Kurenai’s gist is that teenage secret agent Shinkurou becomes a bodyguard to a little girl, Murasaki, who has never seen the outside world before; and she must learn about society while living with him, develop into a more resilient woman, and return to challenge her oppressive family. But viewers might take a while to discover its essential concept since Kurenai chooses a convoluted path via comedy, musicals, slice of life, and supernatural mystery. Watching Murasaki in a whimsical conversation about romantic relationships with one of Shinkurou’s neighbours, for instance, I started reconsidering whether the show was worth my hours. But other times I’d appreciate the unusual contrast drawn between the independent, unconventional women Murasaki meets on the outside and the hopeless, resigned victims she is used to seeing within her family home. Moreover, the dialogue often achieves on-the-beat dramatic timing while the performances from Murasaki and Shinkurou ensure a strong emotive core to anchor the flimsier peripheral concepts.
Those pros still can’t hide the fact that Kurenai is decidedly odd and uncomfortably paced. Its best moments compete for attention with plenty of boring or incongruous distractions, particularly in the first half. I first assumed the creators couldn't decide what Kurenai should be, but reaching the more self-assured episodes later, I realised they merely tried to force too much onto the limited screenplay. Kurenai’s world either needed more elaboration, more episodes, and far more depth in its secondary characters (thus turning it into a sci-fi version of Seirei no Moribito) or it needed to be stripped of the tackier excess and reduced to half its length. Still, it is worth checking out for a touching friendship story or else a rare play on women’s emancipation.
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