Archive for the 'kure-nai' Category

kure-nai: Changes

“turn and face the strange~~” (Wait, this is an anime blog, shouldn’t I be referencing Base Ball Bear instead? Oh well)

So, after having zero time in the last few weeks to actually watch kure-nai, or much of anything, really–despite being able to keep up with a hectic schedule of class and work and homework and blogging during the school year, either the oppressive heat is making me lackadasical, or working 43-hour workweeks + 12 hours alternate weekends is just taking its toll on me and rendering me a quivering pile of flesh when I get home–I have finally managed to watch the final three episodes of kure-nai today, and, well, it was grand.

The main attraction of kure-nai prior to the drama-bomb that was episode 9 was its mixing of dramatic elements with frequent light-hearted jaunts as we watch Murasaki explore the world outside the Inner Sanctuary. Of course, these last three episodes have focused rather more on the “drama” part of the spectrum, although there have been light-hearted moments in them–but these moments are more tension-breakers than anything else.

With the focus on drama, then, comes even more characterization. Shinkurou, of course, distraught at the forceful removal of Murasaki from his life, in standard Shinkurou manner, decides to try his best to completely forget that it ever happened and simply (and coldly) move on to the next job Benika assigns him, since, as Yayoi explained to him, there’s nothing he can do, because they’re up against the Kuhouins, and to challenge them is death. Of course, once he runs out of things to occupy himself with, namely, cleaning up his dingy, grimy six-tatami apartment, his thoughts drift, unfocused, back to Murasaki and the imperative to rescue her. Unable to give up on Murasaki until he hears what she truly wishes to do, Shinkurou insists on returning to the highly dangerous (and ginormous) Kuhouin estate, which Benika agrees to and drags Yayoi along for the ride.

<entire episode of Shinkurou, Benika, and Yayoi punching people in the face. Also character development>

Episode 12 was, of course, the climactic episode, and there’s several things I wanted to touch upon from it. One is the extremely visible difference in Shinkurou as he went back into the estate after being told the situation was hopeless. Before, even though he was determined to rescue Murasaki from the evil clutches of her family, it was a kind of half-hearted, “can I really do this?” kind of determination. By returning to the estate, Shinkurou has, through some kind of strange, roundabout way, become strong, just as he wanted: he’d been in the estate all night, and knew, first-hand, just how difficult and insurmountable a task it was going to be.

When he goes in the second time, it’s with the full knowledge that he might lose, and that losing would mean his death–but he does it anyway. And this change shows quite clearly when he meets Renjou–he is calm, firm, yet unwielding in his persistence to point out the flaws of the Kuhouin family. The first thing I thought of was, of course, the train scene from an early episode. In that scene, of course, Murasaki confronts a group of hoodlums and starts moralizing at them rather loudly, forcing Shinkurou to grab her, apologize, and accept the sputum flung in his direction. Instead, here, he’s doing exactly what Murasaki did back then–taking a firm stance on something and standing his ground, social order be damned. At this point, I don’t think it would have mattered whether he beat Ryuuji in a fistfight or not–he has become strong, which was part of the reason for Benika foisting the Murasaki assignment on him anyway (presumably; she never really said this, I don’t think).

Of course, the other thing I noticed was the exact manner in which the Kuhouins were taken down–through the Houzuki stanceless fighting style. I’m not sure that there’s ever been any kind of explaination as to the history between these two families, except that they share some kind of connection, and that they don’t really care for each other that much. It seems strangely appropriate, then, that the fighting comes to a close (for a while, anyway) with the Houzuki fighting style, directly after Renjou talks about how disgusting and vile the Houzukis are. We know the truth, of course–they have a deadly history, yes, but I find it hard to conceive of Yuuno killing anyone, monetary compensation or no–but I found it strangely appropriate that the Kuhouins should be defeated in such a manner. Especially when the direction blends the two fights of Shinkurou and Yayoi into that series of alternating-yet-connected shots (I have no idea what to call that, but it was a great touch).

And, of course, we can’t forget Shinkuorou’s arm blade when we talk of things such as this–the arm blade was installed by the Houzukis at Shinkurou’s behest, and it’s been a burden to him throughout the entire series–literally from the first scene. Shinkurou had the blade installed because he wanted to become stronger, and it didn’t make him stronger–one might say that it made him weaker. But, as if to drive home his new-found strength, he defeats the Kuhouins without the use of the blade, with the blade only appearing in a fit of rage while trying to protect Murasaki. Of course, now that the blade is public knowledge, Shinkurou admits his own faults to Murasaki, who makes the comment that the two of them are essentially the same. Although, the argument could be made that both of them have recognized the faults of themselves, their surroundings, and have already taken a large step towards making themselves better.

In conclusion: Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the little girl who believes in you!

Or something like that.

That was a joke.

Please laugh.

Please?

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kure-nai: The Fate of a Kuhouin Woman

Apparently life in the Kuhouin household is even worse than what we already know about it.

I just want to say that, yes, incest is bad. And before you incest fetishizers get on my case about it, yes, it can be hot (because I’m fairly certain that there isn’t a thing on Earth that someone can’t find sexually arousing–I mean, in a world where people have married the Berlin Wall and attained sexual pleasure with it, anything is possible), but, thanks to the Westermarck effect such an incestuous relationship is condemned to fantasy forever–unless, of course, the siblings are never raised with each other and are not told of each other’s existence, in which case it’s hard to call them “siblings”. But there’s something just a bit…strange about forced incest. Or something.

I’m completely unclear as to the parentage of Murasaki–I’m trying to figure out whether her mother–her real mother–was a Kuhouin woman or not. I’m sure it’s been mentioned in a past episode and I’ve forgotten about it, but it’s just confusing me.

But that’s kind of unimportant considering what happened these last two episodes (I hadn’t watched 8 yet because I thought I had, but then it turned out I hadn’t, which I rectified when I finally got around to watching 9). The prior episodes of light silliness/mild drama have served as buildup for episode 9, focusing on Shinkurou’s relationship with Murasaki. The fun thing about episode 9 (well, okay, it wasn’t fun, but you know what I mean) was that, despite all of Shinkurou’s boasting that he could protect Murasaki from the Evil Clutches of her brother, he rather decidedly does not, and gets beat up instead. If we recall, Shinkurou decided to join Benika’s orginaization after she rescued him from terrorists, although only after they had killed his parents. The reason was, of course, he wanted to be strong and protect people…except that Shinkurou is anything but strong. We’ve seen this countless times before in the series–refusing to confront jerks on a train, being unable to accomplish any kind of mediation job without resorting to violence and awakening the bone-blade-thing, etc., but never is his very weakness driven home so hard as it is here, where, despite his weak and feeble efforts, he simply cannot rescue Murasaki from a fate she obviously dreads, leaving her to simply acquiesce to her brother’s demands.

Murasaki does this, of course, because, as she just revealed not five minutes earlier, Shinkurou is someone who means a lot to her–he’s someone who, despite his flaws as a person, has showed her true friendship, kindness, and–perhaps more than anything else–respect. He means so much to her, that she’s perfectly willing to sacrifice her own freedom simply to ensure that he lives on. It’s painfully obvious that she doesn’t want to do this, but, alas, if she doesn’t, then she truly will be unhappy, because despite his protestations to the contrary, there is no way you can “protect” someone if you’re being clobbered with high heels, and he would have been killed, and then she’d just have to go back to the Inner Sanctuary anyway, except this time Shinkurou is dead.

I’m fairly certain that Murasaki sees Shinkurou more as a replacement for her own birth mother than as any kind of intimate lover (although, given some of her recent lines, who knows what’s running through that child’s head), so, most likely, she went with her brother simply to avoid the pain of having another parental figure die. I can’t quite remember if her mother’s death was somehow related to her in some way (I believe it was, somewhat indirectly, but I’m kind of fuzzy), but even if it wasn’t, having two such figures die in relatively short succession would be nothing short of traumatizing, especially for a child that age. Perhaps she made the decision as much to spare her own pain as that of Shinkurou’s.

Also, is it wrong for me to want to see Renjou get punched in the face–hard–by Shinkurou? That would be an excellent series concluding scene, I think. Maybe with Murasaki biting his ankles.

kure-nai: Tamaki, She of Many Contradictions

Don’t feel sad, Tamaki. I’m sure someone out there will appreciate your slightly strange ways! (maybe)

The best thing about kure-nai has got to be the writing/timing. Matsuo Kou is amazing, and he’s fast entering into my league of Favorite Directors. He’s nailed both the writing (although the scripts are sometimes done by other staffers), but perhaps more importantly, he’s quite good at the most important part of good storytelling: timing. The age-old joke that goes “What’s the most important element to comedy?” “I don’t know, what is th–” “TIMING!” (which is an amazing joke) is both supremely rewarding when pulled off effectively (as Matsuo does in kure-nai) but, as I’ve found in trying to actually tell this joke to people, it’s practically impossible to get right. Granted, it’s partially the job of the voice actors to get the timing down right, but it’s also Matsuo’s job to get them to get the timing the way he wants.

The moments of comedy, however, don’t necessarily overshadow the more serious content. I think the scene in 7 with Tamaki being confronted with her (now ex-)boyfriend while dragging Murasaki around campus is perhaps the best example of this, as well as being a quite harsh gaze into Tamaki’s quite perplexing personality. The moments leading up to this were jovial and humorous, with Tamaki pointing out the flaws in the relationships of everyone in the plaza, even (and especailly) the ones she didn’t know personally. As soon as her boyfriend shows up (I don’t think they even mentioned his name) the scene starts shifting from the comic to the dramatic as it’s revealed that Tamaki, for all her ability to see the flaws in the relationships around her, still can’t seem to see the flaws in her own. I don’t know exactly where, how, or when Tamaki met up with this mysteruous phantom boyfriend of hers (the fact that she had one was a surprise to me), but it was quite clear that Tamaki, for all of her carefree attitude, still is affected strongly by negative reactions. She describes herself as a strong woman, but how strong is she really? And does strength come with a price?

Tamaki certainly seems to be independent and unreliant upon others on the surface (even if she’s fairly lazy, if she’s been skipping class to sit around and do nothing with Murasaki all this time), but this seems to be a facade if something as seemingly trifling for a proper strong-willed independent woman to suffer crippling, if momentary, depression over the loss of a boyfriend (apparently made tragic not by the fact that they broke up, but by the fact that she didn’t break up with him). Is Tamaki truly “strong” then? Perhaps yes, perhaps no; more likely she’s like everyone else and strong in some areas and weak in another. One doesn’t necessarily have to be “flawless” to be “strong”, so, technically, the test to see if Tamaki is strong or not is to see whether or not she bounces back from this rather abrupt change in situation. True strength (and true womanliness, or manliness, or neuterliness, or whatever) comes not from not feeling or even demonstrating pain or suffering, but, rather, from rising up from it. Even the strongest among us cry at times (unless they’ve been replaced by those aliens from Parasyte), but it’s all in how you handle it, and less how you display it.

At any rate, Tamaki is a wonderfully fun character, in both positive and negative moods (I spent much of the first part of the episode laughing at her sardonic way of pointing out things). And (as always) Murasaki continues to be a bundle of adorable, if totally clueless, joy (“You like me, right? That’s why you became a lolicon!”). And, generally, when I’m as impressed by a series as I am at the moment, at this juncture, I have full confidence that the series will end every bit as good as it started.

Oscar & Hammerstein Present: kure-nai: The Musical

It’s the hot new off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-Broadway production! Guaranteed to win a Tony award, if things that are that off Broadway can actually win those things!

I literally have no idea what I just watched, but it wasawesome. Totally pure filler, but awesome pure filler. I have always said that life is better if you break out into song and dance numbers at the drop of a hat (and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people don’t do this spontaneously) and, while I don’t go to the theater very often (or watch a lot of musicals, partially due to the fact that I have trouble following sung lyrics unless I have a sheet in front of me) musicals are usually a lot of fun to watch. SDS has, of course, woefully only briefly touched on the concept of anime as theater, and while I haven’t really managed to find something else to add to his observation in the month or two I’ve had to think of somethin, I nevertheless agree fully, as when he mentioned it to me it was one of those things that’s so blatantly obvious that it never actually occured to me until it was pointed out. I suppose it has something to do with the high level of emotional intensity/pathos/melodrama/etc. that I’ve touched upon before, in addition to the device of internal monologue, but I really don’t know, and won’t know unless I go to the theater more often, but with my limited experience I agree wholeheartedly with his observation.

The actual episode was a perfectly timed, perfectly directed, perfectly acted comedy episode. By the time they got to the part where everyone busts out in song (and the animators struggle to keep up) I was essentially totally lost as to what was actually going on and was just sitting there watching the characters have a ball. And they definitely got carried away with the acting thing, as the people Benika hired to pretend to be the director and crew of the play were sitting in bafflement as the play segued from being a Japanese play to being something else entirely (word on the street points to a possible Red Garden reference/parody, but I cannot confirm as I have not seen Red Garden. Yet.), which just tells me that they totally got lost in the fun of it all. And Yuuno got her wish of a loving relationship with Shinkurou (never mind the fact that they were both acting at the time), which I heartily endorse (everything in the episode after she showed up and started singing badly was amazing). Tamaki and Yamie are awesome, as always (I really don’t know what they do for a living, or if they do, because they’re always around all day at the apartment complex to teach Murasaki things that she shouldn’t ought to be taught, such as the joys of following daytime soap operas) and doubly so dragging Yayoi into the whole mess against her will.

I think things like this need to happen a bit more often in anime. Plot and drama and so on is all well and good, but every once in a while it’s fun to kick back and relax and have fun. Some series do this in specials (SD Gundam, the SEED/Destiny DVD specials, Shakugan no Shana-tan, etc.) which often take self-conscious potshots at the series itself, pointing out flaws and twisting lines and scenes into out-of-context hilarity. In the case of kure-nai, it’s just fun to see the characters not stressing out or worrying overly much and just have a good time. I suspect that this episode is probably a small glimpse into the life of the characters when they aren’t on-screen and driving the plot, although I don’t think they bust into song very often. It’s like a window into the other side of the series.

Or something. Whatever it is, I need to obtain Nerima Daikon Brothers sometime to sate my need for anime musicals that has been engendered by this episode, although Nabeshin is slightly too…Nabeshin for me. But it’s worth a shot!

kure-nai: Oh YES!

I miss being able to ride in shopping carts, as that was always the best part of youth. Maybe I can ride in a Zentradi shopping cart. You know, if Zentradi actually existed.

There is now no way on Earth you’ll ever be able to convince me that Murasaki is anything other than an actual seven-year-old and not some kind of bizarre loli-bait for otaku. Then again, this latter school of thought is either dying out or has no real ground to base this on other than “Holy crap, they go to the bath house twice and Murasaki gets naked!” as if one normally takes a bath in clothes other than one’s birthday suit.

Just like a real seven-year-old, though, Murasaki is a handful, breaking DS Lites and dolls like they’re nothing. (Murasaki is never touching my DS, I can tell you that right now; she will simply have to play Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan on her own DS and break her own damn screen. Although, I still say that the sight of Murasaki playing Ouendan, especially given her stylus skills in this episode, would be hilarious). She’s every bit as joyously rewarding and frustratingly annoying as actual children are. Granted, there’s a difference between watching a child be a child on TV and watching a child be a child all over your living room walls with the crayon set, but the prospect of parenthood seems slightly less daunting now. Let’s just hope that kure-nai doesn’t follow Murasaki into her angst-filled rebellious teenage years where she gets her hair dyed and a lip piercing and a tattoo in an embarassing place and other teenage joys that I voluntarily skipped out on as a teenager, since I’m boring.

The focus of this episode, however, seemed to be mostly on the relationship between Shinkurou and Yuuno. I don’t think I would have pegged Yuuno for being the daughter of a family of trained killers, although I guess they hinted at it enough times for it to not have been too big of a surprise. I can’t remember if they’ve mentioned this in past episodes, but the Houzukis’ “adopted” Shinkurou after his parents died and began training him in the ways of their family, i.e. the fine art of killing people.

So it was interesting to see that the relationship between Yuuno and Shinkurou, who had always seemed like more than friends yet less than lovers, to rather be that of a kind of familial relationship, if not by blood. I don’t know if kure-nai is going to go down the “assign Shinkurou a love interest” route or not, but there’s a tiny spark between the two that could blossom into something better. Or not, because who knows if a romance subplot is what kure-nai really needs at this time?

And Shinkurou seems to regret having installed the supernatural knife-thing in his arm, as Yuuno pointed out to him. As he said himself, he granted himself that ability to make himself stronger, but now that he has it, it’s more of a burden on him than anything else. Not just in that he has to do the jobs for Benika, as he’d probably do those with or without the bone-knife, but in that he has to actively try to repress the thing while engaging in combat. It’s like a constant reminder to him that there are two ways to attain power: through artifical means, and through hard work and effort. He chose the first in his youth, and, now, he must wrestle with his choice, which sometimes prevents him from following the second path. It’s a delicously tangible reminder of his (presumed) failure as a human.

What part Murasaki has in all this, though, is unknown. She certainly seems to be melting his heart a little, and her very presence gives Shinkurou something to strive for, something to protect–a raison d’etre, as it were. And doesn’t everyone need one of those?

kure-nai: Level Up! Gained New Ability: Shampooing One’s Own Hair!

I cannot take any more Murasaki cuteness. First she can’t reach the button in the elevator (and complains about it and is summarily trapped in said elevator) and then she finally figures out how to shampoo her own hair. Badly, of course (you have to scrub the whole hair, not just the top, dear) but that’s Murasaki for you.

The reason behind the mysterious kidnapping of Murasaki by Benika at the start of the series is revealed, as well as Benika’s reasons for putting her in the care of Shinkurou. It’s a well-matched set of events, and I can already see that their plan is starting to bear fruit. Murasaki is quite different than she was in episode 1, where all she could do was talk down at Shinkurou. Shinkurou, for his part, seems to have grown a kind of affection for Murasaki as well. If he didn’t feel affection for her, he wouldn’t chastise and rebuke her as much as he does, let alone get into a shouting match with her like last episode. And his immediate shift from passive sackdoll to aggressive guard dog when Murasaki was theatened has much, much more of a parental nature than a business one.

Before I watched this episode, I got curious and looked up the definition of “kurenai” [紅] on edict (it means “crimson”, perhaps meaning blood) and discovered an interesting fact that you’d only get by looking at the Japanese names of the characters: Shinkurou’s last name is, of course, simply Kurenai (full name: 紅 真九郎). The “beni” in Benika, however, is the same kanji (full name: 柔沢 紅香) but an alternate reading. (The 香 [ka] part of her name, incidentally, means “incense, fragrance”; in keeping with the idea of 紅 as “blood” perhaps this could mean that her name literally means “smell of blood”, a charming name for a charming lady). It’s a silly little touch I noticed. I haven’t determined if it means anything or not. although I guess it could imply a sort of blood tie between them.

I’m finding it hard to figure out exactly what attracts me so much to kure-nai, aside from the Murasaki Moe Moments, which would be enough to carry any series. There’s something more than that, however, and the direction for the series absolutely shines in ways I hadn’t considered when I watched Rozen Maiden years and years ago. Matsuo Kou is truly a talented director, and just watching kure-nai I’m getting the urge to be the third person ever to buy Red Garden DVDs and watch them. I don’t know how much of this is the influence of him and the main screenwriter, and how much is the influence of the original author, Katayama Kentarou, but the series is extremely skilled on all three fronts in maintaining a sense that the characters who know each other, know each other well. You see this whenever Shinkurou is at school: the dialogue isn’t like most anime, where the characters dump exposition on each other in casual conversation; you instead get the feeling that these people have known each other for years and years and you, the viewer, can sense an undercurrent running under what’s actually being said.

It’s the combinatrion of the writing, both original and adaptation, and direction that turns kure-nai from “cute series about cute girl” to a strong followup to true tears. It’s always the case for me that whenever a season ends and a series I’ve grown attached to is over with, I feel strange, like nothing that’s good in that special way will come along again and the pervasive fear that I’ll mysteriously fall out of anime somehow creeps upon me, something always comes the next season and knocks those feelings away. It’s a necessary feature to being a loyal follower of anime, I find, this willingness to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. If one dwells on one series too long, one forgets to appreciate series that one sees after it and finds that they are drawing comparisons between what they’re currently watching and what they’ve loved in the past, and these comparisons are always negative for the series more fresh in their memory. Not that you can’t have favorites (I certainly have mine, and I have quite a lot of them, so I have trouble with top ten lists), but nether does the quality of series from the past negatively impact the quality of series in the present, or in the future.

And now I step off the small soapbox I just got on and conclude with this thought: Murasaki playing Nintendo DS. I am now envisioning Murasaki trying to play Ouendan, and this mental image is wonderful indeed.

kure-nai: Murasaki and Japan’s Culture

I have to get this out of the way early: kure-nai 3 is probably the best single episode of anime I’ve seen in a long time. It covers so much ground in 24 minutes and manages to be highly entertaining at the same time. I don’t know how he does it, but Matsuo Kou is a genius.

There were quite a few aspects about this episode that I highly enjoyed, especially the whole Murasaki running around school and being generally confused bit, which was capped by the brilliant three-way argument pictured above. The comedic timing in this portion of the episode was spot-on. Murasaki was wonderfully and childishly cute (as she always is) stumbling around school and generally being curious (with the highlight of this being when she called Shinkurou on the phone to complain about the anatomy figure, which was made even better by the fact that Shinkurou thought she was talking about something else entirely, leaving you to wonder just what exactly is hiding in Tamaki’s room). On top of all this, we’ve got Shinkurou interacting with Ginko in sublime fashion. There’s a word for the direction style of this segment of the episode, I’m sure, but I lack proper vocabulary.

What really surprised me, though, was the train scene, and the aftermath thereof. As Murasaki idealistically confronts the train bullies kicking an elderly lady out of her seat so they can be happily seated, Shinkurou timidly sits behind, and even rebukes Murasaki for her outburst. He’s reacting like any sensible, mature Japanese citizen would in such a situation: a child under their care is disturbing social order by confronting someone else, so therefore he must be strictly apologetic and admit fault and be humiliated, kicked, and spat upon.

This is interesting on several levels. From a character standpoint, it’s an aspect of Shinkurou’s character we haven’t seen.I personally expected him to stand up and fight them, revealing his mysterious power to Murasaki, but he doesn’t. And this, from a writing standpoint, is also good: you expect the main character to stand up for right, good, and justice, and it doesn’t happen. You get the feeling that he clearly wants to do such, but he’s being bound by societal rules not to.

Which is what I found most interesting: Murasaki, for all her childishness, confronts the bullies, and gets lectured to becaose of this. The viewer is clearly supposed to support Murasaki in this instance, as she’s clearly doing what needs to be done, and Shinkurou is doing what Japanese society says you should do. During the lecture, it’s Murasaki confronting the whole of Japanese culture through Shinkurou. Is it right to tolerate cruelty just to maintain a modicum of social harmony? At what point is social harmony breached? Is is breached when the elderly lady is forced from her seat? Is it breached when Murasaki confronts the perpetrators? Who’s in the wrong here?

The answer kure-nai gives depends on who you see as right or wrong, although the intent to criticise Japanese culture is certainly embedded in this scene. Personally, I find social harmony essential to any human interaction, but, in this case, social harmony was breached when the young upstarts forced the lady from her seat. Murasaki was entirely correct to confront them, even if it was a drastic action that not many would take, regardless of the culture. Hell, I don’t even think I would confront a group of bullies like that, as I’d probably get a solid pounding; on the flip side, I generally lash out like Murasaki when people feel the need to be jerks when they really shouldn’t be. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s the right kind of attitude to have, even if this does mean that I’m actually a seven year old girl at heart.

kure-nai is probably the best series of this spring so far, although in the case of this spring I hestitate to use such terminology, as there’s so many other series that could also easily be considered the best series of this spring, and I wouldn’t have any argument with someone claiming them to be such. I think the way I’m going to have to work it is that my favorite series of this season is whichever one I happen to be watching at the moment, or have recently watched. It’s almost too much for me to process. I both love and hate spring, now.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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