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Snapshots: Kurenai

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Little rich damsel needs protection, high school boy with mysterious powers steps up! Here’s Kurenai (紅), an action drama show airing on Chiba TV, Thursdays at 26:00 JST.

Katayama Kentarou started writing his Kurenai light novel series in 2005. It’s up to three books so far, with a manga adaptation out since last year, and now there’s even an anime. This televised version has Matsuo Kou directing, and while you may not be familiar with Red Garden, his work on Rozen Maiden should ring a few bells. This time he’s doing pretty much everything by himself, including script and storyboard.

High school freshman Kurenai Shinkurou works as a troubleshooter, handling random problems for people in return for money. Possessing ungodly luck, he’s eventually asked by his mentor(ish) Benika to protect a 7-year-old girl. Her name is Kuhouin Murasaki, and she’s the daughter of an ultradistinguished Zaibatsu family, where she’s grown up in a castle in complete isolation from the world, so all she knows is how to boss people around. As her strict father upholds the family code of never letting the women outside the walls, Murasaki has somehow managed to get herself smuggled out in order to fulfill her as of yet unknown ambition. How Shinkurou is supposed to deal with a little girl at the same time as keeping family grunts away from her is a bit hard to figure out, but there are hints of secret powers hidden within his body, and he’s assisted from the shadows by ninja girl Yayoi, helpful information dealer and childhood friend plus classmate Ginko, and some strange ladies living in his apartment building Samidare-sou.

Animation-wise, this is a very paradoxical enterprise by Brain’s Base, who handled the excellent Kamichu! and Baccano series. At first sight, it looks stunning, with beautiful HD lines and gorgeous backgrounds, and movement looks great. After a few moments, however, you’ll see close-ups of faces, and this is where everything goes horribly wrong. Character designer Ishii Kumi is back from uglifying Red Garden, and Kurenai has gotten a similar treatment, where faces simply look malformed – eyes seem to want to crawl away. The only cute character is little Murasaki, and I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m a twisted soul. Muramatsu Ken composes the music, and it’s a subtle affair, mainly piano pieces that give depth to dramatic scenes. A miscast Sawashiro Miyuki (Aruru in Utawareru Mono) plays Shinkurou, sounding far too young and girly, and while her acting is always good, I can’t really buy it. Murasaki is played by Yuuki Aoi (Marika in Ai shiteru ze, baby), who seems to have taken a new stage name since her drama acting days. They’re backed by a solid cast, but the sound mix was strange in the version I watched, so sometimes it’s barely possible to hear what they’re saying.

Normally a plot summary of “high school boy must protect young sniffy lady” brings to mind a number of romantic comedies, but in this case there’s no comedy to be seen, and instead it’s some sort of actiony drama with hints of dark elements. With only one episode it’s difficult to guess at where this is going, especially with the cheerfully wonky OP sequence, but I think this is interesting enough to warrant a few more episodes at least.

April 4, 2008 at 1:07 pm
16 comments »
  • April 4, 2008 at 1:27 pmKovski

    good written Patrik boy, keep up the good work!

    as for this anime i dunno either to what make out of it, it seems like it in the end it’s going to be something that Shinkurou is going to become some father-figure/brother-figure for Murasaki along the way they bond and in the end they are going to meet up trouble but they keep on fighting and can’t be with out each other!

  • April 4, 2008 at 2:13 pmX20A-EXIA

    I think the manga is much better drawn and they changed it alot read the manga and you will see

  • April 4, 2008 at 2:36 pmdivine|s

    I read the premise for kurenai and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m definitely interested after watching the first episode. The fact that it’s aired/produced in 720p HD is an added bonus too.

    The main appeal of this show for me though is Sawashiro Miyuki, who as of late has become one of my favorite seiyuus. Miyuki playing male roles is never really a miscast for me, as I really appreciate her ability to do so in a believable manner (at least for me). She also plays Kanzato Jun in PERSONA -trinity soul-, which continues onto its second season this spring.

    From the PV, Kuhouin Murasaki seemed like an obnoxious 7-year-old girl, but after watching the first episode I’d have to say she’s quite an interesting character. The “driving force” of the show seems to be the interactions between Kurenai Shinkurou and Kuhouin Murasaki, which I find quite entertaining so far.

    Personally, I can’t wait to see more and what the deal is with Shinkurou’s arm.

  • April 4, 2008 at 4:33 pmTaran

    Anyone who claims Red Garden looks bad instantly looses all credibility with me.

    I’m very much looking forward to this show.

  • April 4, 2008 at 5:54 pmLithium17

    I agree with Taran. Art has always been subjective. Dali’s styles and techniques weren’t popular with many other artists of his era.

    I’m a digital painter/photographer by profession, and I really liked the visual direction take by Red Garden. The plot was pretty good as well.

    I’ve read a few chapters of the Kure-Nai manga, and will definitely be following this anime.

    BTW… The distorted effect in the close-ups may be the creators trying to simulate lens effects. (Can’t say for sure until I’ve watched it).

    Thanx for the synopsis.

  • April 4, 2008 at 6:05 pmZzz…

    I’m reading the manga scans and the plot so far reminds me of Rental Magica. Not a compliment at all.

    And the art style of Red Garden was horrifying. Maybe the color theme was going for a vibrant feel but it came out garish. The noses gave every face a malformed feel and character proportions just were off in some places.

  • April 4, 2008 at 7:32 pmMacca

    I agree about the simply awful character designs. They failed miserable to implement the nice character designs from the manga, which btw is fairly interesting from what I’ve read.

  • April 4, 2008 at 7:40 pmRemy

    I agree with Random about the char’s facial design. It’s just terrible. I’m not shallow enough that I’ll not watch it because of it, however, it better make up for it in terms of story (which, from Random’s opinion – something that I’ve found I agree with 90% of the time – seems like it won’t).

  • April 7, 2008 at 1:50 amMatroid

    I have a bad feeling that this anime will be just like Soultaker– trying to be too smart for its own good. The character design is unorthodox, but acceptable. But the storytelling is not smooth at all. The fast-forward effect from scene to scene just doesn’t sit well with me. However, the basic plot that a poor high schooler taking care of a rich grade schooler may still have some merit. I will give this series a couple more chances to see how that goes.

  • April 7, 2008 at 11:59 amamerico

    buena web, sigan mejorando, me gustan las fotos que ponen, mi anime favoruito es gundam 00, dragonaut, este anime no lo vi, pero parece feito no me gusta su dibujo, me gusta anime sangrientos donde se comen unos a otros… eso si es entretenimiento. la chica de arriba se parece a la “shigoku shoujo”, la chica del infierno. les recomiento ese anime para los que les gusta este anime

  • April 7, 2008 at 5:55 pmLithium17

    Just watched it in 720p…. very nice. Starts out different from the manga… maybe it follows the novel, which I haven’t read.

  • April 10, 2008 at 4:39 pmZakarum

    Wow, this just looks great! To be honest I’m kinda fed up with all those moe shows, so I’m really glad to find a show with “non anime”esque charadesigns and a mature story.

  • April 11, 2008 at 3:39 amfrog212

    Just watched the first episode. I like the male student character(im never good with names) and the first episode raises alot of questions which I’m sure will be revealed later.

  • April 24, 2008 at 4:23 pmBianka

    For me I love the art in Kure-nai and Red Garden, its something different and not the same as everything else out there right now. Also, the story line is really interesting with a lot of character development rather than useless plot. Its more along the lines of anime such as mushishi. If you are up for something thats more deep and not simply mecha/fighting/over done love triangle I would definitly recommend it!!

  • May 15, 2008 at 12:08 ameviltrain

    …and a month later, I wish to third the take that the art is lovely. I too liked the way Red Garden was drawn. It’s a style that was very suitable to the story. I had a lot more problem with FLCL and Gurann Laagan style wise…

  • May 31, 2008 at 10:23 amziam

    The art is not really fantastic but it is kind of unique..What I really liked about this anime is the way it portrays the character’s personalities through little details, and this makes the characters really interesting. As for the plot, I guess it is quite predictable, probably about how Murasaki and Kurenai sticking together and fighting til the end, but nonetheless I find the relationship between these two really sweet and touching. This series is definitely worth watching.