In a sickening, twisted way, Le Fruit de la Grisaia was my favorite anime of 2014. I know, I know, that statement will cause you to vomit blood. But while Le Fruit de la Grisaia is morally wrong and incredibly awfully written and generally painful, it was a lot of fun, to the extent a godawful thing can be fun. I didn’t want to look at it, yet I couldn’t bear to not watch it. It was like The Room, but with grenades and snipers.
Le Fruit de la Grisaia just escalated and escalated in… quality (?), for lack of a better term. Its commitment to cut the viewer with its edge was downright adorable more often than not, and ultimately, it was a lot of things, very few of them positive, but boring was not was of the things it was.
Did Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia deliver the same… uh… “quality” as Fruit? Oh yes. Oh hell yes it did.
I really, really admire Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia. It tries to paint Yuuji, resident jackass protagonist, as a sympathetic person by digging into his past. And it is shameless.
It’s one constant barrage of horrid childhood clichés, one after another, without much rhyme or reason behind them. With spoilers because fuck you, it starts off with child neglect so exaggerated it’s downright hilarious. There’s something about execution is that I can’t quite put my finger on why it cracks me up so hard.
Take, for example, a scene in which Yuuji is left with no recourse but to humidify a stale piece of bread because he’s forbidden from eating any actual food from the fridge. In any competent work, it would be a heartwrenching scene in which the audience is appalled. But it tries too hard to play with the audience’s heartstrings, as noticed by the overly melodramatic camera angles and voice work.
Tries too hard is probably a fitting description for that certain je ne sais quoi that makes Labyrinthe such a laugh riot. Child neglect and abuse are not by themselves hilarious, of course not. T’aint what it does, it’s the way it does it, to paraphrase the song.
It’s stuck in a juvenile mindset in which the mere act of child trauma is enough to make a character sympathetic. It’s not. There’s a difference between having a sympathetic backstory and actually being sympathetic, and oh Lord it fails at the latter. To qualify for the latter, you need an actual personality.
And here’s the thing; Yuuji is boring. He has no personality whatsoever and gets little to no development; his development from sweet child to child soldier is non-existent, as that’d require an initial personality.
He’s as likeable as a septic tank set on fire. And least septic tanks are useful.
None of this is helped by the atrocious, rushed pacing of the special. It’d be just bad if it were spread across a full cour; not “just” bad like Cross Ange is, as it’d likely still be a laugh riot. Condensing the story of a medium-length (20 hours, according to my sources) visual novel into a single 50 minute special has its own issues, not helped by the content of said visual novel.
It ends up… well, trying too hard too hard by throwing atrocity after atrocity, which it then proceeds to ruin with its pace and its bizarre fanservice. Its complete lack of udnerstanding of effective gravitas ends up making it look like a schlocky 70s exploitation film a là Ilsa or I Spit on Your Grave with added child molestation.
Everything from the OST, to the narration, to the direction is so utterly melodramatic it’s ends up at the other end of the comedy-drama scale. Hell, it’s so bad at executing tragedy it made extremely serious things like domestic abuse and attempted rape fucking hilarious. And yes, I died a little inside after the fact.
I really, really wanted to hate Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia. But I really can’t. It’s just too much of a trainwreck to not enjoy it inmensely, and I as hard as I tried to look away, I ultimately couldn’t. It’s bad, in that enjoyable so-bad-it’s-good way. Do watch this if you like laughing at bad things that at the same time make you feel bad for laughing at it.