Encompasses: Complete 12 episode season
Published by: Sentai Filmworks (North America)
Based on: Light novel / Manga series by Kentarou Katayama
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Slice-of-Life
Audio: Japanese Dub
Runtime: 300 Minutes
Classification: TV-MA (D) using TV Parental Guidelines System (Wiki)
Cost: $49.98 on DVD
Special Thanks: A copy of this title was purchased out of my own pocket.
He’s only a teenager, but Kurenai Shinkurou is already both a master of an arcane martial art and an experienced professional mediator with a long track record of resolving disputes. Not bad for someone who’s just sixteen and still in school, but everyone has their limits. Kurenai may have met his when his boss and role model Benika responds to his request for a more challenging assignment by giving him the task of protecting young Murasaki Kuhoin.
Never mind that she’s only seven, the fact that the people Kurenai’s supposed to protect her from are her own very rich and extremely powerful family is guaranteed to take this job into the danger zone. Now the heat is on and Kurenai’s scrambling to put out as many fires as he can, even as the secrets surrounding his young charge bring everything else to a flashpoint.
Back in the day when The Otaku’s Study was an anime blog (Which I will be the first to admit given my writing preferences wasn’t the best decision), Kurenai was one of the many anime series I picked up, pondered about for a few weeks then subsequently dropped. I had expected this series to be one passed over by many English anime publishers given its dialogue heavy not-so mainstream plotline, but was more than ecstatic when Sentai Filmworks announced their intentions to publish Kurenai several months back.
While it wasn’t deemed important or necessary to recieve an English dub, which I think would have been interesting to listen to (Although the Japanese dub was really good), it did receive a release in the end and proved to be one of the better subtitled-only anime releases I have had the opportunity to watch in the last couple of months. Let me explain my reasons as to why I say this, and why companies could benefit from picking up some of the older anime titles yet to see a DVD on store shelves.
The storyline is easily the strong point in the series, as while there is never a moment you are left without a feeling of seriousness looming over the characters, you are given a healthy mix of the heartwarming moments surrounding the lead female character Murasaki as she explores the world for the very first time and the more intense scenes from brawls to later on more serious topics including incest, power struggles, family traditions that are far from ethical and the treatment of women in such conditions. The series is heavily dialogue based and is not a series one should pick up if they want an easy or simple storyline, but for those who are after something unique Kure-nai is more than up to the challenge.
The series primarily focuses on male lead Shinkurou Kurenai, a dispute mediator who despite his often calm and easy-going demeanor has a tragic past which has allowed him to train and hold is own in a fight. His job requires him to often end or start fights in order to resolve disputes, through taking jobs from his employer Benika. Sometime after requesting a bigger job he was tasked with the protection of a young seven year old girl, Murasaki Kuhouin who has more or less escaped from the confines of her home – a girl who has little knowledge of the outside world, has the manners of an adult, the naievity of a young child and must be hidden to protect her from the members of her family.
While the series does set itself up in a way that hints at martial arts / action scenes, aside from the final few episodes this is kept to a minimum. Instead we are treated to two sides of the story from the perspective of Shinkurou and Murasaki. With Shinkurou we are given snippets of his past, his disputes and issues with protecting Murasaki and interactions with many of the female cast members who are themselves quite interesting – including Ginko Murakami (An information broker and childhood friend) and Yuuno Houzuki (Another classmate who he lived with previously and whose family taught him martial arts).
For Murasaki on the other hand it is primarily focused on her development in the real world, from learning simple manners to investigating Shinkurou’s school and coming up with innocent misconceptions. The remaining character cast complement the two characters well, and while none of them hold all-too prominent roles in the series as a whole, are well used when required.
The conclusion to this series was pretty much obvious from the start, and while it did feel a tad rushed climaxed effectively and concluded well. The series was a perfect merger of several genres – from action to drama, slice of life to romance, to even a light-hearted musical episode where the residents of the apartment block practice for a musical. None of these were overpowering or un-necessitated and harmonized pretty well together. I was however left wanting more and feel they could have gone an additional 12 episodes given the entire series was based on only the first arc of the manga series, leaving much of the overall plot still open but instead concluded with an anime-exclusive ending.
As with the storyline, the character designs in the anime release are different from other installments in the kurenai franchise. The Japanese studio Brain’s Base (Durarara!!, Mawaru Penguindrum, Baccano!) was behind the production of the series, and taking into account the focus on one major plot point I feel their overall job on the design and visuals in this release were strong. Aside from the kimonos that Murasaki wears sparingly during the episodes, the character designs are nothing extravagant but serve their purpose to draw-out the characters unique charms and personalities along with setting the mood.
In addition, with the exception of a few moments throughout, the animation is of high quality with sharp and consistent movements and expressions of the character during both general dialogue and the few action scenes near the end of the season. Architectural designs also contributed well to the overall setting of the series.
Music / Voice Acting
While not to my own personal preferences, the music track list for Kurenai is appropriate, and Ken Muramatsu and the rest of the team have certainly used the music well to capture the mood, emotion and the setting of the series. It is never domineering, instead choosing to utilize more slower and somber tracks to draw more attention to the characters, although do increase the tempo a bit for action scenes and a certain musical number performed by the character cast. The opening sequence Love Jump by Minami Kuribayashi comprises both of an out there song in comparison to the rest of the series and an interesting choice of animation (See above). On the other hand, Crossing Day by Ryoko Shintani is still a solid song but failed to impress me with nothing exciting to keep me watching more than once.
As I have said in many of my previous reviews, I generally review the English dub of anime releases so I am not as familiar with the Japanese voice acting scene. It is of no surprise that Sentai Filmworks did not choose to dub the series given its more targetted audience, although I remain curious as to what it would have sounded like. Aoi Yuuki as Murasaki was a great decision, and her voice represented the character well and the same can be said for Miyuki Sawashiro as Shinkurou. Other personal highlights included Sawa Ishige as Benika and Haruka Kimura as Yamie.
In 2010, an additional pair of OVA episodes were released for the series. Potentially because the manga has not seen a release outside of Japan and it features a separate plot with some new characters Sentai Filmworks decided not to include them in this release. However, they still had a bonus disc in the DVD set with bonus content on it including:
- Clean Opening and Ending Sequences
- Six “Animatics” episodes focusing on scenes from the episodes that highlight the work that goes into the episodes through storyboards, comments on the scenes and so forth.
- A short minute and a half selection of TV spots
- Trailers for Hatsukoi Limited, Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Maria Holic Alive!, Psychic Squad, Book of Bantorra, Planzet
While I am not sure if their inclusion warranted a third disc and I would have liked to see much more bonus content on the disc… it is better than what I have seen on other Sentai Filmworks subtitled releases.
I appreciated the effort that went into making the Kure-nai anime series and would love to see more work from the series released over here. A strong selection of characters, intriguing plotline and solid visuals were only let down by its length. While this is not a series for everyone, I myself enjoyed it and I could happily recommend it.
Storyline / Character Development: A
Music/Voice Acting: B+
Extra Content: B
Personal Preference: A
Overall Score: A