Immortality is a common theme throughout the anime, but the complex 2008 series Mnemosyne gave a new twist to this classic theme.
Immortality is a fascinating theme frequently explored in fiction. Anime history is full of immortals, from supernatural beings who default to immortality to others who achieve it through certain actions. Characters’ handling of this immortality — and others’ efforts to remove it from them — are often core parts of the plot.
Although the concept of immortality has been used hundreds if not thousands of times, mediums are still finding new ways to approach and tell stories using the theme. One such cartoon is Mnemosyne, an often overlooked series that takes a very unique and complex look at immortality.
The plot and setting of Mnemosyne
Mnemosyne, also known as RIN: Daughter of Mnemosyne, is a collaboration between Xebec and Genco; it was made to celebrate the founding of the Japanese television network AT-X, a network known for its more edgy and adult content. The anime spanned six episodes and aired in 2008. There was also a light novel and companion manga released with the series.
Mnemosyne follows Rin Asougi, a private detective who runs an office in Shinjuku, Tokyo. However, Rin is no ordinary detective because she is immortal. In the world of Mnemosyne, a mysterious tree named Yggdrasil appears randomly; it emits a series of small spheres called TIme Fruits, some of which can be absorbed into the human body. However, these orbs affect each sex differently. If a man absorbs one, he becomes a monstrous creature known as an Angel. However, if a woman absorbs an orb, she becomes immortal. As a result, Rin can take multiple physical punishments and seems to come back to life whenever something destroys her body.
The story begins in the 1990s when Rin finds a strange man named Koki Maeno while participating in a case. This discovery leads Rin to become entangled in a strange situation, one involving a person seeking immortality. Worse still, Rin is being hunted by an assassin who appears to be working for someone who knows about Rin’s unusual condition – and several other deeply buried secrets about Yggdrasil and the Fruit of Time.
Why Mnemosyne is such a compelling anime about immortality
Mnemosyne’s treatment of immortality is surprisingly engaging and original. The story tried to show how immortality puts a goal on one’s head and how the mere idea of it can make people do horrible things. Plus, it utilizes the protagonist’s immortality in every aspect of the plot. Most notably, the plot takes place over 65 years. This is surprisingly rare, even in the immortality-focused media. Most of the time, an immortal character will just refer to past events rather than letting the audience see them as they happen. This longer length allows Mnemosyne to explore how some actions have consequences that span generations.
The anime’s Fruit of Time concept adds an interesting mystery to the immortality element, meaning the viewer as well as the characters are never certain of the exact limits of their powers. This allows the program to avoid a common problem that many stories about immortality suffer from. An immortal protagonist often leads to an under-stakes story because the audience knows that character can’t be harmed. However, by leaving the exact mechanics of Rin’s immortality up for debate, the writers were able to put her in danger while maintaining high tension.
Mnemosyne is unique even beyond its main theme, blending genres together in surprising ways. Towards the end of the series, viewers will be exposed to elements inspired by detective novels, supernatural action, romance, and horror. The show is also very adult, not afraid to show violent pornography or gore. While this may feel a bit overwhelming at some points, it fits the theme of the series and helps it stand out from the pack. Even today, there is nothing quite quite like it.
Mnemosyne is a gripping series that takes a unique twist on the classic themes of immortality and allegories. Its mix of genres and one-of-a-kind world-building means it remains a compelling watch, even into 2023.
Mnemosyne is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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