Mike: I have to say, we really need more “mature” stories like this one. There is a wonderful soundtrack, fluid battle animation, and one of those epic concepts that easily could have become cheesy–love that crosses the distance of time–but it actually works.
Ray: The great thing about the time travel and memory sequences is that they didn’t confuse me at all. Maybe in the beginning I wondered which era they were in, but by episode 4, nothing was confusing anymore.
Mike: I think it helps that each time period has a very particular look and feel. You’re never confused about their time period, though they do seem to jump around from time to time in a non-linear way. Plus, it does seem that a plotline is coalescing in the future/post-apocalypse timeline though in all times, the basic conflict is the same.
Ray: I think it’s the way they used ultra simple transitions. We see Kuro go through his memories in the sea of flowers with Kuromitsu: the screen wipes down, and we realize that he was dreaming. And later, in the same episode, he sees her again in a sea of flowers, but this time in an illusion.
Mike: I thought episode 5 did a great job handling the misdirection and indirection. Did you get the feeling that Kuro was going through a series of symbolic trials, sort of like the way Indiana Jones does in the Last Crusade (except this is much more artistic)?
I guess, though, if I do have any complaints about the show–it’s that we still don’t know too much about Kuro and Kuromitsu as people. Right now, they’re fulfilling roles–one is the restless wandering swordsman, the other is his supernatural love. It’s not a huge deal (yet) because the backdrops, the animation, and the atmosphere are so compelling.
I did sort of feel, though, that the testing moments in Episode 5 could have been more of a test of character for Kuro. It hinted toward that when he saw her in the flower field. You know what I mean?
Ray: …like if he’s strong enough to wait through time??? I think in the traditional Noh drama, there’s never explicit portrayal of characters, but a lot of images and icons using masks, and the masks are supposed to speak for characterization.
Mike: I think you’re probably right. Psychological realism and character development in the modern sense is really a product of the modern novel. It’s not just western; it’s recent western. (Medieval allegorical dramas were just as “flat” in their characterization.)
Anyways…where do you think the story is headed next? I find it interesting that their opponents, the Red Emperor and his forces, have grown more and more powerful as time goes on.
Ray: well, the supreme leader is the Onmiuji, basically like a magician/warlock/fortune teller/shinto priest guy. For some reason, this group has been controlling Japan from behind the scenes – at least that’s what I’m guessing. Somewhat like La Soldat; but after the nuclear apocalypse, they simply decided to take over.
Ray: That seems to be the ambition of one man. In any case, it doesn’t seem like the Onmiuji’s ultimate objective has changed much since Heian Era – to get true immortality from Kuromitsu. Or am I wrong?
Mike: No, their motive is pretty consistent throughout all times. They are looking for immortality. And for that, they’re willing to do whatever it takes. There were somewhat similar themes in Fullmetal Alchemist about how that search always led to tragedy.
Ray: In ancient times, it’s immortality; in post-apocalypse, it’s forced evolution. However, the irony for me is that the Onmiuji has been living for God knows however long, so he may be immortal already, but yet he still seeks to take Kuromitsu’s power. Is he so obsessed that he can’t realize he’s immortal already?
Mike: Interestingly enough, both Kuro and Kuromitsu are called “vampires” in the translation I watched. I wonder if the group sees itself as simultaneously a vampire hunting agency as well as trying to create synthetic vampires (a la Hellsing)? They are all certainly obsessed with blood.
Ray: They’re not out to hunt many vampires, just Kuromitsu. And they want her power, that much is clear. The scientist wants to create a new race with powers (ala Nazis) and the Onmiuji wants…eternal life and I guess youth. He was pretty old and disgusting looking back in the Heian Era. As for blood, here’s another interesting thing – some white guy made Kuromitsu a vampire, so what happened to the western Vampires???
[Anyway], the basic themes aren’t really all that revolutionary – old demon seeking immortality, eternal lovers trying to get back to paradise, and so on. Stuff up Madhouse’s alley.
They definitely get one part of the traditional Western vampire legend down, which is that sucking blood = sexual intercourse.
Mike: Well, remember when Kuro allows Kuromitsu to suck his blood for the first time? And that turns into their first sexual encounter, too? And, conversely, the time when she got turned into a vampire by the blond guy, it was also mixed with a rape.
Mike: Yeah. I think the experience was meant to suggest that. Plus, now that it has happened and he is one of her kind, they are together forever. It also serves as a kind of sealing of their marriage, in a way.
Mike: That it’s unabashedly grand and epic. The way the story is told is full of big, vivid gestures and yet, it has moments where it’s also quite delicate. Plus, it doesn’t indulge in the usual adolescent hijinks of 90% of current anime. It almost doesn’t fit in the current anime scene at all.
Mike: Well, it seems that the directors really know how to use the right music during the show’s slower moments. I’m thinking of the first time we see Kuro and Kuromitsu in the field of flowers, and in some of the moments in episode 1 in the middle, too. Those actually go a really long way in making the show seem “mature.” Many shows want either to be all pounding action, all the time or are just all talk, all conversation. This has a decent balance of both.
The funny thing about soundtracks is that they can be deceptive all by themselves. I remember hearing the music from Linebarrels coming over from my neighbor and fellow writer Matt’s room and I actually thought the music sounded great. But Matt says it’s such a mediocre show. I’ve written an article about soundtracks better than the show before, incidentally.
Ray: I’d have to say as an anime veteran it’s easy to get cynical, but in this case I was simply blown away by the beauty, the passion, the reserved love, the epic invasion, and the colorful characters. That said, the introduction of many of the “bosses” at the Red Emperor’s organization seemed like a standard ninja/samurai show music. I mean, yeah, Kuro/Jubei dude is going to have to take them all out, right? That’s not to say the show is formulaic…
The delicate balance of the show is well maintained, except for the OP which doesn’t really do anything for me. Otherwise, the score is perfect.
What about its cinematic aspects? What do you like and dislike?
Mike: Well, that kind of blends in to the comment about it being grand and epic. The pacing is more deliberate than that of a TV show. It covers a much wider span of time and places. The soundtrack is orchestral. All that makes it very “movie-like.”
TV also usually has more close ups of faces, though I can’t remember exactly if the show features more of those. Do you?