January 10, 2009

Kurokami The Animation: First Episode Review.

Kurokami (aka "Black God") has a curious history.  Originally a manga, it was written by a Korean manhwa (Korea's version of manga) team specifically for the Japanese market.  The authors, humorously, don't entirely know Japanese, a fact they make fun of in the omakes at the end of the books.  The anime (produced by Sunrise), however, is the first ever to be broadcast simultaneously in Japan and America (on ImaginAsian TV, dubbed).  So, what of the show?

The milk is expired.
This is our hero, Keita.  He appears to be just a regular guy, a 17-year-old high-school student who lives alone.  His mother was killed in a traffic accident when he was young, an incident which he witnessed.  Seems she saw her doppleganger, and ran across the street to... I dunno.  "Wow, you look just like me," seems like an odd way to greet a stranger, but that's just me.  Anyway, while he lives alone, his 21-year old childhood friend, Akane, takes care of him, cooking and giving him money to live... an odd arrangement.

Onii-chan, why is my forehead so big?
The family next door seem to like Keita, inviting him over to dinner.  Mei, the little girl, is disappointed when he turns them down. 

Chasing birds...
He does have one little eccentricity, however.  After school, he hops on his collapsable bike and rides down to the 'bad side' of town, a section of the city that seems to have suffered from some calamity (earthquake?) that's broken highways and submerged some of it, too.  Well, it IS pretty when the streetlights come on...



Strangely, one of his friends, a cute genki-girl-type named Risa, sees her doppleganger at a concert... and is killed in an incident the next day.  Weird.

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds takes some practice swings.
Keita is a regular at a ramen stand located in the 'bad side', so much so that the owner throws in extras for free.  Guess he eats there a lot.  Anyway, as he eats, a stranger approaches the stand, stomach growling and wanting some food.

Why, yes, that is a dog in her jacket.
Of course, she doesn't have enough for a bowl.  Keita, swell guy that he is, gives her his ramen.  The stand owner offers him another ramen, and inquires why he's always eating there.  The thing about Keita's mother comes up, and the unnamed girl pipes up that it wasn't a doppleganger, but a doppeliner: three identical people.  She says that if two of the three ever meet, one of them will die.  If the remaining two meet, one will die and the other is called 'the Root,' and gains the luck and power of the three.  Huh.  You don't say.  She then says something like "It's pitiful that your mother wasn't the Root."  I'm hoping that was just clumsy translation.  She then goes back to eating.

As she argues with her dog over a piece of meat in the ramen, Barry, finished with his warmup swings, approaches from behind and...

Manrui homuran!
Mystery girl gets knocked across the parking lot.  Keita is outraged by Barry Bonds' presumptousness, gets all Mitchell Report-y, and leaps to her defense.

Every baseball fan is now cheering wildly for Keita.
Unfortunately, being hit by a stool is nothing to Barry Bonds... and Keita's head is a lot bigger than a baseball.

See, there's no way anybody could get that much distance with a one-handed swing without steroids...
While Barry is standing at home plate admiring his home run, he's not paying attention to Mystery Girl...

...who is not pleased that her meal ticket has just ended up in McCovey Cove.

Barry realizes that he might have a problem.

Dadada-DAH-duh-DAHHHHH...

1) Nice block.
2) She's not wearing pants.  I just wanted to mention that.

Keita's thoughts:
1) Why isn't she dead?
2) Why aren't I bleeding from the mouth?
3) She's not wearing pants.
4) I picked a bad day to quit sniffing glue.
...and thus begins a truly epic fight scene.  No, no kamehamehas flying around (sorry Steven), but epic nevertheless.  Five minutes of brutal violence, and no speed lines or panning shots.  It's all animated, and it's frenetic action at it's best.

It helps if you imagine fight music from The Matrix playing in the background

She's faster than Barry, he's stronger.  Even match.

No car alarm here.

Owtch.
She gets better.  Quickly.  And Mystery Girl is pissed.

This is for Roger Maris...

...and that's for Hank Aaron.
Bonds gets away, Mystery Girl thanks Keita for the ramen, then leaves.  He's stunned by what he's just seen, and goes home.

The next morning?  He's walking downtown and Mei-chan, the little girl who lives next door, sneaks up on him.  They chat for a second or two, and she crosses the street...

Oh.
On the other side of the street?  Mei's doppeliner.  Fade to credits.

I'm pleasantly surprised by Kurokami.  By the end of the episode, you get the distinct impression that any of the characters could die at any time, and that's just drummed home by Mei being turned into a bloody streak on the street.  The fight scene was beautiful, one of the best I've ever seen.  Art and animation quality is top-notch; it feels like what you'd get if KyoAni did a fighting anime.

There is a plot here, we just don't really know what it is yet.  Who is the mystery girl, what's with all the doppeliners showing up now and dying rapidly, and what tie does Keita have to them?  Or is meeting him just really unlucky for you?  And what the heck is going on with Barry and M.G.?

For all that, this show is NOT for everyone.  The violence is, as mentioned, brutal and unrestrained.  When Mystery Girl and Barry fight, there's no question but that they're trying to kill each other, no holds barred (at one point, Barry is behind M.G., choking her with his bat, and he HEADBUTTS her).  It's intense, and so far Kurokami hasn't had much in the way of "make you smile" moments.  It isn't lighthearted.

The first episode, though, is more than good enough to keep me watching.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:11 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Post contains 1030 words, total size 10 kb.

1 It sounds good, but it's definitely not my kind of show.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 11, 2009 01:30 AM (+rSRq)

2 Not a chance in Hades is it your type of show, Steven.  Too many dead girls (one on-screen, one off, and then there's Keita's mom, which was also onscreen-ish)...

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 11, 2009 01:55 AM (sh9fy)

3 Looks pretty freaking sweet. I have to comment on the release scheme, though: it's definitely historic, but I doubt it will mean a lot to most stateside fans. iaTV is only available to cable subscribers in a few select markets, and for most of those I suspect it's locked away in a premium tier. If they're trying to steal a march on the fansubbers, this is just about the worst way of going about it; they've actually succeeded in nullifying one of the major reasons to wait for the R1 DVD release by airing it dubbed. I'd buy this from BOST or Crunchyroll in a heartbeat, but I couldn't get iaTV even if I were willing to pay for cable.

Posted by: Andrew F. at January 11, 2009 03:20 PM (uN3cC)

4 That show does look intriguing...and actually my kind of show.

Posted by: arson55 at January 11, 2009 05:07 PM (i4N0z)

5 I was thinking this was a lost season, but I hadn't tried this one.  Maybe it's worth a shot.

Anything else good this winter?  I was thinking of giving White Album a shot but I haven't seen any opinions yet good or bad.

Posted by: astro at January 11, 2009 07:20 PM (OFLem)

6 I'm way behind on the new shows, Astro.  I took a real fast look at White Album, and the chins looked awfully pointy, but other than that I've got no opinion yet.  Also no opinion on Asu no Yoichi or Maria+Holic.  I DO have opinions on KissXSis (ugh) and Akikan (blech), though...

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 11, 2009 10:13 PM (sh9fy)

7 White Album is... different. One of those shows that I'd never guess to be a bishoujo game adaptation if I didn't know beforehand. Artsy, but in a restrained sort of way; the watercolor (?) effect shots are nice. After two episodes it's just interesting enough for me to keep watching, no more. Given the otherwise slim pickings this season, though, I'd say it's worth checking out.

Posted by: Andrew F. at January 12, 2009 07:59 PM (uN3cC)

8

Agree fully on Black God.  It was brutal, an adjective I've used only for the vampire kids' arc in Second Barrage. (Although that one was horribly nihilistic as well, so it still has the edge.)   It's obvious that Keita is still traumatized by his mother's death, and it's why he refuses to get close to anyone.  Now in short order, he's had two people he knows as well as he knows anyone die -- one right in front of him. 

The set-up was classic  --  the rule of threes is in effect, so you know she's doomed the moment the light changes and she runs out... yet it's handled so violently it's still shocking when it happens.

I note that it has little or nothing to do with the description I read at Aroudoc's place, although the flashback sequence from the beginning makes me think there might be a time-skip of a couple years coming up.  That's just crazy speculation though.

Posted by: ubu at January 13, 2009 01:41 PM (i7ZAU)

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