No bone. No blood. No ash.
I suppose I’m a HOMRA girl through and through, as that beautiful ending scene is the one that resonated with me the most. Among the several emotionally compelling moments in the finale, the sight of all the red clansmen sending their King off with such resounding cries takes the cake as the best of them all.
Perhaps what made it work is how larger-than-life Mikoto seemed to be. Although he barely spoke throughout the series, it was clear what kind of effect he had on those around him, despite his supposedly temperamental nature. He’s a perfect example of a character defined by his value to others – the circumstances of Mikoto’s relationship with each of the other characters aren’t explained, but one thing is painfully obvious: he left a mark on every person he came in contact with. The scene where the HOMRA members bid farewell to him encapsulates the unbreakable bonds they all formed, along with all the emotions that come with it. There’s a tinge of melancholy, yet it seems unbecoming to wallow in despair – it’s not in accordance with the HOMRA spirit, and it’s certainly not the way they should be sending off their King. The moment is emotional, but not heavy-handed, and what’s wonderful is that even in sadness, these characters are continuously moving forward by realizing that despite Suoh Mikoto is physically gone, the things he left behind – themselves, essentially – don’t just disappear.
And in the spirit of things that don’t just disappear, Neko’s unwavering faith in Shiro is touching and bittersweet at the same time. I could never put my finger on it, but her character has always struck me as a pitiful one, her perspective of the world and her connections to it being so painfully limited. In this aspect Neko is closer to being an abandoned puppy waiting for a master that will never come back. Since the show seems to imply there’s a chance that Weismann is still alive, it takes away a bit of the tension and heartbreak, but had it been written in stone that the Silver King was very much dead, how gut-wrenching would Neko’s unfailing idealism be? I almost wish the writers would have gone all the way with this plot development, since it would have made for some great, compelling material. But leaving the door open for Weismann’s possible return isn’t a bad direction for Neko and Kuroh, especially with the second season being announced. The two characters play off of each other with great rapport, and they help to bring that emphatic connection that I thought was missing in regards to Weismann’s character. The Silver King is someone who comes together through the perspective of others, and the emotional piece I thought was missing was there after all – I was just looking for it in the wrong place.
On an unrelated note, what the hell Kuroh? Maybe it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, given all his unexplained powers and his “Black Dog” nickname, but I never expected it to be so literal. Maybe after I give K another watch I’ll catch all the hints, but for now I’m calling it weird.
A list of the most impressionable moments in the finale wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Mikoto’s actual death. While K has been dropping hints like flies that the Red King wouldn’t survive the end of the series, it still caught me off-guard when the producers actually went through with his death. For some reason I was expecting a fully contrived event that would result in an ending filled with rainbows and butterflies, so Mikoto’s demise was a pleasant surprise in that it was planned from the beginning, and that neither hell nor heaven was going to change what the writers had in mind. His story was allowed to run its course, and his passing was equal parts foolish and touching. Foolish because it’s clear the sad state of his Sword of Damocles could have been prevented, and because it’s frustrating he believes that this was the only conclusion that could have resulted; touching because it is what it is – a sacrifice made for the sake of someone else, and because Mikoto had no regrets.
Leaving his words to Munakata in silence was a nice touch. Silence is a powerful tool when used properly, and in this case it maximizes the impact of the moment while highlighting the bonds between the two characters. It’s not entirely necessary that the audience hear what was said – these are blanks they can fill in very easily. Hearing Mikoto’s words would detract from the moment because the value of the scene hinges entirely on the fact his last words are reserved for Munakata and Munakata alone. Whatever their circumstances are, their friendship runs deep enough that it forces Munakata to constantly challenge his own ethics and bring out the most emotion that he’s ever displayed throughout the entire series. Similarly, the Blue King is significant to the Red King – enough that he would have Munakata be the one to end his life and bear witness to his last moments. It’s an inexorable request to ask of someone, and considering the enormity of what Munakata had to do, it’s only fair he be the one privy to Mikoto’s last words.
Their friendship highlights the utterly tragic nature of the Kings – instead of happiness their position brings them solitude and duties that constantly twists the path they tread. Weismann’s original purpose of discovering these fantastical powers seem so ironic, and I find this aspect also adds an emotional dimension not only to the Silver King, but all the Kings shown so far. For Weismann it gives him a reason to sacrifice himself – it’s a noble act, but if he felt he needed to atone for the chaos and unintended loneliness he inflicted on his fellow Kings, his character suddenly gains layers of complexity he didn’t have before. And for Kokujouji, who has spent the last sixty years by himself, the power of Kings is perhaps the most melancholy. He may run the country behind the scenes as the most powerful man in the nation, but what good is power if it can’t even protect the things you hold dear? Weismann was a dear friend, yet for all the power he has, the Gold King was powerless against the forces that took away the Silver King’s life. Similarly, for all he strove to do, for all the strength he exerted as the head of SCEPTER 4 and the Blue King, none of it mattered when Munakata Reisi was forced to kill his friend – because only Kings and kill Kings. Ironic indeed.
K’s finale wasn’t perfect by any means; there were some issues, mainly in the breakneck execution of Weismann’s death and some jumpy transitions. However as a whole, the series closed the chapter on the story it set out to tell, which was “Isana Yashiro’s” journey to clear his name, and the Red King’s desire to avenge his clansman. Both threads were concluded in a satisfactory manner, and for that I’m grateful. Last episodes are meant to provide closure; K’s finale did just that.
ED2: 「To be with U!」 by angela
As a seiyuu and animation nut, K was hands-down the show I looked forward to the most in fall 2012. I’d looked forward to it for months, and despite the danger of letting expectations run too high, I did it anyway – with a cast that star-studded and scenes from the PV that looked that amazing, what could go wrong (Please, no Guilty Crown jokes, folks)?
I don’t think K fell short, despite the difficulty I had trying to write about it. I’ve never been a very plot-oriented watcher, so when the series shifted its focus from the characters to the overarching story, I admittedly couldn’t think of much to write about. It was still entertaining to watch the story unfold, especially when all the clues hidden in the episodes started coming together. Some of the commenters were very perceptive in this regard, and I’m happy that the series I looked so forward to watching provided some sort of fun to other people.
More than the carefully thought out plot, the series’ strongest point was its writing. Characters were carefully constructed and connected, with sets of characters acting as parallels for another so that despite limited screen time, facts could be extrapolated just by examining the similarities that ran between them. Plot terms weren’t given full explanations, but instead given enough context so that their importance and meaning could easily be inferred. This offers a larger range of exposition since the audience can now understand far more by comparison than by being simply told. K’s writing wasn’t especially witty, but it was effective: it showed more than it told, and it didn’t immediately assume its audience’s heads were full of rocks. Words weren’t wasted on useless endeavors, and where the writers did spend most of their efforts on, they succeeded spectacularly. The cast was wonderful, particularly Munakata, Fushimi, and Mikoto. They were complex, with the viewers’ perspectives of them constantly changing with each episode. Of the three the Blue King felt the most dynamic, starting as an aloof, austere man who loved order, and ending as a conflicted man who was forced to choose his duty. Sugita Tomokazu proved his versatility once again with this role, as did the rest of the cast – all of them made the role theirs, no matter how little dialogue they had.
While I loved the writing and the seiyuu performance, I’m a little more ambivalent on the directing. For the most part it was serviceable, but there were times – especially in the earlier episodes – where I kept questioning what they were trying to do. Things seemed unfocused and the tone/atmosphere couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. This was somewhat problematic in the first quarter where the characters were isolated in their own respective “worlds” and the directing required jumping between the different factions – visually everything was amazing, but tonally it was cacophonous. SCEPTER 4, HOMRA, and Ashinaka Academy all have different atmospheres, but what went on in each “setting” just seemed so disparate from one another – there should be at least something to tie it altogether, to present one world instead of three. Misusing the soundtrack contributed to this issue from time to time, with Kuroh’s theme being spammed to no end during moments where it just seemed so ill-suited. The problem did eventually get better as the series wore on, and the director seemed to get more of a handle on portraying the differences through nuances instead of a jackhammer.
Another thing that initially concerned me about the directing was the preoccupation with vanity. This ties into animation (because a discussion of K wouldn’t be complete without requisite mention of all its pretty animation), and more specifically, the premiere. Some elements veered off into excess territory, not quite able to blend into the plot and sticking out like a sore thumb. The skateboarding sequence was amazing to look at, but it was unnecessary in every aspect. It gave audiences the mistaken notion visuals were all it had to offer, and it’s definitely the producers’ fault for putting vanity ahead of delivering quality work. This issue didn’t persist all the time, but it was one that cropped up every now and then. Other than that though, K has delivered what is probably the most complicated, well-done and consistent visual work up to date, rivaling heavyweights like Kyoto Animation, Production I.G., and ufotable (even with that derpy “Dialogue of Kings” episode in Fate/Zero). GoHands must have an eternal fountain of money or something because wow, quality has never looked so consistent – a dip in quality for K was merely less movement in the background and some recycled scenery every once in a while, where for any other series it would’ve spelled godawful faces and noticeable, terrible drop in animation in general. It’s an impressive feat for an unknown studio, and one can only hope GoHands can maintain standards for the second season.
I’m not sure what the second season of K will be about, other than Kuroh and Neko as they go on adventures to find Weismann (if he’s still alive). That’s not a plot point I’d rather the producers not pursue, but enough questions were raised in the finale that it’s a valid – and the most likely – storyline. It could also deal with the succession of the Red King, since the Red Clan needs another one in the wake of Mikoto’s death. Personally, I would like to see some sort of prequel that deals with some of the less-fleshed out things in the series such as the Colorless King or HOMRA/SCEPTER 4’s past. But I suppose these things are more suited to be told in OVA format, especially since neither the Colorless King or the Red/Blue factions had enough tie-in in the finale to warrant an entire series dedicated to them like the matter of Weismann did. Whatever GoHands decide to do with the second series though, I hope they’ll be able to maintain the high visual quality and the same style of effective writing that made the first season such fun to watch. Maybe they’ll even learn not to paint their work as a vapid show that offers nothing but orgasmic visuals.