Life and Memory: An Overview of Programmatic Introductions and Mnemosyne

– The Most Artistic Detective Anime (That isn’t Really a Detective Fiction)

From a programmatic perspective, the opening scene of this anime is perfect. Both scenes. The only thing I could think to change would be the placement of the opening (put it after the opening scene, not before it! It’s more dramatic that way.)

Before I begin, let me set up the program for this review. I’ll be covering the first part of Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musume-tachi, localized as Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne. Although, more accurately it can be translated simply as: Mnemosyne: Daughters of Mnemosyne. I will cover:

  • The first opening
  • Meeting Maeno
  • The Hotel Scene

So, with that out of the way, let’s begin.

The Opening Scene(s)

With the exception of the very “fast” final episode, Mnemosyne is a very tight, well-managed anime. By that I mean that every scene, almost every action, has its place. There would be something missing if you cut five or ten minutes from this show. Compare this to other anime or even television shows—think of how many scenes are just there for fun and may not add anything to the overall story—and you will quickly see why this is a complement.

The opening scene is a great example. Any good anime, television show, novel, play—any art form with a temporal aspect should tell you what it will be about within the first twenty or so minutes of the experience. The simple explanation is that you need to make sure your audience knows what they’re in for. Some people, certain academics anyway, call this the “program” of a narrative. Like the program you get if you go to a play or performance, the program of an anime tells you what’s going to happen, but skips the juicy details. If you’re in, your mind will ready itself for the payoff of the show. If no,  you can switch away knowing that you won’t be missing anything you wanted to see.

Mnemosyne opens with the intro song, which I might get into later, and then an opening scene. A woman is running up a stairwell from someone, a predator—a mercenary, sent to kill her. The setting is dark and urban, I might even call it noir, but I don’t know enough about the noir genre to correctly categorize anything. Who we presume is our hero makes it to a door, wearing only a button up shirt. It’s locked! Moving fast, she pulls out some steel and picks the lock, locking it behind her. Running up the stairs, she makes it to the rooftop just as the mercenary breaks the door down behind her. The, the mercenary arrives, armed with a shotgun. She spots her target and shots are fired. Rin sprints beneath the night sky and jumps to the other roof. Our hero didn’t make the jump—she’s hanging by one hand. The mercenary smiles, and shoots her. We watch Rin  fall to the ground, dead, followed (rather artistically) by her dismembered arm. The mercenary leaves, but not before crushing Rin’s fallen  glasses beneath her foot.

RIN Daughters of Mnemosyne 01 Cats Don't Laugh.mkv_snapshot_03.48_[2018.06.17_19.56.09].jpg
3:49
So, is this programmatic of the anime? Simply put, yes. There are a few important elements. The first would be the violence. Not just blood, but a full disembodied limb. It’s enough to give it its well-earned R+ rating at the very least. Later, there are at least two scenes of torture, so an audience had better be expecting something along those lines. The touch of nudity is also important, if only because there’s a bit of sexuality and nudity in the anime. Violence an nakedness are ever-present aspects of Mnemosyne, so a viewer should know right away that there’s a potential for their depiction. More important than the violence, however, is Rin’s reaction to it. She is very calm, despite her doom. This is also meaningful. It is a valid expression of the overall tone of the anime. Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musume-tachi is a calm, intelligent deliberation on the value of life and immortality.

After this opening scene, Rin wakes up in her bed. A scene later, she’s in an office, wearing standard professional clothing, complete with a vest and tie. Is this a flashback? We’re left wondering for quite a few more scenes. We find out that Rin’s job is something of a jack-of-all trades type private investigator. Almost a Jessica Jones, without all the edginess. Shortly after, we meet another very important character, the character with the problem for the episode. He’s being hunted by some men in suits, and using swift and deadly combat abilities she saves him and they begin to talk.

The man, named Maeno, says he doesn’t know who he is. The scene is rather therapeutic, with him sitting on a red chair, facing perpendicular. “Amnesia?!” Shouts Rin. “No, I have my memory. I also know my address and phone number.” He explains. Maeno has a far worse problem, one a little more original. I won’t give it away, this episode is well worth the forty-five minutes. Right now though, neither party knows what’s wrong with him, although it is revealed by the end of the episode.

RIN Daughters of Mnemosyne 01 Cats Don't Laugh.mkv_snapshot_11.35_[2018.06.17_20.19.14]
11:35
There are some beautiful scenes in this anime, held back only by its budget. This image is the scene on which I’ll end my analysis of the introduction. Rin is on the phone. We don’t know with whom, and we won’t know until well past halfway through the series. This is important for the program though, as it alludes to something going on behind the scenes. (As does Rin’s references to the name “Apos,” and the appearance of the partially-incorporeal figure at the end of the hotel scene later.)

I have a lot more to say about this terrific and oft-missed anime, but I will end it here for today. But first, I’ll reveal whether or not the second scene is a flashback. Or rather, I’ll let the mercenary reveal it for you.

RIN Daughters of Mnemosyne 05 Holy Nights Dont Shine Brightly.mkv_snapshot_41.38_[2018.04.29_25.29.00].jpg
20:32 (The Hotel Scene)
Rin is immortal, she survived the fall, and regrew her arm.

Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musume-tachi is a brilliant, bloody and artistic series. It’s loaded with symbolism and detail that even after analysing, I don’t think I’ve completely come to understand. It is not perfect. I believe that it needed on more episode, as the final one was a little too rush-paced. But that aside, if you’re looking for something truly unique, and with the ethos of an “anime was produced to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the AT-X network,” then Mnemosyne is not an anime to be passed on.

Daniel Triumph.

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2 thoughts on “Life and Memory: An Overview of Programmatic Introductions and Mnemosyne

    1. It’s well worth it if you have a taste for artsy noir with a bit of symbolism. People who prefer more straightforward, or logical progression will not enjoy it as much. Different strokes for different folks! Personally I love it.

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