Kyoukai no Kanata – 06

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In order to afford her expensive bonsai habit, Mirai vows to defeat a nonviolent plant-type youmu on the roof of the school for the 500,000-yen bounty, but it releases a torrent of horrid-smelling liquid that soaks her and Akihito. He tells her the youmu likes girls, so Mirai dresses up to distract it so Mitsuki can take it out; the plan fails, and Mitsuki is drenched in even more powerful stink, which won’t go away until the youmu is defeated. Hiromi says the youmu also likes singing and dancing, but the first attempt fails because Mirai can’t sing, drenching Hiromi. After a week of training with AI, the group puts on a idol performance that has the youmu fully enthralled  but didn’t decide who would deliver the decisive blow, and it douses everyone once more.

A curious cold open, in which idol outfits lie on the floor covered in yellow liquid, and Mitsuki furiously pumps an empty shampoo dispenser, is the harbinger for perhaps the funniest, most inventive, and most satisfying episode of Kyoukai no Kanata yet; one that helps the show take one more step out of the shadows of its KyoAni forebears. It’s the story of a fiasco that starts out as seemingly easy way to make big bucks, but things snowball out of control quickly as this youmu Just. Won’t. Go. Down.The gang jumps from one plan to the next, Wile. E. Coyote-style, learning a little bit from their mistakes each time, but following them up with new ones each time. The episode was also most impressive in that it somehow managed to integrate not only fanservice but a friggin’ idol concert into the episode by making those elements crucial to capturing the youmu and therefore relevant to the story. Yes, there are times when the characters act a little bit too dumb or short-sighted, but the episode knows this as well as we do.

In fact, it revels in it, as things go from bad to worse, despite the gang exerting more and more energy each go-around. Perhaps most hilariously preposterous is the group’s ability to put on a perfectly polished (and beautifully-animated) idol performance in just one week, and turning Mirai’s tin pipes to gold. Again, the episode is quite aware how ridiculous this all is and milks it for all it’s worth – even juxtaposing scenes of the concert with scenes of the torrid week spent training for it, making it seem like far more than a week had passed, and with it, an epic amount of trials and strife. The youmu itself is suitably freaky-looking and confounding. Best of all, it isn’t defeated by the end of the episode; we end up back at the beginning, with Mitsuki pumping that empty shampoo bottle, because she’s already had a hundred showers and used it all, to no avail. The fourth episode showed us this show’s dramatic potential; this episode just as ably demonstrated its comedic chops.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Mirai has a surprisingly frank, casual discussion with Akihito about her underwear before remembering who she’s talking to, then whining on her blog.
  • “Shocking Pink” is the episode’s title, which refers to the pink discharge the youmu shoots at Mitsuki, as well as Mirai’s pink honeypot outfit.
  • Everyone in gas masks around Mitsuki seems like overkill against the stink, until Hiromi comes in without one and after a momentary flash of poise, becomes violently ill. 
  • Mitsuki as a bubble girl: another great sight gag.
  • Just wanted to reiterate, too-perfect concert inter-cut with the over-the-top training scenery was just brilliant stuff.
  • On that note, the fact that everyone practiced so hard they all forgot someone had to actually capture the thing.
  • Remember…all this was to make enough money so Mirai could tend to her pricey bonsai and afford to eat – a very random but awesome cause.
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Kyoukai no Kanata – 04

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Mirai and Akihito remain trapped within a mental labyrinth of the Hollow Shadow’s making as Sakura continues to chase them. Among the illusions is a massive effigy of Yui, but with Akihito’s imploring Mirai destroys it, revealing the shadow’s main body, which she also destroys. They return to the real world, and Sakura withdraws.

The final form of the shadow possesses Akihito. Mirai is forced to stab him, drawing out the shadow, which she finally destroys, but the damage done to Akihito’s body awakens the extremely powerful youmu side, which Hiromi, Ayaka and Shizuku struggle to neutralize. Mirai jumps on Akihito, and he returns to human form.

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This was a properly epic episode, which had a little bit of everything: a chase through a weird, surreal dreamworld that exploits insecurities; a murderous vendetta; a big, multi-layered boss battle; a surprise setback; and most importantly, Mirai’s realization that yes, Akihito knows exactly what the fuck she’s going through. If anything, he has it worse! Like Monogatari’s Koyomi, Akihito is far easier to take seriously once we’ve seen exactly what he is and what he’s capable of, besides healing quickly.

By showing some of the more powerful characters in the series barely hold him at bay is telling of the danger he poses when his human body is in peril. Now Mirai gets it: Akihito, like her, bears a terrible curse that constantly reminds him he can never rest easy in his life…but that doesn’t mean he won’t live it. In the crucible of fire and blood, Mirai and Akihito’s friendship deepens. In a way, these two are a perfect match. All they need to do is control their powers so everyone else isn’t forced to eliminate them!

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Two characters who leave just as soon as they’re introduced: Sakura and that Fujima dude.
  • Mitsuki, Hiromi and such may not have wanted Akihito anywhere near Mirai, but you have to admit, things would not have gone so well had they not been together.
  • Mitsuki and Hiromi’s sister Izumi is scary powerful, at least with defensive barriers.
  • Izumi is also a damned thief, stealing the crystal the hollow shadow dropped!

Kyoukai no Kanata – 03

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When the “Hollow Shadow” – a massive, storm-like, amorphous dreamshade (youmu) approaches the town, Mirai is resolved to fight it, while continuing shun Akihito. Through Mitsuki and later Mirai herself, Akihito learns that she was adopted by the Inami family of spirit hunters, but when the Hollow Shadow possessed their oldest daughter Yui, Mirai’s only friend, Mirai panicked and killed her. Yui’s younger sister Sakura ambushes Mirai; and they’re both absorbed in the Hollow Shadow. Sakura is about to kill Mirai when Akihito appears and breaks up the fight.

When Akihito delivers to Mirai a 10,000-yen bounty for the youmu she cornered (Mitsuki finished it off with her pet squirrely thing), Mirai verbally refuses the cash, but contradictorily holds her hands out to take it. Akihito notes that her words don’t match her actions at all. This is one reason why he ultimately ignores her warnings to stay away from her and out of her affairs, to the point where she’ll even stop hunting him. The other reason is, without knowing it, she’s put a spell on him. Not literally, no, but he cares about her and doesn’t want her to throw away her life.

When the ominous Hollow Shadow arrives in town, it’s treated as a force of nature like a hurricane; something to weather out, not take on directly. Mirai disagrees; she killed her only friend attempting to fight it, and in addition to not wanting that death to be in vain, she wants to atone, at the cost of her own life if necessary. It’s good then that Akihito decided not to listen to her words. Considering how quickly Sakura almost defeats her, Mirai probably would not have lasted long against the Big Black Cloud of Malice. Not that we expect her to be grateful for his heroics.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Fujima Miroku, an interrogation officer from the Spirit Hunters’ Observation Department, shows up due to the Hollow Shadow…but he doesn’t do much. That’ll probably change.
  • The Nases keep a real youmu embedded in the wall. Makes a great conversation piece at dinner parties!
  • We like how the Shadow not only turns the night sky purple, but also causes the propagation of all manner of lesser youmu all over town.
  • Sakura’s gun-spear (complete with built-in chainsaw) is an awesome weapon, and her blood-splattery battle with Mirai is quite exciting.

Kyoukai no Kanata – 02

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When the dreamshade escapes, Mirai chases it all over the neighborhood as Akihito follows. She finally defeats it after great exertion, and it turns into a jewel-encrusted rock. Akihito invites her to join the literature club, but she declines. The next day he takes her to an appraiser for the rock, but she isn’t home, so he introduces her to Shindou Ai, a dreamshade with human form. Akihito asks around for information on the shade Mirai fought, including his senpai Nase Hiromi, but no one has answers for him until he listens to a “thought letter” from his mother that the appraiser, Shindou Ayaka, decodes. Ayaka also gives Mirai 1000 yen for her rock. Mirai treats Akihito to dinner, but then announces they can no longer associate, because she killed someone in the past.

Ah, the episode which confirms that despite any concrete perverted or debauched behavior on the part of Akihito, he’s still going to be insulted and ridiculed on a regular basis by virtually every female in the show. Seriously, there was a point at which you gotta say “lay off the guy already!” Sure, it may only be affectionate ribbing, but a sizable chunk of the dialogue is given over to this kind of banter, and in addition to being a shade (no pun intended)…overweening. If you’re going to put a full court press of verbal abuse on the male lead, at least make him deserve it. As it is, Mitsuki and Mirai chide him for stuff he doesn’t even say or do. Of course, if the point of all of this is to make us sympathize with an otherwise smug Akihito, it succeeds to a degree – as does the revelation that he has a very bizarre mom.

This week he sees Mirai in full-on Spirit Hunter Mode (the battle is intense, but not quite on the same level as Chu2Koi when it was firing on all cylinders). He merely observes and doesn’t assist. We learn he’s made a deal with his weird senpai not to “stick his nose where it doesn’t belong” in exchange for being left alone. Having to sit on the sidelines while people may get hurt when you have the power to intervene doesn’t sound quite like the “fun life” Mirai says she can’t allow herself to have. We’re not going to pre-judge her situation, but in most cases like this (and having watched plenty of Railgun) isolating oneself from everyone else only makes one weaker. Then again, after killing someone, maybe Mirai doesn’t want to be stronger.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Kyoukai no Kanata – 01

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Kanbara Akihito is an immortal half-human, half-dreamshade and member of the literature club along with his friend Nase Mitsuki. He meets the spirit hunter Kuriyama Mirai, the last of her clan, who starts regularly stabbing him with her blood sword because she fears killing, even a nightshades. Mitsuki warns Akihito (on behalf of the Nase clan) to stay away from Mirai, but he refuses. Finally he learns her apartment is haunted by a nightshade. He accompanies her there, and they draw it out, beginning her first true battle as a spirit hunter.

This show was rich with detail and very beautifully made, as all KyoAni series tend to be, but thematic and aesthetic similarities to Haruhi, Hyouka, Chu2Koi, and Free! were everywhere. Akihito resembles Nagisa, while Mitsuki looks kinda like Chitanda but acts like Ibara (with the voice of Nagato). Mirai’s ditzy mischievousness reminded us of Rikka, only without the delusions. And like Haruhi, the world contains people with supernatural powers hiding in plain sight. So there’s a lot we found familiar, but all of it from solid shows we don’t regret watching. That could be true of this show too, if it sufficiently shuffles the elements.

We do like how the supernatural elements are actually real; Mirai isn’t forging a sword from her blood in her imagination, and she’s definitely got some slick moves when in combat. While she’d rather live a normal life, her “cursed” blood drags her towards the life of spirit hunting, and baddies are drawn to her power. She doesn’t fear them, but fears killing them, because rival clans will target her if she grows too powerful. Akihito is charmed by her interest in him – and by her ridiculous glasses – but getting involved with Mirai carries certain degree of risks, not the least of which being that it’ll piss off Mitsuki and the Nase clan. Looks like he’ll cross that boundary when he gets to it.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)