Setsuna Sanzenkai awakens on a beach knowing only a few things- that he's from the future; that he's there to rescue a girl; and that he has to kill someone. The three girls he meets there- Karen Kurutsu, Rinne Ohara, and Sara Garandou- seem to take this in stride, perhaps because they believe in some odd (and frequently way off-base) things themselves. Will he be able to discover the full story of this "past", and what his mission here actually is?
Watching Island is both a peculiar and an exasperating experience. For "peculiar", let's start with noting that this show's idea of being creative includes reversing the normal order of things, by having a tsundere fall headfirst into the lap of a naked man, instead of the usual other-way-around. I'm also not quite sure what to make of a couple of scenes where teenage girls enjoy ice cream purchased at a shop labeled "liquor store". The island itself, by the way, is named "Urashima", an obvious reference to the legend of Taro Urashima, who was fabled to have spent several days in the undersea kingdom of one Queen Otohime, only to find that 300 years had transpired in OUR world when he returned to it. This is kinda-sorta related to Island's story- or at least to ONE of its stories. There are numerous ones offered, some contradictory.
And that brings us to the "exasperating" part. The show cites lots of local legends- AND stuff its characters seem to think up on the spot- all accepted with utter conviction by the characters, and many of these stories seem pretty outré, and yet when we get the "truth" about these things it often seems incredibly contrived even compared to those "outré" explanations; in fact, in one case it seemed to out-outrage an ALREADY outrageous story. (A gimmick is invoked that I last remember from Magikano.) Occam's Razor seems to have never been heard of on Urashima Island, nor on one of its neighbors as well, Boryujima Island, "the mysterious deserted island that appears only after a storm", as a character describes it. The first time we see Boryujima it is, indeed, in the midst of a storm, and I thought it was going to be like a Pacific Brigadoon, appearing and then vanishing again; but later in the story two different parties visit it in broad daylight, in calm seas. Perhaps the island got over its shyness and stopped being so coy.
And then there's the show's cast...
Karen's our tsundere. She has issues with her father, who she blames for driving her mom off the island, and out of her life. Her dad has one of the least appealing presentations of male pattern baldness I've ever seen, by the way. The show's a rather minimal harem (just 3 girls), and Karen, at least, kind of LOOKS of age, but she has some trouble getting anything going with Setsuna, despite an actually inexplicable scene, early on, where he tries to kiss her while she's unconscious (which would be viewed as sexual assault here in the U.S.).
Rinne, on the other hand, looks about 12 years old to me, but she's said to be "biologically" 17, and chronologically 23. (It's in the story, can't say more.) Maybe it's because she's so small and slight of build; her diminutiveness is emphasized by the thigh-high boots and oversized captain's cap she usually stomps around in. She "hires" Setsuna as a servant. She lives in a mansion with her mom, Kuon. Kuon usually hides in her room in cosplay pajamas, communicates mainly by handwritten notes, looks exactly like Rinne herself, and often acts surprisingly immature for a grown woman, until Episode 8, where she's suddenly portrayed completely differently. You get somewhat used to these jarring changes of mood and character in the story, but Ep. 8 is one of the worst offenders, as it completely debunks much of what has been previously established in the story. The show also has this tendency to suddenly pull things out of the blue with no foreshadowing (Ep. 4 is an excellent example), and undergoes various twistings and turnings, and, in general, resists developing a coherent storyline with all its might. I'll note that the show's creators certainly included at least one sci-fi fan (Robert Heinlein, and one of his stories, get name-dropped), but seems to lack the discipline to fashion all this into any real cohesive logical structure, except maybe toward the end, but that ending...well, I'll give my reaction to THAT later.
Oh, and then there's Sara. Sara is a bushy-haired shrine maiden who LOOKS at most 10 to me, but guess what? She's supposed to be 16. We're supposed to think it's cute that Sara both wants to seduce, and KILL, Setsuna at the same time- and TELLS him so, too. Sara labors under a delusion largely of her own invention, but she could have cleared it up with a careful perusal of the island's tiny library, which she HERSELF is the custodian of; it was there, as far as I can tell, that Rinne finds a book with the truth about the Garandou family, helpfully titled "Truth About the Garandou Family". I guess ALL of the island's mysteries could have been revealed if they'd just read the books with titles starting with "Truth".
Well. Our hero Setsuna is (usually) stalwart but that's about it; Karen is a half-hearted tsundere; Sara is usually just silly (the show sometimes wants us to take her seriously, but you just CAN'T); and Rinne seems sweet but vacuous. So let's visit with their incarnations in the dystopian world Setsuna came from; the versions of them there are about the same as the ones we've come to know, except that this Sara has bigger boobs. At this point the show's logo changes (to "Never Island"). Now if these characters didn't have the chops for decent drama in our present world, then you might expect them to come across as simply embarrassing in a grim, repressive, "heavy" milieu, and you'd be exactly right. One character's death scene is pure corn. Another has a death scene that's effectively low-key, but that's preceded by a seduction scene that's one of the more ludicrous ones I've seen. (I haven't mentioned "soot blight syndrome". When I first heard this, it sounded like some bogus disease from some OTHER island show- say, like the "brain cloud" from Joe Vs. The Volcano- but no, it's a thing here, in which direct sunlight can be fatal; you develop a few blotches, then you die.) Lesson here: you should have strong characters even for good times, but you HAVE to have them for bad. The Rinne of this world looks even younger (or at least even more diminutive) than the one in "our" world (with an oversized motorman's cap here rather than a captain's hat), which makes a certain later scene...uncomfortable, despite how dimly-lit it is.
Yes, I DID find the show's ending surprising- and even shocking. It made the whole show seem a bizarre bait-and-switch, and was definitely one of the most unsettling "happy" endings I've ever seen. It also raised a particularly disturbing question: one of the "good" characters didn't intervene at all when another character was in danger of, quite unknowingly, committing a heinous act, while a response would seem to be demanded, especially given that the parties involved were all pretty close to each other.
The Recs here are a bit unusual. I'm including Kanon (2006) because part of what Setsuna does is solving the girls' problems, as in that show- and I LIKED that show. The other one has one plotline that recalls the denouement of THIS show (for better or worse.)
Maybe the show's creators were indeed willing, but the cast was weak, and its ambitions dissipated in too many different directions. Too many of the characters' actions made too little sense, the arbitrary contrivances were too much for me, and most of all there was nobody I really LIKED in the whole thing. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Yep, there's fanservice - some non-explicit nudity, one not-especially-graphic sex scene, and quite a few references to Sara's (at least "our world" Sara's) nearly non-existent boobs. Maybe TV-15?
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Island © 2018 Frontwing/Prototype/Island Production Committee
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