Twilight Out of Focus Episode 1: Lights, Camera…



Studio DEEN and BL seem to go together like slightly burnt toast and butter lately, and Twilight out of Focus episode 1 is a solid example of that. A melodramatic love story masked by a slow burning movie production is just the kind of romance to be exciting these days, and I would say that I enjoyed the first episode- but that’s not without its caveats. It’s hard to say that it doesn’t struggle in a few areas, but it’s also hard to write Twilight Out of Focus off with just its first episode. With that in mind, I’d love to walk through my experience with this first episode, and where I think it might be able to go in terms of potential.

Well, we might as well get the bad out of the way, huh. For the most part, Twilight Out of Focus episode 1 exposes a lot of DEEN’s weaker points- mostly animation, in this case. It’s pretty stiff, and struggles to make much of any movement appear in the episode. Alongside that, series director Toshinori Watanabe boarded the first episode and… they do okay. If you go moment by moment, it can either be surprisingly good, or painfully bad. One moment you’ll be getting translation after translation to fill a scene where the only moving objects are mouths and eyes, but then the next you’ll get refreshingly creative layouts that rekindle your interest and engagement in the episode. It makes for a very choppy viewing experience, but at the minimum proves that Twilight Out of Focus has it in it to be a good watch- it just depends on who’s behind the episodes.

For now though, that’s about all the complaints I can muster. From a visual perspective, the character designs, color design, and photographic direction is delightfully strong. The trio of Youko Kikuchi, Yui Azumi, and Asahiko Koshiyama are certainly prepared to put this production on their back, and I do have to commend them for that. Kikuchi’s designs opt for the extreme of detail and appeal- a smart choice considering DEEN’s limited animation resources. Then there’s Azumi’s color design which really sets apart the series at a glance. It’s not the typical highly saturated and bright colors you tend to see, instead opting for a more flat and harsh look that plays very nicely off of Koshiyama’s strong composition. Put it all together, and you get some really nice stills from the episode.

That should be enough about visuals though, as I’ve made my point. They certainly struggle here and there, but they have the potential to really bring out the most in this story. Speaking of that, the contents of Twilight Out of Focus episode 1 are pretty straightforward when compared to the synopsis. It sets up Hisashi as a distant but caring roommate that Mao’s comfortable with behind closed doors, but their relationship changes when brought in front of the camera. Surprisingly, Watanabe does an effective job at conveying that visually- using things like a blank script to represent the future, successfully linking Mao’s inability to lie to the camera, and so on and so forth. It’s a lot of groundwork that examines the pair’s pasts while it sets the stage for the future. It’s far from overbearing, but equally distant from being fluff or “simply an introduction”.

I think my favorite piece of development out of this first episode though is Hisashi’s character, really. It’s a bit of an odd thing to say, but the pathetic and sorrowful nature they’re able to display without tipping into “boyfailure” is really great. It gives Hisashi a great deal of weakness that just beckons to Mao in the most tantalizing way. In contrast though, Mao is a bit more of a blank slate, struggling with finding where he wants to go. Within context however, it does make sense. The blank slate of the future doesn’t just mean anything can happen- it also means that nothing has been set in stone yet.

So with all that said (even though I didn’t say much), Twilight Out of Focus episode 1 promotes a “wait and find out strategy” for would-be viewers. The potential exists, and has been expressed, but some clouds hang overtop of this project. There’s potential for it to succeed, but there’s also the chance that it struggles more consistently with its delivery in the future. Considering the fact that we have the manga in English, this is probably an anime I wouldn’t rush to check out if you’re not intensely curious in the first place.

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