This is review number two hundred and fifty two. This anime is part of the Fall 2013 lineup. I still have some Summer 2013 anime to finish up and some Spring 2013 anime to close but this is a new year and another step for this small site. First of all, let me direct you to the new page I set up called Review Poll. It’s a new experiment of mine where you vote which Fall 2013 anime I should review next. Sounds like fun, right? Drop by the page and cast your vote.
Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is Kyoukai no Kanata. I promised to watch Free last in the Summer lineup so I think it’s a good chance to watch a KyoAni anime first in the Fall lineup. This is a twelve episode anime about a girl that likes to stab people. It’s actually more deep than that but I think the surprise is actually figuring out the plot, if that makes any sense. So let’s read on.
Akihito Kanbara sees a girl trying to jump off the school ledge. He immediately runs up to the roof to save the girl. There, he gave a speech about how he loves girls with glasses in hopes of preventing the girl to jump off the ledge. Well, she didn’t. Instead, she draws her sword made from her blood then immediately stabbed Akihito in the heart. “How unpleasant” she then told him while still holding the sword in his chest. It turns out that Akihito is an immortal and this girl is actually a sprit hunter who instinctively drew out her sword after sensing the half youmu part of Akihito. Soon, this girl became interested in Akihito where a day doesn’t end without her stabbing the guy countless times.
Taking the Pants Off
I didn’t even dare touch KyoAni’s Summer 2013 entry so I think it’s only fair that I start the Fall 2013 lineup with their own release. Kyoukai no Kanata is a really ambitious work for KyoAni. The studio that thrives on the Slice of Life and the things that are generally easy took on a light novel about people fighting monsters. I’m a KyoAni fan. I don’t look like it because of how f*cked up my own personal taste is but I love their “moe” and I think they do the best cute girl doing cute anything out there. It’s their specialty and so they make sure anything they release have the things that they are accustomed to. Kyoukai no Kanata felt really interesting though because KyoAni took a big leap into embracing a genre they aren’t familiar with. If you’ve seen Chuunibyou then you clearly see the potential they have when it comes to fight scenes. They’ve been playing around with that idea and I think they finally grabbed the opportunity to release an action centered anime. Kyoukai no Kanata was a chance for KyoAni to expand. It was a chance for them to grow. It was a chance for them to really evolve into something more than that studio that gave us Azunyan GIFs. Something went awry though and I am actually a little bit angry at how this promising show didn’t feel as grand as I hoped it’d be. One thing was definitely clear: KyoAni was out of its comfort zone. An action centered story with a little bit of darkness seemed to be too big of a hurdle for KyoAni so they decided to spin the show the way they know how. This action centered anime is now filled with “moe”. It’s a safe play, actually. Why take the risk of alienating your fans when you have the best of both worlds? Playing it safe doesn’t it cut though and I think most faithful KyoAni fans felt disappointed by it.
If there’s one thing I know KyoAni do best, it’s adapting a source material so perfectly that you can expect a great anime experience from it. That’s why I hang on strong even though the first episode of the anime felt a bit disjointed. In fact, I think majority of the time you watch this show would be spent figuring what the hell the show is about. This show has a weird structure where you spent most of the anime figuring the status quo that the story is built upon. The show never properly establish it in the first few episodes and you will definitely feel a bit lost trying to understand the conversations and figuring out what a character’s role is. It’s one hell of a task and you might feel impatient that the show isn’t quite coming together after you reach the second half. It’s safe to say that the status doesn’t properly become whole after you’ve reached the last couple of episodes. It’s the main reason why the show felt weird but the presentation is still very much KyoAni. The appeal of the source material was given justice but in a KyoAni spin. There are also some things to focus on like the relationship of the two main characters so you can progress through the show with no problem except the nagging status quo.
Let me talk about the status quo of the show. First of all, the main character of the show is Akihito Kanbara. He is half human and half youmu. There are creatures in this world known as “youmu”. These are monsters born from the negative and dark emotions of human beings. Basically, if they gather together, you get a youmu. These things are everywhere and a lot of them want to do harm so they need to be eradicated. This job is given to Spirit World Warriors. These are humans that have some supernatural abilities themselves that can defeat a youmu. They are also the only ones that can see a youmu so it helps to bring them down without fuss. There are a lot of different kinds of youmu though. Some may look like monsters, others mean no harm. They’d even be peaceful enough to take human form and interact with humans without causing alarm. In fact, the youmu and the humans have maintained a healthy balance with the Spirit World Warriors only eliminating the ones that wants to destroy that balance. Akihito Kanbara is actually an enigma because he is the only known half human half youmu there is and everyone is interested in him. One of the most influential Spirit World Warrior families is actually keeping tabs on the boy. The Nase family is closely acquainted with Akihito and they’ve been making sure his half youmu side is kept in check. One day, Akihito meets an unusual Spirit World Warrior that triggers his love for bespectacled beauties. He meets Mirai Kuriyama a top the school building convincing her not to jump off the ledge. She didn’t but, after sensing Akihito was a youmu, she immediately stabbed him in the heart. He didn’t die though. One of the great things about being a youmu is that Akihito is now an immortal. Rather, he can regenerate scarily fast so a stab to the heart is nothing more than a scratch. Mirai is now intrigued though on Akihito’s immortality and so she spends the rest of her school year trying to kill Akihito by stabbing him countless times. Akihito is trying to get involved with Mirai as well but on a more personal level though and this catches the attention of the Nase family. Not only them, but the Spirit World Warriors Observation Department has entered the picture as well. They’re an organization focusing on collecting information about various things of the Spirit World. A half youmu boy and a girl from a cursed clan that was wiped off a long time ago seemed to be of interest for this organization as well.
The status quo might seem straight forward but the show seemed to have dismantled it then rebuild it into something harder to understand. It’s presented in a really confusing way that would only make sense after you’ve seen the entire show. It sounds redundant and a bit stupid but that’s how the show is structured. There’s actually a much clearer reason for the messy presentation but I’ll get on that later on. For now, think of it as an unveiling paper lantern where you focus on one thing, like the characters, then see the show unfold into something bigger and better. The style of presentation may not be for everyone but you got to admire KyoAni for being ambitious about it. To better understand the story as well, the show was divided into two notable arcs. The first arc is the “Hollow Shadow” arc. Okay, you’re trying to figure out the status quo and the show hits you with an arc in the very beginning. It was basically telling you which parts to focus on. The first arc is mostly about figuring out who the two main characters are and the general status quo up to this point. It’s that the world has youmus in it and people hunt them. As the show progresses, we learn more about the main character’s situation and how they help each other out. Mirai seems to have a dark past where she once killed someone and she now asks Akihito to stay away because she isn’t as ordinary as him that can laugh and be friendly with others. The Spirit World Warriors of the town was soon given an order to lay low because a huge and powerful youmu known as the Hollow Shadow is passing through town. It’s a monster so strong that no one can actually take it on so it’s best to just avoid it. Mirai is ready to draw her sword though because the Hollow Shadow is a part of her dark past she wants to eliminate. Akihito knows she has no chance and so he decides to go after her knowing full well that both of them may not come out alive.
I was honestly expecting for the entire anime to be clear towards the end of the first arc but I was really surprised when it wasn’t. While there is a progressing story, it wasn’t really established well and so you’re going into the first arc really unsure of where the anime is headed. I’m not sure if this was the complicated light novel being too hard adapt but I, for one, now one nagging problem about this show. It’s very much action centered and the dialogue of the show also feels a bit dramatic. It has a really beautiful presentation of humanity against supernatural elements that I’m sure worked great in the light novel. A girl trying her best to be normal yet bounded by her cursed blood and a guy trying to smile away his normal days knowing full well of the monster inside him is a damn good premise and a damn good start for KyoAni to venture into new territories. Except they didn’t. KyoAni played it safe and incorporated their brand of Slice of Life into the mix. Now, I don’t know the light novel and I’ve never read it so there might be a chance that there is comedy but KyoAni presents it in the same tone as, let’s say, K-On. The result is pretty off putting. In the first half alone, the show was trying its best to deliver “moe” by making Mirai a clumsy cute blob and making Akihito a straight man with the rest of the characters being the Comedy man. It tried to stuff as much fluff into the story as it can and it affected the overall plot. The first half featured an established status quo and a bunch of characters acting cute together despite the audience never fully grasping the extent of their relationship. You have characters spending time together in a f*cking club. Goddamn you, KyoAni. How many clubs will we see in your anime? Is it really such a fundamental element that you can’t let a show function without one? With a premise as strong as the one in Kyoukai no Kanata, I’m surprised that KyoAni didn’t just gave us a strong dose of cool looking fight scenes and a more serious show. It was a chance for them to grow. Instead, they’re adamant in adding fluff. It’s like someone from KyoAni said: “Look, we have to change our style a bit. I’m sure we can show our dedicated fans that we can still stay relevant by giving them a really charged up show!” but then someone said: “yeah, but I really love K-On. Look at this youtube video of Mio acting shy and tell me we need a drastic change in our style of presenting anime. People love cute things. We’re the studio that delivers cute things so should we really stop giving people Mio acting shy?” with the other person blushing in disgust and in complete agreement.
It was the cute things and the Slice of Life approach that really brought the show down. The story really needed a lot of time to grow and develop. If you took out crap about the armpit being warm, the bonsai things, the random perverted little sister and glasses moments and majority of the club stuff that didn’t do anything to the actual story then use all that time to assemble the plot then you would’ve made a much clearer show. The anime could’ve been a lot better if you take away those unnecessary fluffs. I’m really angry that KyoAni can’t see it. They can’t see that they drastically need change. I saw the tremendous potential of this story. It was gripping and the potential action scenes are really mind blowing considering that a high quality studio like KyoAni is making it. They couldn’t go out of the box though and decided to do things comfortable to them. The whole show just feels very disjointed. It’s frustrating. Makes you wonder if KyoAni can ever be more than a one trick moe pony.
Anyways, the second arc is about the youmu known as “Beyond the Boundary”. It appears that there is a lull coming into town which weakens a lot of youmu. This is a great thing for Spirit World Warriors because they can take down normally hard youmu as they stay in their weakened state. This spells trouble for Akihito though that is a half youmu, the only one of his kind. No one knows about the effect of the lull for someone like Akihito. This is of interest for the Nase family as they work out a way to help Akihito. It seems that a lot of people are interested with Akihito like the Spirit World Warriors Observation Department who took the lull as a great opportunity to act out their plan. It seems that everyone is worrying over Akihito for a very good reason. It appears that the youmu inside of Akihito is a special one. It’s so special that it would push the Nase family into playing dirty and making the SWWOD to go with their evil plan to disrupt the world. The youmu known as Beyond the Boundary is such a dangerous creature that it seems Akihito and Mirai’s relationship will be torn apart and a scheme that was set up for almost a year is about to hit a high point that could very well change their lives.
I love the buildup of the second arc because the anime has done tremendously well at pacing the show. I also love the payoff that comes with it. The status quo being completely clear with how each episode add more to the plot was a nice touch. The suspense just builds and you should also note the absence of the Slice of Life fluff that plagued the show. There is a clear and serious progression of the story with how it pertains to the Beyond the Boundary youma. Every character now had a clear role in the show instead of just providing us fluff. The duties of the Nase family, the internal conflict between the siblings, the dangers of the SWWOD and the guy pulling the strings and the relationship of the two main characters coming to a climax were all presented in the second arc and it was really great. It had a bumpy start but I think the show did right at the end. I’d reserve my feelings for the ending for a later time. The second arc though was very fulfilling and it featured the maturity of KyoAni in a very nice way once they shoved the fluff on the side.
This anime has one important plot point. I have to tell you that it’s very hard to write this review. For more clarity, I think discussing this plot point would be a great way to drag this review out. The first plot point is about the relationship of the two main characters. If you think back to Chuunibyou, I think the greatest thing about that show was the growing love story between the main characters. This anime is an action centered one but it fully focused on one important thing: the relationship of the two main characters. It’s very cute, actually. It has a nice puppy dog approach to it but it still feel very mature because of how complicated our characters are. Akihito is pretty bland and he actually resembles a blob of all the personalities of previous KyoAni main characters but the screwy progression of the show actually made him interesting. I seriously hate this character because he represents the constant trope recycling KyoAni is accustomed to. He has very little value outside his half youma identity but I think it’s enough. The way the anime tried to humanize him was a nice touch and his connection with Mirai is possibly the best thing about this show. Mirai isn’t that special of a character as well. She was the moeblob of the show and it’s a bit annoying how she relied on it too much. She’d be covered in blood and the show would still make her act cute. It’s really stupid and counterproductive for an action show. She shines as a character though when she sits next to Akihito and they just talk seriously about various stuff. It seems that she is actually a very distant person and Akihito is trying to explain to her that she doesn’t have to be. Still, Mirai has her reasons and Akihito is ready to pry her open and realize that she can still have a normal life. Her vulnerable moments were a nice touch because it felt sincere and it was a complete step up from the clumsy moe blob KyoAni wants her to be. Whenever these two come together and talk, you can tell something really great is about to happen. You can see their relationship grow and it’s a great element of the story especially since the two arcs revolve around this important plot point.
The rest of the characters are all one dimensional KyoAni tropes. If they aren’t acting cute then they’d just play a limited role in the arcs. The hardest characters to figure out are definitely the Nase family. I think they played a huge part in the story and there is an underlying subplot about them but the show didn’t feature it. The Nase family is like this secretive group with tremendous political power in the world. The big sister has a nice role of being this antagonistic woman that plans to uphold their family duties at all cost. She doesn’t do much in the show and it’s a shame because she was an unusual character. You spend majority of the show figuring out what her deal is and she just doesn’t do cute like the rest of the characters. The burden of the Nase family is really felt by this woman and I love how tough her character is in that regard. The other Nase characters belong in the literary club like Akihito. Mitsuki Nase is the typical black long haired girl you’d expect from KyoAni. She doesn’t do much and the show tried to make her feel relevant but if the presentation of the status quo was straight forward then you’d realize that her only role was to suck a lollipop. I guess she was a connection of Akihito in the youma world. She would tell him of things most people wouldn’t know but her value ends there. The only other thing she’s good at is being cute. Hiroomi Nase is Mitsuki’s big brother. He is a cool character because he is a strong Spirit World Warrior and he shares some important duties as a Nase family member. He is mostly defined by his stupid little sister fetish and he often exchanges perverted lines with Akihito then the two would just be stupid for the rest of the day. As long as you focus on the youma side of the story then I’m sure you’ll enjoy how the characters play a part in the story.
If there is one character worth mentioning, it’d be the first antagonist in a KyoAni anime ever. I’m kidding. He’s actually the only notable one in over a decade. That’s how much Slice of Life fluff the studio has created wherein no villain can ever materialize. There is one now in Miroku Fujima. He is the guy from the SWWOD that wants to bring down the Nase family because they just proved to be too problematic for the Observation Department. He doesn’t have much of a role until the second arc but I still love how one sided he is. He smirks like a villain and conjures up plans like a villain. He has a small participation in the show which does suck but I still think he made every moment worthwhile. His presence was always antagonistic and he was a bad guy till the very end. The very first villain in a KyoAni anime in over a decade isn’t that memorable but I think you can still make a case for the studio fully embracing antagonistic characters if they let one in in their previously released show.
This was a decent show. It could’ve been great though. I think KyoAni just slowly need to find its footing and then take on another action centered story without adding their moe style into it. I’m okay with the K-On character designs but I think this show would’ve been more memorable if KyoAni just relied on their high quality animation with the fight scenes and just let loose. It’s a shame they don’t trust their fans to appreciate that so they played the whole thing safe. Well I hope they’re satisfied with this because it’s a clear sign that they don’t want to better themselves. Oh well, till the next disappointing anime, KyoAni. As a longtime fan who appreciated the effort of Nichijou and the one hundred plus voice actors that was slipped in the show, loved and hated the endless eight crap, cried with the rest of the world when that girl from Clannad died and rode the hype of Free, I’m very disappointed at the efforts given to Kyoukai no Kanata.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty decent. It doesn’t stray far from the usual KyoAni design. We have very cute girls and very cute guys in this show. This is actually one thing you can expect KyoAni to not mess up. Of course, you are first drawn in by the cuteness of a character. You’ll notice the typical face shape of a KyoAni character that goes a bit round and then it’s completed by those moe eyes that give them life. These are very tiny and round eyes that give compliment to the pretty faces of the characters. It’s then given more appeal by the hair. Every character has lovely hair and I am quite fond of the typical long silky black hair character the studio likes to recycle. The way the hair behaves as it slides of the head is really something KyoAni does best. As the hair gently lands on the body, you’ll notice the great detail work on the characters. The outfit and the various designs added really make a character more attractive. I like Mirai’s design. The short bouncy hair coupled by those thick glasses is a nice touch but it’s even better when you add in that pink sweater and that panty hose that gives emphasis to her dainty knees. Male characters have a pretty simple design. It’s not as flashy as the female characters of the show. They have the typical manly built but there aren’t much details on them. The uniform look for Akihito look pretty plain and Hiroomi doesn’t really stand out design wise except for that cute scarf he has on. They still look cute, for what it’s worth, I guess.
The youmu are all nicely designed though. The monster designs are pretty amazing. There was a wild imagination when it comes to designing these creatures and I love how there is a wide range for them. From small little creatures made of bandage to big ones that resemble large animals. I also love menacing the Hollow Shadow looks despite being described as a formless monster. They aren’t focused much but the detail work is still pretty outstanding. I also love human transforming youmus. When they are in youmu form, they actually look pretty great. Their human forms are much like the rest of the characters.
Animation is pretty outstanding. You can never take that away from KyoAni. They know how to do amazing animation and I think you can always rely on them to deliver that. The fight scenes in the anime are really amazingly conceived. I remember one fight where Mirai was dancing around with her sword fighting off a youmu. She was spinning around and the youmu was dodging her every move in a high quality fight scene that is topped off with a setting of falling cherry blossoms dancing around them while the fight is going on. It’s that kind of amazing detail work that makes KyoAni amazing and almost every fight scene has this orgasmic sequence. The camera angles are free flowing and the use of effects are smart. It really enhances the anime experience when you’re watching such an amazing piece of animation from a studio that knows how to do great animation. Normal scenes are also nicely animated. The small mannerisms of a character are nicely incorporated in the normal scenes and it does enhance them. The facial expressions are nicely animated and every slither of cuteness was really given precise detail work in the anime. As much as I hate those cute fluff scenes, you can’t deny that they are still given high quality animation.
The anime’s OP is “Kyoukai no Kanata” by Minori Chihara. This is a really charming song. Minori’s voice made it special by making the odd pacing of the song oddly mesmerizing with her voice. She hits the high notes impressively and she gives the song a solemn personality that compliments the honest lyrics of the song. It’s about two lovers holding onto hope as they try and be together. It’s a cute song that nic1ly represents the main core of the anime. The OP sequence features Mirai riding a train and a whole lot of scenery porn as a small montage introducing the characters and a few tidbits of the events of the anime is presented. It’s a nice flashy OP that does give off a sense of awesomeness the actual show sadly does not nail down.
The anime’s ED is “Daisy” by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION. I think this is my favorite part of the show. This song is so cool that it’s really hard not to like it. Stereo Dive Foundation is the sound making project of singer R-O-N. I don’t know what that means but I really love the song. It has a nice beat and it sounds a bit techno with some instrumentals to balance it out. The song is about re-doing mistakes and giving love another try. It’s ambiguous at best though but I think the appeal is still there. The singer has a really cool voic1 and it hits a pretty impressive chorus that I can’t get out of my mind. The ED sequence features Mirai holding out her hand while bunch of Daisies fly through the air and a dove fly above her that seems symbolic at best. It ends with Mirai holding out her hand to Akihito on the other side of the screen.
5/10 “This show is a clear sign of KyoAni’s maturity and also a clear sign of their inability to grow.”
It’s a decent show. The status quo might trip some people up but as long as you focus on the one important plot point of the show then you’ll be alright. I know a lot of people don’t like this show and I don’t blame them. This doesn’t feel like a KyoAni show but I think it still had value beyond that. The arcs are nicely handled and the relationship of the two main characters is a great element of the show. If you enjoy high quality action scenes then you might enjoy the one in this show. If you like those cute blossoming love stories then you’ll enjoy the one in this show. If you like cute fluff KyoAni is known for then there might be something here for you. This show could’ve been better though and I stand by that statement.