Company: Brains Base
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 3 Apr 2008 – 19 Jun 2008
Synopsis: The Kuhouin family is one of the most powerful in the country, but the household is thrown into turmoil when their daughter, Murasaki, is kidnapped. In truth, Murasaki has been taken away by mercenary, Juuzawa Benika, at the request of Murasaki’s late birth-mother, Souju. Benika gives her subordinate, Kurenai Shinkurou, the responsibility of protecting Murasaki from the Kuhouin forces out to retrieve her, but Shinkurou also has his own conflicts to deal with.
Character analysis: Probing and even-handed.
Character interactions: Charming and highly entertaining.
Themes: A fascinating and well thought through take on a number of themes.
Episode 6: Suddenly, completely without warning… epic!
Pacing: Jarring towards the end; really should have been a few episodes longer.
Logic: Questionable in the latter episodes.
Matsuo Kou’s previous work was the disappointingly underappreciated Red Garden, defined by lengthy, probing character studies, an intense atmosphere conducive to its absorbing brand of drama and dialogue that was well written and passionately delivered. Kure-nai, to a large extent, fortunately proves that Red Garden wasn’t a fluke, with Matsuo driving his latest work with more insightful analysis, both of characters and society (and society through characters). The mood is largely serious but the strikingly believable character interactions make much of the first section of the series highly entertaining. The final arc is a bit of a let down, though, coming off as rushed and jarring in a few aspects, but what precedes it makes Kure-nai one of the more worthwhile titles in what has otherwise been a fairly barren year.
The initial set up largely follows Murasaki’s interactions with the outside world, which makes for a very interesting view of society from someone who is innocent of it. Murasaki is capable thanks to her strict upbringing, but acutely naïve, making her eyes the perfect lens through which Kure-nai can exhibit its themes. Much of Kure-nai is about the female, and her right to choose her place in society. Each of the women in Kure-nai’s largely female ensemble cast represent a philosophy and a level of embrace of the rights and responsibilities that accompany feminism in modern society. Tamaki is totally free, but seeks love without consequence in the wrong places, Yamie states she manipulates men, while Yayoi believes she can live without them. Yuno is the most effeminate character, but bears the responsibility of being born into a family of martial artists, while Murasaki’s mother, an embodiment of the series’ other major theme of freedom, lives a tragic and repressed existence purely because she was born female. All of these characters (as well as Shinkurou, obviously and Murasaki’s father) undergo varying levels of analysis which is markedly even-handed; the audience is respectfully asked to appreciate the characters, flaws and all, without being patronized with blatant pleas of sympathy.
Murasaki’s innocence makes much of the first part of the series incredibly entertaining (episode 6 has to be seen to be believed), but things get quite dark towards the latter part of the series. However, this is where the plot begins to unravel, with characters making questionable decisions at the plot’s convenience and many events coming off as jarring or rushed. The series goes from character-driven slice-of-life to the type of rescue-the-girl action thriller that I originally thought was beneath it. The resolution itself was fair in concept, since it did actually resolve the central conflict, but the lack of time rendered it too underdeveloped to be completely believable. I also would have liked to have seen the same type of character analysis afforded to the protagonists also given the Kuhouin household. The household is driven by a strict loyalty to tradition, but the underlying philosophies of these traditions are never explained, which puts them beyond scrutiny.
The animation style is full of motion, but lacks polish at times, and is generally unrefined. The music, however, is outstanding, and the seiyuu are impeccable, particularly Sawashiro Miyuki and Yuki Aoi as the two leads, Shinkurou and Murasaki. Overall, this is a very intelligent and insightful anime that unfortunately becomes rather flawed towards the end. The slice-of-life section still makes it well worth checking out, though.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun