Sasami Tsukuyomi sees the world outside her home as series of news and security feeds, as she can’t take a step beyond her front door without collapsing from fear. Her social anxiety has flourished from her older brother Kamiomi’s indulgence, so he tries to put it right by urging her to go to school. But in the meantime, while he fails to persuade, he carries his own surveillance kit to create a semi-virtual outside for Sasami to grow re-accustomed to. The only snag to this plan is that it seems to be warping her perception of the world, her brother, her home and herself.
Her only other salvation is an online game that’s slowly emptying classrooms of their students, swallowing up their time and touching on the themes of Serial Experiments Lain. As the gods, beasts and phenomena of the fantasy RPG slip through to create a new reality, you have to wonder whether the game is in her real world, or if it’s her ideal world creating the game. Her brother appears to take on the goddess Amaterasu’s powers, and unconsciously begins to grant Sasami’s every impulse. She makes three new friends in the peculiar Yagami sisters, who can rescue reality from its emerging dangers. The house seems to sprout new rooms, a pitch-black, blue lit gulf with loose wires and four more computers accommodating her brother and friends, and Kamiomi takes an opportune disregard to his work. They can all play together uninterrupted. But then another layer is stripped for exploration, as the setting’s tone has a fault still unresolved.
Kamiomi’s surrealism is in the briefcase he’s always holding up to keep his face concealed, relating him to the strangely distant parents in western cartoons. He has much of the same brash comedy about him, and it fractures the moody humour of his surroundings. But if you view him as another aspect of how Sasami sees her world, his persistent oddities make you ponder the nature of his existence. And so, another chasm in the world’s structure is opened.
This mystery’s layered like the SHAFT creations we already know, with threads to untangle from the viewer’s own judgement, but it falls into a strange space somewhere between Nisekoi and Monogatari. It isn’t a case of all the fragments being laid out in plain sight over time, but the series doesn’t provide much space to develop your own understanding of events before there’s a strict revelation. From then on, you’re distracted by the definite solution in full view. Interpretations come to depend on considering the different tones and lights of the inside and outside worlds, and how Sasami interacts with both, as sensual and cerebral indicators of the many potential ‘true’ realities.