I’m one of his twenty faces too

When its first episode finished, I suspect a lot of people probably dropped their interest in The Daughter of Twenty Faces (a.k.a Nijuu Mensou no Musume) right there and then. Going off of first impressions, it’s not flashy at all. The colour palette is subdued, there’s no sensational fan-service and no eccentric personality winking at the camera, it was just a rather straight-up crime-caper that’s a lot like Lupin III. At that point in the series, I suppose I can understand why people might have said that it was dull, cheesy and nostalgic of an era that they have long since lost interest in. I felt much the same way, but something caught my eye (or should I say, my heart?); her name was Chiko, the titular daughter.

The first episode is merely the beginning of her journey. She’s vulnerable, fragile and sensitive, kind-hearted and eager to learn. At the end of that episode, I really felt happy for her, that she deserved this new family, this new adventure. That’s so important for me; nice animation is fine, blazing action is a bonus, but all I really need is that empathy, that desire to cheer on a character or two, and I found that in Chiko. Once you’ve formed that connection, the rest will often fall into place, and now, six episodes in, I’m about ready to say that The Daughter of Twenty Faces (along with Kaiba) is probably the best (and no doubt, most underrated) anime of the spring season.

For Chiko , it’s irrelevant that Twenty Faces is a world-famous thief, because she sees him, first and foremost, as a surrogate father and her savior. It’s a lot like how One Piece‘s Straw Hats are so bound together by Luffy’s charisma; he might be an idiot, but he cares deeply about his friends. Similarly, everything that Chiko’s beloved “comrades” do is for each other, and I can really understand that desire; that contentment shared by the closest of friends is so precious.

We reach an early crescendo in episode 6, as Chiko’s dream-like adventure ends as abruptly as it began, when the harsh reality of living as wanted criminals catches up with her merry band of brothers. It’s a stunning episode, so unpredictable and shocking. Having moments before been sharing their carefree adventures, we’re suddenly dealing with their mortality, watching people, Chiko’s family, die in front of us. As the action explodes within the elegantly painted compartments of a speeding train, the claustrophobia is palpable and I can’t help but think of Baccano!.

To their credit, Studio Bones have done a good job with the production side of things. They absolutely nail Chiko’s agility; her deft movements designed to have all the elegance and poety of a feather in the wind. Depictions of buildings, landscapes and weather are warmly realistic and evocative of a by-gone era; it’s a moody presentation that you can really dive into, almost taste.

Chiko begins the series as a naive 11 year old, innocent, optimistic, trying to grow up too fast. By the sixth episode, she is already 13, having developed into a thoughtful, confident girl with some exceptional physical skill. Seeing her transform into an adult, hampered by emotion, living for and chasing after her friends, is an undeniably compelling experience. She is a nice, convincing person and a character that I want to see smile.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

18 thoughts on “I’m one of his twenty faces too”

  1. That opening paragraph makes me want to drop Allison & Lillia and watch this instead, honestly. If the third arc of the latter fails to make an impression on me, I might do just that.

    It’s funny, but there’s been next to nothing in regards to blogosphere attention directed at this show…all the more reason for you to spend your scarce time and energy on posting about it really.

  2. I rather like the sound of this series, though I might have trouble finding time for it in my current schedule. Still, it’s always interesting to see how shows evolve each season – I’m usually surprised which ones finish up as the strongest so I’ll certainly give it a chance.

    I completely agree with the point you make about characters. For me it’s the personalities and said empathy that drive a story. If I can’t care about the characters at least slightly, I can’t care about the show (it’s the reason why I could never get into Ergo Proxy).

  3. Nijuu Mensou No Musume is an awesome show. It’s one of the few shows (out of quite a few surprisingly) that I enjoyed alot this season.

    Indeed Chiko is a very endearing character and quite a few of the gangs outings were very fun to watch. The only problem I have with the show isn’t really its fault at all, the fansubs are just too slow. xD

  4. I agree that Chiko and Kaiba are the season’s best series (for my tastes). The only other series I’ve picked up (this season) is Toshokan Sensou. Chiko spends it’s time (similar to Monster) developing the character in the first few episodes. This will undoubtedly pay off as a flushed out character lets the audience connect more deeply to the story. I’m glad a few others are enjoying the series, too.

  5. @Martin: There has to be time this season for BOTH Allison and Lillia AND CHiko no? (Okay, fine, so I’m not watching Kaiba, my worth as an anime watcher has suddenly dropped 100 points)
    You’re right about how many people seemed to have shunned this series based on the somewhat ‘unspectacular’ first episode. If I was any pickier, I might’ve too, but I somehow stuck with it to it’s next ‘unspectacular’ episode, and the next, and the next…
    What struck me eventually is that instead of similar shows which don’t immediately grab you from the get-go and instead the ‘spark’ of interest is ignited in a certain instant later on in the series, 20 Faces’ ‘spark’ came in small bits split up between the first few episodes, such that even before the dramatic episode six you’ve find yourself slowly but surely hooked by Chiko’s ongoing development. At least I am now.

  6. Since I trust your judgment, I think I might give this a go. Was that the OP? I think it’s a good hook for new audiences.

  7. @Martin: I can say, with almost 100% confidence, that this is better than Allison & Lillia. That said, I understand you’re probably tied to that series by way of blogging it. Regardless, I think you should be watching this! :)

    @Wildcard: Out of interest, what else are you watching? Becase this anime is worth a chance, undoubtedly. Also, I can’t help but echo your sentiments on anime like Ergo Proxy, as that’s pretty much bang on as to why I stopped watching that too. I really, desperately, wanted to like Ergo Proxy, but in the end, it was just a bunch of talking heads that meant absolutely nothing to me.

    @Ez: I’ve been saving it up in batches and yesterday morning/afternoon I watched episodes 2-6 over a few hours, so the fansub speed isn’t effecting me as much and I enjoyed getting an extended feeling for the story too. Anyway, you need to write about it a bit more on your sunny anime blog! DO IT NOW!! :)

    @okiru: Ah, you have refined taste! Thanks for commenting, I can’t add much more to that, but it’s nice to know there’s a couple more Nijuu Mensou No Musume fans out there!

    @issa-sa: Totally. I remember watching the first episode and not knowing what to expect… Eventually, I was won over by Chiko’s personality and her situation, even in that first episode, when she escapes with Twenty Faces in that Zeppelin; looking over her old city, knowing she was embarking on a new life, it just felt great. I could understand so much about her character just from that one scene.

    @Ten: Yeah, it’s the opening theme. The song is called “Kasumi” by “369 miroku”; I like it too, very heart-filled and introspective sounding music. Anyway, if you are going to watch it, please heed what I’ve said above and don’t give up after the first episode; I promise you it gets better. Also, if possible, blog it too; you know I’d love to read your thoughts on this.

  8. *SPOILER WARNING* A little late, but I just had to contribute my thoughts. I was probably one of the few viewers who were engaged from the get go. I loved the first episode to pieces, I think its because of Chiko, as you’ve stated, an endearing character that you’d love to be triumphant. Episode after episode the show grabbed me to the extent that I watched all subbed episode (7 total) in a sitting craving more as the relatively upbeat ending played out. Episode 6 of course gave me more than what I bargained for. I was in DoTF for the long run because of Chiko and her circumstances. Episode 6 blew me away with great fight scenes, amazing tense moments involving the untimely demise of 3/4 of the cast? Of course it takes guts to kill off that many characters in a story and this was done so swiftly, feels almost right. Anyways here hoping the show keeps up this high standard of entertainment during its run. (24? 26?)

  9. I don’t think this show is underrated – everyone I “know” (aka myself, my sister, and People On The Internet) loves it to bits. I just think it’s underwatched – if it had started at the beginning of April, rather than at the end, I think there’d be hordes of people on the Chiko bandwagon.

    Strangely, Chiko herself is probably the character that interests me the least in the show. She does kick several kinds of buttock, but she’s almost too obvious; there’s no depth to her aside from her myriad skills and her crush on Twenty Faces. In a show where everyone else (with the possible exception of Tome, the maid) has hidden motives and skewed moral compasses (Twenty Faces, after all, freely admits he wants to take over the world, and appears to have conducted illicit research into weapons of mass destruction, aside from the whole gentleman thief thing) I don’t find her a very “challenging” character. I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily, and it’s hardly something you can really criticise the show for, but I’m more interested in what’s going on around her (especially from episode 8) and t’other characters.

    Definitely the second best show of the season, though, after Kaiba. Always good to know we Brits have impeccable taste ;)

  10. Well, I thought I ought to watch at least the first two eps before disappearing for the weekend, and I have to say I’m impressed. Or at least smug in the knowledge that most viewers probably wouldn’t appreciate its merits as much as I did.

    The 1940s Film Noir feel (especially the music) appeals to me for one thing. There are a few minor points where I thought “this isn’t too realistic, is it?” but those are insignificant compared with equivalent Allison and Lillia Plot Holes that have yet to put me off that show.

    Ultimately though it was Chiko’s character who kept me watching. Bluwacky is right that her personality is not very well-developed but since she’s only young (and a sharp youngster at that) I think her character has more potential than any of them – she learns fast and I suspect she has a tragic past as well.

    As an aside, she reminds me a lot of Kino too, which probably explains why I find her to be so engaging!

  11. I admit there was a tendency to drop it after the first episode but I did not because despite not being flashy, the first episode was a decent flow of events. I liked how it sort of weaved a plausible feel for Chiko to take an interest in Twenty Faces and actually following him despite the fact that he was a stranger. But then again, I would take the risk if my uncle and aunt were trying to poison me.

    Most people might not ‘feel’ the worth of an anime until it becomes history (the series concludes) and the praises that it is given creates a mystical awe in them. Just like how we are not sensing history is in the making even as we speak until it has passed and told in classrooms or written in books. I think The Maiden of Twenty Faces is one of such kind of anime shows.

  12. I absolutely loved this show!! I’ve watched through episode 8 so far. I’ve been recommending it to one and all. It is definitely one of the best, if not THE best new show of 2008!!

  13. It’s certainly entertaining but I honestly find the execution terribly lacking. Admittedly I’m still in episode 6, but the writing flow feels pushed upon unlikely boundaries and the overall atmosphere suffers from the lack of crescendo. I really, really want to love it as the overall concept truly appeals to me… but they’re doing nothing to make it into something truly compelling.

  14. @LeBread: I know what you mean, there is something about it that’s rather ponderous, I found it quite charming, but I can see why others might be frustrated by an apparent lack of ‘crescendo’. I don’t know what to suggest, really, because if it isn’t working for you by episode six, I’m not sure if it will ever work for you…

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