So I do things in waves. I play WoW for a while, get bored, drop it and splurge on anime for a couple weeks, then pick up Magic and compete/playtest for a while… after devoting 90% of my free time to FF13 the last couple weeks, I think I burned out a bit on video gaming, so I’ve been catching up on some anime series I haven’t seen yet. Kurenai is one I was pretty interested in watching but just hadn’t yet.
Kurenai is originally a light novel series, by Katayama Kentarou. I found it from watching Denpa teki na Kanojo, which I found to be extremely interesting, and is also a light novel series by the same author released as a 3-piece OVA (3rd piece hasn’t come out yet). Since Denpa teki was so good, I thought Kurenai would be as well. While it didn’t have quite the impact Denpa teki did on me, it was quite a good series that departed from your typical martial arts/sci-fi/harem/fanservice anime you see every season.
The basic plot is the main character, Kurenai Shinkurou, is a “dispute mediator” (read: he beats people up) assigned to guard a little girl, Kuhoin Murasaki, who was kidnapped from the confinement of a high-class family. Throughout the series, you see the relationship between Shinkurou and Murasaki develop, as well as their relationships with the various other characters: Shinkurou’s schoolmates, other apartment tenants, and Shinkurou’s boss and colleague in the dispute mediation business.
The first episode kind of throws you off balance, since you see a lot of Shinkurou fighting, almost all the characters get introduced, and things just seem kind of hectic. However, after the first episode, the pace slows way down and there’s a lot more exposition. Characters’ pasts are a recurring theme, as well as thresholds. Murasaki is taken from her family estate, and they make a big deal about the “outside” world and “inside” world. Other noticeable thresholds are Shinkurou’s apartment room, the line between the street and his apartment building, and, to a lesser extent, the newspaper club’s room.
The setting and plot are a lot closer to home than other anime, being set in modern Japan, dealing with a lot of everyday situations, and the rest being based on societal issues that might still apply to our world today. Murasaki belongs to an elitist family that believes its traditions transcend the views of normal/common society, so the first half of the story has a lot about Murasaki reconciling her confined teachings with living in society. The second half focuses more on the protagonist team clashing with the Kuhoin’s concepts of their inner society and freedom of body and mind.
Definitely, since I’m a big fan of Bakemonogatari, To Aru Majutsu no Index, and Shakugan no Shana (i.e. light novel adaptations), I was able to get through Kurenai with no trouble, although the plot and some individual episodes were pretty unexciting, and there really is a lot more focus on exposition and character interaction/plot than fighting, so you might not enjoy this show if you take Ritalin. It’s a simple piece with mostly unoriginal ideas and characters, but the pieces are put together very quaintly and you come to sympathize with them all very easily.
Denpa teki na Kanojo is much better, in my opinion, because it kind of breaks from the traditional story and approaches a world of fiction at a tangent without actually confirming if fantastic elements exist or not. Kurenai does a good job downplaying its dabbling in the supernatural, but you’re still aware that it’s there. In Denpa teki, there are 2 great points: the episode’s story plays out like a detective story, where unbelievable things happen, and you’re led to believe something fantastic might be going on, but there’s a strangely “mortal,” normal solution; and the characters themselves are eerily connected either coincidentally, unnaturally, or even through the same kind of “strangely mortal” sense, but the writer goes to great lengths to make each of those 3 possibilities viable.
I do recommend both series, although they aren’t for everyone, and I think each appeals to different kinds of people.