Okay let me tell you this much, I have not yet read the novels, so I’m a bit uninformed on certain things about the series, but I’ll give as much as I can.
So! Kagerou Project was made by Jin and his use of the computer music program Vocaloid. He made some fun catchy songs and along the way he joined forces with Shidu, who made music videos for them. Further down Jin had a story plot that interconnected all of his songs, making for one big hit! And it caught on.
It’s the story about people with eye powers, who went through a happening on August 14th, and were given these abilities by the medusa Azami within the Heat Haze. Each character has a different power, based upon a wish they had at the time, whether it was to hide the injuries, to be noticed, or to just understand another person, they all are good and bad. And these powers are all based around eyes, each character’s eyes becoming red when the ability is used. This is their story and how it goes round and round.
Now this is an interesting thing as the entire rise to mainstream is sort of out there. From Vocaloid music videos, to novels, to a manga, to an anime, Kagerou Project is really far from the norm of adaptations. Jin, let me just say, is an amazing song writer, as all the songs are full length with catchy tunes, and have deeper meanings than meets the eye. As someone who has yet to read the novels, as I am unable to read Japanese but I am looking for translations, I don’t really know the quality of those. The manga: Kagerou Days, still going, is quite good so far, showing just enough for you to get a taste. The anime: Mekaku City Actors, produced by SHAFT, recently ended its slotted twelve episodes, and… Could have been better, but also could have been a lot worse. Now if that isn’t something new, well I don’t know what you people want, because I think it’s brilliant.
Okay! Light spoilers under the cut!
Our main character is Shintaro Kisaragi, a hikkimori NEET, basically a major recluse who believes he will die without his computer. Not exactly main character makings right? Well there’s a reason for his reclusiveness and it’s a mix of guilt and despair for something he believes he could have stopped or rather something he thinks he caused. Now the entire story plot starts when Shintaro is forced to leave his home for the first time in two years because his keyboard died. Because of this he is thrown into a whole new crazy world of eye powers.
Next is the pretty cyber girl Ene, otherwise known as Takane Enomoto, a highschool student who was given the power of Opening Eyes, essentially making her immortal and a computer program. She found her way to Shintaro’s computer, where he then downloaded her, and prompted to annoy the ever-living fuck out of him. She is always trying to prompt Shintaro to leave the house and become a healthier person, though he may not realize what she’s doing. She loud and humorous, but is also cranky and mean.
Momo Kisaragi, Shintaro’s sister, is an unlucky idol. Always in the background growing up she wished to be seen, and was once she gained the Captivating Eyes. Because of her power she was able to become a famous pop singer, though now she hates it. This is because she can’t seem to live a normal life. Huh, who would have thought being famous would make it hard to go to the store? Anyway, she’s upbeat and near the exact opposite of her brother, who she now sees as an embarrassment.
Tsubomi Kido, known as Kido, is the leader of the group Mekakushi Dan (Blindfold Gang). She is our tsundere character, who grew up in a rich family as a disappointment child, and so she wished to disappear and be able to hide away. She later gained the ability Concealing Eyes, able to make herself disappear and appear at her own will. Kido is actually quite timid, but comes off cold and harsh, though she’s a sweetheart. She also has the best control over her powers.
Shuuya Kano, known as Kano, is a member of the gang. From an abusive home Kano wished to hide away the injuries he was giving, but he also wanted people to believe his lies. He is a trickster character who is meant to appear as a possible bad guy character. He has the Deceiving Eyes, resulting in him being able to make elusions with himself, but only himself.
Kousuke Seto, known as Seto, is another member of the gang. He basically grew up alone and because of that was unable to communicate very well, though he had a lot to say. His power is Stealing Eyes, almost making it as though he can read people’s minds, though it’s more him just reading information about a person. A good hearted person, Set only really sees the good in people, despite what he may hear. Next to Momo and Kano, he has the worse control over his power.
Mary, or Marry, is a ¼ Medusa. Because of this she is able to make people stop with her Staring Eyes, but only temporarily, and is unable to turn people to stone as the myth goes. She grew up with her mother until tragedy took her mother away, so instead she lived alone, until Seto brought her to the outside world. She is now a member of the MekakuDan, where she finally has friends and is not just dreaming about it.
Hibiya Amamiya is the youngest member, and only just received his powers. His story is sort of the first view we get into the actual events of the Heat Haze. He’s sort of a brat and a creep, always trying to win the love of his crush Hiyori. He grew up in the sticks basically and it shows as in the events of the story it is his first time in the city. His power is Focusing Eyes, basically making him able to see things from far away. What a loser.
Konoha, or Haruka Kokonose is our resident android. Like Ene, he used to be a highschool student, but was given the power of Awakening Eyes, which gives him his dream body. He, however, has no memory of his life before being an Android, so you know mostly squat unless you’ve seen any of the material. He’s gluttonous and a bit slow, but he also is a skilled fighter. Like his human counterpart he is kind and just wants friends.
Ayano Tateyama, who believed that red, was the color of heroes, left a mark on all the characters, whether they knew it or not. Now it’s no surprise that Ayano is a character long since passed away, but not in the sense that you would get. She was a character who wanted to save what little happiness she had and had to ‘died’ in the process.
Now here’s where the spoilers become a little heavy.
Basically to enter the Heat Haze and receive an eye ability you have to die. Often times with another person, though this isn’t always true. You are placed into an endless loop of your death until you emerge from the Haze. So basically all those happy chipper songs and ideas you had about this story? Nope, it’s only despair from here on out. You see because the powers being given are actually snakes, which possess the dead bodies, granting their final wishes, which then begin to gather around the Queen snake.
See, what did I say, misery.
But anyway, on to the next bit since characters went on for a long time (Sorry there was a lot of them and their all really important.)
The art style I personally think was much better in Shidu’s hands, as they really loved the characters. You can see this in the music videos, which are just stunning at times. They also got many of these videos done in less than 3 weeks, which is impressive. The manga is well done as well, each character pretty much standard, though some of the anatomy is… Not mentionable, but that’s normal. Now the anime, which had a whole new art staff, because no one bothered to hire Shidu, the bastards. This was good and bad. SHAFT has a string of very good animation, see Madoka Magica, but it also has that very bad habit of getting things just barely done before it airs, often still fixing things. Basically if you want quality, wait for the dvd/bluray, because then it will all be much cleaner, also see Madoka Magica. It shines in places, like the opening is very clean, whilst some scenes in the actual anime are just funny from how cringe worthy they are.
Okay so warning right now, if you are going to watch Mekaku City Actors, there is an episode… Where the animation just changes to 3DCGI, which… Dear lord I watched it right after the subbed version came on and it scared me at first. Episode nine be prepared for it.
Now onto music. This is really where the whole thing shines most because this is what made Kagerou Project so big. Now for those who don’t know Vocaloid is a Japanese computer program that makes music. You guys know Hatsune Miku, yeah, that’s Vocaloid. Anyway a lot of these songs are just fantastic, from the loud drum solo of Yobanshi Decieve to the soft guitar of Ayano’s Theory of Happiness, to the haunting lyrics of Toumei Answer, to the upbeat sound of Yuukei Yesterday, and to the final notes of Summertime Record. I love all of these songs. Now be warned that the originals are sung by a computer automated voice, and not everybody digs that, it took me a long time. Not all of them have music videos made by Shidu, some were fan animated, which just shows the pulling power. In the anime they took advantage of this and a lot of the best parts of the episodes is where the audience got an amazing cover of a song we had come to love and it always fit just right and felt like a music video in ways. I think, personally, that’s where the anime shined best itself, when it showed the roots of this entire story. Because without that music it wouldn’t even be here. And I guess the most important thing is that Jin, who made a lot of this himself, sang that final song for that final episode.
This is a story about eyes and the people who are affected by it, but for me, I see as a story about growing up. Summertime Record, the final song, is about moving forward but promising to meet each other again. I think that’s why I personally love Kagerou Project, because it’s that final story before things become normal, but it’s only boring if you let it be. Tell the story over and over so people don’t forget, so you yourself don’t forget. “The lonely kids will take a stand.”
I say look into this, I know it isn’t for everyone, but try it out. People do English covers of the song every day and I think a lot of people could connect with the characters, just as I do with characters like Shintaro. But for now I’ll just give a rating based on my enjoyment of each individual piece. The novels will get a proper rating once I’ve read them.
Kagerou Project (Music/Videos): 10/10