(What a relief not to be reviewing another ecchi and/or moe anime this time. Writing a review for ecchi and moe comedies is relatively simple because they are rather shallow and basically all alike, so they are easy to describe, to compare and to judge. That's also what makes it rather tiresome. And that while I have seen so many more serious animes that are really much better, and worthy of my penmanship! So, I present to you my review for...)
I'm sorry to the vinegar-pissing (Dutch expression for people who make it a point to b1tch about everything) review purists that insist on giving low marks, but I need to dish out another 10/10 here, because to me, Kurenai may be the ultimate anime, and is entrenched in my top-3 of the most memorable ones I have ever seen.
The has a great story that allows lighthearted cuteness and touching tenderness to go alongside a darkly looming, twisted future for the brilliant and loveable character Murasaki Kouhin, a feeling of deep drama and some brutal combat scenes. Really: it has everything.
It would be a shame to go too deeply into the story here. Experience for yourself; it's worth it like paragliding, only easier. Let's keep it at the starting point: Shinkuro Kurenai is somewhat of a handyman on the comparatively good side of the underworld. He does the dirty work for the obscure lady-gangster(?) Benika, involving mostly the settling of conflicts in a violent, murderous fashion.
His latest job, though, involves the protection - at his home address - of seven-year-old ojou-sama Murasaki Kouhin, whom Benika had kidnapped from her insanely rich and powerful family for yet unknown reasons. That's enough plot for now, the rest is for the viewer to find out.
Ah - one note, perhaps, about the finale. At first I found it devastating. I was so sad, literally bawling, and furious with the writers for having it end this way. I felt I had to get drunk to get over the shock. But I rewatched the final episode, and then saw the OVAs, and I understood that it was, ultimately, a very happy, rewarding ending.
The characters and their interaction is what makes this anime shine. Shinkuro himself is a rather busy man: he has his job, but also high school to attend, and now he has a little girl to take care of. Fortunately, he can share some of that responsibility with his two female flatmates: the sporty, flirty, in-your-face Tamaki and the more quiet, gothic-romantic Yaamie. These two are really fun characters who immediately take a liking to the child and keep an eye on her while Shinkuro is working or taking classes. These two form the heart of a lot of the humourous moments in this sometimes very dark anime.
Star of the show is Murasaki herself. Coming from a surrounding where she has everything and never needs to do anything herself, she has trouble adjusting to the poverty, size and lack of servile personnel at Shinkuro's one-room flat. At first, therefore, she seems like a spoiled and arrogant brat, but she just hasn't learned yet how the real world works. However, as she learns and gets used to things, she develops pleasure in this ordinary life, and a sense of freedom and happiness she had not known back at home. She also - and most importantly - learns what it is to love, and perhaps be in love?
Shinkuro and Murasaki - their strengthening bond is is what truly warmed my heart. I have rather an interest in any kind of relationship between a little girl and a (young-)adult man, and this includes that of father and daughter. It is clear that a true and strong affection grows between them, and it is beautiful to watch and a source of many adorable scenes so genuinely warm that they could help a man survive naked through a Siberian winter.
I am omitting the rest of the characters out of fear I would spill too much information on the storyline. Also, these four captured my soul and here I profess my love for them.
The animation is good, but not a masterpiece. The characters' movements are well choreographed and drawn, but the backgrounds are not much special. I did love the visual design of Murasaki. Her smile, and her hair when she is in wild movement. Yaamie also looks great, in her black dresses and with her huge skull pendant. That maybe belongs under the headline for characters, but this is my review so I decide.
Episode 6, after plenty of humour about not being able to sing, features a segment of a musical play performed by the four flatmates and the (nameless?) bodyguard (it's not Lin, I think, as she is no swordfighter and does not have a braid). I have watched this scene over and over again with this beautiful dramatic song. Wow! None of the characters can sing well, and it's kind of the point, but they make the best of it and it is a wonderful scene, the melody is still in my head.
There is no ecchi here, thank goodness. It would have ruined so much. However, there was one bathing scene that I found appealing. I'll not specify. Forgive my two lines of perversion.
There is one thing I did not find so necessary. The superpowers. But it's not a major plot element in the slightest, and are we going to let our opinion be swayed by such a detail?
This anime will haunt my mind for months to come and when it starts to fade I will watch it again. And again. And again. I suggest you give it a try as well. You know, if you like either comedy, or drama, or action, or romance, or lolis, or...
Just watch it. And the OVAs too.