Humans and spirits have one thing in common here:
a love of music.
Happy Thanksgiving, American otakus! Today I bring you a review of a series that actually did end up touching me, and for that I am thankful. Actually, I’m pretty thankful for manga and anime in general!
Shinkyoku Sōkai Polyphonica, or just Polyphonica for short, actually did get better, as I hoped it would in my First Impressions review. The anime is based on a series of light novels and manga, which in turn were based on a PC game (or visual novel). The gist of the whole caboodle is this: humans live in a mildly futuristic world that acknowledges spirits. Spirits, it turns out, love music, and certain humans known as “Dantists” play “divine songs” that the spirits really dig. Some of them dig the songs so much that they form a contract with the Dantist in question: they’ll be sort of like a personal angel/bodyguard, and the Dantist has to keep playing the good stuff for the spirit. The main characters in this adventure are a duo with one of those contracts: Phoron is the Dantist, and his spirit is Corticarte, or Corti for short. They work at the Tsuge Divine Music Player Office, which provides services utilizing Dantists and their spirits. The series is basically an assortment of one-off episodes involving the various tasks that the TDMPO are charged with, which includes everything from controlling a rogue spirit to finding a lost treasure at the bottom of the sea. Every once in a while you get a glimpse into the background of a character, but only the final two episodes contain any sort of cohesive story arc.
I found this series quite pleasant to watch. It wasn’t too taxing (save for the odd smaller-than-usual subtitles, but you get used to those) and I enjoyed most episodes. As I mentioned in my First Impressions, the art was a bit dated. However, my opinion did change about the music. The opening and closing themes are quite pretty, but I really enjoyed the operatic divine songs. I kind of wish there were more of them, actually. Due to the single-story nature of the series I never felt too invested, which was both good and bad. The good part was that if I forgot what happened last time it was no big deal. The bad was that I never felt a burning desire to watch an episode; it never became must-see TV. It was there, I watched it, I enjoyed it, but I was rarely chomping at the bit to see next week’s adventure.
The setting and characters were an interesting concept, but due to lack of a driving storyline the series fell a bit flat. There was very little information provided or discovered about the spirits and the Dantists, even when it came to Phoron and Corti. We see how they met up, but it’s obvious that there’s more to their story, as well as the stories of all of the characters in the TDMPO. However, I thought that the biggest background gap involved the spirits. What, exactly, are spirits? Where did they come from? Why did they decide to bond with musical humans? Why is music their bond? What are the differences among the various classes of spirits? We know that two-winged spirits are just coloured Hershey’s Kisses with wings, and four- and six-winged spirits can be animals or human (with six-winged being the most powerful), but it would have been nice to get a bit more information about the classes of spirits, especially seeing as how the spirits of this story are created solely for this particular world (as far as I know, that is). If the anime were about ghosts, well, everyone already has a pretty good idea of what ghosts are like, and the difference between our preconceived notions of ghosts and the powers of the ghosts in the story would be what makes it unique and interesting. However, if you start with something almost entirely new (saying that your anime is about “spirits” is as vague as saying “it takes place on planet Earth”) we need to know the details of your creation, otherwise we won’t “get it.”
Despite the fact that the last two episodes finally had a connecting plot, the build-up action felt forced and overly dramatic. It would have been nice to start planting the seeds of the big finale a few episodes earlier so as to grow into a more organic conclusion instead of smashing everything into one episode to pave the way for a dramatic finish in the next. That being said, I actually loved the crescendo of the last episode when everything came together. It might sound cheesy, but I was honestly moved to the point of rewinding and watching it again, then watching it once more a few days later. What can I say, I love musical anime, and this one managed to push all the right buttons for me.
Overall, I like this anime. I enjoyed watching it the first time, but I don’t know if I could have taken more than twelve episodes without delving deeper into what makes these characters tick. They were so unmemorable that when former characters gathered together for the finale, I found it difficult to remember where they all came from or even who they were. That kind of sums up this series: fun to watch, easy on the eyes (and the brain), but not very memorable. Also, without a constant thread of a story to tie everything together, a series of one-off episodes like this would only become more and more disjointed over time. As it is, and for what it is, Polyphonica was a nice, unencumbered little series. I wish that the creators of this anime had delved just a little further into the dynamics of this world where spirits and humans are learning to coexist, but there’s definitely enough there to get someone who’s really interested to pick up the manga. For me personally, I won’t be reading the manga, but I certainly enjoyed listening to the melodies of Polyphonica one time through.