The film noir anime Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne is a six episode animated Japanese series that was produced to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the AT-X network (which it originally aired on). I viewed this series some time ago, near the beginning of the summer I think, but am just now getting around to reviewing it. The six episodes had the unusual effect of producing a duality of feelings/opinions within me; applause and abhorrence. As ever, the Japanese creative team (with lead writer Hiroshi Onogi) effectively push the boundaries of the genre and toy with social ideas and gender roles in such a way as to create controversy. Here is how Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne measured up to my noir definition:
1) Seedy Underworld
More digital than seedy, the six episodes of film noir anime play out in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in the modern/near-future. The setting is forgettable.
2) The Anti-Hero
Rin Asogi is an immortal female private investigator. She runs a private investigation agency, and her cases range from everyday mundane to insanely bizarre. By placing the traditional male lead in the hands of a very feminine character, the classic complications created by gender roles in the noir genre are torqued in intriguing ways. And then further heaped on top of the pile is the fact that Rin can never die. The ripples caused by this casting choice alone shake the foundation of accepted noir thought.
3) The Femme Fatale
Many different females fit the femme fatale archetype in Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne. You would think that because the lead is being played by a female private eye, that a male would logically played the role of homme fatale. Wrong. Rin Asogi is a lesbian, and from what I saw in the series an extremely active one. (The homme fatale role IS represented, but in a more blatant and monstrous way than a traditional femme fatale is. See “angels” below).
Further complications are raised because of Rin’s sexual orientation (or I should say the portrayal of her sexual orientation), because it seems that the story is pandering to a male audience. Instead of empowering women, it debases them for the gratification of drooling male viewers. Another facet of the storyline that reeks of misogyny is the unequal duality of males and females in the story. It’s explained that Rin has been granted her immortality because she is in possession of a “time spore.” This spore is what grants her the ability to regenerate any wounds (even when they have resulted in her death) and it yields her youth and beauty for eternity. Contrarily, when a male obtains a “time spore,” he becomes what is known as an “angel”; a savage who surrenders almost instantly to his uncontrollable primal desires. Central to these desires is an irresistible need to feed on and copulate with females who possess time spores. The horrible caveat is that these females find the “angels” completely and utterly sexually desirable; such that they are often eaten in the process of surrendering themselves sexually to their attackers.Yikes. Thus the script is filled with a surprising amount of violence perpetrated against the female characters; more to come in the eroticism section of the noir definition.
The fact that Rin Asogi is immortal, and that her dark past seems to be constantly haunting her, very pleasingly utilizes the noir theme of redemption. After only a few episodes it becomes clear that redemption will never be attained by Rin, and we as an audience will never understand the nature of her desired redemption. My only peeve is this: Why is it that every anime is so fraught with flashbacks and confusing plot twists? It’s like a story teller having Attention Deficit Disorder.
I was appalled by the overly stylized and overt attempts to sexualize the series. Bondage, sexual torture, sexual extortion, molestation, and lesbian encounters anchor this film noir anime script in a realm of unreality and disgust. Many scenes were simply designed to raise the hackles or titillate the viewer (or some awkward combination of both). I felt these efforts cheapened the story and thwarted many of the beautiful differences that would have made Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne a stand-out in the film noir anime genre.
7) Loss of Innocence
The Loss of Innocence portion of this film noir anime includes several perverse scenes of sexual extortion, torture, and molestation I don’t wish to dwell upon. So I won’t.
8 ) Blaxploitation/Racism
Not any that I can remember (not that it wasn’t there).
I’m certain there was smoking in the show, but I don’t actually remember if it was Rin or not. Either way, it was there.
Ultimately, I can see some of the things that Hiroshi Onogi was driving at, but I felt that his story suffered from poor execution. The author seems to desire an awakening in his audience to the mismatch/inequality of gender roles in modern society. I also believe that he was trying to highlight the horrendous power and consequence of human (especially male) desires. Unfortunately, in this film noir anime, his message is lost in juvenile “fanservice” and pointless sexuality. Close but no cigar.
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