Twists, Turns & Curves but not Confusing – Anime Review: ⌈K⌋

k-anime_oTitle: ⌈K⌋ (K Project, King Project, Kings)
Format: anime series
Genre: supernatural, fantasy, action, comedy
Series Creator: GoRa
Series Director: Shingo Suzuki
Studio: GoHands
Series length: 13 eps
Original Airing dates: October 5, 2012 – December 28, 2012
Reviewed format: blu-ray
Distributer: Madman


Synopsis:

Yashiro Isana has lived a relatively ordinary, simple life. He lives in the technologically-advanced Shizume City and attends Ashinaka High School, a notable high school that is located on an island just outside the areas. Yashiro is friendly with everyone. Nothing ever seems wrong about him, except perhaps his habit of forgetting where his school-issued PDA is. However, nothing normal has been happening since the recent murder of Tatara Totsuka, prominent member of the infamous HOMRA. No one knows who exactly killed him but the man responsible bears an uncanny, identical appearance to Yashiro. Seeking vengeance, the Red Clansmen of HOMRA set out to get Yashiro and kill him. Everyone suspects that Yashiro is the murderer. Isana Yashiro was not the person who killed Tatara Totsuka but yet another mysterious character is pulling the strings behind the curtains, a person who is quite dangerous and powerful.


Review:

Two years ago I came to this mysterious series through nothing but an action based trailer but ⌈K⌋ quickly became one of my favourite anime series of the past decade.

The primary reason for this is because it mentally challenged me & kept me guessing as to what happened before we entered the narrative & what actually is going on. To me, this is a rarity because I’m so well versed in narratives that I often guess what will happen from gleaming tiny bits of information & whilst I figured out a lot of what was meant to be happening, it still cleverly kept me engaged & wanting to know more & more until the true unfurling of the background of things. This series is by no means perfect -which will be addressed later- but narratively speaking it is exceptionally clever & fairly original in many ways.

One reason as to why is because you are drip feed information & clues that are more easily picked up in later viewings. Nothing is deliberately obscured or confusing, there is a strong internal logic within the series, even if it is not always apparent at first glance. There rules & exceptions are set forth along with the draw backs of power & what lies outside of the defined Clans & Domains (& that which isn’t explained in the series is later explained in the various manga & Light Novel spinoffs).

The story literally begins in two parts.
Anime-Koi-K-01-9A4B19FF.mkv_snapshot_04.12_2012.10.06_15.28.19
The first is of two superpowered & warring Clans, who serve under the Red King & the Blue King respectively. You are given absolutely no context as to their powers & why the Red Clan (who call themselves Homra or HMR) are on a rampage in a American mafia office or why the Blues (also referred to as Scepter 4) wish to stop them. You are only given clues to their natures in how they are depicted. The Reds are dressed in Street Punk & Hip Hop Gangsta clothing, using street weapons as well as the power of flames & fire, whilst the Blues are all in matching uniforms, based loosely around 18th century European military style, completely with sabres & rapiers for combat, wielding blue energy slashes & shields.
SCEPTER4_Clan
After this confrontation between the wild Reds & the ordered Blues, we jump to the other part of the story.

Which is based around the cliched, idyllic futurists mega-school built upon an artificial island that does so seem to dominated so much sci-fi anime. Yet it is a cliche & a set up that serves the story well & so much better than other recent series who used the same trope (looking at you again Valvrave the Liberator!). It is meant to be a juxtaposition to the (yet) unexplained supernatural nature of the early confrontation between the Clans by presenting the viewer with something familiar and relatable as well as introducing us to the central protagonist, Isana Yashiro, or simple Shiro (White) to his friends. He is seen as a carefree trickster, getting free food from his schoolmates as his classmate Kukuri tries to both control his behaviour & get him to eat healthily, yet she is completely unable to explain her need to care for him.
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It is only when Kukuri sends Shiro on an errand for the school council that the two halved narratives collide & the idea of sides, powers & the various Clans are begun to be woven together.

This is because Homra believe that Shiro, claiming to be the 7th & Colourless King, murdered their clansman (& the cohesion of their group) Tatara. So they chase Shiro until the Black Hound, vassal to the former Colourless King, Yatogami Kuroh (or Kuro [Black]) rescues Shiro, only to vow to execute him on the spot for his crimes.

& this is all within the 1st episode!

The plot moves at a fairly fast pace, with little wastage -even in the slightly stupid chase scene between Shiro & Kuroh in the 2nd episode where the strange character Neko (who switches between being a cat & a naked girl [will address that in a moment]) uses her powers to confound Kuroh in his pursuit.

There is little exposition from the characters, instead weaving in flashbacks throughout the narrative to establish past relationships & how things got as they are between the various clans. Even the concern between the rival Kings of Red -Mikoto- & Blue -Munakata- & trying to avert a repeat of the never really explained (in the anime) Kagutsu Crater Incident. In fact, the majority of character development is done by flipping between past & present yet you don’t get to know many of the characters outside of their physical appearances & habits during the course of the series.

The characters are a strange dichotomy in so far as the male characters seemed to be designed for or by fujoshi whilst the female characters (the few that there are) seemed to have been designed for & by horny teenage boys.

Yes, now I shall beat my usual hypersexualisation drum!

Outside of Kukuri, there are only three other female characters who appear in the major of episodes. They are Neko, who protects Shiro around, Scepter 4’s 2nd-in-Command Awashima Sera and Homra’s mascot & gothic lolita Anna Kushina.

Out of the 3, only Anna isn’t sexualised in any way. She is only portrayed as an imouto (little sister) style character who is an emotional anchor for the Red King Mikoto so he doesn’t destroy himself through over using his powers.
Screen shot 2012-10-11 at 9.06.25 PM
When we first see Neko, she is totally stark naked -with only her long hair covering her nipples (which you never see during the series). In fact, she totally shuns clothing where she can & is seen during the ending credits starkers as the camera pans up her naked, prone body. Yet Neko plays a central part within the story & can even be seen as a driver of much of the plot. She is loyal to Shiro, claiming that he belongs to her, but she doesn’t try to sexually posses him or dominate him. She acts very much like a cat owning a human, especially in her constant demands for food & attention.

Awashima on the other hand is always in her uniform (or otherwise fully attired) but she might as well not be, since her body is so emphasised in a sexual way. Whenever she uses her special sword slash attack, the camera starts at her barely covered arse & twists around her massive boobs up to her cold face. This happens every time (though more because they want to save money by reusing the same footage) & almost every other shot incorporates her barely covered backside or boobs in some way. She too has narrative drive & is a force to be reckoned with in battle. She is even given the strange quirk of adding Red Beans Paste to almost everything she eats & drinks -much to the disgust of everyone around her.

Even Kukuri isn’t spared the sexualisation & is used for the occasional incidental pantie-shot (which is more disturbing than just focussing on a characters tits in a way).

It is very much unneeded or even undemanded in my view yet is somehow balanced & counteracted (but not enough) by the fujoshi fan service.

Amongst the paired male cast, there always seems to be a weird sexual tension. With Shiro even blushing in Kuroh’s presence & embrace whenever he is being saved. Shiro even jokingly refers to Kuroh as his ‘wife’ after Kuroh makes him & Neko lunch for school. There is a far more brutal sexual tension between Mikoto & Munakata as well as something fairly disturbing between formerly friends & clansmen Yata & Fushimi.

In fact, the entire male cast seems to run the typical gamut of yaoi (Boy’s Love) tropes. From the feminine Shiro to the cold but protective Kuroh, the wild but emotional punk Mikoto to the cool megane Munakata, the insane megane Fushimi to the tough but virginally innocent Yata. There are more than a few “now kiss!’ moments for the female (& homosexual) fans yet it doesn’t really push any boundaries nor becomes blatant in any way -yet that doesn’t distract from the hypersexualisation of the female characters.

One day I’ll stop beating that drum but not today, even though I will now move on.

One thing you must keep in mind when watching it getting a good sub where they keep the honourifics intact because they play strongly with the character relationships.

Primary to this is relationship between Yata -who is young, passionate & almost uncontrollable- & his in the field partner/offsider Rikio, who refers to Yata as ‘Yata-san’ despite being older than him. Where as most other Homra members call Yata ‘Yata-chan’ because of his small size & feminine 1st name of Misaki.

Visually, the series is utterly beautiful & only enhanced in the blu-ray release -where they’ve added more background & incidental details into the backgrounds as well as made the special attacks prettier. There is so much detail packed into the alt-world Tokyo, yet still keeping it visually on par with the city as it stands today. There are many flat-screen holograms showing various forms of information but they don’t clutter the mise-en-scene or distraction from the action.

The fight scenes are frenetic but handled smoothly, so you never lose track of who is the centre of the action. Most of the attacks are done with twisting or circular motions but the characters always stay within focus (apart from the aforementioned emphasis on Awashima’s body) & the different powers -such as Kuroh’s ghost hands- are clear in their intent & destructive capabilities.

I also utterly adore the opening theme KINGS by the talented band Angela, who many know from various other anime openings -such as Valvrave & Coppolion.

In the end, this is a most worthy series because of how it keeps you guessing as to what is going on within the story yet it doesn’t bring anything out of nowhere. The clues are always there, which adds to the enjoyment of watching it again & again. There is a sequel movie due out later this year as well as all the side manga & Light Novels to round out the narrative universe as well as character backgrounds.

Highly recommended.

K

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10 thoughts on “Twists, Turns & Curves but not Confusing – Anime Review: ⌈K⌋

  1. The Otaku Judge 27/04/2014 / 6:59 PM

    Haha. For as long as you watch anime the hypersexualisation drum will forever get banged. You have piqued my interest. I will check out this show as it just came out in the UK.

    Like

    • andthegeekshall 27/04/2014 / 8:07 PM

      I’ll just have to watch series that has less fan service in it.
      But do highly recommend the series. Worth buying.

      Like

  2. Mish Singh 28/04/2014 / 2:18 PM

    I’ll check it out; looks good, and the fan-service is much worse in other shows, by the sound of it. Off topic – have you reviewed Steins;Gate yet? Apologies if you have and I’ve just missed it. Started watching it recently and am loving it. Very smart and funny.
    Thanks for all the anime reviews recently 🙂

    Like

    • andthegeekshall 28/04/2014 / 2:25 PM

      Thanks.

      & not yet. It’s on my to review list but want to watch it all again. Saw it a few years ago & utterly loved it. There is also a sequel movie that is great because it goes on about the mental stresses that the protagonist went through during his time jumps.

      Will review it soon, just a few more on my list to do but thank you for your support. 🙂

      Like

      • Mish Singh 28/04/2014 / 9:57 PM

        Oh, no worries about getting it done – I just wanted to check if I’d missed it, is all. My query wasn’t a “haveyougottenoffyourlazyassandreviewedthatanimeyet?” type. I’ve been enjoying your anime reviews, and the kid and I are right into Steins;Gate right now, so I wondered if you’d covered it. Great to hear about the movie, too – we’ll be looking that up.
        And you’re welcome (for the support, as you nicely put it). So far, you’d be the only anime reviewer I’ve come across who actually engages with issues around ‘fan-service’ (a label that has its own problems) – but without dismissing anything out of hand. Rare combination.
        Have a lovely night, and thanks for replying, much appreciated 🙂
        Mish

        Like

      • andthegeekshall 28/04/2014 / 10:04 PM

        All good.
        I tend to write most of my reviews immediately after watching something so its fresh in my mind or when I have time to get them done (hence the huge swag of them in a roll those weeks ago). Steins;gate is just one of those series I’ve got on a list to rewatch but also want to play the original game, which you can now get officially in English.

        I do pride myself in bringing my academic & critical background to my reviews/critiques, so I look at things more objectively & knowing the issues & images involved. Always why I tend to take stands against many fan trends.

        & thanks. Glad you are enjoying them. Please infect your friends with my reviews as well. 🙂

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  3. Mish Singh 29/04/2014 / 9:36 PM

    I’ve certainly been singing your praises – sadly, very few of my friends are into anime (or anything else that you write about). New friends, you say? Hmmm.
    However, there are a couple of people that I’ve recommended you to; they’ve checked out your blog and are suitably impressed. And my son is inclined to worship you – he’s only 11, but a budding critical theorist, anime lover, and keen gamer. So that’s a high stamp of approval for you right there :).
    Keep up the awesome work
    Mish

    Like

    • andthegeekshall 29/04/2014 / 9:40 PM

      Thanks heaps, Mosh. May have to tone down some of my language & themes if I have a younger audience. Am going to get someone to write a bit about young adult literature because I don’t really have much chance to read it.
      Will try to get more articles done soon, once the masters work eases up.

      Like

  4. Mish Singh 30/04/2014 / 10:20 AM

    Don’t worry about toning down on his account – he’s heard/read much worse and has a pretty good filter for really nasty/stupid stuff (which you don’t do). We read it together, anyways. Some stuff on YA lit would be brilliant if you find a suitable peep.
    Now I’ll let you get back to work – all the best with the masters. ‘Tis a perilous journey but well worth it in my own humble opinion.
    PS: halfway through Steins;Gate. Mayuri! Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!
    Mish

    Like

    • andthegeekshall 30/04/2014 / 10:29 AM

      All good then.
      Have a good person lined up, so no issue.
      Yeah, it gets brutal for Mayuri, so be prepared.
      Once you’re down with Steins;gate there is a semi sequel series called Robotic;Note, which many people don’t think is as good.

      Like

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