Under Your Radar: Gosick

Demonstrate your power so that you may live.

In the year 1924, in between France, Italy and Switzerland, lies the fictional country of Sauville (mis-written as “Saubre” throughout the anime adaptation), and within it is the prestigious St. Marguerite Academy. Welcome to Gosick (the title is what happens when you transliterate “gothic” into Japanese and back into English without knowing what you’re doing… >___<).

Something you’ll notice right away is that the setting instantly breaks the mold of most Japanese media… sorta. They’re still high school students, but only the male lead is Asian. Aside from the sparse appearances made by his family (purely through letters until the final episode) and a handful of other characters also towards the end (mandated by the plot), everyone is European. Sauville’s official languages are English and French, and the conversations they have will inevitably lead viewers to assume that they’re talking in one of those languages at all times, and the Japanese dialogue is solely translation convention at work.

Pictured: Victorique. Don’t worry, she never smokes from the pipe.

The premise we have here is simple. It’s an alternate history time period between World War 1 and World War 2 (I’d explain my choice of words here, but that’s a spoiler), and the main characters (the ” Black Reaper”/”Reaper that Comes in the Spring” Kazuya Kujō and the “Gray Wolf”/”Golden Fairy in the High Tower” Victorique de Blois (which is oddly pronounced “Victorica” in the anime)), solve mysteries after falling in love with each other… immediately, actually. Not that either one ever bothered to say it.

The two are both outcasts. Kazuya gets slammed by blatantly obvious racism from being the only person with black hair and black eyes anywhere in the country, apparently. Victorique, however, is confined to school grounds without her father’s explicit consent, and chooses to spend all of her at the top of the enormous tower that is the library instead of attending class, to the point that she has a cute little house on campus and a personal elevator in the library. It’s certainly a big upgrade from being held in a small stone room for her entire life until then. The two end up meeting when Kazuya’s eccentric teacher tells him about the large amount of ghost stories (which all of the nicknames I listed above came from) and directs him to the library to read about it, at which point Victorique chooses him as “a single fragment with which to alleviate [her] boredom”. And, honestly, for how big the library is, it’s depressingly empty – we almost never see anyone but Kazuya, Victorique and Victorique’s older half-brother Grevil (who shows up to ask for her opinions on certain cases he has to handle as a detective and takes all the credit) set foot inside the damn place. I can only recall one other occasion off the top of my head.

The cast here is varied and interesting, including the posthumous characters. From Victorique “reconstruct[ing] the chaos into truth using [her] wellspring of wisdom” to Grevil’s drill hair. Just about every mystery they solve ties into the big picture, as well, from the secrets of Leviathan the alchemist to the Queen’s murder.

Pictured: Victorique reconstructing the chaos using her wellspring of wisdom… Don’t worry, I don’t get it either.

There’s a catch to liking this series, however. If you don’t like seemingly episodic mysteries, the first half of the series will bore you. If you don’t like love stories, the second half of the series will bore you. I should note that the connection between all of the mysteries don’t become obvious until that second half, either. Sadly, by then, many would get bored with the series. Too bad, since the ending was really, really satisfying.

The opening animation (“Destin Histoire”, French for “Fated Story”), incidentally, seems to have a lot of imagery that hint at important events later on in the series, including the spotlights and the second Victorique. Who the guy who abducts Victorique in said opening is is something one wouldn’t know until later on, too. A nice touch I saw in the lyrics, too, is that every time they would have used an English word somewhere, they put a French one instead. The endings, however, don’t do this. Speaking of the endings, the first one takes so long to grow on you that it changes to another one just as you get used to it, and the second one doesn’t seem as good in comparison.

All in all, though, it’s a good story.

The original light novels only got two released in English (though, hilariously enough, the entire thing is available in French) before the company releasing them folded, the manga is still ongoing and has recieved no English release, and the anime was going to be released by Bandai until they folded and cancelled every series they hadn’t already released, but it can be watched subbed on Crunchyroll. Anyone really desperate for a physical release, if they have a region-free or PAL DVD player, can get the series shipped from Australia in two 12-episode, sub-only sets.

“No matter how much the world changes, we’ll never be separated again”