How does one even go about reviewing The Lost Village? It’s still not clear whether this show was meant to be taking seriously in the first place. The Lost Village is bad. It’s so bad that it even had some critics speculating that maybe it’s bad on purpose, hence making it great. What went wrong?
Let me start by saying this was one of the most promising titles of Spring 2016. The idea of a group of outcasts choosing to leave everything behind and go somewhere far away from civilization was an interesting premise that offered many psychological possibilities: exploring the psychological damage of the characters, arguing whether running away is the best option, learning to get along with other people… However, while the series made some attempts at addressing these topics, there was never an interesting conversation on it, let alone a resolution.
The first episode was actually pretty decent, but it already raised some flags as to the problematics the series could have: it had a massive cast. Whose idea was it to introduce 30 characters in 3 minutes? The cover photo for this review is packed with characters – and that’s not even all of them! Upon seeing this, viewers who were expecting a horror anime like Another (they actually shared the same director) started speculating that maybe this would be like Danganronpa or even Battle Royale. After all, the reason why those stories were able to work was because they were about the characters having to kill each other for survival. As a matter of fact, some viewers even considered the key visuals of The Lost Village to be spoiler-y because they hinted at characters gradually being killed until only the male and female main characters would remain. Given the series was only 12 episodes, the only way it could have worked would have been by having one of the characters killing the others (they actually hinted at that with Jack and Lovepon). At the very least, that would have served to create a speculation game among viewers.
Reducing the cast would have allowed for more screentime for things that actually mattered. The backstories would have been more meaningful, we could have gotten more invested in the characters, and we would have had more time for explaining the actual mythology behind Nanaki village. Instead of that, they just used some episodes to give rushed backstories to characters and then proceeded to make all but 4-5 of them completely irrelevant. What was the point of introducing so many characters if they wouldn’t have a role in the story?
Another way to go about it would have been to have some unknown creature in the village killing the characters. They actually did that, but while the idea that ‘nanaki’ are just a manifestation of their trauma was interesting, it made the ‘Mystery’ tag completely pointless. The plot was vague and there was no real direction the story could go. There was little motivation for the viewer to keep watching to try to figure out what was going on because the supernatural element was unveiled too soon. After that, the only thing the series had going for it was the ‘Psychological’ and ‘Horror’ tags.
One of the few things I liked about this series was some of the backstories. Mitsumune (probably the most bland and boring main character in a while) had a very tragic past that few of us could have predicted, and many of he other characters’ trauma relied on abuse, loneliness and, in some cases, straight up psychopathy. Sadly, the show did little to showcase these issues in its characters (and no, Lovepon yelling “EXECUTE” as the solution to everything does not count). The other aspect I liked was the soundtrack. While it was not great, some of the tracks actually succeeded at building some sort of uneasy, creepy atmosphere. As per the other visual aspects, the art style was OK, the animation was subpar and the CGI monsters are probably the weirdest thing I have ever seen in an anime.
The Lost Village was never a big project since the beginning. It was actually founded with a crowdfunding campaign and it got little to no promotion. The story was written by Mari Okada, who is one of the most prolific (and contrived) writers in the industry (she also wrote this season’s Kiznaiver). The result was the show becoming the meme anime of the season and, so far, horrible sales in stalker rankings.
The worst part about The Lost Village is that it had all the ingredients to make something memorable, but it ended up as a missed opportunity. It’s like it was trying to be dark and serious while adding some ridiculous, over-the-top characters, but then dropped both aspects and nothing remained. Sure, it toyed with some interesting ideas, but it didn’t execute any of them in any satisfactory or well-done fashion. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t mysterious, and the only reason it was funny is because of how bad it was. At the end of the day, the biggest mystery in The Lost Village is what exactly the writers were trying to do with this show.