Recap: Akihito and Mirai face off against Beyond the Boundary.
D’awww, those first few minutes were just plain adorable. It’s nice to see some closure in the romance side of things considering how many shows like to leave that hanging. It’s especially surprising once you consider the fact that this is still an ongoing light novel series. Normally status quo is king, and if this really is what happens in the novels then more power to them for bucking the trends. The relationship between Akihito and Mirai has been my favorite part of the show since day one, so needless to say I was happy starting out this episode.
It was nice to see Akihito jump into the fray himself once things got heated. The whole season he has been relegated to the sidelines as his youmu power was never stable. It makes sense that it would take using only a small part of it’s whole power to keep it under control. They’re a little guilty of recycling youmu we’ve seen before, but as always the action was fluid enough that it wasn’t a problem. The moped scene is exactly the kind of crazy that you can only get away with by saying “Well it’s in an alternate dimension!” I like how, since they finally established their feelings for each other, Mirai didn’t even mind that her skirt was flapping right in his face during that whole sequence.
I still don’t get the villain’s motivations. They seemed to imply that each Spirit World Warrior’s powers actually come from a youmu living inside them, but why would that make him evil? We clearly have examples of sentient youmu that aren’t evil, why is it just because he became attuned to his youmu that that corrupted him so vastly? What about being a youmu made it able to absorb the spirits of other youmu? It’s really annoying that he gives us all these new questions just to disappear, basically making his effect on the story nonexistent in the grand scheme of things. These are the kind of questions that can only arise from sloppy execution.
As for the ending, it is nothing but an absolute cop-out. I don’t care even if there is actually a proper explanation as to why Mirai was still alive, it’s still a cop out in the sense of this epsiode. If you fail to convey that kind of information in the first place then it just feels cheap, and if you decide to explain it later it just seems like an excuse. There was absolutely no reason Mirai should be alive from what we know, and so all the time through the double fake at the end I knew what they were going for, but had no reason to believe it, so it just made the entire experience unsatisfying.
It’s for that reason that I honestly cannot recommend this series. Still, I cannot deny it is the most technically amazing and visually gorgeous bit of animation that KyoAni has made to date. The action was so fluid and dynamic that any minor fight was a treat. Little emotions and extra touches that other companies wouldn’t have the resources for accentuated characters, letting their emotions be way more visible. That bit where Mirai’s ears slowly redden after hearing Akihito basically confess had to be my favorite part of that last episode. It was such a short and simple moment, but powerful. Let no one say otherwise, in the world of animation, KyoAni is still king.
That being said, there are quite a few reasons that lead to why I disliked the series as a whole. The first few episodes suffered from some serious dragging as we slowly learned about the spirit world that these characters inhabited. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot happened. Outside the downtime that served for character building, there were really only three big plot arcs: The Hollow Shadow, The Calm, and Inside Beyond the Boundary. This would point to the idea that this would be a more character-driven show, but that was just not the case. The joke episodes just made this weird dissonance between what we saw happen when the plot decided to show up and what normally happens in these teenagers lives. How can you go from one minute tearfully recanting murdering your best friend to doing an idol training montage to beat a horny demon for pocket change?
That doesn’t even touch all the problems I had with the characterization in this story. It’s fine if you have your moeblobs be clumsy, but they cannot also be hyper-competent when the situation calls for it. It just does not make any logical sense that Mirai stumbles over furniture and yet can do double pirouettes in the air and stab a motherfucker without losing a beat. Back and forths between characters had such a high degree of self-awareness to them that it felt like this was being written by Japanese Joss Whedon but with none of the charm. By the end, they make it seem like the Nase siblings actually did care for Akihito, but by the way they treated him before midseason you would find it hard to say that in any fashion.
If there was one part of the story that I did find stellar, it was the romance. While the story still suffered from a lot of the insecure. It’s rare that a show has its romantic pairs actually express their attraction to each other. While a lot of the time it was obviously played for laughs, you could see Akihito actually cared about Mirai. You could see it in the subtle ways that anime can really be good at sometimes, and it made for a really adorable romance.
With KyoAni at the helm, there didn’t seem any way for Beyond the Boundary to fail. It promised a darker tone to the normal moe fare of the studio, and I welcomed the prospect. It’s a shame the strength of the source material failed to meet up with those expectations. KyoAni has had a disappointing run of things lately. While Free! was never meant to appeal to me, even for what it was it seemed shallow, the same with Tamako Market. Chuu2 is the last show I can remember enjoying from that studio, so hopefully with the new season coming up soon I’ll have my faith restored in them anew.