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Kekkai Sensen – 03 »« Kekkai Sensen – 01

Kekkai Sensen – 02

OP Sequence

OP: (“Hello, world!” ) by (Bump of Chicken)

「幻のゴーストワゴンを追え 」 (Maboroshi no gosuto wagon wo oe)
“Pursue the Phantom Ghost Wagon”

Turns out BONES + Matsumoto + Nightow = coolest thing since the other side of the pillow.

I’m pretty staggered by the sheer braggadocio of Kekkai Sensen after two episodes. Frankly, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything this brashly stylish in anime in a long time – and it’s no coincidence that the two contenders that spring to mind are another BONES show by an auteur director (Space Dandy) and another Matsumoto Rie series (Kyousougiga). But Space Dandy was, by design, a series of many different and ever-changing aesthetics, and Kyousougiga- well, Kyousougiga was right there with this series, to be honest. Thank heaven for creative ambition and Matsumoto Rie, that’s all I know.

I won’t claim that what Matsumoto-sensei is doing here is completely original because, like all directors, she’s clearly got her influences. As with Kyousougiga there’s a ton of FLCL in Blood Blockade Battlefront, and when the first half of this episode employed that very Pillows-like guitar/bass soundtrack the resemblance was even more striking. The free-form narrative structure and jazzy soundtrack is highly reminiscent of Baccano!. But BBB stakes out its own territory, with its gorgeous post-apocalyptic New York backdrops and cacophony of weird extra-dimensional creatures.

I also won’t claim that the substance of Kekkai Sensen is the match of the style – yet. Frankly when a show is this beautiful and explosively creative visually and aurally it doesn’t need a boatload of substance to be successful, but it’s what separates the great examples (like FLCL and Kyousougiga) from the good ones. It’s early, though, and while things are still confusing and bit nebulous for now, there were enough seeds planted in this episode to give me a lot of encouragement that the story and characters can catch up.

From the very beginning here, things were interesting. The episode begins with a DJ introducing “What a Wonderful Beyond”, a thinly-veiled allusion to the Thiele/Weiss classic “What a Wonderful World” which – like the song in the episode – was released in 1967 (performed by Louis Armstrong). There’s a lot of world-building in the early part of the episode, with a few new characters being introduced at LIBRA and Leo taking his God-eyes out to discover the city as he delivers pizza. Incidentally, in the voice-over Klaus refers to it as “Hellsalem’s Lot” – which would be Romanized as “Jerusalem’s Lot” or something close to it – which makes me curious as to which word Nightow was originally going for .

The star of this episode is Zapp, really, at least in terms of dramatic and comedic impact. He’s a foul-mouthed SOB who’s always trying to kill his boss (fans of the old Pink Panther movies will get a chuckle here). He steals Leo’s pizza in the nude (talk about style), and then, after Leo gets himself captured by a couple of baddies storing humans in ziploc bags for later consumption, sets up his rescue with a GAR tactic of using his own blood as a tracking device (sort of Celty-esque). There’s a reason why Zapp always seems to be hanging around Leo – he’s been asked by Franz to look after him, but he’s too surly to actually say yes and admit he’s doing it. And Leo definitely needs looking after – his All-Seeing-Gods-Eyes are of substantial interest to everyone on either side of justice here, and it’s clear that it’s an ability that doesn’t show up often – at least to the degree that Leo has it.

While everything isn’t fitting together just yet, the pieces sure are cool. The OP and ED are great both musically and visually (the ED by Unison Square Garden especially). There’s a silent butler at LIBRA with a GAR moustache and facial bandages named Gilbert F. Alstein (Ginga Banjou). Fellow seiyuu legend (and Baccano! veteran) Miyamoto Mitsuru shows up as Steven A. Starphase, a honcho in the organization. When they go into action, the trio uses what looks like a cross between a silver Bugatti Veyron and the Batmobile. And there’s a cemetery at the hospital where Leo ends up mummified after his less-than-elegant rescue, in which lives a strange girl named White (Kugimiya Rie) who calls herself a ghost.

If all Kekkai Sensen turns out to be is a wild ride, I’m fine with that because this ride is a spectacular one. If it can establish the characters as really interesting and distinctive and tell a coherent and engaging story, so much the better – the track record with Nightow is a bit mixed on that, but there are a lot of positive signs in this episode. There are strong rumors the series is going to be a split cour, which would give Matsumoto plenty of time to get there – let’s hope those rumors are true. As to what kind of reception it’ll receive, I find myself wondering for the same reason I did with Punchline – this isn’t the kind of anime today’s audiences are used to seeing, and I wonder if they’ll get what Matsumoto and Nightow are doing here. Kyousougiga, brilliant as it was, flopped commercially – as most ambitious series do – and Kekkai Sensen certainly isn’t checking off the right boxes to appeal to the usual suspects. We’ll see.

 

ED Sequence

ED: (“Sugar Song to Bitter Step”) by (Unison Square Garden)

Preview

April 12, 2015 at 9:29 pm
28 comments »
  • April 12, 2015 at 9:37 pmzztop

    Ms. White is anime-original(or so people say).

    • April 12, 2015 at 9:40 pmguardian enzo

      So I hear. Given what I hear about some issues with the manga and how much respect I have for the anime staff, I’m OK with some changes here.

  • April 12, 2015 at 9:50 pmAmiluhur

    Man, that ED, that dance, that bizarre poses. Contender for best ED sequences of spring.

  • April 12, 2015 at 11:18 pmPancakes

    Definitely not sure what to make of this still, but some of the references here are hilarious, especially the Kill la Kill and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen this episode.

    Just remains to be seen how far on the side of style Kekkai Sensen will fall on the style-substance continuum.

  • April 12, 2015 at 11:52 pmWargear

    I want a sonic! lol that name! lol!

  • April 13, 2015 at 12:37 amKF

  • April 13, 2015 at 2:23 amGiorno Giovanna

    Kagura, Shinpachi, Hijikata and Zura.

  • April 13, 2015 at 7:08 amYuuna

  • April 13, 2015 at 7:20 ammac65

    This is my ‘put my brain in neutral’ watch this season.
    Like Space Dandy, just accept what happens and hold on
    tight for the wild, entertaining ride ahead :).

  • April 13, 2015 at 11:30 amHunter-Wolf

    Damn, that was so very stylish, i got some serious Cowboy Bebop and Baccano! vibes from this episode, both the cinematography and the music work together so well and give me that rush i had when i first watched Cowboy Bebop (and yeah, Baccano! too), i thought they don’t make anime like that any more(anime with westernized themes that actually feels genuine), glad i was wrong XD

    I like also that they are showing somethings but not explaining them, like the ability Leo used .. i suppose it was some sort of eye-hacking to blind the driver of the car (or was the car itself a creature, not sure XD), hope they do explain that later.

    All in all very enjoyable episode, can’t wait for the next one.

  • April 13, 2015 at 11:50 amW.P

    • April 17, 2015 at 9:59 pmSick Duck

      It says: “Sick Duck”

  • April 13, 2015 at 2:37 pmPTYW

    Shinpachi and Kagura doing what they do best…..Tsukkomi and Spontaneous Randomness.

  • April 13, 2015 at 2:46 pmZannafar

    Incidentally, in the voice-over Klaus refers to it as “Hellsalem’s Lot” – which would be Romanized as “Jerusalem’s Lot” or something close to it – which makes me curious as to which word Nightow was originally going for.

    The name of the city is Hellsalem’s Lot. However the similarity to the title of Stephen King’s story “Jerusalem’s Lot” is very much intended.

  • April 13, 2015 at 3:57 pmLitho

    Gave it another chance. The MC still grates me (just replace him with the monkey already), but I’ll stick around for the rest of the cast.

  • April 13, 2015 at 6:54 pmZephyr

    I’ll say I’m quite liking this series so far stylistically. The fact that it takes place with my city as a backdrop only adds a cherry on top to everything.

  • April 13, 2015 at 6:59 pmKeltian

    I’m really enjoying this show, however, as a New Yorker, there are inconsistencies with the setting of the story that bug me a bit. In the beginning of this episode they explain that the barrier covers the entire city and the only way in and out is through the only remaining bridge. There are some problems with that description. NYC is a series of islands with the exception of The Bronx and are interconnected by tunnels and bridges. If they are trying to explain that there is only one remaining bridge connecting to the mainland, probably the George Washington Bridge, what about The Bronx which is part of the mainland. Also, are they saying NYC when they really only mean Manhattan since that’s all they show?

    • April 13, 2015 at 7:35 pmZephyr

      There was a glimpse early in the series where it seems like the fog literally cuts off an entire section as if it just falls into oblivion, so it’s possible that the “borderline” of the fog extends just across all five boroughs and cuts off the Bronx from the rest of the mainland. The fact Manhattan is the only one being shown so far seems more so because Libra’s camp is in the area.

      As for the bridge, I agree, it’d either be the GWB or the Goethals extending from Staten Island to NJ.

      That said, overall, it is a fictional setting, so it reasons it won’t be totally consistent with the real-life version.

  • April 13, 2015 at 7:48 pmCheeky

    So glad I wasn’t the only one getting FLCL vibes! It was like this glorious spastic mix of FLCL randomness, Cowboy Bebop sounds, and modern stylish animation. LOVE IT.
    They even had the characters step kicking at different times during their dance lines in the end credits- great attention to detail there. :D Can’t wait for more.

  • April 14, 2015 at 5:48 pmbliss

    crossing my fingers, holding my breath. this show is promising itself to be a good ride XD

  • April 14, 2015 at 5:57 pmhaseo0408

    I´m going to take a wild guess and say that being insane is a job requirement to get into Libra, Leo is going to fit in just fine. XD And we get some Rie Kugimiya! I´m loving this series more and more by the second.

  • April 14, 2015 at 11:28 pmPetit Orenji

  • April 16, 2015 at 7:28 amtouch fluffy ears

    I love chain

    more chain pls