Kurenai was a pleasant surprise of a series considering its 13-episode length, providing an engaging conflictive story revolving around charismatic and charming characters that drive it through to a satiating conclusion. Kurenai, the titular protagonist, is a dispute mediator that settles various missions under the watchful eye of Benika. His occupation lends him to settle things with quick, precisive force, yet also concealing a power and past that tends to catch up with him in sporadic occurrences. His world matches his rather meek, if a bit timid, personality: safe, unchanging, and lacking challenges that go beyond what he finds himself able to accomplish.
Yet, Benika turns his world upside down with a new charge in the care of seven-year-old Murasaki, a rather quick-tongued girl with an attitude that seems to be the heat to Kurenai's seemingly chill persona. What I didn't quite expect was that this series would introduce a rather strong, central conflict revolving around power struggles in a traditional bubble, and mesh it with a cast of characters that are so charismatically charming that it's hard to pull away from them. Especially surprising is the growing relationship between Kurenai and Murasaki as they struggle to overcome conflicts that are essentially equivalent, but travel in parallel strings throughout the course of the series, and both lie in the measure of overcoming odds and knowing what constitutes true strength.
The story progresses in a slice of life format, with intersperses of drama and comedy interchangeably used, and while it contains elements of visual action, the story doesn't make it a prime focal point. Rather, the action takes a backseat to developing the heart of the series around Kurenai and Murasaki, who are cool and hot personalities in their own respects, but their respective backstories lend much to their personalities.
The central conflict lies within the traditional structure of a place called the Inner Sanctuary, where the series deals with women treated as "those seen but never heard", and relationships are kept within a societal bubble. The series treats these themes well, especially considering Murasaki's role as a girl of a younger generation who manages to escape the bubble under Kurenai's charge. The treat for me was watching Kurenai gradually bring her to terms with reality, and it lends proper context to her spoiled and sometimes at odds mesh with the outside world. This is accented with her interactions with Kurenai's apartment company, who provide a nice amount of comic relief throughout the series, albeit in some clichéd coats.
The series culminates with the struggles of the family to bring Murasaki back into this conformist society, and the series paces this intriguingly to a climax that occurs in the final few episodes. The ending may not satiate all tastes, but I thought the series provided a nice resolution to the conflict that worked in the coming of age of both main characters.
I found the slice of life aspects were mostly balanced well with the conflict, though there was perhaps an episode or two that might have made better side episodes than those in the main framework of the series (i.e. when the characters find themselves rehearsing for the play).
Very nice animation standards for its respective time. I liked the fluidity of the few action sequences in context with the series, as well as the consistent and clear-cut character designs. The animated backdrops are also well noted with respect to the series, though notably in the framework of peer series in current context.
Kurenai has a rather strong soundtrack that I enjoyed, particularly Minami Kurabayashi's (Full Metal Panic) contribution to the opening theme "Love Jump". It's a colorful, catchy J-pop song with a playful mood, showcasing its characters very well in the visual montage of the OP. The ending theme is just as colorful and catchy as the OP, while the BGM fits well within the context of the series.
I enjoyed the caliber of voice acting in this series, as each seiyuu brought a charm and resonation to each character that wouldn't have come across in peer series of its kind, even within the context of characters who might have otherwise been bogged by their clichéd constructions. An example would probably be Yamie and Tamaki, who are notably characters with their eccentricities, but manage to be charming with their vibrant interactions with the main leads.
Kurenai is indubitably driven by its collective cast, whose interactions drive this predominantly slice of life series with intersperse elements of comedy, drama, and action. Kurenai stands out as a male character that isn't driven by eccentrics, but is rather down to earth and amusing to watch in his own construction. Murasaki provides an appropriate contrast to his demeanor, seemingly forthcoming yet with a maturity that doesn't quite match her respective age. Yet, those that note her back story throughout the series will know how this demeanor comes about, as the series reveals her insecurities and qualms in a dual-setting value.
Yamie and Tamaki are nice comedic reliefs to watch in their interactions with each other as well as the protagonists, but surprisingly they serve a few moments in the series where they have their own insecurities that lend a nice angle in the overall story, particularly Tamaki, who isn't as secure in her interactions as she seems. Benika also provides a number of comedic relief moments, though her protective, assertive personality makes her stand out in the more serious moments, and there's, as they say, a motive to her madness in measures. Yayoi is a typical character, an overprotective guard who feels she has the only right to defend Murasaki and discredits Benika's choice in Kruenai's role to protect the young girl. Yet, Yayoi provides some unexpected moments of amusement in her own right, and one comes to love her as a member of the primary cast of characters.
The villains, or those that could be considered as such, have a nicely placed role in the overall story with its themes on internal corruption and division from the outside world. It's treated with the utmost of care, because it's not just a conflict centered on internal, traditional settings, but a continuous streamline of power struggles. The one antagonist most notable in context, and the one I enjoyed watching the most, was Renji, Murasaki's father. Renji's caught in the crosshairs between keeping to the long-standing traditions of his family versus appealing to his interests to protect/adhere to the people he loves. There were moments when his character proves to be frustrating to watch in his decisions, but the series shows his reactions and conflictions with ease and tactful care.
I thoroughly enjoyed Kurenai for what it offered in both character driven qualities and an intertwining conflict with threads to a coming to term premise. I would recommend it for those who love series with slice of life aspects and an interesting blend of comedy, drama, and character interactional focus.
To make money, high school student Shinkurou Kurenai works for the secretive Benika as a "dispute mediator," acting to intervene in the disputes of clients – often violently. One day, Benika gives him a much different assignment: to protect Murasaki Kuhoin, a seven-year-old girl from the wealthy Kuhoin family. This turns out to be a more troublesome task than he expects, as Murasaki is spoiled, naive, and completely unaware of what life is like outside of the luxurious one she had previously. He also has no idea why Murasaki needs his protection, though he is slowly obtaining details from a well-informed classmate. Adding to his problems, Shinkurou still must continue to do his previous work for Benika and take care of his social relationships in school while protecting Murasaki, complicating his entire life. Nonetheless, as time passes, he and Murasaki grow close; however, trouble brews in the shadows as everyone - including Shinkurou - seems to be harboring secrets...
I tend to be a fan of slice of life, dramatic and romantic series, but my palette is open to different series of a plethora of genres. I love watching series that engage my senses and imagination, and as a writer, I always appreciate a good story with a great cast of characters. I love when people give feedback on my reviews, because it helps me see things in a different lens, so I encourage you to converse with me if you have any questions, commentary or just want to chat about a series. ^_^