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Posts Tagged ‘court intrigue’

Kurenai is a plodding, leaden, mostly unemotional 12-episode anime` that debuted in 2008. It’s mostly plot-based, although there are occasional interesting flashes of characterization and humor, on the order of a handful every two episodes or so. The music is wholly uninvolving, neither adding to the emotion, nor detracting from it, but rather it just exists the way a refrigerator or a dryer exists. While Kurenai touches upon some bizarre/unsettling topics, it does so in such a way to make them unemotional as well; the animation style is also to blame herein. The colors are dark, muted, stripped of vibrancy, and the character’s facial expressions follow with a wooden response.

The plot is rather basic and takes a while to unfurl. It’s all about Shinkurou, who is a dispute mediator, who does jobs for Benica. One of these jobs is protecting Murasaki, a seven-year-old girl, who has been removed from the inner sanctum of the Kuhōin household. Murasaki has never been outside the sanctum, so she learns to adjust to the outside world, and the Kuhōinis try to get her back.

There are sexual references and these are occasionally crude. Profanity is uncommon. Gore is rare and unexpected. As for moral viewpoint, it’s the usual self-betterment/positive Japanese cultural perspective. There’s no paganism or Shintoism mentioned (except for one visit to a shrine) but neither is God positively mentioned. The lack of moral perspective seems strangely absent, given what many of the characters go through.

No one episode is better than any other; they all run together like clouds upon a rainy day. If you make it all the way to the end, you find out that aside from the major conflict being resolved, nothing else has changed. It’s frustrating and kind of depressing.

If you’ve watched the Kurenai OVA first, save yourself the trouble of watching the series. The OVA is worlds better in terms of animation, humor, and characterization. And it’s funnier, warmer, and doesn’t restrict itself to a dead color palette.

Kurenai isn’t very good, but it’s not sludge, either. About the only thing it’s good for is occupying your time if you have nothing else to do. I guess the best way to describe how I feel about it is “meh”.

Look for the BSS batch subs (1.82 Gb) at a torrent hole near you.

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Saiunkoku Monogatari (Season II) (official site) is the story of Shurrei, adolescent head of one the land’s powerful ruling families. She is the governor of one particular section of the country. The series revolves around feudal Japanese-esque court intrigue, Shurrei’s life goals, and whether she loves Ryuuki or not. She is a workaholic and oblivious to the men around her. Towards the end, the series shifts its attention to Ryuuki and how he grows into the role of Emperor. If I had to class this, I’d say it falls in the shoujo camp, but the historical accuracy, humor, and subplots that crop up keep it fresh and interesting. Bonus: the opening theme is better than average, and the ending theme (“Asu he” by Teruya Miho) is breathtakingly beautiful.

There aren’t any positive references to God or intimations of Christianity here, although there are some areas of common grace touched upon. Most of the characters are generally moral. Praise of a central government crops up from time to time which proves annoying, but it stops just short of a liberal position. Rare profanities, even rarer risque` bits. The music ranges all over the map, from just short of heartbreaking to poor and is often either orchestral or traditional Japanese pastoral music. There’s usually a fair amount of humor, however, the pace tends to be drawn out.

The characterization and music quality are higher in the first half of this series than in the second half. It suffers from the usual anime` sag (where the middle episodes are less polished than the early and ending episodes), though not to the extreme as Toradora did. It’s more like the sheen disappears.

Episode 1 — Good +. Strong music; a small recap of the emperor’s relationship with Shurrei, and a whirlwind tour of Shurrei’s many relationships. Pretty funny.

* Episode 2 — Very good. Eigetsu, the co-governor of Sasshu with Shurrei, relates his history and we learn about Doushu-sama. Shurrei’s work with getting a research facility comes to the fore. Good music and towards the end, doomy and tragic.

* Episode 3 — Very good. Intro Ryuuren. A good blend of humor, sturm-und-drang, and doom. Just the right amount of plot complexity.

Episode 4 — Almost very good. The relationships between the characters are well-done –intriguing and humorous. Not too emotional; good music; ends with a cliff-hanger.

* Episode 5 — Very good. Tense. A crushing scene between Eigetsu and Kourrin, which is one of the reasons why the series is good — Eigetsu’s doomed state, yet his desire to live life to the highest good that he knows, Kourin’s fatal love for him, and Dousha’s nearly Christian outlook. An effective ending.

* Episode 6 — Very good, and even more tense than last time. The emotional landscape is not sorrowful, but just that of being placed between a vise and being squeezed. Some humor, but not enough to dispel the atmosphere.

* Episode 7 — Very good. No great sorrows or romance, but a tight plot, just the right amount of complexity, people working together to achieve great things. A fantastic episode, just shy of being excellent.

* Episode 8 — Excellent. You feel a deep twining with Shurrei and want to see her succeed against the odds. The plot is never slow and never too hard to follow; emotions suffuse every scene, from raw courage to longing to sorrow at parting. Quality music as well. This is a high point of the series and the episode by which all others should be judged.

Episode 9 — Very good. Another tense one, with more info about Eigetsu’s past. Kinda freaky in places. Not terribly emotional, but worth watching all the same.

Episode 10 — Just shy of very good. The plot threads are being brought together tightly, and you can feel the magnitude of what they’re trying to achieve, with the distinct possibility that it will come at great cost. One profanity. One of the strengths of the early episodes is that Shurrei’s dad does the narration that stitches together the plot. This device helps explain what’s going on and when it’s abandoned, it’s harder to follow. The emphasis on solidarity of mankind is a cool theme here. We get to see more of Korin, but not enough for my tastes. The ending is just cheezy though.

Episode 11 — Good. Some great parts; some lame parts. A touching scene with Shurran and her mother with some beautiful atmospheric piano music. A stupid recap of the ending of the previous episode, which goes on for nearly three minutes. The scene where Shurran stops the crowd of murderous men is shot-through with emotion. Some stupid preachment about how giving birth means that you’re unwilling to kill if necessary — never mind that some of the coldest murderers in history have been women (remember Andrea Yates?).

* Episode 12 — Excellent. Very serious; heavy, reflected by the somber Classical string music. The scene with the villager woman and her suffering child might bring tears to your eyes. Courage in the face of a difficult situation is on display, and it is heartwarming. Two profanities. This episode radiates courage; it’s inspiring. A positive reference to prayer as well.

Episode 13 — Good. It’s interesting, but lower-key. It’s like the pieces are being moved into place, though there is an emotional scene with Yougetsu. It’s a cool scene when Shurran finds Kourin, too. The ending is piercing.

Episode 14 — OK. Some touching scenes with Kourin, but too slow and overdramatic in places. A handful of profanities. Two minutes or so spent on recaps.

Episode 15 — OK. Takes too long to unwind, although there are some cute and/or emotional parts. It’s just not as consistent throughout, like say episode 12. Some parts are boring. Some profanities.

Episode 16 — Good. It’s interesting, but lower key than usual. High point is Eigetsu’s return. A few moments of humor, but it’s another “moving the pieces into position” episode. Two profanities.

* Episode 17 — Very good. The pace is slice-of-life, but it’s not boring. More than a few touching scenes, but they’re real and not sappy. A rare look at Shurrei’s emotions. I think this is the ending of the first half of the season.

Episode 18 — Unnecessary. Recaps season II thus far. Skip it.

Episode 19 — Poor. Dumb risque` junk.

Episode 20 — Poor. Dumb risque` junk.

Episode 21 — Decent. Some humor; plays out like a detective story, so most of the time you’re scratching your head. A few profanities.

* Episode 22 — Very good. Humor, plot threads coming together, drama, emotions, and even a hint of romance between Shurrei and the emperor. As is typical for this series, the number of characters and their interrelationships is complicated and perhaps something that the male mind just isn’t cut out for. So us guys may have to watch it a few times to get it all. One cuss word.

Episode 23 — Average. Some dumb risque` stuff, Tan-tan as a moral relativist, and really not much else of note.

Episode 24 — Average. Pretty much a clone of the last episode, though we learn more about Tan-tan. The music sucks.

Episode 25 — Good; a return to form. Emotions are present, and the plot thickens.

Episode 26 — OK. Nice plot twists. Not too emotional.

Episode 27 — Average. Another recap episode, with about two minutes of new character development.

Episode 28 — OK. A few profanities. Just kinda there, although Jysuumie seems to be an interesting character.

Episode 29 — Fair. Some emotions, but the complexity makes it hard to relate to.

Episode 30 — Poor. Some cool freaky harp music; one profanity. Some tension, but Seiga is obnoxious. In fact, Seiga nearly rapes Shurrei. This is treated not with the seriousness that it deserves.

Episode 31 — Decent. Two profanities. Even after seeing it multiple times, it still doesn’t make sense, though. Some freaky music featuring echoing bells.

Episode 32 — A pretty good episode. Two profanities. Some of the plot threads are tied together and emotions are present.

Episode 33 — Decent. Low-key, but it takes a turn towards the Romantic towards the end. Emotions have been missing lately from this series.

Episode 34 — Confusing. We catch some of Shurrei’s emotions, but these are still not really explained. Sure, she’s sad that the Emperor has someone to talk to besides her, but why doesn’t she admit how she feels about him? She’s been pushing him away for 34 episodes and all of season one!

Episode 35 — Confusing, but a few interesting parts. One part where the Emperor and Jyusamie catch each other dreaming, both mistaking one another for someone that they love. Jyusamie makes a good point that loving someone doesn’t make you happy. That’s an interesting observation, and one that actually undergirds the entire series. The Emperor isn’t happy; Ran Shogun isn’t happy; Shurrei’s father isn’t happy; Jyusamie’s not happy. Suushi isn’t happy. Jin sure isn’t happy. It seems that the only people who are happy are those who don’t let themselves fall in love.

Episode 36 — Good. Finally an episode that makes sense the first time through. This provides a thorough summarization of the Emperor and Shuurei’s relationship up until now. It covers a lot of scenes from the first series, which I haven’t seen and aren’t available in torrents anymore.

Episode 37 — Good +. Quite a bit of emotion. Two profanities. Plot threads are tied together.

* Episode 38 — Somewhere between good and very good. Another one that makes sense; this ties up some plot threads convincingly and has an overall feel of charming sweetness. No profanities.

* Episode 39 — End of season two. Very good, but not perfect. Everything wraps up, but it does so so quickly that you’re left wondering, “Why did they make us wait all this time?” Finally the Emperor tells Shuurei how he feels. I feel a bit jerked around, here, because after all this time, he’s still pursuing her with just about no encouragement from her part. His words ring true — he’s the only one who could love her (Shurrei) and she doesn’t even recognize it.

For your downloading pleasure (English subs):
Animanda or C1

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