「Paint it Black」

“Paint in Black”

Well – with the name “Macbeth”, what were you expecting out of life?

The thing about Kekkai Sensen is that it’s like the weather in Chicago – if you don’t like it, just wait a little while and you’ll get something completely different. This is a series that’s danced to its own tune from the beginning – adapted from the manga but not constrained by it, employing an entirely unorthodox parallel narrative, possessed of an exceptionally broad emotional palette. You may like those things about it or not, but it seems very unlikely you’ll have ever found it predictable.

After a one-week detour for a recap episode (and by the way, there’s another one-week hiatus coming up before the finale airs) we get something I’ll be very surprised if anyone saw coming, especially as its completely anime-original – a show entirely dedicated to the William and Mary backstory and present circumstances, without a scrap of dialogue for Leonardo or anyone in Libra. This being Blood Blockade Battlefront it was often confusing and generally nebulous, but it did manage to at least suggest at where the story might be headed for the season’s conclusion (and yes, I’m cautiously optimistic).

I think the matter of whether spending the entire penultimate episode pursuing this theme is a good idea is an open question – I’m not sure how I feel about that myself, to be honest. But it’s also a separate question from the merits of the content itself, and on that score I’m settled – for my money the execution here was excellent (as this show’s execution normally is). I still wish BONES had gotten a different seiyuu to play William/Black, because Rie Kugimya just doesn’t hold up to the level of the rest of the material in this dual role. But apart from that I think the ep nailed it, especially the backstory portion (though I wonder if it might have been even more effective if it had come earlier).

Scotland indeed (I figured it had to be either that or Ireland) is where the Macbeth twins grew up. As we know, they’re the children of casters – but the blanks surrounding that information were substantially filled in. William inherited the caster skills, Mary did not – and she resented it, hard. She was the brash, bold one, and William timid and gentle. And after an early-childhood incident involving an exploding mudball, too scared to use his caster powers even when being bullied by muggles (which just pisses off Mary/White that much more). As for Ma and Pa, they’re supremely kind shepherds with perpetual smiles, albeit ones who periodically are summoned to go off somewhere and save the world (and we all know how that eventually worked out for them.

This dynamic between the twins isn’t one I’d call original, but it was nicely depicted. The atmospherics in the warm and fuzzy childhood scenes were excellent, and I love the little touches like Will’s voice being muffed when the camera is on Mary listening to him, and loud when the camera moves to him. Of course Black and White’s story doesn’t just exist as a parallel to the main plot, but a parallel to that of Leo and Michaela. In each case we have an older sibling giving up something precious to save the younger, but the story is even darker with the Macbeths – and indeed, the latter moments of the episode are some of the darkest in the entire series.

As to what actually happens in those closing scenes, as far as I can tell, after White gives Leo’s God’s Eyes to the King of Despair, the latter uses them to discern the nature of the barrier surrounding Hellsalem’s lot, and then destroys it. And it seems as though White was a part of the barrier, so he seemingly destroys her too – though there’s a lot of contradictory imagery there which makes it difficult to know with any certainty what really happened (not to mention the suggestion that she’s been “dead” since the early-childhood incident their father referred to earlier in the episode). Clearly the KoD’s soliloquy about “death being the privilege of the living” is crucial here, too.

Would I like a little more clarity here, especially given that we only have one episode left? Yeah, I would. But I think that obfuscation is kind of the price of admission with Kekkai Sensen – this is not a story that moves in straight lines, but rather an endless string of unpredictable curves. It’s much more impressionistic – maybe even surrealist – than photo-realistic. When brought off with this much genius that sort of show is always memorable, but they aren’t the easiest to tie together – we’ll see what Matsumoto-sensei and Furuya-sensei can pull off in the finale.

The LiA Summer 2015 Season Preview and Poll is out – please stop by and cast your vote!



  1. Fantastic episode.

    This was the best episode this season by far. Episode 5 will be my favorite for the action + comedy but nothing came close to the emotonal heft in this episode.

    I don’t know what it is, because objectively the show has been very disjointed, which is fine, but some are saying it’s overdone. But screw it, the style is amazing, the characters are fun, the OST kicks lots of ass, and this is probably one of my favorite original arcs in a long time.

    Even if the ending blows, this show won’t get lower than a 4/5. (Unless the ending REALLY blows.) I am cautiously worried if the ending wll be bad. I think in this case, if it is, it’ll have more impact on the enjoyment most others had because the only plot really focused on was between Black & White, and that was a very impressive direction for the show to take. So if the ending is bad I think everyone will be disappointed.

    But I digress, even so, it’s been a fun ride. Can’t wait for the finale, and fuck the delay ^^

      1. From what i understand it was over for her the moment he used Leo’s eyes to destroy the magic barrier (stopping her heart in the process), she already died at the cinema holding Leo’s camera.

  2. I had one of those “Aha, so that was it!!!” a.k.a “Eureka” moments when i realized that the chest pains she has been feeling over the entire series were due to the various attempts the king of despair made to break the barrier erected by her parents, when he finally did it sadly it meant that her heart would stop and that it was over for her as her own artificial heart was tied to the same magic keeping the barrier intact .. she died at the cinema holding leo’s camera, why he took her to the church and put a bullet in her chest is a mystery to me !!!

    As to what happened back in the past, my guess is that Black actually killed or badly injured his sister at a very young age (seeing how crazy his powers were) and her parents saved her using their magical powers (a power similar to the one they used later to erect a barrier to stop the first collapse in New York), when King of Despair nullified that spell holding the barrier the one holding her heart together probably got nullified too, ironically using Leo’s eyes to decipher the magic and break it.

    1. It is likely that White’s heart and the barrier were created using her own magic. Which is why Black had to shoot her heart, so as to make sure there would be no resurrection or some chance that she would be usable to foil his plans.

      Sure, she’ll probably be revived into a Vampire by Leo later on, but hey. Feel sorry for her now, type of deal.

  3. This is why I respect authors who don’t let “fans” or studios dictate how they tell their stories. To me over the last few years anime hasn’t been up to par as is was in the 90s; back then anime wasn’t following what was popular or what could rank in the most sales it did it’s own thing was happy that way. Also us fans had a lot more common sense back then too, instead of jumping on a bandwagon we would wait and see how the story played out before going into the confirmed water.

  4. This episode is just wow. I love every minute of it. one of the most relaxing and feeling episode. This is why i love kekkai sensen. I hope the final will give us a nice and conclusive ending.

  5. What’s the right word to describe this episode for me…? Anticlimactic? Yeah, that’s about right.

    Now don’t get me wrong; even my stone-cold heart felt a twinge of emotion when Black put the gun over White’s heart and BAM! Best moment of the entire episode, hands down, and quite well done, IMO.

    Now, to be fair, we’ve still the finale to go and, of course, anything could still happen, but I can’t help but feel like White’s been given the shaft here a little bit. Does anyone honestly believe she went into this genuinely believing that her brother would come out of it A-okay? I certainly didn’t, and so the only conclusion one can draw is that she just kinda gave up and then just up and died.


    And yes, “Macbeth”, right? I know, I know, I get it. Tragedy isn’t supposed to have a happy ending, but you don’t have to put your characters on the proverbial chopping block to get there. Even now, the only semblance of empathy I feel towards White or Black lies in the idea of their circumstances, not the characters themselves, and that really deals a heavy hit to any notion that this particular arc would be memorable for me.

    Even now I’m still playing over Klaus’ epic other world chess game in my head. Now THAT was memorable.

    What could have happened to make this better? Something to show me that White isn’t just dancing like a marionette in Black’s hands, even if it was utterly pointless; say, a last minute plea from her as Black is about to shoot her, perhaps sparking some small modicum of resistance from Will as he struggles to break free of Black’s control. Is this perfect? No, but give me something to show me that White isn’t just a helpless little girl being toyed around with. She’s pitiable, yes, but I can’t sympathize with that.

    I sincerely, truly hope that the finale will make it all worth it, because goodness knows this series deserves a great ending.

    Ryan Ashfyre
    1. I think this is a little harsh, but at the same time I’m sort of with you. Something as simple as resistance I don’t think would have solved that, rather it would have just become another sort of cliche i.e. she tries to fight, fails, the heroes come and save her.

      The idea that this was an inescapable faustian bargain is at least a little more unique. My problem is that by having him simply betray her it creates other cliche problems. More interesting would have been him KEEPING his end of the bargain but that being a whole other set of issues.

      By having him simply betray her, you fall into an issue that I think happens WAY too much in Japanese media (games/anime/manga) where the hero (I say hero but usually it’s just the heroine) goes along with the villain’s scheme in order to ‘save’ someone they love but the villain NEVER, EVER keeps their word so it all ends up being fairly predictable. And it usually is just setup for the hero(es) to have to save the heroine from her silliness in going along with the villain’s plan to begin with.


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