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Face Off: Ray and Mike Try to Figure Out Kurozuka


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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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