Mayoiga has a significant problem between it and staying good, and it’s that everyone isn’t Lovepon. This may seem like a joke meant to further my virulent pro-Lovepon agenda and her insistence on executing everything that looks at her funny, but it is something that dramatically reduces the joy that I get from watching socially incapable idiots bumbling their way into solving a mystery. As Mayoiga shows them not only trying to be capable, but actually achieving capability, some of the magic is beginning to wear off. The characters are the show’s best feature, and it stepping away from the deranged interactions of the first couple of episodes to add to the plot isn’t doing it any favors.
When it comes to most narratives, there has to be some vein of competence running throughout in order to keep the story from degenerating into a horrid, coagulated mess. I fully admit that I may have gone into Mayoiga with expectations that proved different from what it actually tried to achieve, but the meticulous introduction in the first episode, and its focus on establishing its cast as a group of socially incapable sociopaths, painted a picture that’s nowhere near the Mayoiga that’s happening now. It established a Shion Sono-esque exploration of what happens when people are thrust into circumstances far beyond their control or comprehension, where the intrigue is more in how they survive as characters, and less in how they the actual events play out. By stepping away from that, Mayoiga’s appeal has soured for me.
The issue is that the majority of the show’s attention is paid to solving the mystery of why everyone is seeing and interacting with strange things, and imbuing the cast with some degree of ability in order to properly solve that mystery. Beyond giving the mysterious force outside the village fodder for its illusory horrors, the characters’ flaws and baggage rarely factor significantly into the goings on of the show, falling into the category of material that’s nice to know and is executed more or less competently, but has little broader impact on what the show as a whole is trying to achieve. It makes Mayoiga feel like a disjointed mess where the horror, which is competent if unremarkable by itself, is mitigated significantly by the show insisting on having a mystery to solve that’s neither interesting nor feels terrifically urgent, despite it claiming otherwise.
A big part of it is that the presence inhabiting the forest around the village isn’t explicitly malicious. Yes, it manifests its quarry’s worst insecurities in order to terrify them, but aside from off-screen disappearances it doesn’t seem to do much else. There’s no tangible threat to the being that stalks the outskirts of the village, making attempts to understand and circumvent it feel in service of jerking off the context that the writing gives, rather than making it fit in with efforts to truly deliver on something terrifying and unknowable. The competent, if unremarkable, horror that Mayoiga achieves with a little effort is unfortunately undone by its insistence on lending it vestigial bits of context that bloat the mystery with extraneous information, rather than streamlining it. Deciding to dedicate an entire half of an episode toward explaining that the being is called a nanaki, and has to be confronted in order to be evaded, certainly doesn’t help matters.
Unfortunately, the unbridled, psychopathic mentality of Lovepon doesn’t give Mayoiga enough legs to stand on. She’s a shining star of deplorable behavior and somebody with whom I would detest to share a vehicle with, yet her misdeeds and constant calls for execution are the essence of what makes Mayoiga work. She’s irrationality holding out against the squalid tides of the narrative, and it makes her far more interesting to watch than any of the other characters whose endearing quirks are compromised for the sake of an increasingly less compelling story.