published in Empire No.75, Sydney
No one does bleakness with such finesse and artistry as the Japanese. While not to everyone’s taste, those leaning towards anime’s unique multi-media expression are likely to become endeared by the darker traits the form creates. Gilgamesh is certainly bleak, but when such an anime is viewed as poetry rather than some manipulative feel-good product, it can offer up a new definition of entertainment.
Tatsuya and Koyko are two nomadic children wandering a future world devastated by a catastrophic experiment in bomb technology some years earlier. Their father was the scientist responsible for has become know as the Twin-X effect: he had been developing a bomb that would destroy buildings but not living things. The world Tatsuya and Koyko now roam is a dystopian metropolis with emptied skyscrapers and a strangely mottled mirrored sky. Disowning their father yet fatefully tied to his legacy, they move forward on their unknown journey. Early on, they encounter two groups. One is the calmly spoken though darkly clad trio of Gilgamesh who change into terrifying skeletal mutations. The other is the more human group of Isamu, Fu and Toru possessing psychic and dimensionally transformative abilities, all of whom are at the service of the mysteriously icy Countess Werdenberg.
Tatsuya and Koyko gradually realise that each of these groups are in some way connected to the experiments conducted by their father. Rather than stumbling across them, it seems each group had been searching for them. Intrigue and double-speak surround them, eventually causing a rift between Tatsuya and Koyko, as Koyko becomes a hardened cynic hateful of her lineage while Tatsuya softens and wishes to seek out his past – including his father who may not be dead. The story of Gilgamesh unfolds slowly and often in an obtusely mannered way. The visual characterisation is informed by metal, grunge and Goth fixation, making it a highly stylised though subdued affair worthy of your bleak patience.