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.