「魔封街結社」 (Ma-fuu gai kessha)
“Mafuu District Association”

That was one fascinating mess.

Kekkai Sensen has been one of the great unknowns of the Spring schedule for me, a series from a great studio (Bones) with a hugely promising young director (Matsumoto Rie, Kyousousgiga) from a legendary mangaka (Nightrow Yasuhiro, author of Trigun).  The staff and cast are off the charts, generally speaking.  Yet I know more people that seem to dislike the manga than I’m comfortable with, and that’s given me considerable pause as I try to figure out just what my expectation level for the anime should be.

Cue the premiere, and while I would say it was a bit of a mixed bag on balance, my overall take is very positive indeed.  My feeling based on one episode is that the vision of the director is very prominent here, as we see a lot of the same frantic visual style, absurdity and comic timing in Blood Blockade Battlefront that we did in Kyousougiga.  But just as much as that series, what I was reminded of was Baccano! – for obvious reasons like the New York setting and jazz soundtrack, but also because of the jazzy attitude running through the piece and the way Matsumoto connected the dots (albeit loosely) and jumped around in the timeline.  Baccano! was like a jazz composition in a way – it felt improvised, yet in the end one could see how everything fit together.  And there’s something of that in Kekkai Sensen, at least for a week.

A combination of Baccano! and Kyousougiga sounds a pretty heady mix – those are two series I love dearly.  And mostly this works in the premiere, as it seems to me that Matsumoto’s vision is a pretty good match with Nightrow’s.  One could also say that this premiere had a vintage Gainax feel, though the mention of Kyousougiga makes that almost redundant as that was the most Gainax show since Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.  We’ve seen other shows recently try and bottle that magic – Rolling Girls and Yoru no Yatterman spring to mind, along with that one by the director who should know better – and fail pretty miserably.  But to me, the eventual failure was obvious a the start of those shows – they had the basic template roughly copied, but none of the spirit and soul, none of the cool factor  Whatever “cool” is, Kekkai Sensen has it. Kyousougiga had it, Baccano! had it, vintage Gainax had it. Going through the motions doesn’t mean you have it – it just makes you a poser.  Matsumoto’s pedigree makes it clear she understands the kind of show she’s trying to make here, and the success in pulling it off in the first episode gives me considerable hope.

As to what’s actually going on here, I have to say as someone who hasn’t read panel one of the manga, I have very little clue.  But you know, that’s fine – can anyone honestly say they had Kyousougiga figured out after the ONAs?  We know that New York is inside some kind of dimensional bubble and is now known as “Jerusalem’s Lot” (nice nod to King there), and that humans are trapped inside with a bunch of rejects from the cantina scene in Star Wars.  We know (from his own words, in a letter to his kid sister) that the protagonist is a “shrimp” with no self-confidence who’s gone to Jersusalem’s Lot and seen his lot change.  And we know that JL is a chaotic, violent clusterfuck that gives Matsumoto-sensei and her crack team of visual artists (mostly Bones and Gainax vets) a fantastic canvas on which to paint.

I’m not generally nuts for Sakaguchi Daisuke,  but he seems well-cast as Leonardo Watch (the crazy names are another reason for the Baccano! vibe).  Something happened during a visit to the border of JL with his sister (who’s never been able to walk) Michaela (Mizuki Nana) and parents, resulting in Leonardo hating himself as a coward and now having “God’s Eyes” which he perpetually keeps closed.  He’s broke, searching for some kind of answers whose nature we don’t fully know, and hangs out at a diner patrolled by waitress Vivian (Sawashiro Miyuki).  One day his camera is stolen by a “sonic monkey” and the chase ends with his almost being killed in an explosion and being found by Zapp Renfro (Nakai Kazuya), who mistakes him for a dead person named Johnny Landis.

Landis was apparently supposed to join the group Libra (pronounced like “library” and not the astrological sign), which is headed by Klaus von Rheinherz (Koyama Rikiya), with assistance from Zapp and Chain Sumeragi (Kobayashi Yuu).  Just what Libra does besides pull off fantastic swordfighting poses is unclear, but they’re apparently some sort of principled resistance group trying to maintain peace and order by kicking asses.  There’s also Femt (Ishida Akira at his most trollingly outlandish), like Klaus an extra-dimensional being and seemingly focused on relieving his bordeom by fucking with people.  This chance meeting between Leonardo and Libra is seemingly the butterfly flapping its wings for the rest of the story, though just how the pieces fit together is still a mystery.

All of this is, as a I said, a mess – but I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be.  We’re not supposed to understand all of it, not yet, and that frees us up to enjoy the ride.  And a hell of a ride it is, a real rollercoaster of dizzying speed, slo-mo, violence and visual humor.  The exposition at the start is clumsy, but like Baccano! Kekkai Sensen sort of makes a joke of it.  Simply put this show looks and sounds fantastic, and it’s a great deal of fun.  It will need to do more soon enough, and perhaps that’s where we’ll find out whether the source material does indeed have shortcomings that will hamstring the anime.  There’s so much talent on display in the premiere, though, that I’m feeling pretty good about this series’ chances.




  1. I don’t know about the others, but this show reminded me somehow of Kill la Kill, Devil Survivor 2 The Animation, Tokyo ESP, and Hamatora The Animation.

    I am sad to say this first episode didn’t live to my expectations…

    Red HeartGold ZX
      1. From what i understand they are supposed to be more like demons, eldritch horrors and Cthulhu-esque dudes more than aliens, but i get the whole star-wars vibe some people might get.

  2. You know, this show won’t be getting score for subtlety, that’s for sure. But when it comes to pure entertainment value, it wins by a large margin compared to any other spring shows premiering so far. The animation is stellar, the fighting sequences are super cool, among all else, i especially like the sheer absurdity of it, where nothing’s normal, stuff blowing up, and scenery chewing is commonplace. Overall i enjoyed it and excited for the next episode.

    1. Well, when you rename a town Jerusalem´s Lot you sure are in for a ton of action and crazyness, it gets you the feeling you have to be badass at the very least to survive day 1 in this city.

    2. The dub names the city something else, losing the nod to the King.

      Also, an entire top of a building is chopped clean off and no character ever bats an eye! You KNOW you’re head-deep in Baddass Fiction Land.

  3. The moment they showed the black cat that appeared in every episode of Trigun, my hype level went off the charts. Loving those little shout-outs/continuity nods.

  4. I just so glad I’m not the only one who got a distinct Baccano! vibe from the first episode. It actually made me go back and start a Baccano! rewatch today, and it’s made me really excited for this show’s soundtrack. I’m looking forward to the next episode.

  5. This is the first anime since (ironically) Kyosougiga that I have been blown away by. Personality! Energy! Owning their own cliches by the end of the first episode! Great use of sound and music! Fantastic attention to detail! This is the kind of anime I live for – the kind that proves that the medium can still be fun, and not just riding on the success of franchises that don’t live up to their budget or hype. In fact it brought me back out of the coma I was in after watching the new Unlimited Blade Works anime… this is basically everything that UBW should have been!

  6. I found it quite funny how Leonard (aka Shinpachi) ended up riding on a scooter with our white-haired Zapp. Quality is really nice, looking forward to what this is all about.

  7. one of the serious contender. That first episode show how much they put money on the show. Now, how they tie this up into something magically absurd or keep it simple. For now i will go for the 3 episode rule.

  8. I’m not too sure how I feel about the show as of episode 1, but I must admit the premise seems intriguing enough for me to stick to it. There’s a lot of ‘in your face’ scenes (not fanservice, thankfully) that are oddly refreshing and appealing in some way to me, though the whole thing does feel a little chaotic and might lose a couple of viewers here and there with the crazy action sequences and scene-jumping.

    It does, however, have great potential as a rather entertaining show. this being the first time I’ve ever come in touch with the series or any of it’s ilk, I’m hoping it turns out well.

  9. Neat coincidence: Sakaguchi Daisuke (Leonardo Watch) and Kobayashi Yuu (Chain Sumeragi) also had roles in Baccano! as Jacuzzi Splot and Nice Holystone, respectively.

  10. Protagonist has an annoying voice, refers to himself with “boku” and prostrates on the floor all before the halfway point or the ep? Three strikes. Sorry, you’re dropped.

  11. Not sure I like a “baccano with kyousougiga style” since till the end of the premiere I still don’t think those match well, but okay. I’ll try to watch few more episodes before deciding to dig in completely (or not)


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