Lost Song is a well-constructed and surprisingly enjoyable anime series that’ll likely divide audiences by turning things on their head around the mid-point.
Released globally on Netflix today, Lost Song is a 12-part musical fantasy anime series that begins unassumingly and predictably. Produced by Liden Films in collaboration with Dwango and Mages, it’s full of the usual clichés and expected beats. Then, about halfway through, it deploys a welcome switcheroo that recontextualises the steady opening as necessary groundwork for a series that is smarter and more ambitious than you realised.
Not everyone will appreciate the execution, but you have to respect the guts. The first half wouldn’t have set the world alight, but it’s well-constructed despite its familiarity; a typical fantastical kingdom on the brink of war, with the slightly novel idea of the songs being intimately tied to the world’s mythology. Of the characters, the interlinked songstress heroines Rin (Konomi Suzuki) and Finis (Yukari Tamura) were likeable enough (especially the latter), and decent supporting turns from the likes of Chiaki Takahashi, Asami Seto, Misaki Kuno, Seiichir? Yamashita and Ai Kayano helped to flesh out an occasionally-imaginative cast of morally black-and-white heroes and villains.
While I won’t spoil how, the second half of Lost Song turns most of this on its head – and for me, it was a change for the better. The run-of-the-mill plot became much more complex without tying itself in knots, the characters began to develop in sensible and sometimes surprising ways, the stakes were upped, the villain improved, and the finale did an admirable job at tying off loose ends and bringing the whole thing to a satisfying close. It might have used a little more time to develop some minor characters more or to expand on a few intriguing aspects of the worldbuilding, but it had the good sense to get out of its own way, which is always a quality I respect.
And it looks good – sometimes very good, and never worse than decent. It’s all part of a high-quality package that even incorporates the music in a way that won’t rile anyone. There are one or two songs per episode, by necessity, but it’s generally top-notch stuff that never overwhelms the other aspects of the show, and if the Lost Song OST is made available, I’m sure a fair helping of people will pony up for it.
Lost Song won’t be for everyone (what is?) but it’s a ballsy bit of work that deserves some admiration for its willingness to take a clichéd premise in weird and surprising directions.