If your memory reset every day, would you find some way to live in safety, or attempt a somewhat normal life? Or, would you go so far as to take advantage of your unique situation, all to make each day as interesting as possible?
For Okitegami Kyouko, the third option is the most appealing – her only requirements for happiness are a bit of money and mystery.
This is actually the first time I’m talking about a live-action show here. However, there’s plenty of overlap in this case – this series is an adaptation of the novels penned by Nisio Isin. He is also the author of the Monogatari Series, Katanagatari, and Medaka Box, which were all adapted into anime. This one’s a bit more realistic though.
The Memorandum of Okitegami Kyouko is the story of Kakushidate Yakusuke, a man cursed with bad luck – he is constantly questioned by police for unfortunate coincidences, nearly always fired for things out of his control, and quite regularly pooped on by birds. After rousing suspicion at a job for potentially stealing a missing SD card, he seeks the help of a private detective to clear his name. This brings Okitegami Kyouko into the picture, a mysterious woman who forgets everything once she goes to sleep.
It’s also worth pointing out that both of their names are puns. While Kyouko is a fairly common Japanese name, in her case it is written with the characters for “today,” 今日 (kyou). 掟 (okite) means “law,” and 上 (gami) means “up” or “above,” so her family name essentially means “above the law,” with her full name referring to her amnesiac nature allowing her to participate in confidential investigations. Yakusuke’s name is also a fairly obvious pun, written with the character for “misfortune,” 厄 (yaku), reflecting – or in his opinion, causing – his profoundly poor luck.
The series is mostly episodic, with each episode looking at distinct mysteries that Kyouko and/or Yakusuke become involved in. While these mysteries provide the backbone for each episode, the show effectively focuses on more than just the current case. Whether the growing connection between the protagonists, or some other events in their peripherals, it never comes across as forty minutes devoted to a dense mystery, but a well-paced and frequently lighthearted look at the characters viewed through the lens of a mystery.
As one example of a mystery, an author holds a contest to find his latest manuscript. Kyouko, Yakusuke, and several others search the author’s estate working off of the minimal clues he has provided, and try to be the first to find it. While a “case” in the sense that there is some type of mystery that needs to be solved, it’s an example that avoids typical crime-based drama. It also provides an opportunity for the characters to show their hands in a relatively low-tension situation.
The characters themselves are quite interesting. While Kyouko’s past is shrouded in mystery, mostly unknown to even her, her distinct personality comes through in every episode. She’s never too serious, prefers to lead others towards deducing the answers instead of outright explaining everything, and seems content with living her unique day-to-day life without retaining memories. Yakusuke, while commonly on the receiving end of various accusations or caught up in untimely situations, aims for an uneventful life, and even goes so far as deciding to not accuse others. He also wears some questionable outfits.
But, the most praiseworthy thing about the characters is the connection between Kyouko and Yakusuke. While she never accumulates memories and repeatedly forgets all about him, Yakusuke tries to become closer to her, to the point that Kyouko at least somewhat understands that he is trustworthy. Even as a daily amnesiac, her relationship with him slowly evolves through the course of the series. Other recurring characters, such as the Sandglass Apartments employees and detectives, also add a lot of flavor to the show. Mainly because everyone seems to have a few screws loose.
Visually, the direction seems to have taken some cues from another Nisio Isin adaptation, the Monogatari anime series. While not regularly overflowing with on-screen text for the viewer to sift through or simply ignore, visual narration or labelling are sometimes added in for extra detail or emphasis. More commonly, scenes such as the explanation of a case will use an atypical presentation style, mixing static elements, text, and narration. The end result isn’t something like a PowerPoint presentation though, as it’s kept very fluid.
Another interesting detail regarding the directing is the inclusion of a few visual tricks – there are at least three situations where something is slipped in that the average viewer probably won’t pick up on. While two of these relate to mysteries, one is as simple as Kyouko slightly changing her outfit to see if Yakusuke notices the difference. After the first instance, it also gets the viewer to try and pay a bit more attention to surrounding details. Although the series goes beyond the standard in a few regards, there are also some issues, such as at least one instance of obvious chroma key use and several fake birds. They’re nowhere near as bad as the ones in Birdemic, but they still stick out.
As far as acting goes, it seems to cover the full spectrum. Kyouko has a few instances that feel unnatural, more along the lines of a news anchor reading a report than a natural-feeling character. On the other end, there is borderline over-acting from several characters – even then, most of it is believable enough. The overall highlights are Yakusuke and Hourou, the owner of Sandglass Apartments. For Yakusuke, it’s a combination of normalcy and appropriate exaggeration, but for Hourou, his default mode is eccentric. While this consistently draws attention, the greater strength in his acting is when he is being more mysterious, dodging involvement and twisting questions back to the askers.
But the acting plays a large part in something else – this show is extremely cheesy. To some extent, it’s a result of how goofy the characters are, but it’s also something I’ve noticed in the few other J-dramas I’ve watched. A lot of it comes from the directing, acting, and even the music. For the most part the general backing soundtrack is fine, although nothing special, but many of the incidental sound effects or musical accents break immersion and feel very awkward. As for the weird humor and goofy characters, those aren’t really problems.
Amid all the cheese, the story is satisfying both on an episode-by-episode basis, and as an overarching story. The ending leaves me hoping for a second season – a greater question that was hinted at many times never received an answer, so addressing that down the line would be cool. And just having more of the show would be good. This did just finish airing in December though, so it likely won’t be for a while, if ever.
Also, if you watch it, you’ll probably notice a bunch of random mock sword fights in the background of several scenes. I’m just pointing that out.
+ Interesting portrayal of mysteries
+ Overarching plot leaves room for a bit more
+ Goofy characters
+ Distinct visual elements
± Occasional stiff acting/over-acting
± Decent soundtrack, but overuse of incidental additions
− Cheese often clashes with everything else
Rating – 7/10
Recommendation – If you like mysteries and you don’t mind a bit of cheese, definitely watch it.