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Kurenai Analysis & Review

Posted in anime, review with tags , , , on September 2, 2008 by daeyeth
Always make sure you're adequately fed before a final battle

Always make sure you're adequately fed before a final battle

“Kurenai” is a slice of life series with an action-anime ambition that aired in 2008. It’s about a young high schooler, Kurenai, who is working his first job as a bodyguard protecting a 7-year old, pampered girl. I didn’t have any expectations going into this series so I was pleasantly surprised by the first couple episodes. It had something that very very few anime try for: realistic conversations simulations (mouthful). That is to say, back-and-forths conversations between characters are fast-paced as to give you the illusion that you’re watching a real conversation as opposed to actors acting out a scene (ie. contrast Quentin Tarintino (Pulp Fiction) dialogue with a Michael Bay movie (Transformers)). This makes watching usual odd & awkward anime antics entertaining and engaging. Silly situations are genuinely amusing because of the real reactions and replies of the characters.

This attribute translates nicely into the characters. All of the main characters are considerably fleshed out and three-dimensional, transcending their archetypes and becoming real people. There’s nothing super unique about this anime (something that’s hard to pull off these days, I agree, as it seems everything and anything has been tried in anime) except for its depth and realism. However just that is enough to make a huge impact on Kurenai.

There’s a problem with having realistic characters and conversations however: it makes all the normal anime conventions stick badly out of context. The main character, Kurenai, has this super power. In the average contexts of anime, this super power wouldn’t normally be weird or out of place at all, yet it is. It’s not needed and it seems to have been added simply because they could, because the medium allows… no, expects the main character to have something like that. It adds nothing to the series and is nothing but a flimsy motivational addition to the main character. In a typical anime, this super power would be a focal point of the anime and since it’s not, you have to ask why is it there then? It seems clear to me that they were making a very obvious pull at action anime fans with some of their decisions.

"You know you're crazy right?"

"You know you're crazy right?"

Another out of context, but perfectly normal anime convention are the convictions of the antogonists. To put it plainly, they’re retarded and sick in their motivations. They need help. More on that later. The most irritating type of bad guy is the one who can’t comprehend how much of an asshole they are, the ones who think they’re right no matter what. At the end of Kurenai, the good guys square off against the bad guys in moral debate, which is a terrible decision. Don’t put a spotlight on how retarded these bad guys are, sweep it under the rug and just let the good guys win. The stuff that was coming out of the antogonists mouths left me screaming in frustration how insane these guys were yet they couldn’t see it themselves.

Haliriously, the good guys were thinking the same thing. The strong point of Kurenai comes to save the day, with the realistic protaganists providing logical counter-points to each ridiculous justification. Unfortunately, we get no satisfaction because the bad guys never give up a single point and can be summarized as, “No, you’re wrong and I’m right because this is the Kuhouin way.” Pretty annoying.

The character designs of Kurenai are crisp and modern, complimenting the realism of the series. The easiest way to tell how good the character designs are is by seeing if each character has a unique facial structure. In generic anime facial structures were completely interchangeable. For instance, to make someone look old, they’d simply add a couple lines on the cheeks and under the eyes. In Kurenai, the middle-aged bad guy is masterfully constructed with that beak-like nose and beady eyes. My first impressions of Murasaki, the little girl, were actually, “Eh? That design makes her look pretty old.” But actually it fits perfectly in the context of her character and how she always acts, or tries to, like an adult.

I don’t remember the music at all which shows memorable it was. As for the animation, pretty nice for the most part. Anime with complex character designs sometimes have trouble with animation but not Kurenai. Now, I said earlier how Kurenai has ambitions to be an action-anime and for the most part, the fight scenes are pretty good. They’re nothing special but they’re good enough as a vehicle to display the capabilities of a pretty good animation studio.

The bad thing about this ambition is that they don’t know how to pull it off. There’s no lead up, no anticipation to these battles. One minute they’re driving down the road and the next they’re doing a martial arts showdown (conveniently, no one brings weapons). The brilliance of action-anime is that they advertise their fights like it’s a world championship match, getting you eager and excited. In Kurenai, these fights just happen. It’s like if you saw the top two boxers in the world duke it out on the street, out of no where. You might be like, “Hey, neat”, but it would be missing that spectacle.

I need to bring something up. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to but now having finished the series, I can see that I do. There are very strong lolita romanticisms in the themes of the story. At first, I thought it was just a cute, little-sister, big-brother kind of thing. I was wrong. I’m going to skip over the bad guy’s part in this who’s telling the 7-year old kid that he’s going to marry her in the future and he’ll be gentle with her (seriously). But he’s a just a sad crazy who was raised to believe that stuff. That part is somewhat easier to take because it’s out in the open. What’s somewhat bothering is the undertones of the main character’s feelings that make you go, “Gettin a little creepy here.” The picture below will explain it for me. Overall though, the lolita thing isn’t a big deal until the end and they don’t actually cross the line (they just think about it).

This is in his dream... is that a wedding dress she's wearing?

His dream... is that a wedding dress she's wearing?

As far as the actual story goes, a bodyguard with a super power protecting a little girl from being the slave child-bride of a psychotic aristocratic family immune to the law, it’s as silly as any other anime so I won’t hold that against it. This goes for pretty much all of my complaints. They’re all standard anime conventions that are constantly seen. It’s only because Kurenai had the potential to rise above those conventions that I’m seemingly panning them. The first half of Kurenai, which was mostly slice of life, funny and awkward moments and conversations, I very very much enjoyed. I wish the whole series was that. A friend mine, when telling me to finish Kurenai, asked me, “Don’t you want to see how the story ends?!” Not really…I really could care less about the evil Kouhins and Kurenai’s quest to find himself after a series of losing battles. That stuff is the everyday bread n’ butter of anime that you can get from anywhere.

What I would rather just see is some more amusing, unique character interactions, excellently paced conversations, and developed, interesting characters, all the strong points of the series. Kurenai is a failure only in the respect that it let itself become like its peers (this says more about them than it does about Kurenai). But I definitely give them points for executing in the unique areas that they did.

Rating: B