It’s really refreshing as an avid anime watcher to see an animation studio do something that they don’t usually do. In relatively recent years, certain animation studios have cemented themselves in place as ‘great’ and had made a name for themselves by doing specific things incredibly well. For instance, whenever I think of Madhouse, I think of well-choreographed fight scenes and balls-to-the-wall action. When I think of Ufotable, I think of stunning backdrops, gorgeous still frames, and an abundance of beautifully integrated CG (God Eater is an exception). And when I think of studios like Toei Animation or Oriental Light & Magic (OLM), I just think of watching Kids WB after school. Lastly, when I think of Kyoto Animation, I automatically think of moe and/or slice-of-life stuff like Lucky Star, Nichijou, or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. That’s why I found it intriguing when KyotoAni was responsible for a sci-fi/dark fantasy series like Kyoukai no Kanata (aka: Beyond the Boundary). I was kind of hesitant going into this series because of the extreme mixture of reviews it seems to have received. However, the journey it took me on left me more satisfied than it did disappointed. Without spoiling too much, the plot of the series is about a world where there are demonic spirits that inhabit the world, but can only be seen by other demons or people called Hunters. Hunters, well…hunt the demons and basically sell them for a profit. Within this world, in a high school (’cause why the fuck not), a Hunter by the name of Mirai Kuriyama is set out to kill a half demon/half human named Akihito Kanbara for unexplained reasons. After learning more about each other, those two plus a few friends set off to kill impending, demonic threat called the Hollow Shadow. The big picture is way bigger than that, but that would be getting into spoilers and we don’t do that here.
I really loved how the plot of Kyoukai no Kanata factors for a lot the development of the main two characters. The main cast also gets a fair amount of development. Although the development was not always overt and the series left room for more, the series did pretty well considering the complexity of the story, the episode count, and the fact that the plot isn’t 100 percent linear. The series also does a considerable job at giving things proper explanations. Because of how quickly most things occur and how abstract the whole concept of the story is, a lot of care and thought had to be put into explanations and I thought it did well for the most part.
Moreover, the show also left a fair amount of mystery over aspects that weren’t particularly relevant to the plot which I thought was a nice way to generate intrigue. However, toward the end, the series regresses and stops giving proper explanations to key events that occur making it quite difficult for the viewer to understand what happened and how it did. Furthermore, while the ending wraps things up decently enough, there are a few aspects that I personally felt didn’t make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things, especially seeing what had just happened a few episodes prior. But even though the series does fail at giving some elements the attention that they needed, the show does well enough at explaining most events leading up until the end and did a successful job at keeping me engaged. Also, referring back to a previous statement, the plot isn’t presented in a completely linear fashion. Though this may initially confuse viewers, most items that leave viewers perplexed get resolved and I think this storytelling method makes for some of the better minor plot twists that are laced into the series.
The characters are simultaneously the worst and better parts of the series. As much as I hate to say it, the characters are all fairly generic in terms of personality. Kuriyama is your typical shy, megane (glasses) girl and Akihito is your adamant and kind main male. There are also several side characters that get decent screen time: Mitsuki is the resident cock-tease, Hiroomi is the odd-ball who loves his sister, Sakura is the silent-but-deadly, Ai is the lolli, and I really could go on. Now, I’m not going to try and convince you that the characters are anything more than generic in terms of their personalities…because they’re not.
However, KyotoAni always makes their characters enjoyable in some way, no matter how stereotypical they may be. I think this may have to do with the interactions between the characters themselves. While the characters themselves are pretty generic, the character interactions seemed authentic and well-thought out. And even though I wanted to pick apart the cast for being unoriginal, I couldn’t help but root for them and care for them in the end. In terms of development, most of the cast receives a little development, but not anything game-changing or extensive. As for Akihito and Kuriyama, they do receive a solid slice of development throughout the series that seemed meaningful. I found it to be a nice touch. I also think the development of the main duo prevented the series from falling flat in terms of its cast.
I mean, it’s Kyoto Animation. What is there to say? It looks fucking beautiful. I mean, yeah, the art style is still their signature look, but that means it still looks gorgeous. The art itself is spectacular while the actual animation is exceptionally fluid. I know KyotoAni isn’t known for fight scenes, but the fights in this series looked downright fantastic. The only little difference was the color palate. As one would expect from a darker and more mature series, the colors used in Kyoukai no Kanata were darker and bleaker than what most are used to from KyotoAni.
However, I think that only added to the series’ beauty. The soundtrack was also a surprise to me. With other shows done by KyotoAni, I didn’t expect the soundtrack to play a huge role. But I have been surprised by them before (e.g. Hyouka) and was delightfully blind-sided again by Kyoukai’s soundtrack. Some of the orchestral pieces were quite fitting and I think it really helped sculpt the tone of the series. As for the dub…well, I haven’t heard the dub, so I can’t really comment on it. In spite of that, the sub is superb and I’d probably suggest to watch it that way anyway since Sentai Filmworks was the company who dubbed it.
This is another series that I’ve seen an astounding amount of people hate on. Though I can see areas where this series does stumble, I feel like it never hurt itself as much as some have said it did. The show actually boasts a unique and engaging plot line that sort of feels like a combination of Hyouka and Kara no Kyoukai to me. To add on, the plot also contains a nice assortment of curve balls that take the story in directions that you wouldn’t expect it to go. The series also pays attention to detail in the little aspects which raises bits of intrigue which I though was a nice touch. The characters were also a lot of fun to watch on screen. Though they are quite generic in nature, their interactions with each other draw out their charm which I thought was great. The little pieces of development they receive was also a great addition and helped separate the cast from all the other archetypal characters that other KyotoAni products are known for. But, I could see how the stereotypical personalities and mild fan-pandering of the main cast could turn away a few faces.
However, the gorgeous art and masterful animation should turn heads right back because most KyotoAni shows are just laced with eye-candy. The soundtrack was also nice cherry on top. Now, where this show will probably cause issues for most people is in the lack of explanation it gives some of its plot points toward the end. Though the series does a fairly good job at explaining things up until the ending episodes, it really does slip up. Some events that occur really don’t end up making sense, either logically or physically. The series just expects the viewer to go along what is happening so it can reach the climax. Now while it was glaringly obvious to me that the series pulled some things out of its ass, they never seemed to be too intrusive to me. However, they did take away a little from my viewing experience and for some viewers, these inconsistencies or aspects that are barely glossed over could potentially cause some problems and end up being severely off-putting.
In the grand scheme of things, I think Kyoukai no Kanata was an original and entertaining series that retained a fair amount of Kyoto Animation’s signature flare. It was just intricate enough to be thought-provoking, but not convoluted to the point of being confusing. However, the series wasn’t anything revolutionary either and it did fall into some creative ruts along the way…like explaining plot points all the way. If you’re squeamish when it comes to gore or if you hate any shows with moe in them, I can’t suggest this series to you. However, I can pretty much give this series a decent recommendation to anybody looking for something a little out of the ordinary with a plot that isn’t completely straight forward.
Should You Watch: Yes
and until next time…keep watching anime!!