Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, is the superstructure around which all the planes of existence are gathered. Whenever Yggdrasil appears in the human realm, it releases spores known as the “Fruits of Life”. One of these spores – the so-called “Time Fruits” – has a particular effect if it is absorbed by a human. Women become Immortals. Men become ravening beasts with limited lifespans known as Angels. Immortals find Angels irresistible, despite the fact that Angels prey on them in order to consume their Time Fruits. However, one of the Angels is different: fated to become the Guardian of Yggdrasil, they protect the Tree of Life through the ages until an Immortal emerges who is the designated “Bride of God”.  The Bride and the Guardian mate; the latter is absorbed by Yggdrasil so that it can access the former Guardian’s accumulated memories, while the Bride gives birth to the new Guardian. And so the cycle perpetuates itself through eternity. Rin Asougi is an Immortal. Along with her sidekick Mimi – also an Immortal – they operate a small private investigation agency out of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. One day, while looking for a missing cat, Rin encounters a strange young man who, although he knows his name and can remember details like the location of his childhood home, has no memory of his actual identity or how he came to be in Shinjuku. But when an assassin tries to kill the young man, Rin’s investigations reveal that he is the clone of a university student who was tricked into participating in highly secret medical experiments – experiments aimed at nothing less than the achievement of immortality. And thus it is that the outline of a much vaster conspiracy begins to emerge, one in which the current Guardian, Apos, is determined to put an end to the eternal cycle by which he must mate with a Bride and be absorbed by Yggdrasil. A conspiracy at whose heart stands none other than Rin herself…

Conceived and co-produced by anime studios Xebec and Genco, “Mnemosyne” originally aired on Japanese television between February and July 2008. Animated in a grittily realistic style that lynchpins the series’ noir aesthetic, “Mnemosyne” (also known as “Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne”) has been controversial among audiences and critics alike – and has even been banned in some countries. Detractors have panned the series for appealing to abusive sexual fetishism, for the high levels of violence, or the generally unlikeable nature of the main characters; supporters, on the other hand, have praised “Mnemosyne” for the quality of its animation, the complexity of its plot and narrative arc, and for taking an unashamedly adult view of the world and human nature. Certainly, the series features much naked flesh as well as explicit depictions of violence. Whether or not these are negatives that either overwhelm the series or are sufficiently counteracted by other production elements, will no doubt be a matter of individual viewer perception. What can be said, however, is that “Mnemosyne” (for the most part) coherently brings together elements of noir, horror, sci-fi, folklore, and mythic storytelling to produce an intricate tale in which tragedy and joy are present in almost equal measures. And while the motivations of the characters are not always spelled out as clearly as might otherwise have been the case – even to the point of some aspects of the denouement only making sense after the viewer has had time to reflect upon and place them within the wider narrative context – nonetheless, “Mnemosyne” does manage to bring all its threads together for a generally satisfying conclusion…with a little bit of a twist at the end. Violent, explicit, and nihilistic, “Mnemosyne” will not be everyone’s cup of tea – and is certainly not suitable for children – but definitely stands alongside the likes of “Gantz”, “Speed Grapher” and “The Garden of Sinners” for edgy, out-there anime.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.