First Look: Aguu: Genius Dolls

Alternative title(s): Aguu: Tensai Ningyou
Manga Adaptation by Studio Deen
Currently Unlicensed

Premise

A young ballet dancer discovers that her friend’s prodigious talent comes from ‘aguu’ – once real people whose skills are being used for the benefit of others, and who now suffer on in eternal torment.

Artemis’ verdict: Disappointing

While I shy away from horror as a genre in its live-action form, I’m all for more horror (particularly supernatural-themed horror) in anime – if only because there are so few titles out there that are actually halfway decent. Sadly, Genius Dolls doesn’t look like it’s going to be counted among those few.

One of its biggest issues is that the series suffers from severe tonal whiplash and overdoes the dramatics. A good supernatural horror or mystery should, at least in my opinion, first and foremost provide an atmosphere of unease and invasive yet inexplicit disquiet; it should convey the sense that something is or is about to go dreadfully wrong and then build this feeling up bit by bit, starting off small and eventually reaching that tipping point where the big ‘IT’ is finally revealed in all its terrible glory. Genius Dolls begins by introducing its main character as someone who just comedically and absentmindedly does the splits wherever she is, because she’s a ballet dancer and… apparently that’s just something ballet dancers do? It then proceeds to imbue absolutely everything that happens with an atmosphere of drama or danger instead of picking and choosing its scenes, so that the contrast between the main character and the content itself are completely tonally at odds with one another. The result is that it’s nearly impossible to take either of these things seriously, and made me want to giggle than anything else.

It’s a shame, because the basis of the overarching story seems like it could be quite compelling – if only it hadn’t also given away the whole thing before the end of the opening episode. Whereas the horror premise could potentially have had a lot of impact if it had been revealed gradually throughout the series, Genius Dolls tipped its hand right from the get go, destroying any sense of mystery and turning it into nothing more than an overlong and clumsily executed exposition scene; a colossal waste of a promising idea that could have been the driving force behind the entire show.

To add insult to injury, the series looks like total crap. The character designs are exceedingly simple and sometimes just plain silly, the backgrounds are little more than the most basic of outlines with splashes of color, and the animation is minimal. Paired with the by now hopelessly overdone Swan Lake theme music (for the love of god, can we please choose something else for a ballet-centric story now?), I can think of very little to recommend Genius Dolls other than sheer curiosity, which is soundly killed off by the end of the premiere.

Jel’s verdict: Wasted Potential

Add this to the pile of shows with a solid concept ruined by awful technical execution. Aside from looking like a complete afterthought that a couple of interns at Studio DEEN drew on their lunch break, the mood is all over the place. And what’s up with the hot blooded shonen protagonist kid complete with bright colored Naruto wannabe jacket? Did they not think having a female lead was good enough so they had to shoehorn him in? The most important take away from all of this though is one of the main characters looks suspiciously like Maya from Persona 2. Just saying.

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