While it has often been described as Revolutionary Girl Utena with a male protagonist and on a journey instead of in a school setting, the above picture is fairly indicative of the show overall.
The Melody of Oblivion is more like Revolutionary Girl Utena with a male protagonist, on a journey, with a crappy ending, and way too much fanservice.
The show takes place in an ill-defined future where monsters have taken over Earth following a war at the very end of the 20th century. Bocca, a high school student, lives in this world, unaware of the monsters or their demands of human sacrifice for the sake of peace. All of this changes, though, when he meets a Meros Warrior, a type of person with magic fighting powers who stands against the monsters and the ‘Monster Union’, a unifcation of the monsters and collaborating humans. He soon discovers his own innate power, and is given an Ivermachine, a vaguely horse-shaped motorcycle used in combat by Meros Warriors. He then sets off on a journey to find a woman he’s been seeing the ghost of, The Melody of Oblivion, along with a runaway girl, Sayoko, who is seeking the Meros Warrior he first met. Later on in their journey, they meet up with some other Meros Warriors and their Ivermachines, who, unlike Bocca’s Ivermachine, can take on human form.
Sayoko, by the way, is the girl in the picture with the gigantic rack. We have yet to determine whether she had an amazing shrinking top or amazing growing boobs throughout the series – it really isn’t clear, but you can definitely see more of her boobs as time goes on.
Honestly, The Melody of Oblivion isn’t really that bad of a show. It manages to raise some valid questions, and it does have some depth. Bocca often does the morally right thing despite popular opinion running counter to it, which asks the question of whether it is right to hew to what is morally correct if everyone disagrees with it. Of relation to this is whether it is alright to sacrifice an individual (in any manner, although here it is literal) for the wellbeing of many. A less emphasized but nevertheless weighty issue that also comes up is what exactly it means to be a person, and where the line is drawn that separates some from being considered as such – this in the cases of the humanized Ivermachines and the monsters, who have human appearances.
Also worth noting is the excellent soundtrack this show has. Normally, background music is exactly that – background noise, only noticed in its absence. But here the music is a true work of art, even if the show itself is not. The music really exceeds the show, and this is one of the few cases where we could put the soundtrack on and just listen to all the BGM’s the whole way through. The music is a well-done mix of classical-sounding tracks and tracks with more industrial sounds thrown in, befitting of the fact that members of the Monster Union fight in mecha-type machines.
On this tack, the voice-acting is top-notch. Here Mamiko Noto appears in a bit-role as The Melody herself, pre-dating her current heydey. It’s fun to play “Where are they now?” with this series, as the voices of characters such as Tomoyo of Clannad fame (Houko Kuwashima, here voicing Bocca), Yumi from Maria-sama ga Miteru (Kana Ueda, Kew, a bit character), Air’s Haruko (Aya Hisakawa, Monster Union Agent Miri), and Kumohira-sensei from Nabari no Ou (Daisuke Namikawa, Kuron). Perhaps most fun of all is the amount of Clannad seiyuu who appear vocally here, as Yukari Tamura, Mai Nakahara, Ryotaro Okiayu, and the above-mentioned Mamiko Noto and Houko Kuwashima (respectively, Mei, Nagisa, Akio Furukawa, Kotomi, and as previously stated, Tomoyo).
Unfortunately, the entire thing gets completely weighed down by its excessive fanservice, and one wonders if the show would’ve ended up as higher quality had the creators focused their efforts elsewhere. The ending also comes as a severe disappointment, having built up the story only to let all the air out in a poorly-plotted conclusion. This ending is a let-down in its failure to truly resolve anything, and in how little it answers of the litany of plot-related questions, such as where the monsters came from in the first place, and what exactly both they and The Melody are. It’s truly frustrating in its lack of scope and resolution, and it all serves to put a severe damper on the show as a whole.
The show also suffers from lack of characterization, as Bocca remains largerly a cipher even to the end. Sayoko is decent, but quickly becomes obnoxious as the half-way mark passes. The Melody of Oblivion, only the title character, receives basically no character development. Toune, another reoccuring Meros Warrior, is criminally underutilized, despite having an interesting aspect to her relationship with her Ivermachine, Blue Eyes. Perhaps most disappointing is that the Monster King is so poorly fleshed out.
Again, the fanservice does a disservice to the overall story, distracting from the more complex and intriguing aspects of the show. Most egregious is the sexualization of the show’s youngest female, Koko, from whom we are constantly getting butt shots and weirdly erotic behavior, mixed in with some near-misses of frontal nudity. Most annoying are the shots of both Toune and Koko as they fire off their respective attacks; Toune looks like she’s masturbating with her arrow, and Koko’s isn’t much better.
What is perhaps the most unfortunate byproduct of the sheer amount of fanservice is that, by the time the show rolls out some more thought-provoking allegories and scenes, it comes off as yet another example of crass pandering.
To go back to the Revolutionary Girl Utena comparison, it isn’t really hard to see, even if Utena never would’ve dreamt of this much fanservice (which is a bit ironic when you consider how much sex there was in that show). Both shows were J.C. Staff productions, something obvious in the more surreal and allegorical sequences. The animation style itself is reminiscent, particularly in the background art. And both shows ask fairly complicated questions of their viewers. Think of The Melody of Oblivion as the poor man’s Utena, as it ultimately plays out as Utena may’ve had Utena been a deeply flawed exercise.
So, can we recommend this?
Day: I wish I could ultimately endorse this, I really do. But, unfortunately, the flaws really pull the show down. Overall, I’d say it’s about a B-. I suppose I would recommend this to a person if they are into somewhat disorienting symbolic sequences, and somewhat philosophical shows but are also willing to look past flaws that such a show may possess. I would say that, in the end, I enjoyed it, but I also was really, really disappointed in the way it ended – it could’ve done so much better, and I would’ve given it a better grade if it had just executed this more effectively.
Depth: The fanservice didn’t bother me as much as it did Day, although the sexualization of Koko was a bit creepy. This show was major lost potential – interesting concept, made me think a bit, but completely flubbed the execution in general. If you have some extra time, I’d tell you to go ahead and watch it, unless you can’t stand fanservice. It isn’t the worst thing you could watch, but it gets a C from me.