Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 7 Oct 2008 – 23 Dec 2008
Synopsis: In 12th-century Japan, a man named Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Kurou) is being ruthlessly pursued in the mountains by vicious warriors after losing to his brother Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the country. He later met and fell in love with a beautiful, enigmatic woman named Kuromitsu who has a deep, dark secret: she is unable to die. Kurou continues to love her even after finding out about her secret, but never would he expect the dire consequences of loving someone who is being hunted down by an unknown force to unlock the secret behind her immortality.
Action: Heart-stopping, raw, and in-your-face; purely breathtaking.
Characters: Focuses only on Kurou and Kuromitsu; side characters are mere puppets to the story.
Characterization: Ironically, as expressive as corpses.
Concept: Two stereotypical themes that merge into something unique.
I tend to favor anime produced by Madhouse, I really do. After producing a long line of exceptional series such as Kaiba for one and the ongoing Casshern Sins which looks to be the dark horse of 2008/2009, it’s only naturally for me to take up Kurozuka and see what Madhouse has to offer this time. Eventually, there are some expectations that Madhouse manages to live up to, but not all of them have been met desirably.
Apparently – and perhaps ironically – blood is the main motif of Kurozuka, and the amount of bloodshed one can expect throughout the series is evident right from episode one. The copious amount of bloodshed is not only for gratuitous reasons – at least not all the time – because it serves as an important manifestation of how much an individual is willing to sacrifice to achieve something he yearns for, be it eternal love or oppressive greed. Furthermore, the bloodshed does not come without an abundance of sleek action sequences and exhilarating fight scenes. Madhouse excels once again in emphasizing fluid animation, vivid artwork and even some wicked techno music to pump up the adrenaline rush during the action sequences. Be sure to expect lots of gushing blood, screams of pain and grisly scenes of torture.
Another aspect about Kurozuka is that it has a unique edge over other action series by blending two very distant themes: the fictional Japanese history and the neo-apocalyptic cyberpunk. Both these concepts are somewhat clichéd, but their fusion results in something new and delightfully entertaining to watch. This also enhances the bittersweet sentiments shared in the eternal love between Kurou and Kuromitsu which remains unwavered in contrast to the drastic transformation of the world.
Kurozuka though does not come without its flaws. The characters are a mixed bag, with the focus almost solely on the protagonist Kurou and his immortal love Kuromitsu. Both outshine the side characters which deserve some attention. The unbalanced focus results in underdeveloped characters which ultimately serve as mere puppets to the plot, and worse, they are disposed of conveniently once they’ve played their part. The only exception was Karuta, whose past is only sparingly revealed. Additionally, the characters are generally shallow and their expressions – as blunt as it sounds – are comparable to that of corpses (ironically, the series does have plenty of dead bodies). This is especially so for Kurou, whose mechanical nature during combat and impassive behavior strangely reminds me of Setsuna from Gundam 00 (both are voiced by the same seiyuu).
Kurozuka is an action series with an intriguing plot development, lots of gritty action sequences and depthless characters. Madhouse has done extremely well in the action scenes but has disappointed in adding complexities and emotional developments to its characters. Nevertheless, this series is worth watching for its concept of eternal love and sheer entertainment. Unless one is squeamish of grisly scenes of agony and pools of blood, then by all means, watch it if one wishes to be entertained.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: AC