When eternal love goes wrong [Kurozuka]


I had high hopes for Kurozuka, because it is a genre of anime I tend to enjoy, that being stylish, far-fetched, visually-intoxicating science fiction.
It is a beautifully drawn journey, in-which 1,000 years of vampiric romance sweeps across the Heian period of Japan to the bombing of Japanese cities during World War 2 to a post-apocalyptic future, but as the constant streams of action rush over the despairing atmosphere of the first half, it’s just a shame that the story’s poignancy seems to fade. That is not to say that Kurozuka isn’t good, because it is; it has some moments, and they are great.


Particularly disquieting is the image of Kuromitsu’s naked body wrapped around her lover Kuro’s severed head. Tortured by his eternal life, he wants to die, but loathe to be alone, she won’t ever allow it. Kuro’s life has been utterly consumed by Kuromitsu; forever trapped within her serpentine embrace, subjected to her every whim. One can only conclude that if love is a scary thing, then eternal love is positively chilling.


I also want to note that the first half has a particularly industrial and dystopian feel. Much like the quiet wanderings in Texhnolyze, Ergo Proxy and Blame!, Kuro’s many urban sojourns are quiet and contemplative affairs. The cities of the future have fallen into decay. Neon lights, concrete bricks and rusting steel grids scythe through murky buildings and even murkier corners. Their peoples are starved of hope, laying the streets, waiting to die. In such a scene, one can observe every tiny little detail of the city and sample the deep-fried life that courses through its veins.


There is a style to Kurozuka, an unabashedly violent streak, a harsh, cold beauty, that I admire. Most of all, it is a visual experience, and there’s not much else to it than that, but I’ve always found it enough to see something beautiful, or something provocative, twisted and weird, and wonder.



















Editorials Reviews

Autumn ’08 impressions: week 2

Another week and the last of my autumn anime impressions. Right now, it feels like this is an exciting time to be an anime fan. There is so much that’s actually worth watching at the moment that it really seems like every day I’m adding more and more to my back-log. Naturally, I’m already having a hard time just trying to keep up with it all, but it’s been refreshing all the same.
If you haven’t participated already, please vote in my “best of season” poll. It’s just a bit of fun, but I’m becoming fascinated by the results. Casshern Sins is on top right now and I really didn’t expect that, but then again, you people do read my blog, so you obviously have good taste! (Not that I’m biased or anything.)

Mediocre anime

8. Hokuto no Ken Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh
As with anything related to Fist of the North Star, a certain quota must be filled. This includes exploding heads, muscle-bound vigilantes, blood-thirsty street punks and crazy martial arts that require the least amount of movement possible, which is handy, because the animation is just as static. In this first episode, apparently all Raoh need do is stare at someone. The rest is taken care of.
You probably know already whether or not you want to see this. Just like the recent Golgo 13 anime, it delivers exactly what you expect of Fist of the North Star, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. It’s just more of the same. More manly action.
Consider this: the great Raoh will only walk in a straight line. Literally. Even if there is a building obstructing his path, he won’t walk around it. He just smashes his way through and keeps on going. Does that sound stupid? Certainly. Is it funny? Most definitely. But this is not a comedy.
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Fist of the North Star. Taken in small doses, it’s entertaining enough, but at the same time, if you wanted to say that this is terrible, I couldn’t exactly disagree either. A guilty pleasure for sure, but now that the original series has been completely fan subbed, I might just start watching that instead.

  • tags: exploding heads, martial arts, post-apocalyptic, manly, destruction

7. Kurogane no Line Barrel
It’s rare to find a main character as unlikable as the teenaged idiot at the centre of Kurogane no Line Barrel. Selfish, petty and horny, his pseudo-Light claims of justice are nothing more than a superficial smoke-screen, all to hide his innate insecurity and shattered masculinity. He is a coward, basically. A coward that, by a miracle of good luck, can somehow pilot an all-powerful mecha. I guess he is built-up like this on-purpose, we’re supposed to hate him so that we can welcome his inevitable demise with unabated glee. Everything else in this anime is so utterly generic that it is depressing, yet I want to see this guy crash and burn spectacularly.
Vitriol aside, the next few episodes will make or break Kurogane no Line Barrel. This could turn out to be a traumatic mecha series like Bokurano, with insane teenagers in-control of things they cannot even begin to understand, or it could be just another boring action anime from Studio Gonzo. For whatever reason, I suspect that there might be something more to this story, but it will have to deliver soon.

  • tags: mecha, teenager, wimp, idiot, annoying
Good anime

6. Chaos Head
I’m finding it hard to say much of anything about the first episode of Chaos Head. It has generic bishojo characters, all of whom are inexplicably attracted to a shed-dwelling, anti-social otaku. His name is Takumi and like many otaku, he has a sexy figurine collection, an ‘odd’ relationship with his sister and admits to hating ‘3D girls’. All the while, a gory mystery seems  vaguely related to them all.
This is a promising, yet baffling debut, and, despite pandering to the otaku fan base, I’m hesitant to draw any firm conclusions just yet.  Much of this episode is particularly reminiscent of Welcome to the NHK, especially that sense of self-delusion and rampant paranoia. The line between the real and unreal is blurred through-out, so much so, I’m not yet convinced that certain characters even exist outside of Takumi’s vivid imagination.
I’ll be watching more of this. I need some answers.

  • tags: otaku, mystery, culture, romance, bishojo

5. Skip Beat
I could binge away an entire weekend on Skip Beat.
This episode ends with such a moment of pathos that I could spend hours watching this character’s rise from obscurity, to battle for fame and success. Of course, I’m talking about Kyoko. A dumped girl hell-bent on the best possible revenge.
I nearly lost faith in this ‘brand’ of nineties-era shojo after a bad experience with Itazura na Kiss, which wasn’t as much a bad series as a frustrating one. Similar to my complaints about Toradora‘s Taiga, Itazura na Kiss has a (male) tsundere so consistently obnoxious that the love-struck girl lost all of my respect by willingly accepting his streams of abuse to accommodate her love. Thank god that Kyoko is different. When she over-hears her beloved ‘prince’ insulting her behind her back, she throws a hamburger in his face and tearfully swears to get revenge! Ah, that’s the spirit!
Skip Beat could almost be described as a Shonen Jump action story, ‘I will become the strongest celebrity!’ It’s certainly as compulsive as Naruto, but where the boys might spend countless days in training trying to power-up, Kyoko just changes her hair style and starts wearing some trendy new clothes! Seriously, it’s easy being a girl!

  • tags: shojo, attitude, comedy, romance, drama
Excellent anime

4. Tytania
Sitting down in-front of Tytania for the first time, I was worried. I’ve read my fair share of negative reviews of the first episode and the rather stiff animation used in the trailer didn’t exactly impress me either, but I am a fan of Legend of the Galactic Heroes and the last thing in the world I wanted to report was that ‘Tytania isn’t good.’ Luckily, I don’t have to do that.
I’ve criticized the new Hokuto no Ken anime series for being exactly what I expect it to be and Tytania is much in the same way, yet it is a superior series. This was expected to be another Legend of the Galactic Heroes and that is exactly what it is. The well-groomed, posh soldiers of the Empire versus the up-start rebel capitalists. In space. Both sides contain men of quality and they will clash, frequently, in battles of huge scale and importance. They represent not just themselves, but a political ideology too. Every move is calculated. This is what I expect from Tytania, and I find it fascinating. It is a space opera; a grand adventure. Each side has a different uniform, culture and unique technologies. Each side contains people of burning ambition, who stare fearlessly into the endless expanse of space and dare to dream of mastering man’s destiny. They drink tea too.
The animation was better than expected. This is a dialogue-heavy show with riveting speeches, so fluidity of movement isn’t as important as the ambience and the mood of the moment. Basically, the presentation of Tytania is perfectly fine, but then, I’m excited. I might be biased.

  • tags: space opera, tea, wine, bishonen, war

3. Kurozuka
Let’s get something straight. The Kurozuka manga never aspired to be anything more than stylish and action-packed. That is all well and good, and it does look incredibly cool, but substance was sorely lacking and it felt a tad disposable too. The manga was ripe for an anime adaptation precisely because those deficiencies were so obvious and the end result is that this opening episode that isn’t a particularly faithful adaptation of the source material, but is arguably much, much better.
Through-out this story, the one thing we must believe in, above all else, is that Kuro and Kuromitsu are deeply in-love. Most of this hinges on the seiyuu, so it is a relief that the cast includes the best voice actress in Japan, Romi Paku. In the role of Kuromitsu, she delivers a subtle and tortured performance that’s completely unlike anything I’ve heard from her in the past. Her voice is mature and restrained, a voice that understands the eternal pain of immortal life.
Ironically, so much that I like about Kurozuka has nothing to do with restrain. Bloody action, samurai, and vampires. This is a dangerous mixture of extremes and subtleties, yet what I am relishing most of all right now is that this is an adult story, with adult relationships. It is also dark, romantic and action-packed. I can’t ask for any more than that. It is everything I hoped for.

  • tags: horror, blood, romance, samurai, action

2. Michiko to Hatchin
Another beautifully animated first episode, but then, I always expected Michiko to Hatchin to look great; my questions concerned only the story, which was, at times, painful to endure. The little girl, Hana, is abused horribly by her adoptive family. Her situation is comically bad and very reminiscent of Harry Potter at the Dursleys’, but rather than Hagrid bursting in to save the day, it’s Michiko, Hana’s so-called mother; a sexy, gun-toting prison escapee who ‘don’t take no shit from no-one‘. Her moment of arrival is fantastic for obvious reasons, but even better is Hana’s own little stand, when she finally snaps and head-butts her violent sister. What a moment of relief.
I adore the blue skies, dusty roads and concrete walls of Michiko to Hatchin, where graffiti and dirt smudge across damaged buildings and poor old men sit out on the side of the street, feasting on their greasy snacks. The influence of the stunning Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (City of God) is obvious, not just in the soundtrack, which features a number of cool samba beats, but in the sun-stained, colourful clothes, the half-arsed, uncomfortable way the characters hold their pistols, the sense of energy, youth, corruption and lawlessness. In every sense, this is a liberating piece of work. A triumph of the human spirit. It is art, and it will be fun.

  • tags: gritty, urban, abuse, cool, animation

1. Mouryou no Hako
In a weird, creepy kind of way, the first episode of Mouryou no Hako was a masterpiece. Understated and beautiful, dark and foreboding, the strangeness of the characters and the subtlety of their movement; I was mesmerised by this episode, utterly incapable of fathoming its direction, yet entranced by its sad progression into the beautiful weird. That it conveys no sense of logic is barely relevant, nightmares often dance their own baroque roads of thought. Simply conveying feeling is enough. Mouryou no Hako is animated, perfumed emotion, and it isn’t necessarily happy. If you value anime, allow yourself to be taken by this episode, to savour its romantic sting.

  • tags: horror, creepy, beautiful, artistic, moody

Cherry picking in autumn

A scene from Kurozuka. I hope this is animated.

Hello, my name is bateszi. I’m a generic anime blogger and this is my generic autumn preview. Please enjoy these poorly researched comments on anime that I know nothing about, talking about new series with the same pictures, synopsis and links that you can see in dozens of other autumn previews too. I guess we all copy each other, but that’s okay, right? Also, please note, I couldn’t care less about intriguing stories or unique ideas. Boring! All that matters is character design, and I think all characters should look the same, they should all be cute, with big eyes, tsundere, loli. If not, I won’t watch. Everything and everyone should be classifiable by genre. I only like romance. Evangelion is overrated. I don’t like mecha! So, please, enjoy my generic autumn preview. It’s positively ignorant!

Only kidding!

Tytania: Sweeping epic, space opera

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you might have noticed that I’m often quite attracted to space operas. Last year, I really enjoyed Toward the Terra, was swept away by its poignant drama and epic scale. That’s why Tytania is on this list, but once I factor in that it’s from the writer (Yoshiki Tanaka) and director (Noboru Ishiguro) of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, then clearly, there is a very real chance of seeing something extra special.
There are certain ‘situations’ I’m expecting from this, lots of political intrigue and religious fundamentalism, some sensational betrayal of ambitious, old fashioned men, of men daring to dream the impossible, of mastering their own destiny, while their corrupt, bloated leaders destroy the lives of millions with a careless flick of their chubby little fingers. Characters will be wearing tidy, distinctive uniforms and have interesting names, while, for the fan-girls, there will be bishonen and romantic subtext.

Shikabane Hime (“Corpse Princess”): Potential fail, Gainax, horror

I’m not exactly brimming with excitement for Shikabane Hime. It’s just looking like more of the same, more Blood-esque horror, with a twist of Attitude. Our dearest high-school heroine devilishly delights in ripping through hordes of flesh-hungry zombies with her trusty machine gun, sound familiar? The first chapter of the manga reads more like an exploitative version of Bleach, with page after page of extreme gore and cheap fan service, while the anime trailer suggests a low budget. Alas, the involvement of Gainax has me intrigued. We all know what they are capable of. He is My Master. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. This could go either way. Gainax are an enigma, capable of almost anything.

Michiko to Hatchin: Westernised anime for the masses, not otaku

I’ll take a wild guess and suggest that, just from seeing the trailer, Michiko to Hatchin will be licensed by Funimation (via Geneon) for a North American DVD release within the next 6-to-9 months, then thrown into a decent TV slot, selling well with the tagline of “from the makers of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo“. There is nothing niche about this show, it has a clean, sexy and colourful style that’s refreshingly free of the creepy leering of typical otaku fare. It looks very cool, imbued with a Western Attitude, almost like a story based within the Mushroom Samba universe of Cowboy Bebop; sunny, desolate landscapes, big afros and kung-fu, what’s not to love? Ask the fans of Kyoto Animation.

One Outs: GAR, thriller

One Outs has a sinister, cold aesthetic, with character designs that are as hard as nails. Our dearest Madhouse reunites the staff of Akagi and Kaiji for this further round of manly tears and winner-takes-all gambling. Such a prospect is irresistible.
The premise.., hell, the mere subtitle of “Nobody wins, but I!” is enough to set my pulse racing. So it is sad, then, that many have already written it off because the plot is ostensibly related to baseball. You know, it’s not like I know anything about baseball either, but the game is just a means to an end; that end being a white-knuckle ride through the dangerous forest of failure, best faced whilst sporting a salary-man’s shabby suit and ruffled tie, as your tightly pursed, unfeeling lips nurse a slow burning, cheap cigarette.

Kurozuka: Horror, semi-necrophilia, action, science-fiction

This time last week, I knew absolutely nothing about Kurozuka. I was curious about its sparse promotional art, that was all, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to be on this list, but, well… I know more about it now. I devoured all 10 volumes of the manga over the weekend! I should have expected that to happen, but I just wanted to sample a few chapters and it hooked me. Plain and simple, I couldn’t stop reading it.
How might one describe Kurozuka? As a twisted love story, perhaps. As a doomed romance between immortals, that spans centuries, from Feudal Japan to a post-apocalyptic future.
Stop, I know I’m using words like ‘love’ and ‘romance’, but don’t be fooled, because this isn’t in any way profound or intimate. Kurozuka is about a woman desperately, madly in love with the severed head of a samurai named Kuro. In a twist that can only be described as bad luck, the only part of Kuro that became immortal was his head, and one more thing, these love birds, they feed on human blood. So, forget about all this ‘romance’ stuff, Kurozuka is a thoroughly grotesque, violent and strange story that is as stylish and action-packed as it is morally bankrupt.
One of the characters has a (Guts-esque) jet-powered dragon slayer sword (see the image at the top of the this post). I mean, seriously, do I need to say any more? Yes, I’m excited about Kurozuka. I’m anxious to see how it’s adapted by Madhouse, and whether or not it’s censored. If not, I feel safe in assuming that this will be the most ‘adult’ anime to air in autumn, but remember, ‘adult’ means sick, extreme, sex-laden and violent. Yum.