Rin Asougi runs Asougi Consulting, a private investigator’s firm consisting of herself and her friend Mimi. Unbeknownst to most people, the two are immortal, and can heal from lethal injuries if given enough time. When they meet Kouki Maeno, a series of events is kicked off that ties their destinies together. Behind the scenes, a mysterious figure manipulates them to get to the source of Rin and Mimi’s immortality.
The story is presented in six episodes, with each episode featuring a different time period. I like the idea, as it emphasizes the immortal nature of Rin and Mimi, and more clearly depicts the passage of time around them. I wish the series would go on longer, as the six episode format causes a lot of abrupt changes in the storyline. You can usually infer what happens between each episode, but a bit more exposition in this case wouldn’t hurt.
Mnemosyne has come to be known for its graphic violence and sexuality, and sometimes even skirts torture porn territory. I don’t usually know what to make of sexuality in anime. Outright eroticism is one thing, but Mnemosyne does not aim for that. On its own, sexuality is just a basic biological imperative. I see it on the same level as watching someone eat, or watching someone sleep. By itself, it’s not terribly exciting. But once in a while, it has meaning to the story.
The way sexuality is used here is inconsistent. Sometimes it’s completely gratuitous and cheap, sometimes it’s wholly appropriate. However it’s almost never depicted as an act of intimacy or love. Mimi uses sex as a tool. Rin is sexually tortured. The “sex” between angels (winged males that serve as the antagonists) and immortals is actually cannibalism. If the writers are going to use sex in this way, they should justify it. What does this say about the world Rin and Mimi live in? What does it mean to the story? Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to amount to much.
The primary story simmers in the background until the last two episodes. The sudden increase in exposition makes it a little hard to follow. However each episode is also a self-contained story, and they touch on an interesting assortment of themes. There is a semi-religious subtext to the main plot, but each subplot deals with the ethical ramifications of a particular scientific advance – cloning, AI, the proliferation of the internet, and others. I’m disappointed that these two parallel story threads never meet, but the stories work well enough as is.
Given more time, the series could adequately explore its provocative themes. Still, these six episodes manage to accomplish a lot. The mix of procedural story and action suit the detective backdrop well, and the always-prevalent supernatural elements do culminate into something. Mnemosyne‘s main weakness is just its fractured narrative – a thirteen episode run time could have patched it up nicely.
The main characters are Rin, Mimi, and the Maeno family (a few generations of them are shown). Rin and Mimi are mostly shown in their professional lives, which kind of makes them boring. There aren’t many sympathetic traits to a couple who simply treat every story as a “case.” In one sense, it’s important that we see them as immortals. They should be somewhat detached from humanity. Still, it’s their own choice to be involved in human affairs, so they should reflect some part of humanity.
I can’t put my finger on it exactly. It’s not that I don’t like Rin and Mimi. They just seem more like plot devices to me than actual characters. The Maenos, especially Kouki, are much better as characters. They struggle with identity, love, and sacrifice. Through the Maeno family, director Shigeru Ueda shows what it means to be human. Maybe in this context, Rin’s aloof nature makes a bit of sense. She has experienced all of these things, and what seem like revelations to us are probably trite and obvious to her. One more theme that the Maenos embody is the passing of a parent’s legacy to the children. What Kouki starts, his granddaughter finishes. Rin and Mimi, who can’t have children of their own, are denied solely this part of the mortal experience. In some ways, this makes the ending more cathartic. But the series is too short to put this idea to the best use.
The supporting cast includes the assassin Laura, who is Rin’s nemesis. Laura embodies the idea that immortality is a curse. The primary antagonist is Eipos, a mysterious immortal whose schemes aren’t revealed until the very end. These characters aren’t utilized very much. Rin’s scuffles with Laura seem especially superfluous, and are probably only there to fill some action quota. I wouldn’t say Mnemosyne is worse off being a story-driven work rather than a character-driven one. In fact what it says about human civilization is subtly enhanced by the lack of attention on character drama. But the ending twist demands a character focus that just isn’t there. Throughout the whole series, I teetered between wanting to care about the main cast and not caring. That probably isn’t a line you want to walk.
Mnemosyne enjoys a solid technical production, and an aesthetic that serves its modern noir story well. Depictions of violence are graphic and brutal, and sex scenes alternate between being distantly sterile and extreme intimacy. I would have liked to see Mnemosyne fully abandon the eroticism in the sex act, as it would have better reflected its role in the story.
The voice cast is led by Mamiko Noto, a prolific voice actress who also played Fumina Konoe in Shakugan no Shana Second. Here she portrays Rin with a voice that wavers between weariness and mild amusement. You can tell she’s been around for a while, even without the anime explicitly saying she’s immortal. Rie Kugimiya’s role as Mimi was probably the most demanding, as Mimi was granted immortality when she was a teenager. Kugimiya has to portray a childishness that has given way to maturity, and she does a respectable job. None of the performances exhibit a wide range, but sometimes an act with more nuance is good too.