Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kyoukai no Kanata – Review

Year: 2013
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
 Akihito Kanbara is a high school sophomore in the literature club who believes himself to be a "Meganest", and although he appears to be human, he is actually half Yōmu, which makes him invulnerable to wounds, due to the fact that he can heal so quickly, and also immortal. One day, Akihito meets freshman Mirai Kuriyama when it appears as if she is about to attempt suicide by jumping off of the school rooftop. Mirai is isolated because of her ability to manipulate blood, which is considered heresy even among other members of the underworld, so she is shunned. Soon after Akihito saves Mirai, disturbing events begin to arise."


Considering Kyoukai no Kanata is one of the only anime I stuck with this season through thick and thin, I almost feel myself inclined to review it in a positive light. In all honesty, it's an enjoyable show, but one with its fair share of problems that stem mostly from KyoAni's narcissistic tendencies. It's a very much a done-by-the-book series and has KyoAni motifs stamped all over it. I suppose having a recognizable style is both a gift and a curse. No question about it, KyoAni is one of a kind, but at the same time it seems to be trapped in and by its own habits. Kyoukai no Kanata can't seem to decide what type of story it wants to be. I think it's perfectly fine to try to embody many different elements all at once – and it is sometimes the formula to great success – but when it's done in a way that the elements compete for spotlight rather than complement one another, I find it hard to take the supposedly tear-jerking drama seriously.

The first half of the Kyoukai no Kanata is somewhat bland and keeps us drowning in rehashed plots. It's really not like we haven't been there before – a misfit saved from her loneliness by a nosy and kind to a fault guy with his own troubling secrets. The whole thing with Yui's sister is very contrived in my opinion. I really thought it's a thread that might go somewhere, but it turns into a half-baked attempt to add more weight to the character development. It does exactly what it promises and nothing more. Even then, it didn't do a particularly a good job at being emotionally involving. Now once the second arc kicks in, things do get more interesting. I suppose the second arc – that has everything to do with Kyoukai no Kanata – is really the meat of the story. At the centre of the brooding storm are Mirai and Akihito, who this time, stand in opposition for real. As Akihito's human consciousness dwindles and his youmu half starts to take over, the answer to a pivotal question that the series has evaded until now finally comes to the surface – Akihito is a vessel to the ominous youmu Kyoukai no Kanata. And Mirai seems to be determined to kill Akihito for the good of mankind (though I had every doubt she would actually commit herself to it). Yup, I definitely saw the self-sacrifice thing coming, though it would have been great if they left it at that. Mind you, the expository episode is rife with sentiments and beautifully executed. I found myself, for the first time since the beginning of the story, genuinely touched. But no, of course they had to revive her with no good justification at the last minute and single-handedly destroy the momentum the previous episodes built up for. Resurrection is a much abused plot twist, but I place Kyoukai no Kanata near the top for having one of the most inane development I have ever been assaulted with.

The characters are not memorable to say the least. Mirai is a stereotypical KyoAni heroine – klutz and bubbling with moeness. The rest of the cast are all flat in their own way and didn't get the limelight needed to develop into personalities I can relate to. The only antagonist is painfully weak and ineffective as a result of being constantly put to the back burner. To spare you the rant, let's just say I am not impressed. The catch phrase kind of stuck with me though as I find myself blurting it out in front of friends every now and then. Fuyukai desu indeed. The best part of the show is actually the filler episode featuring the vomiting/exploding youmu crisis. Man, it's so ridiculously perverse, but strangely entertaining. It reminds me why I'm in a love/hate relationship with the studio responsible for this mess.

As per usual, the designs are clean and crisp, and the animation is delicately smooth. Is KyoAni ever off-model? I don't think that's possible. But it would be interesting to see KyoAni experiment with a different style. I think the fixation on consistency works in favor of a studio like Ghibli where featured film is the main output. But it's a single-minded production mode and one that looses its freshness after getting repeatedly abused in TV series.

For all my complaints, big and small, I'm not condemning Kyoukai no Kanata to the dumpster by any means. It's an enjoyable show and one of the better ones of the Fall lineup. But it's problematic and a showcase of the studio's egocentric creativity.

Overall: 7/10

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