Warning: Spoilers, Disturbing/Graphic Content
‘And her own survival is her punishment.’
Angelic Howl was just fucked up. That’s easily the first thing that comes to mind. A great story, but a really, really fucked up one. Amane’s route was jarringly dark, even for Grisaia standards, and I was genuinely disturbed by some of the stuff that went on during the disaster incident. It was basically Lord of the Flies except with middle school girls, human disease and decay, more cannibalization, quicker mental deterioration and senpai-teacher sex that may or may not have been rape. And no-one actually got rescued in the end. A harsh reality very rarely seen in anime – to all those shows who present the cute and adorable side of schoolgirls, Grisaia laughs in your face and throws a cabbage at you. Something like Little Busters! would probably be a happier, more child-friendly take on a van crash incident.
Seriously, what the fuck. I’m actually writing this just after having watched it, and it’s an understatement to say I’m feeling quite uncomfortable. That one girl with the injured legs ended up defecating herself, and if that happened so early on I should have known they’d take it way further – the other girl in the same tent as her had her necrotic injury teem with maggots. I could actually take everyone’s decision to cannibalize the dog, but my jimmies were properly rustled when senpai said she’d found and cooked a ‘deer’ for everyone to eat. I didn’t get it until Kazuki refused… and then I remembered they’d been ‘carrying away’ the bodies of the deceased girls into the forest. Yeah. That wasn’t fucking deer meat. They all probably knew, if only subconsciously – and with those who did cannibalize having validated human meat as a source of food, the saner girls like Amane and Kazuki suddenly became targets. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m glad the girl who owned the dog committed suicide. It was a better alternative than what was awaiting her.
One thing I didn’t get was why they didn’t make any attempts to try and get off the mountain earlier. After they ran out of food and it became clear that no help was arriving, you’d think that they would aim to venture further than the surrounding area in an attempt to rescue themselves. It took over a week for any action of that sort to be taken, and even then it was just the teacher who left, who ended up being a rapey git whose return I suspect was strongly related to the girls’ shift to cannibalism. I didn’t think they’d actually show that creepy animalistic sex scene with senpai actually, which looked far more consensual than it should have been – oh wait, it’s Angelic Howl we’re talking about. Sorry.
Kazuki was awesome. The shining light of the flashbacks, you can’t possibly not like her resourcefulness and rationality. And even though she wasn’t always a nice person, she came off to me as one of the few girls in that camp I’d be willing to label as a ‘good’ human being, especially with her sacrifice at the end of the flashback. Of all the supporting characters introduced in each of the heroine routes, she was the most likeable -and the most interesting- by far, although she did need an episode for me to grow on her. It’s actually incredible how she showed so little fatigue and so much self-control all throughout the incident, while managing to help her mentally weaker classmates at the same time and, to be honest, seemingly do anything or find any solution short of preventing disease or death and actually getting them out of the entire mess. I wouldn’t have expected any less of someone who was Yuuji’s sister. While it’s very hard to talk about stuff like who ‘deserved’ to live or whether anyone was a ‘sacrifice’ as Amane believes, I very much wanted Kazuki to have escaped, at least personally. And having written a letter left for Amane to find does indicate that she survived somehow after all.
As for Amane – well, she was a real trooper, all things considered. Her mental condition was far better than a lot of the girls there, and we can take Kazuki as an anomaly – Amane did so, so well in persevering and making it to the cabbages. Beyond her intense survivors’ guilt and her desire to be ‘punished’ by Yuuji (I have a feeling I’ve been cheated out of a sex scene or two) I’m surprised she hasn’t shown more PTSD than she has, especially when you look at how trauma has lingered in other heroines like Sachi. But of all the routes, it feels like this was the only one which was adapted properly, and is the most deserving of being the ‘best route’, at least as far as the anime is concerned. Except for the Sakashita bit – it could have just been Angelic Howl and I’d have been fine with it, actually. I really do wonder why this adaptation didn’t have a two-cour length instead – they could have properly done all the other routes as well. I’m quite keen on playing through the visual novel for Amane’s route actually, in part because it’s the route that feels most interesting as well as to see just how fucked up it gets. Helpfully, Amane was already my best girl before Angelic Howl started, but I’m glad I’ve got a bit more emotional investment behind her character than just seeing her as a sexy onee-san archetype.
Looking Ahead – Grisaia no Meikyuu and Grisaia no Rakuen
Having never played the visual novels, I’m completely unaware of what to expect! It’s a nice surprise to hear that the sequel novels will be adapted to finish off the trilogy – and it feels a bit irritating as well, because that indicates they could have had the budget to animate Kajitsu properly and fully. They’re already shooting off some odd production decisions, including a 60-minute special for the pilot episode – and for some reason it feels like they’re about to adapt both visual novels into one anime, though that might just be me. Not that I have any idea how they work – are there still routes, or is it more linear? It seems like Amane won in the end, at least where the anime is concerned. Hopefully more light will be shed on some of the stuff that’s been glossed over in Kajitsu, including Yuuji’s past with Asako and the mystery behind Kazuki, whom I doubt is actually dead given some of the promo art that’s been released.