Key Volume 3 Cover

Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the Key the Metal Idol OST so I won’t be able to review the soundtrack.  Instead I’ll be looking at the distinctive style used by Hiroaki Sato to stage the episodes.

I was just over there a second ago…

So far the hardest part of writing the synopses has been dealing with the scene cuts.  Hiroaki Sato uses a lot of scene cuts to jump between locations, and times [1].

The cuts in the tags are especially prone to time jumping, occasionally across episodes.  This has made the tags effective for setting the tone of each episode, but do stray into Never Trust A Trailer territory.  Some of the tags contain scenes that don’t appear anywhere else so you have to pay attention to these as you never know what might be important.

The cuts in the main body of the episodes tend to be more location changes to show simultaneous events in multiple locations. This creates a sense that no character is in control of events [2], that there is something happening just over there that is about to derail their plans [3].  The most interesting aspect of this is that it rains on the just and the unjust alike: it has either happened to every character, or is about to.

There are however exceptions, and sometimes it is hard to pin down the relative timing of events. The flashbacks and nightmares of SAVE are fairly challenging to work through.

The cuts also tend to come faster, and stay in scene for shorter periods, towards the end of each episode. Generally though once the lead in to the end credit music starts there won’t be another cut until the credits start.  I’ve found that this approach is quite effective at heightening tension as the episode is ending: always leave them wanting more.

What? Speak Up! I can’t hear you!

One subtle, but possibly overused, aspect of the staging is the absence of sound in key scenes.  There are a number of scenes where the meaning is obscured by suppressing the sound.  Sometimes dialogue is missing, sometimes all sound is cut.  This leaves a lot open to interpretation and guesswork, although on some occasions what is being suppressed can be fairly obvious.

It isn’t something I remember from previous viewings, but this has been leaping out at me in the detailed reviews as an effective technique.

Does my hair look brown in this?

One striking visual technique is to show Key’s hair, and possibly eye, colour changing when her emotions kick past the block on her powers. The Volume 3 cover shown above shows this quite well.

What the cover doesn’t show is the borderline cases where the viewer isn’t entirely sure that it is happening, nor does it show that it isn’t always clear if the change is visible to onlookers.  This is another area where Key is visually subtle, and challenging to work out what is going on.

It is also important to note that for most part Key the Metal Idol generally averts the You Gotta Have Blue Hair trope: most characters have brown or black hair so that Key’s default shade stands out as unusual.  This reinforces the sense of the alien, or the other, in Key.


Overall Key the Metal Idol has quite a distinct visual style, and one that works well to support the story.  The style adds to the mystery, or ambiguity, where necessary and is a strong part of the show’s appeal.

Day 1 – START UP
Day 2 – CURSOR I
Day 4 – Sub vs Dub?
Day 5 – ACCESS
Day 6 – SCROLL I
Day 8 – The extra bits
Day 9 – RUN
Day 10 – GOTO
Day 11 – RETURN
Day 12 – Gender and Key the Metal Idol
Day 13 – BUG
Day 14 – SAVE
Day 15 – VIRUS I
Day 16 – Staging Key the Metal Idol
Day 17 – VIRUS II
Day 18 – SYSTEM
Day 19 – EXIT
Day 20 – Looking Back at Key the Metal Idol

[1] This is why Twenty Days of Baccano! is NOT going to happen. Ever.  Should I ever show any indication of weakening on this front, kindly slap me upside the head until I come to my senses.

[2] Tomoyo usually looks like he’s in control but he has been blindsided a couple of times.

[3] Which becomes even more interesting given my speculations that Key’s powers may be subconsciously controlling, or at least influencing, everything.