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When eternal love goes wrong [Kurozuka]

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I had high hopes for Kurozuka, because it is a genre of anime I tend to enjoy, that being stylish, far-fetched, visually-intoxicating science fiction.

It is a beautifully drawn journey, in-which 1,000 years of vampiric romance sweeps across the Heian period of Japan to the bombing of Japanese cities during World War 2 to a post-apocalyptic future, but as the constant streams of action rush over the despairing atmosphere of the first half, it’s just a shame that the story’s poignancy seems to fade. That is not to say that Kurozuka isn’t good, because it is; it has some moments, and they are great.

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Particularly disquieting is the image of Kuromitsu’s naked body wrapped around her lover Kuro’s severed head. Tortured by his eternal life, he wants to die, but loathe to be alone, she won’t ever allow it. Kuro’s life has been utterly consumed by Kuromitsu; forever trapped within her serpentine embrace, subjected to her every whim. One can only conclude that if love is a scary thing, then eternal love is positively chilling.

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I also want to note that the first half has a particularly industrial and dystopian feel. Much like the quiet wanderings in Texhnolyze, Ergo Proxy and Blame!, Kuro’s many urban sojourns are quiet and contemplative affairs. The cities of the future have fallen into decay. Neon lights, concrete bricks and rusting steel grids scythe through murky buildings and even murkier corners. Their peoples are starved of hope, laying the streets, waiting to die. In such a scene, one can observe every tiny little detail of the city and sample the deep-fried life that courses through its veins.

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There is a style to Kurozuka, an unabashedly violent streak, a harsh, cold beauty, that I admire. Most of all, it is a visual experience, and there’s not much else to it than that, but I’ve always found it enough to see something beautiful, or something provocative, twisted and weird, and wonder.

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Comments

coburn says:

Those are some very nice screencaps (several of which lurk in my own image folder) and do a good job of demonstrating the stylishness Kurozuka offers. That said, I found the harshness more gimmicky than provocative. Then, considering that the series was better at action than empathy, that wasn’t exactly a terminal issue.

Martin says:

Ah, good to see you’ve got your blogging mojo back. :)

I had high hopes for this series too. While it’s visually superb – truly in the Ninja Scroll tradition of Madhouse – the latter half left me cold. For one thing it didn’t make a lot of sense: the jumps in time seemed to be an attempt in making a straightforward action series look clever, and that conversation with the guy on the mobility scooter for instance…the bag iterally full of crap that Kuro was holding seemed more laughable to me than anything else.

I’m sure the source material is even trashier and that this was another attempt at a diamond-out-of-broken-glass adaptation but there was still something missing from Kurozuka by the end. Possibly the most beautiful screencaps from any series of recent months but beyond the eye candy? I’m ashamed to say that I probably won’t even remember watching it a year from now.

The aesthetic was so evocative you could almost reach out and touch it – I guess I share your love for cyberpunk-inspired, post-apocalypric settings. It’s a shame the human element rang so hollow, because it was the idea of love travering the ages that was supposed to really give the show its melancholic grandeur, but ultimately didn’t. Not for me, anyway.

wildcard says:

I really wanted to love Kurozuka, what with it being bleak, post-apocalyptic, featuring vampires and having some superb artistry – but after the first half I fell out with it.

I’m with Martin on this one, it somehow lacked humanity. The emotion that should have carried the series and it’s love story never seemed to materialise and we end up being left with something almost mechanically cold. I can deal with dark, depressing stories, but without any empathy it just makes for unpleasant empty viewing.

Lupus Inu says:

When I saw that bike chase scene all I could think about was…

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=TRTRXDj7zXU

This. I was sort of pissed that the blonde female died though, I mean, it was a change but in the manga she like… lives. It was a decent watch all around though, but I think I like the manga better, and I felt really cheated with the lack of DBZ sword battles with the clone kids like in the manga.

Johny says:

Kurozuka is for me one of those animes that I had huge expectations for, but turned out to be a slight disappointment. The first couple of episodes had me completely captivated, but as the show went on, I was getting more and more annoyed. The story started being inconsequent, the enemies somehow didn’t fit to my initial image of the world, the fights reached completely new levels of absurd… Too bad, since Kurozuka had much potential and was really a feast for the eyes.

Hige says:

I thoroughly enjoyed Kurozuka. It’s been a while since I’ve been actively motivated to watch an anime this consistently. Kurozuka and the on-going XamD are my bread and butter in a pretty dire drought at the moment.

Anyhow, two notable things about Kurozuka:

Kuromitsu’s role and its ambiguity. The series never let on whether she was really on Kuro’s side until the end and it fascinated me. A little transparent (we obviously knew she was) but it accentuated the mystique Madhouse were aiming for with her nicely. I did get aggravated every time she and Kuro were in a fight and she seemingly lacked any supernatural fighting skills – Madhouse were very precious about her maintaining that feminine allure. I guess her being a Beatrice-like figure was more important than her slicing off the tops of soldiers’ heads.

A loose, loose plot, but who cares? Like Martin says, the show just didn’t have an awful lot of plot to it. Its pacing was relentless, refreshingly so for a medium notoriously decompressed as anime, but the rationale behind it was wafer thin. I didn’t care, though, because like you I was absorbed by the aesthetics and their delivery. It was also notably very creative with its storytelling; particularly the non-linearity, which suited the theme of eternity really well.

And it just looked fantastic.

Marmoset says:

It faded but I loved the chase scene with the turtle guy just for it’s sheer absurdity.

bateszi says:

@coburn: Indeed. Well, I thought the first half of the series, especially in terms of bleak harshness, was much better than second. Pretty action is pretty.

@Martin: The thing is, I think that whole ‘mobility scooter’ scene was actually intended to be funny, but that and a few other random comedy scenes plagued the second half of the series, and can probably be chalked up to weird writing/directorial decisions. The Kurozuka anime was a loose adaptation at the best of times, but those particular scenes are downright bad, especially considering the manga has jet-powered swords!

@wildcard: I do agree with the general vibe of your comment, it’s just that I still managed to thoroughly enjoy Kurozuka through to its end, despite its clear deficiences. But then again, I also adore my Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks, like Blood Sport and Cyborg, so take from that what you will! Sometimes a good amount of ass-kickin’ is all I need. Superficial, I know.

@Lupus Inu: I think I prefer the manga too. It’s just ten times more extreme, even if it suffers with the same issues of empathy; a classic example of style over substance, really.

@Johny: My opinion matches yours perfectly. Nothing else I can add, really. I wish it was a better series. Still, I get the feeling it’s more of a guilty pleasure for me than you! :)

@Hige: So, you thought Kuromitsu was on Kuro’s side, then? I’m not so sure myself. It’s just the way that the epilogue seemed to suggest that Kuro was tortured by eternal life and wanted to die, but Kuromitsu refused to accept his wish, as if his feelings were never important. She just doesn’t want to be alone, which seems a bit selfish to be me, but then again, one can’t be blamed for feeling lonely. She is a fascinating character. An enigma, even.

As for XamD: I’m waiting for the final episode to be released, at which point, I’ll start again from episode one and completely devote my attention to its story and characters. It’s so beautifully animated, well told and utterly spell-binding that I want to dive as deeply as possible into its world and politics! :)

@Marmoset: You just can’t beat a good chase scene! I love it when action anime reaches such a level of absurdity that it surpasses all tenants of casual logic. Not quite up there with FLCL-esque absurdity, but it was a fun scene! :)

Ivy says:

K so I just watched episode 12 and it was fairly terrible. The narrative flow through-out the first half of the show was questionable. The second half was all kinds of wack though. I do agree with most of the comments when it came to the issue of emotion. Although Kuromitsu seems to think that she and Kuro have a bond that cannot be severed, it didn’t seem that way. It felt flat and forced. Although I did love the first two episodes as they were animated with great care and professionalism, things somewhat degraded (to an acceptable level) beyond the third episode.
Of course Romi Paku’s Deep and tortured iteration of Kuromitsu was an absolute treat for the ear. Shes almost too good for the show, as is Kuromitsu. Since she is one of the main reasons I tend to gravitate towards calling this show ok and not merely average.
The show needed less pretentious talking heads and more Kuromitsu. It could’ve been quite a decent show.
Ya watch this for the visual flair and the elaborate action segments. Avoid it if you’re looking for something with a decent plot. Gah Expectations are a bitch.

Ivy says:

Oh btw! Where’d your twitter go?!

neobanzia says:

I’m not getting why people are placing emphasis on the narrative of Kurozuka. I guess I tend to on concentrate on certain aspects of a series once I’ve gotten a feel for its direction.

The Turtle-guy chase scene has been brought up and by that point, I thought it was pretty obvious the series doesn’t take itself too seriously as far as the plot goes.

I mean the motor-bike powerslide in a painfully obvious nod to Akira?

Very entertaining, but not unexpected.

I enjoy each and every beautifully created action scene so much I find myself not being bothered by the plot.

bateszi says:

@Ivy: I found Twitter to be a bit of a double-edged sword (for someone like me, at least). While it’s a really useful method of communication, it was too easy to ‘tweet’ my feelings on there and have nothing left for this blog. So, I might go back to it at some point, but I want to post more on this blog too; I just think I need to bottle up my feelings a bit more, but we’ll see, I’ve just reinstalled TwitterFox too, so it’s more than likely to return some day soon!

(sorry for such a conflicted response to such a straight forward question!) :)

@neobanzia: I’m definitely in your camp, but I can see why people were ultimately disappointed too. The show starts off as this very serious, romantic period drama, but gradually becomes much more action-themed and over-the-top. I suppose if you bought into the story based on those first few episodes, the rest will be a bit of a let-down.

Benjiro says:

Problem was, after a while you where able to figure out why Kuro lost his memory’s, and why Kuromitsu did what she did. It was rather predictable.

And at times, the storyline felt disjointed. And like Lupus Inu said, it pissed me also off when the blond woman died. The way it was done, was more to create another plot changeover / give a reason to fight his former alley then anything else.

To many elements ( especially the second halve ) felt forced.

Best character off the serie: The poet / turtle :) For some reason he was captivating.

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