense.
Final score: 4D