Face Off: Ray and Mike Try to Figure Out Kurozuka

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Mike: While I really enjoyed many parts of Kurozuka, I think you definitely got into it more than I did. At least until the end, I was more or less watching it like an action show.

There really were only two fundamental questions on my mind:
1.) What is Kuromitsu really up to?
2.) What’s going to happen when Kuro finally faces the Red Emperor?

#1 is more or less answered.
#2 is what’s so confusing.

Ray:Well, what are you confused about?

Mike:Do I have the basic scenario right here? Basically, Kuro gets his head cut off in every age by Kuromitsu, who then transfers his head to new bodies each time. Each time he also loses his memories and rediscovers Kuromitsu every time, so the chase sort of continues until eternity?

Oh, and the Red Emperor is Benkei.

Ray:Well, actually you probably said something that I didn’t figure out. I didn’t know Benkei is the Red Emperor! Or actually, is he the Onmyoji?

But other than that, yeah. Kuro must sort of die in every age and go after Kuromitsu. It’s like some kind of hell, in my opinion.

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Mike:Yeah. It’s like the cycle of reincarnation, the cycle that you’re supposed to escape from. I think the biggest thing that confused me is that apparently Kuromitsu is totally behind pretty much everything? Like it’s her idea to begin with to put him in this cycle? And she’s using the Red Emperor’s organization to do so?

I think it’s fairly clear that Benkei is the Red Emperor. We see them fighting at the end after all, and he has the same staff as the Red Emperor did. I assume the Red Emperor is the one with the red hair and the mask?

Ray:You mean the Noh drama guy? He gets killed. Or actually, who is the red emperor? There isn’t one. Remember the organization, AKA the Red Emperor’s army, was basically founded in the Heian Era, with the Onmyoji as its head. But in a certain way, Benkei was seduced by the beauty of Kuromitusu and betrayed Kuro, AKA as Minamoto Yoshitsune. Is that confusing enough?

Mike:Well I thought Benkei and the Noh drama guy at the end (it really felt like a final boss fight–so I assume this was the Red Emperor) had a similar hair style, and they both fought with the same weapon. That’s why I thought that’s who Benkei was.

Ray:I think we aren’t to take everything literally. Sometimes it’s very, uh, allegorical? But really, I don’t know there is a “Red Emperor”.

Mike:Actually, I felt it does make some kind of sense that way. Benkei is definitely the ageless but really aged man who can’t die. So we have a trio of immortal characters: Kuro, Kuromitsu, and Benkei, and in a way they are playing out the same drama in every time period, almost like playing set roles.

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Ray:Is that what it is? Then who is the Onmyoji?

Mike:I think the Onmyoji is whom I’m calling the Red Emperor–the ageless man, right? The one who is so old he’s hideous? I think that’s Benkei. He explains himself as such in the final episode.

Ray:Wait a minute, it seems like the Onmyoji began the chase in Heian Era, when both Benkei and Kuro started running from the organization, remember? They were escaping from a certain group of warriors who looked more like demons, when they stumbled upon Kuromitsu’s home. Unless what you’re implying is that Benkei was behind that organization from the very beginning. But at the very end, he said he betrayed Kuro because he wanted to be with Kuromitsu.

However, if the Onmyoji invaded Benkei’s mind, and confused him, perhaps Onmyoji then possessed his body? And so that Benkei + Onmi THEN became behind it all, after the Heian Era? But if that’s true, that they became one somehow, why did Benkei say at the very end: “I’ve now seen you again?” The dialogue doesn’t make it clear. Madhouse does action very well, but they need someone else to do plotting.

I think both of us got the basic scenario figured out right, so here’s the issue: Are Kuro’s memories correct?

Mike:Well there are moments where he does seem to fall into that suspended state, but I didn’t see much evidence of him going into unreliable narrator mode.

Also, I wasn’t entirely sure about the role of Kuon in all this. Kuon was being used by Kuromitsu so he could cut off Kuro’s head, right?

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Ray:Or to put it clearly, so Kuromitsu could use Kuon’s body for Kuro. Try saying that 3 million times as fast! XD

Mike:I dunno man. It started getting quite convoluted near the end. Is this one of those wheel of fate things where he’s basically condemned to repeat things over and over again?

Ray:Well, it’s like his hell. That woman is immortal, and she won’t let him go,
so he’s stuck in an endless cycle, for certain, and the show seems to indicate that. But oddly, the end is the beginning and they do go back to the beginning. It’s almost saying that the world goes on until destruction, and repeat the process. It definitely plays with the idea of reincarnation. Again, what to take literally? I’m not certain.

As far as everything else is concerned, Kuromitsu is behind a lot of other things, and in the later age, she even started working with the Red Emperor’s organization to get what she wants. To me, she’s the final boss.

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Mike:You told me you didn’t like the ending. Why not?

Ray:Well, because it was too ambiguous, and I felt like some things weren’t explained clearly. Maybe I’m a nut for neatness in this case, but who exactly the hell is the Onmyoji??? Or, why is it he never showed up to fight back Kuro at the end? There was this subplot about how he wants to be immortal, but since he already lived for so long, then what the fuck exactly does he want? Remember, he never expressed love interest for Kuromitsu.

Also, if I were Kuro, I’d cut off her head just to see if it would end, but he was really passive and just let it go.

The ending 3 episodes felt like some stuff weren’t developed correctly, or rushed a little, or something.

Mike:I pretty much concur. That you and I saw what happened so differently–though I think you’re right that Benkei isn’t the Red Emperor/Onmyoji–is an indication.

Ray:We could interpret the confusing parts as allegory; the “organization” and the “Onmyoji” are simply forces of Chaos in every age, longing for ways to extend its/their state of existence and also take over the world. Because at the end, the Onmi never really had substance, except may be in Benkei’s head. But that didn’t make him a fake; he grabbed Kuromitsu back when she and Kuro first made love. Also, Kuro’s memories aren’t quite reliable – I mean there is stuff missing, and we’re left in the dark as to what really went on.

Mike:Yeah. I think most of the plot kinda falls apart when you try to examine the details. But if there is a “point” to the show it’s that things go on and on and the search for love is like an eternal cycle, I guess. It’s very fatalistic.

Ray:Yeah, a damned cycle of Greek Hell. How appropriate for Otakus!

Mike:Well judging from the fact that on the anime blogosphere, it was only you and psgels reviewing it, I’d say it wasn’t very popular with otakus on the internet at least.

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Ray:Only us, eh? But yeah, the ending is like a Greek MYTHOLOGY’s Hell.
He’s doomed to repeat because she’s now his fate. Kuromitsu = Black Honey = sweet but dark. Hard to let go, hard to find, but deadly and long lasting. Romi Paku does an excellent job there as her.

Mike:In some ways she’s the classic femme fatale, a personification of seduction, I suppose.

Ray:Yes. But ultimately, the fundamental structure of the show is a little thin.

Bottom line—great action, acting, animation and music, but don’t bother trying to make perfect sense of it.

Mike:Sadly, I’d class it as another one of those “wasted potential” shows–though it is a visual treat. I was still enthralled for most of it, at least.

Ray:It is a great treat to watch for visual quality and acting, and also music, so I’m getting the DVDs when they come out. But just stick with the basic plot and you’ll be fine.

Mike:Yeah. Though I wish someone out there could make it a bit clearer–because I think there are a lot of interesting ideas

Ray:I think Noh dramas are meant to be a bit allegorical and yes, confusing.
I also wish someone who knows the details could review it.

Mike:Yes, readers, this is a call for comments. Please let us know what you think if you’ve watched it too.

7 thoughts on “Face Off: Ray and Mike Try to Figure Out Kurozuka”

  1. Hi, I just stayed up all night for a Kurozuka marathon.

    And I must say, the last 3 episodes was full of WTF?
    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and I’m slow at following plots, or maybe because it’s 2am and not thinking properly. Whatever.

    After reading this review, the main plot is much clearer.  However literally does Kuro really enter this cycle of damnation chasing after Kuromitsu? Or does he just have a dream and move on?  The very last scene takes you back to the very 1st scene, except Kuro doesn’t enter Kuromitsu’s house, which essentially stops the cycle from ever starting at all. BUT then the camera zooms out of the forest and shows the ruined city…wtf?

    That aside, a lot of things seem to conveniently happen in the last few episodes. Such as the exploding building in the Kuro vs Kuon fight, it almost seemed as if someone was shooting at the building? Or when the Red Army base just gets drenched in blood and collapse…am I taking this too literally? Was there some sort of message being conveyed?

    I also feel that Kuon’s story isn’t fully explained. Hasegawa mentioned that Kuon is his 48th creation from Kuro, and yet we are presented with a fake Kuon and the original. Not to mention the scenes where he is making love with Kuromitsu; does that mean Kuon is immortal too?

    Rai’s character could also be explained further, or removed from the story completely. I don’t know which is better.

    All in all, this anime’s plot at the end reminds me of the time when I watched Evangelion Death and Rebirth: WTF. I get the main plot line, but the numerous small inconsistencies just make me lose track of what’s happening.

  2. wgd: I really wish I knew the answers to your questions too! I wonder if the manga is clearer? Anyone?

    Anime needs better continuity editors in general, methinks. :)

  3. Well, Kuromitsu holds the key to everything, so everything she says probably counts; therefore, when she says that she cuts off Kuro’s head once every few years, I believe her words to be the truth. The reason I feel that it’s a cycle of damnation is because after learning the truth, and starting to have bodily decay. Kuro says in a tired voice: “Just kill me.” I think in a certain sense he realizes that he’s been doing this forever, or at least a very, very long time. Thus, it becomes hell or rather, Greek Mythology Hell (think Sisyphus) in a way in that every time he wakes up, he wants to know who he is, and the only one person that stands out in his memory is Kuromitsu; without remembering why he loses his memory, he goes after her again, and again, and again. Everything at the very end suggests a cycle of repeat; even a reincarnation of the world itself, but one should not take many elements in the ending literally; one must perceive it as a Noh drama, in that there’s almost never a set that really imitates real life; the audience must imagine the settings from the drum beats, the chants, and the actors with masks without aid of a background scenery. Therefore, when these Noh drama bits are “on”, the continuity just becomes fucked up, because they’re not to be takenliterally. That’s probably why after Kuro takes out the Red Mask guy, the room after him just seem so out of place.

    Rai is Houko-chan (Kuwashima Houko) character right? I just like her seiyuu. Her character seems much like an afterthought.

  4. Here’s the way I saw this anime. Forgive me if I butcher the plot:

    Kuro finds a hot chick who is being pursued by a group of fanatics seeking immortality. Kuro puts on the moves and they fall in love. She ask Kuro if he is willing to be with her forever he says yes, but in the middle of the ‘immortality process’ her gets his head lobbed off. Opps.

    Now because the spell isnt complete Kuro is now and immortal head, probably the first of his kind. Kuromitsu, only truely loves Kuro as a head, because thats when he is truely himself. Now the lovers have to go on a search to find a way they can be together again and they have forever to to it. The big curse is Kuro head can only mount a motal body for a short period of time before it decays. So Kuromitsu gets an idea to team up with her persurers to tear the world assundure looking for the mysteries of the earth, why? To grant Kuro a permanant body so they can finally go on their honeymoon. The end.

    Did I miss something?

  5. Well, too late for me to take out the spoilers out of my head, but I just saw the first 8 seasons of the show on Crackle right now, at first, its seems cool and made sense. But, as I got into the stpry, I was all like,O_o WTF?!”, its gets confusing as the beginning starts out randomly during the current events taking place, like Kuru and the old man, that random serial killer who I assume got killed by Kurumitsu to be Kuru’s new body. Plus, the part where Muru is with the painter, he see’s a painting of her with vines with red eyes, so ..? And does one of memories Muru have take place in WW2? (Due to Us and Japan fighting plus the old styled planes..) Point being, its a very cool anime with very confusing moments, literally. Oh what happened to the original immortal that first made Murukitsu immortal, how did he got his immortallity and shouldn’t Murukitsu have that bond with him like Muru? Again, a confusing anime which feels sorta of a genjutsu.. -_-

  6. I have to say, I’ve seen a lot of anime, maybe not as many as some but this one was one of the only ones that completely threw me for a loop, that I didn’t stop watching. I didn’t really understand what was going on at first, then it started to make sense and the moment I thought I was understanding things Rai took a bullet and everything when insane. That said I think I understand it all fairly well it just doesn’t function as a traditional story.

    I don’t really have much to add to what was posted above, however Benkai is definitely the Red Emperor. This can be confirmed because the Kuro stabs the emperor through his mask and Benkai talking to Kuromitsu has a cut in his forehead and blood running down it. The apocalyptic scene near the end where he walks to the cliff and sees the city is actually not a new scene but is a scene from before he met up with Rai and all them. Also it appears that the cycle actual begins before anything we have seen so far as the ending shows him at the beginning talking about dreams. In fact I would say that a great comparison for the shows cycle theme is the movie Looper. Its a circle, going round and round. There is no logical definable moment when it begins, and no end either. Its paradoxical in nature. That is all.

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