Hear me Out for a Second
Imagine yourself asleep on a train, you were previously sitting alone. However, now that you awaken a man sits across from you holding a strange and ornate box. After a brief exchange, you hear the box coo at you. The man says, “Oh, you heard that?'” as he begins to pull on the tassels at the front of the box. The tiny doors open to reveal a young woman’s head surrounded by flowers. The man continues, “Yes, she is still alive.'” What follows is an elaborate tale concerning several murders and how the young woman came to be in the box.
The above is the opening moments of an anime that I am extremely excited to talk about today, Box of Goblins. It’s immediately weird, yet captivating. No doubt, you are sure to have several questions, and much like the man on the train can’t seem to pull himself away from this view, to forget the sight he saw, surely, neither will you.
Of course, at first glance the show doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special. If you compare my synopsis above to the official MAL synopsis here, you’ll see it doesn’t do much to sell itself:
The story follows a series of bizarre murders of schoolgirls who have been dismembered and stuffed into boxes. The private investigator hired by a missing daughter’s mother joins forces with an antique book seller and others to unravel the murder spree.
If there’s one thing this synopsis has going for it, it’s that the subject matter is more unusual. How do all of these fairly different elements all converge into a cohesive product? I’ll admit, it was enough to get me to look into it, but the opening moments, what I’ve transcribed above and used as this post’s image, does more than mere words could ever do for the show. Now that I have your attention, let me explain to you why Box of Goblins is a hidden gem just waiting to be uncovered.
Alright, I know I’ve just gotten done selling and giving the synopsis on Box of Goblins in the previous section, but there’s something missing. Usually I’d give a bigger overview of the show, maybe touch on some themes, but this time around, the best thing I can do is probably just liken this anime to others that share things in common with it. Basically if you like any of “X” below, you’ll likely like this show:
- Boogiepop Phantom – A large cast with a deeply interconnected chain of events, even if it’s not at first obvious. While Boogiepop isn’t always told in order, Box of Goblins tends to stay a more linear course which adds to the ease in which someone can follow it.
- Serial Experiments Lain – Really, you could choose any of the works from this creative mind, but I chose to highlight this series for two reasons. One being that I’ve seen it, but more prominently, the atmosphere and presentation. Both shows share a strong sense of direction, but where they differ, is that I believe Box of Goblins to be immediately easier to follow, with the added benefit of being more conducive to binge watching.
- Ergo Proxy – One of the best parts of Ergo Proxy was in its variety of stories. Not quite an anthology series, but invoking a similar sense through a single narrative. You’ll find something similar in Box of Goblins as it tells stories within stories, shifting style and setting as needed, almost seamlessly.
- Satoshi Kon Works – A bold statement, but in keeping with the previous, I was strongly reminded of the transitional effects in the works of Satoshi Kon. How reality is often bent and manipulated, keeping the audience off balance while never allowing them to truly lose their way. Often, what is shown to you in this show is a mix of imagined and real events, but neither one is more true than the other.
- Sarazanmai – Unfortunately, there are no musical numbers in Box of Goblins, instead, this series is listed because of the thematic connections. Both series strongly emphasize boxes as a core theme, the nature of human hearts, and feature some more surreal imagery. Not as bombastic as Ikuara’s efforts, instead leaning closer towards horror imagery, but having much in common nonetheless.
Of course, these are just some of the shows I could have chosen to explain in more detail just what Box of Goblins is like as a viewing experience. Without a doubt, it’s one of the more unique and interesting series I have ever encountered. It’s true that it shares many things in common with what’s listed above, but the way it is all blended together makes for something that truly is unlike any other.
My Personal Takeaways
Due to the nature of the show, I am only going to talk about my personal views on the show in a more broad sense. Things I thought the anime did particularly well, some minor missteps, and how that’s interesting, but all with the aim of avoiding any spoilers. If at any point you find yourself interested in the show, I actively encourage you to STOP reading the article and seek the title out. Unfortunately, the anime is unlicensed and fairly hard to find even online, the version I watched didn’t even have the OP or ED, but at least the show was there in its entirety.
Let’s get the few “negatives” out of the way first. I truly don’t think the show has any serious flaws, but there are a few things that may be worth noting for some viewers. First, the cast is quite large, and due to the way the narrative isn’t always super clear on who’s who in each scene, it can be a little difficult to keep everyone straight. Thankfully, the show is pretty explicit about clearing this up, but it does ask you are somewhat patient. By the end, there should be zero confusion. On the note of the cast, there was one character who is introduced early on who just doesn’t matter at all in this adaptation. I believe they were included purely for the extra OVA episode, but given I cannot verify this, it is merely speculation.
Otherwise, viewers should be aware of the content in this show. While a majority of the more mature content is filtered through an abstracted lens, conceptually, some individuals may be bothered by the dark nature of some of the story being presented. Nothing is there without reason, this is a tale about a complex web of relations and chains of events, but given I know some of my readers are sensitive to some of the themes/ideas presented here, I’m just putting this out there. What kind of content? Well beyond the obvious murders, to say more would heavily spoil aspects of the show, so I regrettably am unwilling to say more here. I wouldn’t let this stop you from watching the show necessarily, because it really is that good, but ultimately you are the one who needs to make that call.
As for the rest, it’s nothing but positives! The most impressive thing to me was how every action shown on screen ends up being extremely relevant by the end of the series. This works great for the mystery component of the anime, but it also enhances the overall narrative. In this way, you are rewarded for actively engaging with the story as it unfolds, however, the show doesn’t require you to dig deeply. Of course, you need to pay attention, this isn’t one you can just put on in the background and passively absorb, but you don’t need to be taking copious notes each episode.
What’s more, is that as the show slowly brings you into the fold, it reveals itself like a soap opera. Long time readers of mine will know, I think this is an incredibly effective method of storytelling and one I particularly find engaging. It is no exception here. Box of Goblins, even at the peak of its drama, still remains grounded, even when some of the concepts being presented are clearly on the edge of plausibility. In short, it maintains a sense of believability.
Finally, the direction is just fantastic. I loved the blend of fantasy and reality, the way stories were integrated into stories, only to later be shown again through the lens of reality. I’ve already mentioned it, but it was quite evocative of many great anime that I’ve seen before. Even if the story doesn’t connect for whatever reason, anyone would be hard-pressed to say that this series isn’t well-presented and put together. As a work of art, I was impressed.
To say anything more though, I’m afraid that I would completely spoil the show. There are a lot of little moving pieces that come together in a big way, which I would hate to ruin for anyone interested in the show. I hope my enthusiasm came through to you and I at least peaked your interest. If you give the show a go, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
That’ll do it for this week’s review folks! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you like my work and want to support me, please click one of the donation buttons below. Until next time, take it easy.