The year is 1924, and Japanese high school aged boy Kazuya Kujo has just moved to a small European country named Saubure. Enrolled quickly in high school and, at the pressure of his teacher, he climbs the school library's very, very long flight of stairs. At the tip top he meets a cute girl with very long, blonde hair in a black, gothic dress. Her name is Victorique de Blois, and she's forced to live at her school and never, ever leave the premises. She's pushy and demanding, but also intelligent and has a fondness for sweets. To pass her time away she likes to solve mysteries, and finds herself in quite a view (and much more) as she and Kazuya bond.
Who doesn't love a good mystery? And who also doesn't love eye candy? Well, mix those two together, and you get Gosick.
For the first half or so of its run, Gosick is a pleasant show. Pushy tsundere Victorique forces poor Kujo to help her with a mystery, they go check it out (leaving school when needed), and then there's some foreshadowing to later events. And for the first 13 or so episodes, Gosick does a good job. Victorique is a wee bit violent to Kujo (kicking him every time he says something that annoys her becomes practically a running gag), but somehow it didn't ever get to me like other series that feature female-on-male violence. You also get a sense of Kujo and Victorique bonding as friends, and the two do make a cute couple by the end. I was a bit worried when the series added a new girl - a spunky, blonde British girl named Avril Bradley - but she actually turned out to be my favorite character come series' end, as I'll get to later.
I also like the art style in Gosick. Bones is an animation company that has shown time and time again that they can produce some of the best looking anime on the market, and Gosick is no exception. The animation isn't amazing, but it never falters in quality, and the color scheme is quite good at times, too. Victorique's long, blonde hair and gothic attire are particularly eye-catching, and helps her stand out. (Even if she does look a bit like a human-size Rozen Maiden doll.)
The mysteries are quite well-paced, even if Victorique's ability to solve mysteries almost solely through articles and police reports is a little hard to swallow. Kujo is even at times helpful and observant; unlike those damn kids in Case Closed, he's simply not just extra baggage. Even Avril gets involved into a couple of these mysteries, and some even become plot points near the end of the series. It makes it so that you have to watch every episode, as well makes the stories feel less like filler fluff.
Gosick's biggest strength and flaw is Victorique herself. When it comes to the series' more lighthearted moments with her (sarcastic laughter, comically getting a shot, her being embarrassed by something, or using a leaf for a mustache), she's great. But when it comes time in the series' last third for her to put-up with her stereotypical Evil Father, it becomes quite a chore to watch. After that it's foreshadowing, past memories, and Victorique being emotionally/physically abused (sometimes both). No longer is the show about a blonde girl and her Japanese guy friend solving mysteries; now we're talking about Victorique's mother Cordelia having been raped to give birth to her, the murder of a queen, Victorique's father Albert wanting to rise as Prime Minister via lies, and Victorique fighting for her own life by recurring character Brian, who wants to kill her just so he can have Cordelia all to himself. (!) Even the series' lighthearted moments near the end of the series, such as a costume-themed Christmas party, are interrupted by Victorique melodrama. It's more than a bit jarring for what was once a fairly-lighthearted show to go so "hardcore" in its final episodes.
And when Gosick isn't laying down unsettling imagery on either us or poor Victorique, it constantly bombards you with information that sounds important but really adds nothing. All you need to know is that Albert plans to use Victorique, and that Kujo can't do much to save her when the time really comes. Hell, Victorique doesn't even save herself; her mother kills her no-good father. (This is right before Cordelia's caretaker Brian tries to kill her out of sheer jealousy, after spending most of the series prior doing nothing but avoiding questions and just hanging with Cordelia.) All this isn't helped by slug-like pacing, making the series' last 9 or episodes feel more like 20.
The only relief in the last third of the series is Kujo's spastic teacher and Avril, who remains chipper and likable until the very end. But alas, she is not enough to save the series from its downward spiral. Kujo himself is a pretty weak character on his own, despite the series' attempts otherwise to make him seem strong or intelligent. He really is just the insert Japanese character/love interest for the Japanese audience watching; rarely does he leave this.
Long story short; Gosick starts off strong, but falls apart. Sitting through the last third of the series is arduous to the umpteenth degree, because each successive episode is worse than the last. This anime needed to be at least 6 episodes to cut off the fat that ruins it. As it is, Gosick is just wasted potential, an anime more amusing in funny YouTube clips or animated Victorique GIFs than as a cohesive whole.
A disappointing last third hampers what could have been a decent show. Instead it's just mediocre. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Victorique mainly deals with mysteries where someone dies, so blood is a common occurrence. There's also near the end of the series some hard to watch backstory involving her mother and her conception. Quite a few adult situations, too. Parental discretion advised.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Gosick © 2011 Kazuki Sakuraba / Hinata Takeda / Kadokawa Shoten / Team GOSICK
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