Content Warning: Mild gore/corpse imagery, sexual coercion/assault metaphors
What’s it about? Mikado is terrified of his ability to see the dead, which isn’t helped when exorcist Hiyakawa appears and demands they go into business together. But while serving as a power booster for Hiyakawa has some unexpected erotic benefits, Mikado still feels unprepared for the horrors the job brings him face to face with.
BL and yuri fans, I think you all know how we roll the dice when the word “adaptation” comes around. For every given or Bloom into You that marries skilled adaptation with beautiful art direction, there’s an Otherside Picnic or No. 6 that struggles despite quality source material. Tricornered Window’s first episode unfortunately falls squarely into the latter camp, but its premise is solid enough to win out over its stiff production for now.
I’ve been bracing myself for a bumpy visual ride since the announcement that the series would be directed by relative newcomer Iwanaga Daiji, with experienced key animator Yasuda Yoshitaka backing him up. Iwanaga only has about three episode director credits to his name prior to Tricornered Window, and the only one with an alleged focus on sexiness was the truly nuke-your-eyeballs dire My First Girlfriend is a Gal. Yasuda, meanwhile, has an extensive body of work that predominantly favors action titles and the occasional harem show. They are both, in short, woefully poor fits for a moody BL exorcism show.
And boy does it show. Most of the episode can’t think of anything to do with the ghosts who plague Mikado’s daily life beyond drawing normal human figures doused in cool colors, and the slight upticks in creative horror in the last few scenes are dampened by murky green-brown lighting that obscures the action. It seems to have taken the wisdom of many a subpar videogame, believing that the universal key to tension is to throw an unappealing piss filter over the proceedings and call it a day. But it functions, at least, because it’s coming from a well-conceived and well-regarded manga. You know what doesn’t? The fact that neither of these guys have any idea how to convey erotic tension.
It’s quite possible I’m feeling spoiled, having just come off the high bar of The Case Study of Vanitas, a series that truly understood how to do barely leashed erotic tension (which is linked to but distinct from fanservice), but it’s embarrassing how little sensuality is in evidence here. IDOLISH7 veteran Sekine Ayumi’s script is telling me that Mikado is having a transcendent spiritual orgasm every time Hiyakawa links with his soul, but all I’m getting onscreen is an o-face that looks like this:
There’s no sense of visual intimacy to back up what the dialogue is telling me, which doesn’t help the fact that the script blazes through its setup in the first ten minutes in order to settle into its broader mystery. Mikado comes through as an appealing lead, snarky and justifiably anxious about being asked to suddenly chase ghosts and investigate murders, but there’s little time afforded to his inner conflict at becoming Hiyakawa’s assistant—something that I assume will be a sizable issue for him when he starts catching feels for his partner; if getting off is just a weird side effect of the work you do, how are you supposed to sort out romantic feelings from that? Or figure out what he thinks of you? It’s popcorn-grabbing romantic angst, and it’s treated with basically no care here.
It’s arguably a benefit that this means we also move quickly through the “pressuring into sexual contact” portion of the setup, which even in the premise feels like the author checking off something the editors expect from her before moving on to the meatier drama. The coercion is all displaced into the exorcism work with the excuse of “if I don’t do this we’ll die,” but it’s still a case of ignored consent the first two times for those who want to avoid the trope at all costs.
I’m absolutely not going to stop watching this, is the thing. I crave queer supernatural anime, and this scratches a particular itch as a recovering CLAMP fan who sometimes wakes in the dead of night screaming “Doumeki was robbed!” I’m invested in Mikado’s character arc, and there’s some good intrigue set up with Hiyakawa doing some shady shit in the closing minutes. It’s got great potential as a thriller, and I’ve had an eye on it ever since the author gave a pretty thoughtful interview some months back. Maybe this adaptation can even climb all the way up to “basically okay.” But it always hurts my heart to see yet another work of queer genre anime that I can’t work up any enthusiasm to recommend to people who haven’t already sought it out. At least the manga is licensed.