Yan Yuechu and fellow office worker Hu Zhi make a late-night visit to an "escape room" called X&Y, which is run by a beautiful but cryptic woman named Xu Aiyou. But this experience continues to haunt Yan, even as sinister events start happening, at first mainly to Yan himself, then to people connected to X&Y, and- finally- to people close to Yan.
"I will never let you off" - Aiyou.
For those unfamiliar with them, "escape rooms" are usually really a series of rooms; you need to solve puzzle(s) in each to advance through the rooms to the exit. I've tried this once, but I picked one of the more difficult scenarios, and didn't get very far- and if I'd been in one of Aiyou's "rooms", I'd probably STILL be there. Her rooms require identifying, and carrying out, myriad tasks. (And some of her scenarios seemed to have pretty specific requirements; that initial foray of Yan's and Hu Zhi's required the two men to be in separate rooms to disable a "death trap". "Death Traps" are NOT a typical feature of escape rooms- even phony death traps. You don't want to scare your customers to death, usually, though I'm not sure about Aiyou...)
To lay out the general plan of the show: there are certain post- X&Y visit events that are obviously only in Yan's mind (e.g., his dreams of being trapped in escape rooms.) There are other events that are equally obviously real (e.g., a kidnapping.) And there's a HUGE gray area that could fall in either one of those categories- or, perhaps, partakes from BOTH of them.
Your mission, as the viewer, is to solve the puzzle of who's to blame for all this. Does Yan have a split personality? Or is Aiyou a "demon" with supernatural powers, as one Liu Wei'an asserts? (And is Liu Wei'an credible, or simply a madman?) What are the ultimate intentions of Xin Risheng, the "helpful", androgynous person that Yan encounters in a tea room, who seeks to ingratiate themselves with Yan, but who is seemingly ignored by everyone else? Are even those closest to Yan, like Hu Zhi, "in on it"? (The show itself makes an issue of Risheng's gender ambiguity, but as to Risheng's REALITY, THAT, at least, might get settled in the end.)
The show does a marvelous job of keeping Aiyou- her TRUE feelings, intentions, and capabilities- ambiguous too, despite the amount of time she spends on screen. Yan starts a relationship with her, but it's a tentative, on-and-off thing, understandable given Yan's OWN doubts about her. One Crunchy viewer concluded that Aiyou was "either 100% innocent or 100% guilty", but I could see plenty of scenarios where Aiyou might share a portion of the blame with another party. If you want a show that inspires speculation, this one's for you- it offers a plethora of clues, but also a plethora of ways you can piece those clues together. (To the extent that it EVER nails things down, that'll be in the final three episodes or so.) Aiyou's ambiguity even extends to her stockings.
Yan, himself, goes through a lot of changes in the show. You'll see him smug and arrogant; you'll see him confused and confounded. AND you'll see him in despair. In the end, you'll see how he finally copes, when driven to the brink. I did wonder how many times he'd have to pay for his sins, but that's a judgement reserved for another, it seems. One Crunchy reader says what we see here represents about half of the Chinese manhua on which it's based, but that reader wisely didn't reveal whether the following chapters continue THIS story or not. In any event, the creators of this have clearly studied the noir genre carefully, even down to the staging of scenes; when daylight DOES appear in this show, it's usually related to some revelation: either of the physical location of a missing person, OR to the psychological state of one of the characters. On the east coast of the U.S., this series aired around midnight, and a number of viewers commented on how appropriate this was to the mood of the series.
There are some notable insert songs here and there, but the closing song, the title of which seems to be translated as "Old Friend", has an atmosphere of overwhelming torment in its tone, and I didn't NEED to understand Mandarin to appreciate how appropriately that, together with the song's title, fit into the story. This is yet another example of a detail that reinforces the overall story and mood of the show.
Downsides? There are three; two intrinsic to the show, and one not. The "not" is that a written letter receives no English translation in the Crunchy presentation of the show.
One apparent flaw intrinsic to the show is a scene where a character, exiting a seemingly deserted building, blithely steps into an elevator already occupied by someone dressed about as suspiciously as one CAN dress. Maybe they're more trusting in China; here in the U.S. anyone would call 911 at the very SIGHT of someone looking like that.
And, finally, there's that ending. Things here are just not wrapped up as neatly as they are in the Rec. As with everything else in the show, latitude is left for personal interpretation. In consideration of this, I did dock the show one star, even though I wasn't really that troubled by it; you see, I have my OWN interpretation!
Sometimes frustrating, and yet utterly fascinating. Still, I DEFINITELY would have recommended that Yan steer clear of Aiyou, at least until the time when (if ever) she works though her OWN issues. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Violence- and even more, threats of violence- are here, but no onscreen death at least. Aiyou and Yan do sleep together, but Aiyou was a bit disappointed with the outcome of that. (This IS a Seinen show, after all.) MAL goes TV-13; I might have gone a year or two older on that.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (16/16)
X&Y © 2023 bilibili, Lingsanwu Animation
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