The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Kurau – Phantom Memory

Title: Kurau – Phantom Memory
Genre: Drama
Company: BONES
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 25 Jun 2004 – 16 Dec 2004

Synopsis: Ever since an accident during one of her father’s experiments with the revolutionary Rynax energy source, the young woman Kurau has had strange superpowers. She makes a living as a free agent for the GPO, a special police force. One day, she hears a voice within her, and some time later, a young girl emerges from her body. She calls the girl Christmas and treats her like a younger sister. But from that day on, strange events start happening around the Rynax power plants. Could the girl’s appearance have something to do with Kurau’s accident as a child?

The Highlights
Mood: Warm and positive depiction of human relationships.
Artwork: Realistic and good.
Theme: Deals appropriately with serious emotions.
Plot: Too many acts of convenient idiocy.
Music: Boring opening theme.
Ending: Final eight episodes too seperated from the rest of the series.

One of the “sleeper titles” of 2004, Kurau didn’t receive much attention within the anime community and the Japanese media – which is a pity as this medium-length series actually has quite a few pleasant surprises in store for its viewers. What starts as your stereotypical superhero anime quicky becomes something entirely different – a story about love, loss and sacrifice where the action takes a break for great drama.

Most of all, Kurau is a story about human relationships. Kurau and Christmas represent soulmates, but many of the side characters are also examples of how people live together. There’s Kurau’s fellow agent Doug and his son, there’s GPO officer Ayaka Steiger who tries to live up to her father’s legacy, and there are the many people Kurau and Christmas meet, most of which also have a few thoughts to share on what they mean to one another. In general, the series explores the many ways in which people live together, and it does so in a warm and beautifully positive way. There are many “feelgood moments” for those of you who like them.

Fortunately, the series does not overy dwell on warm and fuzzy feelings without also showing the downsides of human relations, mostly how people have to struggle when dealing with loss of their partners. Kurau does not make light of these feelings and doesn’t try to give cheap solutions to them but offers some insight into how people might find a way of getting over their grief. With surprisingly little melodrama, this is another well executed part of the series.

The artwork is rather realistic and very neatly drawn, with CGI blending well into traditional animation and impressive light effects. The animation is quite nice most of the times, which is, unfortunately, something that cannot be said for the music. The opening theme in particular is a boring J-pop hum with hardly any appeal, and most other songs and themes, including the ending, are mediocre at best. Only rarely is the mood underlined well by the score.

Also, while the main plot stays interesting for most of the 24 episodes, there are way too many situations in which certain characters (in general Christmas) act like total jerks just for the sake of suspense. For example, whenever Kurau tells Christmas to stay behind while she deals with a dangerous situation (and she tells her that many times), the girl will do as she says for about five minutes… and then worry about Kurau’s safety and come after her, which promptly leads to her getting into peril and Kurau having to rescue her. This repeats so often that I have sometimes wished Kurau would just knock Christmas out so that she stops making trouble.

The last eight episodes are also a bit of a drag. While until that point the story progresses rather smoothly, it starts losing grip and pacing after a major break in the plotline, and then new characters are introduced so rapidly that it feels almost like a “monster of the week” concept. Also, there is suddenly a “responsible evil person” at the center of the plot who was rarely ever mentioned during the rest of the series. While the final episode clears everything up nicely and the ending in general is good and fitting for the main storyline, the last episodes are just sub-par.

All in all, Kurau is a rather good series about the depths of human relations and combines some action with lots of drama to tell its tale of two people who deeply love one another. It has its downsides, especially where it tries to be suspenseful instead of dramatic, but most of the time, it manages to entertain. If you’ve already watched all the blockbusters of late 2004, give this one a try.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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