Kyoukai no Kanata – 12 (Fin)

kyoukan12

Reunited within Kyoukai no Kanata, Akihito and Mirai work together to fight their way to its core. Izumi duels Fujima, who reveals to Hiromi that both of them conceal youmu within their bodies. When surrounded by dead humans, Akihito tells Mirai to close her eyes and listen only to him, breaking the illusion and revealing a massive congregation of monsters, whom Ayaka and Ai help them defeat. Once Akihito beats back the Kyoukai no Kanata and forces it back within him, Mirai vanishes along with it, after confessing her love. Some time later, all is back to normal, and the ring she left behind vanishes. Akihito runs to the school rooftop, and reunites with Mirai.

All of the light and dark colors that make up the world combine like paint into gray. Evil will neither ever totally disappear from the world nor totally absorb the world. It’s a world that matches its inhabitants, and few inhabitants match it better than Kanbara Akihito and Kuriyama Mirai. Both had loathed the darkness that lurked within them their entire lives, regarding it as a curse they must bear, but wished it would go away. Despite their hatred for their darkness, it was their darkness that brought them together. When Mirai took Akihito’s youmu away, it took her away too, and he learned he couldn’t live in a future without either. Fortunately for him, things worked out so he wouldn’t have to, because honestly, this would’ve been a pretty cruel episode if she’d stayed gone simply because of…magic n’ stuff.

And so the first Fall 2013 series we saw is the first to end. We had our doubts early on: it initially looked and felt like a rehash of past KyoAni series that while good didn’t require revisiting. But a quarter of the way through, we were proven wrong consistently and thoroughly. Conscious that fantastic production values (which it had) alone do not a great show make, KnK gave us a lovely, slowly-building, often gripping, not unpleasant romance between two characters with compelling chemistry, infused with comedy that was smart but not smarmy. We could have done without the one-dimensionally evil Fujima, and were never that interested in Nase Izumi’s dark past, but they did represent paths Mirai and Akihito could have gone down, were it not for their love for each other.

For all the darkness they both harbored, Mirai and Akihito ended up shining the brightest. Long live Glasses Girl, and her beloved Immortal Half-Youmu!

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating: 8.333
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/18/13): 7.91

Stray Observations:

  • The episode used every second of its running time, eschewing the usual OP and ED, a move we feel is essential to a good finale.
  • As shown above, there was a little E.T. in the moment when the lovebirds are floating in the sky between planes of existence.
  • We were also a little disappointed in how inert Mitsuki was down the stretch. Or perhaps she was a love triangle red herring all along, as she saw Akihito as more of another troublesome brother.
  • Ayaka is a really cool-looking youmu, so it’s kinda disappointing that Ai’s just a kitten. Not that she isn’t cute.
  • That rooftop scene gave us the happy ending we wanted, and the presentation of the glasses had all the formality and suspense of a proposal. Nicely done.
  • Chu2Koi 2 will have some shoes to fill when it premieres next month.
Advertisements

Kyoukai no Kanata – 11

kyouk11

Akihito wakes up after three months in a coma. Hiromi and Mitsuki tell him he’s no longer immortal, while Mirai has vanished and is likely dead. Izumi further explains why she had to recruit Mirai, and that she saved Akihito and the world of her own free will. Dejected, Akihito wanders around town, recalling his dream, and runs into a distraught Sakura. He returns home to find Mirai sent him a farewell text message.

Meanwhile, the weakened Kyoukai no Kanata fused with Mirai’s blood and created an isolated dimension above the town. Fujima amplifies its powers with his car, and it starts pulling youmu up toward it. Akihito’s mother Yayoi arrives to tell him Mirai is alive within the dimension, fighting to protect a puppet version of Akihito. Akihito uses his extracted youmu stone to rise up into the dimension, destroys the puppet, and finds Mirai.

kyou112

Our theory of a complex, multi-layered Kyoukai no Kanata is debunked, but who cares: this tour-de-force delved into the depths of despair while keeping kernal of hope dangling overhead. It proved that Akihito’s will to protect and save Mirai is just as strong as hers. She’s alive and close by; Akihito just has to break through all the fog and gain the means to rescue her. Fujima’s ridiculous “experiment” was the spark that led to Akihito gaining those means, so we can forgive him for his helpful but long-winded exposition.

Akihito has always complained about the apparent ineptness of his mother, but she comes through for him when it matters (and her reveal in the club room is one of the ages). Once he has what he needs the episode wastes no time flying him up to that dimension, breaking through, and plucking Mirai from the sky. In their constant back-and-forth struggle to prove how far they’d go for each other, Akihito gets a solid point in his favor this week. But they’re not out of the woods yet.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Akihito wisely addresses the fact he hasn’t eaten in three months. You can’t rescue a bespectacled beauty on an empty stomach!
  • Nice running jump kick by Sakura. “Sad Back” indeed!
  • Mirai’s text message was a tearjerker through and through, really showing how far she’s come; no longer seeing her ability as a curse, because she can use it to save people she loves. “Not unpleasant.”
  • Seriously, WTF did Fujima amplify Kyoukai no Kanata with his car? What is he, MacGyver?

Kyoukai no Kanata – 10

kyou101

Akihito wakes up in bed to find Mirai has been nursing him back to health. However, as the sun sets, Mirai tells him he’s only dreaming, and that the real Mirai vanished when she drew Beyond the Boundary out of Akihito, its host. When he wakes up, only Mirai’s glasses remain. A series of flashbacks show how Mirai originally came to town at the behest of Nase Izumi to defeat Beyond the Boundary, and charts her progress across six months. When the Calm comes, Izumi tells her she can defeat Beyond the Boundary without killing Akihito, but it will probably cost her own life. Mirai remains trapped within Beyond the Boundary, heading towards its core.

First of all, WHOA. What a topsy-turvy, twisting, undulating, pulsing, moving ride this episode was. Secondly, we’ll be upfront: nothing we cyber-scrawl across these digi-pages will do what we just watched full justice, we can only try our humble best. Thirdly, we thought this was Kyoukai no Kanata’s most powerful episode, thus necessitating the 10 rating to the point we initially considered it worthy of a 10 rating. One contributing factor to our ebullient praise is the episode’s vast scope, traversing the past, present and future. It took us back to things we weren’t privy too, changing our preconceptions about a great many things, most importantly, the fact that the youmu half of Kanbara Akihito is Beyond the Boundary (BtB) itself.

kyouk102

Izumi is still using Mirai, but she has little choice: believing BtB to be a threat to the entire world. As we watch these flashbacks with Mirai, her behavior in the earlier episodes all makes sense now: she was brought in to eliminate a threat that just happened to come in a nice-guy package, and warned repeatedly to keep her distance. Her early skirmishes with him aren’t just practice; she was honestly trying to dispatch him from the start. But events transpired, she came to know Akihito’s human side, and eventually fell in love, to the point she would sacrifice herself without hesitation—literally giving every last drop of her blood—to save him. Of course, Akihito is all too willing to do the same for Mirai.

From the start of the episode, we were a bit bemused by how “back-to-normal” things looked, and yet we went along with it right up to the moment Mirai said he was still unconscious. The real Mirai, meanwhile, is within BtB, and a part of us thinks maybe he’s still in there too, waking from one dream into another. What if the two of them are in BtB, on different levels (indicated by the different seasons)? Perhaps not, but it’s clear that Mirai simply letting BtB consume her body did not defeat it; and the hard work of defeating it has jst begun. And wherever Akihito is, he’s not going to let Mirai sacrifice herself for his sake. How do they save each other…without either of them dying?

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Obsevations:

  • Mirai’s avant-garde interpretation of omelette rice looked pretty good to us.
  • Early evidence Akihito is dreaming: Mitsuki in a bikini and sunglasses.
  • Mirai takes the initiative in her and Akihito’s first kiss, but alas, she’s merely and echo and they’re in a dream. These two, we’re tellin’ ya…
  • The glasses Mirai took off before stabbing him are sitting on the chair beside his bed. One could interpret this as a sign he’s back in the real world.
  • Izumi’s true true intentions remain murky. Did she think Mirai could really defeat BtB without killing Akihito, or was there some reason she wanted Mirai and BtB to merge?

Very Stray Observation:

This may be a stretch, but we heard Purity Ring’s “Fineshrine” on Pandora earlier today (for the first time) and also watched the music video. We were amused (and a little freaked out) by all the visual/thematic similarities to this episode:

  • Heavily-bandaged guy in bed being tended to by girl? Check.
  • Faucet drip? Check.
  • Girl going ‘beyond a boundary” to another reality? Check.
  • Magic blood imagery? Check.
  • Guy waking from a dream to find girl gone? Check.
  • Reversal of fates at the end (guy safe, girl now in peril)? Check.

Kyoukai no Kanata – 09

kyoukan91

Izumi’s fight with Fujima is interrupted by Akihito, who is conscious and in his youmu form. Izumi attacks him, but he flees. She warns Mirai that if the calm ends when he’s in such a state, he will become an unbeatable, legendary juggernaut. She asks Mirai to kill him while there’s still time. Hiromi believes Izumi weakened Akihito’s human side and is manipulating Mirai in order to summon the remainder of “Beyond the Boundary” to use a weapon against the clan’s enemies. Mirai finds Akihito in the woods and attacks him with the intent to kill.

One reason half-youmu must be so rare is ironically because of how damn fragile they are. Akihito’s human side is constantly fighting for its life against the youmu side, an perilous balance that is all too easy to upset. Izumi does so in an act not of malice, but of what she believes to be sheer necessity. Without such extreme measures, she believes the Nase clan will be destroyed. With those perceived stakes, all other considerations—from Akihito’s right to exist and her own morality—fall away. Hiromi, meanwhile, cherishes his friend Akihito too much to sacrifice him for his clan’s benefit.

kyoukan92

Surely other ways exist to preserve and defend the clan that don’t involve forcing Mirai to kill Akihito. Doubtless Mitsuki would side with Hiromi over Izumi, though it’s easy for them to begrudge dirty work they don’t have to do; Izumi carries heavier burdens than either of them, and she’s not your typical insane villain. But what about Mirai? Never before this week has her overused catchphrase “How unpleasant” been more apropos to the situation: it is indeed thoroughly unpleasant that things had to come to this after all she and Akihito had been through, and after forming such a profound bond.

It’s so unpleasant, she tells Hiromi she’s starting to feel cursed after all; not because of what she is, but because she met Akihito. As the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem Izumi’s getting her way, but Mirai isn’t doing it for Izumi. The fact of the matter is, Mirai is a spirit hunter, and Akihito—in his present state—is her quarry. But before she delivers the apparent killing strike, she takes off her glasses. Is she making sure the last thing he sees isn’t his beloved bespectacled beauty…or does she not want to clearly see what she’s forcing herself to do?

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

 

Kyoukai no Kanata – 08

kyouk8

The “Calm” arrives, a time when all youmu are weakened and spirit hunters enjoy easy pickings. In a video postcard Akihito’s mother urges him him to be careful. Fujima tries to wring info out of Mitsuki about the Nase clan’s plans regarding the powerful emergent youmu called “Beyond the Boundary”, but Hiromi rescues her. Akihito takes ill, apparently due to the Calm, and Mirai wants to stay with him at the Ayaka’s studio. Fujima comes to take him away, but Ayaka holds him back until Izumi arrives.

Ya know, we never liked this Fujima dude. The show never tried to hide his smug sliminess, but it’s still gratifying to see him show his true colors, and see that like us, no one else is surprised in the slightest. Like Mitsuki, we’ve been in the dark about his intentions, as well as those of Izumi and the Nase clan in general, but now it seems like it’s their duty to subdue the titular “Kyoukai no Kanata”; the latest Big Bad. Fujima is the slightly smaller but still powerful Bad trying to gum up those works, sow discord amongst the clan, and claim the rare half-youmu Akihito for his purposes…whatever they are.

Funnily enough, Fujima wouldn’t have been able get Mitsuki to easily had she not wandered off in preemptive disgust for her big brother. Still, Hiromi doesn’t shrink from his duty as his sister’s protector no matter how many times she shuns him. It’s also notable that both Fujima and his apparent Izumi both get uncomfortably close to people. Fujima’s just messing with Mitsuki, but it’s strange that Kanbara’s condition deteriorates significantly right encountering Izumi, and even though she saved Mirai from the Inamis, we still don’t know why. Until we learn more, we can’t really trust her much more than Fujima.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode is called “Calming Gold”, referring both to the Calm, a “golden opportunity” for spirit hunters everywhere, as well as the gleaming golden sunset preceding the evening the Calm commences.
  • We failed to mention Mirai’s role in this episode: struggling with her feelings for Akihito, the one guy who treats her normally, no matter what. Her new roomie Sakura doesn’t let her sidestep the issue, either.
  • Fun to see Shizuku take time off work and really get into the spirit of the Calm. She needs to do a better job minding her surroundings though.

Kyoukai no Kanata – 05

kyoukan5

Mirai joins the literary club at Akihito’s insistence  officially meeting Hiromi and Mizuki. The four go to the Nase residence, where Izumi confiscates Mirai’s hunting license for a month due to her actions. Mizuki and Mirai work together to destroy a youmu possessing a passerby. Mizuki helps Mirai get a part-time job minding Ayaka’s store and posing for photos. Depressed after his transformation, Akihito skips class. After much convincing, Mirai gets Mizuki to end her embargo and attend the lantern festival, where they’re joined by Akihito and Hiromi.

There’s really nothing quite like a well-funded Kyoto Animation series, and little this season can match its frame-for-frame grace and beauty. Lovely details abound: characters rapidly cycling through facial expressions, lessening the need for spoken words; characters playing with their hair; swirling ice in a glass; arrogantly sipping on a juice box. If this is a guilty pleasure, we don’t want to be innocent. In contrast to last week’s focus on one big central story-line – defeating the hollow shadow – this week is a veritable smorgasbord of little vignettes that make up the day and night Mirai spends mostly with Mizuki, leading to something resembling the start of a friendship.

When Mizuki first shares a space with Mirai this week, you can tell there’s tension. We’re assuming if Mizuki had her way she’d simply be able to “observe” Akihito in peace, free of interloping bespectacled strumpets. But the more time she spends with Mirai, her notion of her softens, to the point she’s even laughing and smiling around her. Perhaps a part of her admires Mirai’s willingness to reassess her ascetic outlook in light of recent events. Mizuki’s stoic sister admonishes her that she’ll always be alone due to her calling. But in truth, everyone is “all alone” at one point or another, so its something everyone can relate to.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • A kind reader pointed out something to us we had somehow missed up until this week: that the episodes titles refer to a common visual motif in that episode, in this case, “Chartreuse Light”, which is everywhere: tea, a sweater, a soft drink, and of course, lanterns.
  • Akihito puts up a brave front in the opening scene (for once, confiding with Hiromi on Mirai’s “little-sisterness” in a way making him worthy of her and Mizuki’s scorn), then kinda going off by himself to mope.
  • Mirai’s tendency to “whine on her blog” is a pretty funny aspect of her character, and in reality great way of letting off steam.
  • Ayaka does run a studio, and Mirai did need the cash, so the photo shoot counts as Justified Fanservice.

Kyoukai no Kanata – 04

kyoukan41

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.

kyoukan4

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!

9_superior
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!