A Tale Spanning Centuries
Over and over again I’ve been recommended Gosick for both its mystery and romance angels. While I can say the show is alright to that regard, following Kujo, or “The Reaper who Comes in Spring”, and Victorique the “Golden Fairy of the Library”, it’s far from the most interesting thing Gosick has to offer. Today I want to explore the rise of science as the mystical is slowly lost within this world.
The story of Gosick takes place in the fictional country of Sauville but otherwise mirrors our real world. We come into the story just off the heals of the first world war and follow the events leading up to the second. In between we see events that occurred as early as the 17th century with a bulk of the narrative focusing on the late 1800’s and early 20th century.
That’s great and all, but it’s far from what Gosick is actually about
Understanding this is important because the anime doesn’t make this obvious. For the first half of the series Victorique and Kujo spend most of their time solving simple mysteries that don’t seem to have much to do with a grander plot. It’s only towards the end of the first half, and the entirety of the second, that the real plot is made clear in Gosick.
However, this is not to say that the show does not sprinkle hints to the most interesting aspect of this series. In fact, you can see it in Kujo’s introduction where he’s introduced as The Reaper who Comes in Spring. The country of Sauville is one that believes heavily in folklore and, as the show refers to it, “the occult”. Legends carry real weight and even impact policy when it comes to governing the country. This gives the setting a very 19th century European feeling in terms of the people’s beliefs and values.
The conflict for the narrative soon becomes the occult vs science, and that’s where the story really shines. In our real world this transition to mystical thinking to more grounded scientific thought also occurred, so seeing it mirrored within the anime was what really grabbed my attention.
Throughout the entirety of the anime Kujo and Victorique are constantly compared to different stories in Sauville folklore which act to reinforce the narrative ideas within the series in terms of how the pair are connected, but also as commentary on the societal beliefs the general populace has. As a result, their story is important, and often given center stage, but the driving force behind much of the plot is in thanks to these various folktales.
You can see this most strongly at the end of the series where one of the characters we met previously is working in a library/bookstore (it’s unclear). He’s told to burn a book containing one of the folktales we’ve seen previously, but instead he opens the book to this scene:
A picture of all the imagery used thus far to represent Victorique and Kujo, along with other key events in the narrative is beautifully illustrated in the book. The character looks at the image before it suddenly begins to move. The characters wave and then vanish from the page, just as our main characters move on from the past and into their futures.
There are obvious symbolic implications here that go beyond what I’m talking about specifically, but they don’t take away from the core concept I’m presenting here. In this same sequence characters mention how electricity is becoming more widely available, and point out other advancements in society.
For a Japanese story, this is far from the first to explore the idea that modernization has somehow cut us off from a more mystical or spiritual world. You can see it in so many stories in and out of anime. It’s not even that unique to Japanese culture, but you see it here a bit more than other places.
Going back to Gosick, I wanted to mention how the visuals act as a way to further drive the connection. The OP having a storybook feel, the use of literature repeatedly as a motif throughout the story, and the color palette are all reminiscent of this idea. It’s really cool to see how strongly these elements work together to illustrate this point.
That’s why I say this is Gosick’s most interesting story. It’s not that Victorique and Kujo arern’t, nor am I saying they serve no role in this larger narrative, but they are only a small piece of it. Compared to the smaller stories in the anime, this one is also the best told and what I believe to be the real intent of the narrative, but of course, you are free to disagree.
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