First Look Fair: Kure-nai

The loli did NOT come in the bag this time

Ray couldn’t quite put his finger on it. I confess that I still can’t quite, either–though here’s an attempt to try to figure out what makes this odd comic drama stand out not just this season, but in anime in general.

The basic premise of the show is not terribly unusual, and has been done before in anime: a young man is, through various circumstances, forced to take care of a much younger girl as a younger sister or even as a child. Think of Aishiteruze Baby on the shoujo side, or arguably Chobits on the shonen side for respectable examples–and quite a few lesser ones since the moe explosion hit and imoutos became fetish objects. Here, the boy is still in high school, and the forced parenting is a result–here is where it starts to become strange–of his moonlighting as a hired bodyguard and thug for various underground jobs. His handler is a meganekko in his school. His face is that of the usual wimpy harem lead, but his attacks are swift and bloody. (A fact pointed out within the show itself, by the way.) These elements, put together as they are, feel jarring; realistic and rather unrealistic elements jostle against each other side by side. What’s going on here?

If Woody Allen were a pedo and an anime writer--oh wait

This is on top of the fact that the writing and dialogue is also unusually witty and “sophisticated” for anime, too. And it’s not just because the BGM is mostly jazz. This is one of the few animes where the characters often talk and interact as if they were older than their apparent ages, rather than the opposite. (I’m thinking of the interaction between Yuuna and him, especially in the three-way argument when she, Murasaki, and Shinkurou find each other at the foot of the stairs, as well as dialogues between Shikurou and his handler.) Even Murasaki, the seven year old, is (while cute) not even close to being “moe.” Her voice is not incredibly high pitched. She is irritating and bratty, not to mention spoiled, though by episode 3 we realize she has a moral core driven by already-terrible life experiences. The back-of-forth of the dialogue has a rhythm and drive to it which is immediately apparent, a much more natural one than in most TV anime. The nearest equivalent I can think of is in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but even that one has a totally different atmosphere to it. It sticks out in an otherwise normal anime school setting, where we expect much more typical and cliche things to happen.

vlcsnap-00161

In fact, the only other show this vaguely reminds me of is Code-E, and like Code-E, my main fear is that the complex setup we have been given will lead to a future lack of focus. There are plenty of mysteries to be solved: who is Benika, really, and what is her goal? How does Yuuna’s family know Murasaki’s? Why is Shinkurou doing the job he’s doing at all? Not to mention the neo-feudal, traditionalist milieu of the Kouhouin family with its concubine dramas. So far the show is mostly about Shinkurou’s challenges in taking care of this headstrong seven year old, which is where it should be. It’s a novel twist on a relatively old idea, but is being executed in a manner that suggest that there are a lot of layers to be peeled back and explored. I’m not sure whether this will work in the long run, because of all these disparate elements that are getting pulled in. At times it really seems to be trying to be a realistic drama; at other times, a mild love comedy; and yet at other times, a labyrinthine conspiracy/gangster story. The overall feeling is of a show that almost seems realistic, but never quite reaching there.

Crying: not necessarily moe

I can see why so many of my blogging colleagues have taken a shine to this title. It’s not mindblowing, nor is it seeking to be. If it subverts anything, it’s the simple expectation of cliche voice acting and cliche writing that this situation almost certainly would have triggered in most other shows. It’s a show that, for once, doesn’t talk down to its audience so much, and for that I–a twenty seven year old man in seminary who still likes to watch cartoons–am grateful.

8 thoughts on “First Look Fair: Kure-nai”

  1. I can see how you wouldn’t view it as entirely realistic, but for me the most important part isn’t so much what they do; I’m more concerned about the emotions they exhibit, and their mannerisms, although it’s easy to forget that that’s not the only way by which someone gauges realism.

    It’s funny that you bring this up, though — a while ago I was laughing along with a friend about realism in fiction, and how reality is usually so far removed from what we consider realistic fiction that when we try and adopt that experience or incident, it comes off as unbelievable or cliched.

  2. @Owen: right, I think on the whole the emotional believability is spot on for most of the show. The unrealism is mostly in the plot/situations. I felt much the same way for True Tears, where the plot often felt a bit forced and contrived, but the characters felt real. Ultimately I do think that matters more, and emotional realism covers a multitude of sins.

    And you are, of course, absolutely right that “realism” in fiction is hardly the same thing as realism in real life. It’s like writing dialogue for film or TV; you don’t want to write exactly the way real people talk (full of hesitations, “ums,” “like,” etc.). That’s boring. Rather, you just make sure that the dialogue is in character (ie, each character has to have a different “voice”), and that each exchange accomplishes something and moves the story forward. Done well, that simply sounds “natural.”

  3. Murasaki is spoiled rotten. I thought the most memorable exchange was in episode 1 when she manipulated the reluctant Shikurou into becoming her bodyguard by acting sad and unhappy. In the next scene when she’s alone with him she shows her other, more demanding, less charitable side.

    I think the reason to watch this show is Murasaki. She’s a traumatized seven-year old brat and she behaves like one. Shikurou is not a very good babysitter. What sort of an idiot would leave a seven year old alone in his apartment with nothing to do for half the day? Of course she’d wander off. What else would she do? Stare at the wall for eight hours?

  4. The animation the opening song reminds me of the opening animation of the sitcom “The Nanny.” The sitcom is about a nanny with a New York accent who has to babysit a group of rich, spoiled, brattish children.

    http://www.thenanny.com/

  5. While Kure-nai might seem like a lost cause because of the disparate elements it has, I believe that its not-so-realistic world (or so that’s what it seems at this point with the multitude of questions left unanswered) is made real in the characters, especially Murasaki and Shinkurou, as we get to empathize with both their situations, the more we get to know about their past, and have a glimpse of the path that lies ahead of them. There’s that sense of realism I feel in each episode which always strikes a chord with me, and I blame it for moving me to tears each time. I guess that realism, no matter how little, overshadows most of the negatives of the show… and makes it shine for me :)

  6. The main reason to watch this show is Murasaki. I might say bad things about her but the only reason I’d watch the show is because of her character. She’s definitely spoiled and she’s a brat, but she’s a good kid and she means well.

    The other elements of the show is cliche:

    1. The main character is a passive male protagonist with supernatural powers and a “dark” side. He’s emotionally traumatized because of childhood memories.
    2. He’s surrounded by attractive, jealous females.
    3. He goes to high school.
    4. The plot is confusing and discombobulated with too many loose ends.
    5. The plot isn’t very realistic. Doesn’t Benika have a better place to put the girl than with a high school student who is too busy to take of her?
    6. The animation and the voice acting is pretty standard.

    If it wasn’t for Murasaki this show would be another “bleh” show. Most of the “emotional realism” revolves around her.

  7. Heh. I need to be less brutal in my criticisms. I take back my earlier comment about Muraski being a kid who is “spoiled ROTTEN.” She’s only spoiled.

    The main characters of this show remind of the main characters of last season’s The Guardian of the Sacred Spirit except the genders are reversed. Both shows are about children who had lived their entire lives in a palace before being rudely forced into the real world under the protection of a bodyguard. However, Balsa the face-kicking, spear-wielding, ass-whooping bodyguard in The Guardian of the Sacred Spirit is a HERO unlike Shinkurou who is a passive, depressed high school kid with a traumatized past. The Guardian of the Sacred Spirit has more realistic characters, deadlier political intrigue, more drama, more imaginative scenery, and a coherent plot.

Leave a Reply