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...
StoryKurenai 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).AnimationVery 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. SoundKurenai 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.CharactersKurenai 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.OverallI 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.
PROPER MINDSET Kurenai is a nicely made slice of life show that implements far more elements than just a slice of life story. That is in a way its biggest problem, since it tries to combine things that do not combine. It is by no means a masterpiece as it is way too light hearted and its elements are used mostly for appeal rather than substance. PRODUCTION VALUES First things first, it is animated by studio Brain’s Base, so it definitely has good artwork and animation, as the characters move and act very fluently. The backgrounds also have a high degree of details and colors and in a way the entire show feels like it was first filmed with actors, and then was drawn over them in order to become an animated feature. There are still scenes where the characters feel stiff and physics don’t look realistic, but overall Kurenai is wonderful to stare at. It is not artistic in any way, since you are just watching everyday items and places, but does a good job making you feel that it really takes place in an existing contemporary Japan. The soundtrack is very subtle as it never takes over the spotlight from the characters. It is not bad yet it doesn’t stand out one bit. Most BGM for example is a very soft piano tune and even the battle theme is nothing much to remember. The OST in general helps in building up a whooshy fuzzy atmosphere but it is not exceptional, memorable, or interesting in any way.Voice acting is ok in terms of dialogues; most of it sounds very natural-spoken. Yet many parts in terms of context of the dialogues as well as the decibels of the voices are off. For example, most sexually teasing dialogues are cheesy and fake, like they were taken from a mediocre harem show. And many characters have a tone of voice that feels fake; such as the lead girl Kuhouin that sometimes you know she is a little girl voiced by an adult woman or the lead boy Shinkuro who is a male voiced by a girl. Not super natural-sounding all the time. SCRIPT The story appears to be very complicating at first but in practice it is quite simple and easy going. It is the simple lives of a teenager boy and a little girl, both with dark pasts, having to share the same little apartment. There are some extras added to make it look fancier, such as Shinkuro being used as a mediator in disputes for a shady organization, many of which end up being violent. And then there is the backdrop story of Kuhouin, which is full of incest and pedophilia. Yet these are just flavoring the core story, which to be frank is closer to a harem than an action / adventure / mystery / drama, about a teenager taking up an important mission. Him becoming the bodyguard of a very important girl from a prestige family feels like a lazy excuse to have some guy becoming the butler to some tsundere. Fan service anyone? It is nothing too trashy but it still doesn’t take more than ten seconds to see the entire premise falling flat on its face. It also has some fighting scenes with thugs and yakuza and assassins, all of which are simple, and unexciting yet are there just for attracting the action fans. It becomes like an exaggerated fighting shonen show at times by having the lead character sprouting super bones from his hands that deflect bullets and cut like swords. Lol, what crap is all that? It felt like Naruto turning harem and adding lolicon and masochism. It may sound interesting but it is doing very little in terms of plot. There is of course an overall story but the resolution to all the problems is easy going and anti-climactic. CAST The best part is the character flavoring and only when it is focused on the lead duo living their normal lives together. It is cute seeing Kuhouin learning various things about the outside world from Shinkuro and the other people he is familiar with. And by other people, I mean a bunch of girls all of which are attracted to Shinkuro and constantly try to gain his affection with various bold ways. He on the other hand reacts with the usual romantic frustrations; he backs down, doesn’t care or just is too indecisive to know what to do. So yeah, this is in effect a harem cast. A nicely colored and far more developed than a typical one but still a harem. It goes far beyond that by having various allusions to pedophilia and incest, by treating Kuhouin as an edgy loli that constantly needs the hero to protect and teach her, as well as having a bath together and do various misunderstandings with other people seeing them living together. All these are there just as shallow entertainment for imouto-lovin’ perverts. If you ask me, it takes away from the show instead of adding depth. They had such nice grim backdrop stories for the main duo to make them far more tragic and easier to care for, and then they ruin it by throwing in that sort of fetish crap. Sorry Kurenai, you blew your chance by appealing to otakus. Even if one tries to focus on stuff other than that, he will only come face to face with the rest of the characters. Past the main two, the left-overs are just static stereotypes that offer nothing to the story. For example, what effect did Shinkuro’s classmates and neighbors had to the plot? How did they change? Why were they there for any other reason than harem material? Couldn’t they all be removed from the show without changing anything? This is a show running on just two people!And even if one tries to excuse that by saying secondary characters are important to flavor the main ones by having someone to interact with, you still don’t get much of anything. They are not interesting, nor is the plot, nor is the conflicts. Furthermore, their ages are so off for this type of story. Kurenai would feel far more plausible if Kuhouin was a teenager instead of a loli. I mean she is so young, and she is living with a teenager, and everybody thinks he is doing stuff to her, and they are not annoyed much by that, as if pedophilia is somehow fine and acceptable in this society. Last time I checked, the setting is modern Japan and that sort of thing is not legal there (yet). If she was 17 or older though, ok, she is his lover and everything is fine. Then it’s the whole stupid harem where every girl is hitting on Shinkuro. He is clearly an anti-social, he is moody, he doesn’t know how to react to women, he has a very dangerous and illegal job, and gets very violent if you piss him off. Why would they like such a creep? And why the devil is he still a teenager going to a normal school? He would feel a lot more plausible if he was an adult; his double life makes no sense if he goes to school full of bruises twice a month and the teachers don’t mind that in the least. Why would they even allow such an emotionally unstable guy to go to school? He is being paid to be a bouncer, he has ties to the underworld, and if he snaps, he is going to kill someone. He should be kicked out before he does the unthinkable! Heck, why stop there, how is it possible for a guy who can kick ass a dozen brutes to be acting like such a wimp in front of women? Shouldn’t his training and his grim past have molded him into a macho man? He looks like a freaking harem lead. And mind how this anime is not a goofball comedy but was promoted to be a somewhat realistic drama set in modern Japan. So here is what ruins this show. It had themes that could make it a very mature seinen and instead they trash everything with retarded fan service and unrealistic reactions to serious matters. Every conflict is scrubbed off as unimportant, yet at the same time they constantly try to convince us it is very important. The tragic flashbacks are more than enough to drive people insane and to make their friend feel pity about them. Yet what do they do? Have fun and with harem and play games at school before they go to kick the crap out of some thugs. And no, this is not supposed to be funny but tragic. LEGACY In all, Kurenai is going way too light with everything it has. Its plot is weak, its tragedy is weak, even the fan service is not bold. Stuff happen in such a dull way they just don’t seem to matter regardless of how severe they appear to be. Everything is undermined to the point you just don’t care. Something which is obvious if you know the style of the director of this show. Matsuo Kou has made Rozen Maiden, Red Garden, Yozakura Quartet, and Natsuyuki Rendezvous. All these anime have the exact same feeling; extremely interesting premises that are presented in a dull way. It is not a bad show to spend your time but its aesthetics are so off and the context is hardly taken seriously. It may stand above most easy going slices of life and harems, yet it is far less exciting than most stories about yakuza, mystery, and dark mentality. SUGGESTION LIST If you want something with a more serious mafia setting, check out Gungrave. If you want something with a more elaborate coexistence of an adult and a little girl, check out Usagi Drop.
This would have fallen flat if it weren't for the characterisation of the central characters. A pretty basic plot rescuing a damsal in distress with a small twist and the fighting wasn't hugely compelling or particularly interesting in their animation. Only a few of the relationships interested me but some of the characters geuinely seemed to develop and impact on each other more than in a lot of series I have seen. I hated the opening and ending themes passionately and didn't notice the soundtrack at all. Murasaki Kuhoin was a great character despite seeming a bit older than 7 to me, she outshone just about everyone but made the others actions and the plot understandable. Despite the conventional expectations of the plot I still felt Shinkurou Kurenai's character and what he would do was in question, he was made better by his interactions with Murasaki and realistically grew as a person.The bad guys and many of the incidental characters felt flat and weren't given the attention they should have been. I am normally a a fan of leaving some things up to the audience to decide but the Kuhoin motivations just didn't feel real enough to commit the crimes they did.Overall enjoyable and adequate enough in most areas that it was watchable and enjoyable with only the central characters really providing the interest and drive of the show.
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