The Lost Village
A mysterious Internet site offering its viewers the chance to "start over again" in a place called Nanaki Village has drawn a busload of folk wanting to do just that. But the road to Nanaki Village turns out to be a one-way street, for if you try to leave it to return to the ordinary world, you will encounter an embodiment of your worst fear...
YODA: That place...is strong with the dark side of the Force. In you must go.
Now, folks that are so unhappy with their present lives that they want to abandon them entirely are possibly going to also be folks who have been psychologically wounded, and that's the key to this show. We've got one or two that are actually criminals, but we eventually discover that many of our cast are victims of such familiar traumas as bullying, violent sexual molestation of a family member, or even public failure and humiliation (which is also a pretty devastating thing, especially in Japanese culture.) A few of our cast are obvious basket cases from the start- notably one whose reaction to just about everything is to call for someone to be "executed"- but even most of the others quickly slip into Lord of the Flies mode after the apparent death of one of the group. Suspicion leads to a paranoid "witch hunt" which eventually focuses on Masaki, one of the younger girls. Mind you, it IS obvious that Masaki is not telling everything she knows, but it may be that Masaki is actually unclear herself about certain aspects of her own situation. (Understatement alert!)
A young boy named Mitsumune becomes Masaki's chief defender. Mitsumune's trauma, when we get HIS backstory, is engrossingly unique (and incredibly strange.) Since he's just a kid, and a quiet, naïve one as well, he doesn't have much clout with the group, and doesn't get much respect at first from anybody. Heck, I didn't care that much for him myself, until we're told just what he went through before he came there. There are all kinds of abuse and neglect in the world, I guess.
There's a main pair who DO dominate the group. One's a guy named Valkana, who despite declaring he never wants to be responsible for a group of people again, nevertheless started trying to assert control over the group even before the bus made it to Nanaki Village; he's a bit scruffy-looking, and his appearance and manner rather reminded me of the Sawyer character in the TV series Lost, though Valkana's background is more white-collar than Sawyer's. The other assertive character in the group is Mikage; he is the analytical type, which is a type I normally admire, except that Mikage also has an inclination to extreme cynicism and paranoia. Hayato, a young man who's Mitsumune's self-appointed "protector", is another character whose analytical skills are compromised by an obsession that quite easily grows into pure evil under the malign influence of the village- or maybe it's mainly the influence of a person in our cast who is actually encouraging the worst sides of our cast's natures. This person will be identified, and their motivation briefly explained, toward the end of the series.
In fact, while I sometimes despaired of the story ever reeling in all these floundering streams of plot, the show does in the end perform an amazing job of doing just that, finally fitting these pieces of chaos into a more or less self-consistent framework. Things start to come together with the introduction of a professor of psychology. He has the line, "In recent years, psychology's been more or less taken over by neuroscience," which happens to be absolutely true and showed me that the show had done its homework. The professor is possibly the most laid-back character one can find outside Nanaki Village (you have to see the show to understand this), and his story, like Mitsumune's past, is weirdly engaging. Between the professor, and a "dead" character, AND another character who doesn't really exist at all (even though he can be seen), we finally understand, if not how a place like Nanaki Village came to be, at least how it works. It's such a neat resolution that I'll not even criticize it TOO much for an ending that for some of our cast would surely be too perfunctory- while knowledge can set you free, another, equally valid aphorism, is that old habits of thought are hard to break; I just can't see some of our cast abandoning their delusions all that easily. And I do have some issues with why on earth that person with the "execution" obsession was even allowed to run around loose, much less trusted.
Just a couple more things:
-It almost always seems to be night in Nanaki Village- there might be some symbolism here. Anyway, it's so literally dark that I had a dickens of a time seeing much of what was going on on a handheld device (phone). I strongly recommend a moderate-size laptop screen (or an actual TV!) to watch this show.
-The closing ballad is pretty lovely.
My dictum is that a great ending can make up for a mountain of sins, and the show doesn't have a mountain of sins, though it might have a small hill's worth of them. One of the stars in my rating is for the ending alone. As with movies like [b]The Sixth Sense[/b] and Angel Heart, once you finally understand everything you may feel the urge to watch the whole thing again to see how (and if) all the details fit into the "correct" version of the story. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: No sex or fanservice, but frequent violence, including a bit of (relatively mild) slashing, and the backstories of several of our cast also involve violent abuse.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
The Lost Village © 2016 Diomedea, Pony Canyon
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