Kurenai Episode 12 - I Am [END]
Summary: Shinkurou rediscovers the location of the Inner Sanctuary, and there he confronts Murasaki's father, telling him that she said that she never wanted to end up like Souju, her mother. Shinkurou finds Murasaki, and fights off her brother with the Houzuki-ryuu techniques.
When all is said and done, though, Murasaki makes a difficult and unexpected choice; she chooses to remain with the Kuhouin family, but fight to change their customs that steal freedom from the women there. As Shinkurou, Benika and Yayoi return to their home and leave the Kuhouin family behind, Murasaki asks her father to tell her stories about the times her mother smiled.
Thoughts: Just a note, expect to have a few sniffles and tears during this episode. That is, unless your heart is made of black coal and ice. Needless to say, things ended very emotionally. And I have to give the show kudos for creating an emotionally complex, surprising ending, rather than wrapping everything up happily, and even without really killing anyone, which is not how I thought it would be at all. I also have to commend the show for not really making anyone "evil" (well, except for Lin, who was just crazy and freaky). The Kuhouin family has some pretty weird ideas, but one almost has to pity them because they adhere to a custom that essentially dehumanizes half of their family. Ryuuji isn't even all that bad, he's just been raised to accept these things as normal and doesn't have the capacity to think in other terms.
The lovely thing is, even at the end we see change beginning to occur. Murasaki's father is sitting and talking with her on his lap, like a normal father would to his daughter. It's not especially surprising, since it seemed throughout that her father was really on the edge of being fed-up with the Kuhouin customs (especially since the woman he loved fell victim to them).
I also have to commend everyone involved for making interesting characters. We barely heard from Benika and Yayoi for the first half of the series, yet by the end they were definitely interesting and fleshed-out enough for me to really care about them. Yayoi especially, in spite of the fact that she appeared to have little to no personality for the longest time. She returned to kick some major butt in the finale, which was cool.
I really ended up loving this show, more even that I thought I would. I may end up doing one big wrap-up post once I manage to get all my thoughts in order.
Kurenai Episode 11 - I Think
Summary: Shinkurou, Benika and Yayoi attempt to infiltrate the Kuhouin Estate, only to be discovered almost right away. After a battle in the river, they reach the front of the house only to have to face Lin, the dreaded fighter who nearly killed them back at the apartment.
After a lot of battling, Shinkurou and Benika finally reach Murasaki in the Inner Sanctuary, where Ryuuji is also waiting for them. After being beaten back by Ryuuji and Lin in the Inner Sanctuary, and after Murasaki states that she doesn't wish to be taken, the two limp back outside to try and collect Yayoi. While waiting for Benika, Shinkurou looks at the photo he kept from Shichi-go-san and decides to return on his own.
Thoughts: Gyaaah, it's torture to think that there's only one episode left, and I can't imagine anything turning out very happily in this show. Not that everyone needs to live happily-ever-after and that the plot should be tied up with a tidy little bow, but considering how darkly things are going for... well, pretty much everyone at this point, I'm just worried about who's going to end up dead in the end.
Thinking back, I believe I remember Yuuno mentioning that the Houzuki-ryuu technique was developed with the idea of battling the Kuhouins in mind, so I would be really surprised if that aspect of Shinkurou's power didn't show up in this final episode. It seems silly to me that they'd casually throw that out there and then not have it even be an issue in the end. Especially since, as I see it, that's really the only leg up he'll have in defeating Lin and Ryuuji, both brutal fighters. While Shinkurou unsheathed his sword during the battle, he wasn't given a chance to use it, which makes me think that it'll show up in the finale.
*sigh* I'm glad that I'll soon get to know what happens (oh the joy of waiting until the series is most of the way through before blogging about it in earnest), but I'm sure I'll be sad that it's over and I'm sure the ending won't be anything like sunshine and kittens.
Kurenai Episode 10 - Accustomed Fear
Summary: Shinkurou is adjusting to life without Murasaki, and recovering from his wounds. While sparring with Yayoi, she offers some unexpected advice. He's having a hard time moving on, but she explains that he'll only become stronger if he forces himself to.
When he sees Ginko at school, she gives him some contrary treatment. He tries to act like a normal high schooler, but doesn't really know what to do with himself. A visit from Benika, and Shinkurou must prepare to move for his next job. Tamaki and Yamie don't take the news well. After some deliberation by himself, he contacts Benika and vows to save Murasaki from the Kuhouins. Benika tries to stop him until its evident that he's already decided what he has to do.
Thoughts: Sometimes I get so enthralled that I forget about taking screencaps until the episode is almost over. This is one of those times. While I have to question the pacing a bit from a technical standpoint, considering this show is almost over and yet Shinkurou spent an entire episode trying to forget about his failure and then finally realizing that the only way to forget about it is to fix it. On a personal level as a viewer, though, I think this was the right thing to do. This show is nothing if not full of character development, and this is another great example of it.
It's funny how malleable Benika is. Here she's trying to run a business that often involves life and death, and yet she's willing to put her trust in a young man and then allow him to fail at his job, all without becoming too upset about it. And now, even though initially resisting it, she's helping Shinkurou face the Kuhouins by driving her to their estate in her own car, even though I'm sure she suspects that he might die trying to infiltrate their stronghold. I'm sure part of it is that she's more sympathetic than she lets on, both to Shinkurou and to Murasaki.
Is anyone else royally creeped-out by Ryuuji, Murasaki's older brother? I sure am, especially from the way he talks to her, as if this is all normal and he's just making small talk with his sibling. I don't really want to know what's going to happen with him, and I can only speculate about how he'll become more prevalent in the episodes to come. Yuck.
Kurenai Episode 9 - You and Me
Summary: Shinkurou and Benika, and Murasaki and Yayoi are hiding out in separate hotel rooms. Shinkurou feels like he can no longer handle the job, and asks Benika the truth about Murasaki's lineage. Benika explains the odd and repulsive family structure of the Kuhouins, and why Murasaki is essentially a woman who does not exist. He vows to protect her, no matter what. Before they leave the country, Shinkurou wants to bring Murasaki to bid a proper farewell to Yamie and Tamaki.
They enjoy one last hot pot, and then return to their room to pack. Murasaki reminds Shinkurou that neither of them is alone anymore. Later that night, their apartment is invaded by members of the Kuhouin family, namely Murasaki's older brother Ryuuji. Ryuuji, by manipulating Murasaki's fear of Shinkurou's death, convinces her to return with him to the Inner Sanctuary.
Thoughts: Well, I could have predicted that it would be a terrible idea to return with Murasaki to the apartment one last time, but of course characters in an anime can't hear me screaming through the computer screen to turn around and leave. Man, this was one of the saddest episodes of anime I've seen in a while. Not only because Murasaki is on her way back to a place she can never again tolerate, having been in the outside world, but because it really demonstrated just how broken in spirit she still is from having grown up in such a terrible situation.
And what a situation it is. I had always suspected there was something really screwed up with the Kuhouin family, but I don't think I could have predicted condoned incest as the particular brand of messed-up behavior. Not to mention the fact that, since women at age 13 are considered adults in the family, what it all really amounts to is incestuous statutory rape. Fabulous. Considering how creepy Ryuuji has seemed already, knowing that he's destined to, at some point, have his way with Murasaki, makes me feel absolutely disgusted seeing him. It's like this very primal kind of disgust. It makes me wonder (but not really want to know) just how a family could develop in such a way as to require incest, and just what sort of horrible genetic issue there must be there. I suppose I can understand wanting to preserve a family's bloodline, especially when there's something at stake. And considering the extremes this family goes to, there must be something huge at the center of it all.
With three episodes to go, I can only guess what kind of actions Shinkurou is bound to take in retaliation. I realize that he's against releasing his secret weapon, but with the type of thugs on the Kuhouin side that can essentially beat him down effortlessly, I'm sure he'll have to release that power in order to do what he has to do. I'm gunning for him to really kick some ass, because after this episode you bet I'm fired up to see those perverts punished.
Kurenai Episode 8 - Self Preservation and Cowardice
Summary: Having seen Murasaki at the cafe previously, two men are patrolling the neighborhood, supposedly waiting for the right time to make their move. The holiday of Shichi-go-san (in celebration of children aged 7,5, and 3) is coming up, and since Murasaki is 7, Shinkurou and his ladies want her to experience it. They go to a tiny shrine and make their offerings. Only Yayoi notices the presence of a suspicious man as he walks away.
After some dinner at a restaurant, the group parts ways. Murasaki remarks on how she's disappointed that she isn't a more mature woman so that she can help Shinkurou as he has helped her. The following day, Ginko provides a packet of information on the Kuhouins to Shinkurou. Surprisingly, Murasaki isn't a part of the Kuhouin family. This information seems to upset Shinkurou. However, he's assaulted on his way home by the men who have been surveying the neighborhood. Racing to make sure Murasaki is safe, Yayoi tells him that Benika is on her way to pick him up.
Thoughts: And just like that, their simple life is essentially shattered and changed forever. Really, who among us thought that no one would ever be able to locate Murasaki? Hiding her in a junky old apartment with a pretty much nameless kids was a decent idea, but considering that neither Tamaki or Yumie seemed aware of how imperative it was to keep Murasaki hidden, you had to know that there was going to be a slip-up somewhere. I love Tamaki but... maybe not the smartest person out there.
I have to say I'm royally creeped-out by the son of Murasaki's father. I'm not anxious to find out exactly what he's capable of, even though I know it's inevitable. It was interesting to find out that apparently women of the inner sanctum are cursed, and that's why they aren't let out. Though what exactly that means is still not very clear to me. I imagine I'll find that out soon enough as well. For some reason, the father's second wife seems to be favored as she dresses in Western clothing and seems to have much more freedom than her unfortunate predecessor. I can't quite decide if she's evil or what, or if she'll even have much to do with the rest of the story. Hmm.
It's been a while since Shinkurou has actually demonstrated his fighting prowess, other than sparring with Yuuno. I'm pretty sure that, even though he said he didn't want to rely on the special power he weilds as a follower of the Houzuki-ryuu, I'm betting it'll show up again anyway. It would be a really odd choice to briefly show something like that and then completely put it away for the entire rest of the show. I'm not especially focused on the fight scenes in this show, but since the last few episodes have been really slice-of-life, a bit of action wouldn't be out of the question.
Kurenai Episode 7 - Women
Summary: While Shinkurou is at school, Tamaki takes Murasaki on a field trip to her university, where she passes on some of her wisdom about relationships. When a man of hers shows up and breaks up with her in front of Murasaki, this wisdom seems to lose its punch.
Tamaki drowns her sorrows over juice at a cafe with Murasaki there to remind her how cool of a woman she is. Murasaki thinks of Shinkurou, and how he's in "danger" from Yuuno, and they rush out to go find him. A man at the cafe seems to recognize Murasaki. There's a small misunderstanding between Shinkurou and Murasaki regarding the term "lolicon". There's a flashback providing some more information on the Kuhouin inner sanctuary, Benika's posistion there, and the death of Souju, Murasaki's mother.
Thoughts: Once again I'm tempted by little tidbits of information regarding the Kuhouins, though they're slipped in between some comedy and some downright ominous moments. Tamaki is easily one of the funnier characters, though I maintain that she has some undesirable things about herself that she's hiding with her weird man-eating attitude. It's obvious here, especially when her boyfriend breaks up with her. Her self-confidence just melts away and she's visibly insecure when she realizes that she's on the receiving end of a breakup. I can only hope that we'll see a bit more of Yumie as well at some point.
I like how the misunderstanding about Shinkurou's and Murasaki's relationship that occurred in an earlier episode carried over here. I think one of the big jokes about this show is that everyone assumes it's some lolicon fulfillment fantasy (especially since there are scenes, albeit completely innocent ones) where Shinkurou has to do things like help her take a bath and dress her and whatnot. I can't help but think they're purposely playing into that by having Murasaki misunderstand the meaning of "lolicon", even if that type of material never occurs between them.
Even though I truly have mixed feelings about their little world being spoiled, I knew the story was going to start moving more once that guy at the cafe realized who Murasaki was. Of course I have no clear idea of who he is and whether he's a Kuhouin lackey or what, but I'm fully prepared to see a kidnapping or something pretty soon now.
Kurenai Episode 6 - The Light is Shining Above You
Summary: The reisdents of Shinkurou's apartment are invited to participate in a local festival as actors in a play. Yamie and Tamaki seem more than enthusiastic to join, although Yamie's singing voice definitely leaves something to be desired. When Shinkurou tries to get Yuuno to join the group, she turns out to be just as bad.
While Shinkurou and Yuuno are trying to work things out, Yamie goes outside to get some air and catches Yayoi in her usual spot staking out the building. As it turns out, she's a great singer. Yamie begs her to teach her how to sing. After some missteps, the group as a whole manages to find their musical footing, even injecting some of their own creativity into the play. Even though the whole ordeal turns out to be other than it seemed, the entire group still puts forth their energy into making a memorable scene.
Thoughts: Wow. No seriously, totally unexpected musical number in a show I would never have suspected of having one. Of course, this means yet another "filler" episode, but with filler episodes so fun and spontaneous, I can hardly complain. Props for having Yayoi in on the action as well, since she's been waaay too uptight thus far.
I've realized that Murasaki tends to interject little snippets of her past in each episode, and they're often so subtle that I'm not realizing it. This episode, appropriately, she mentions that her mother used to smile while singing to her and teaching her songs. It's really making want to know what's really going on with the Kuhouin family and why they seem so messed-up, but I'm being patient.
I keep wondering if there'll be more about the other gals who live with Shinkurou, but I'm not sure if that's the direction the story is heading in. It would be nice to know the real reason why Yumie is so dark (she's very forthcoming with beautiful lies but there's got to be some truth to her weirdness). It seems like both she and Tamaki are putting up some sort of front to hide the kind of person they really are, but I don't now if they're too peripheral to expect more from in the end, since the story is really Murasaki and Shinkurou's.
Kurenai Episode 5 - Wish
Summary: Shinkurou brings Murasaki with him to visit the home of the Houzuki family, the family who took him in and trained him. He spars with Yuuno while Murasaki makes friends with her younger sister Chizuru (and breaks a few of her toys in the process). Shinkuro feels that he may never become comfortable using the Houzuki-ryuu secret weapon that he possesses.
Afterward, he leaves with Murasaki and goes home to make dinner. What he finds are the women from his building inside, in the middle of a drinking binge. Tamaki gives him a stolen heater and they make small talk over a hot pot.
Thoughts: I'm tempted to say that this episode was basically about nothing. But isn't that what weekends are about? In Japan, Sunday is about the only day everyone has off, and people spend that time having fun and being with their families. Shinkurou gets a chance to visit both of his families here - the Houzuki family who took him in and trained him, and the family of oddballs living in his apartment building. Murasaki learns a little bit about not completely destroying someone else's toys, and manages to participate in an innuendo that she doesn't understand at all.
I'm wondering what direction the show is going to go from this point. I'm assuming it's not going to continue being variations on Murasaki learning about the big wide world outside for the entire series. While that's entertaining now, a well-rounded show it does not make.
I found it sort of interesting how formal Shinkurou behaves with his adoptive family. He's very formal with his master, even to the point where the master has to prod him into being less uptight (especially since he's considered part of the family anyway). He even speaks pretty polite Japanese around Yuuno, which confuses me somewhat. It tends to emphasize the complexity in their relationship, something which isn't quite friendship or family, but treads in both areas.
Anyway, no huge developments here. I'll probably have more to say as things wind up, which I assume they'll be doing quite soon since we're nearly halfway through the series at this point.
Kurenai Episode 4 - Talented Person
Summary: Shinkurou walks to an office building to confront the Yakuza boss who's been harassing the principal of a local kindergarten and trying to buy off the land rights. Without his knowledge, Murasaki follows him there and ends up interfering in the mediation. Though Kunou, the Yakuza, claims that he'll stop the harassment due to Shinkurou possessing information that could be show to the police about it, but Murasaki calls the man a lier causes a fight to break out. She's knocked out until Yayoi comes to rescue her, and Shinkurou releases his hidden power to defend himself. The car ride back to his apartment is uncomfortable since Yayoi completely reams Shinkurou a new one due to what she sees as his negligence in guarding Murasaki. Benika still trusts her intuition, however, and returns Murasaki to sleep in her futon.
The next morning, Murasaki acts as if everything is fine, and then spends the day, With Tamaki's help, cleaning the apartment and airing out Shinkurou's smelly futon. Later that night, she asks him about his past and he explains that he was orphaned in an attack on an airport and then kidnapped with a group of children. It was Benika who saved him, thus resulting his desire to work for her and become stronger like her. This is also the reason Benika trusted him with watching Murasaki - he, having been alone in the world is really the only person who understands what she's going through.
Thoughts: While it's nice when the explanation of a story trickles down bit-by-bit, sometimes you just need that deluge to clear up a few big things at once. This episode was a flood of new information that also brought up some more questions to carry the show on its merry way. First of all, we finally get to see a glimpse of Shinkurou's frightening power in action - he can release a horn-like protrusion from his elbow area which is able to deflect bullets and the like and also seems to increase his strength quite a bit. So this is the Houzuki assassination technique that was hinted at earlier. Kind of like Wolverine, though Shinkurou doesn't have any special mutant healing ability, so the aftermath of utilizing this power is a bit more painful.
Getting to know Shinkurou's back story was kind of nice because it helped to tie him into Benika a bit more. I've always sort of been wondering why a professional like her would have hired a high school kid to work for her, and the situation make a bit more sense now. This also tied him in more closely to Yuuno, who's now more than just a friend at school - she's virtually his sister and also his adviser in the way of her family's brand of martial arts. She helps him out when he shows up to school after his fight still injured from the horn having pierced his skin, and advises him that he shouldn't be using it so much. Or better yet - that he shouldn't be getting into so many fights where he has to use it to survive the ordeal.
While there's a bit more revealed about how Benika was connected to the Kuhouin family and thus how she was asked by Murasaki's biological mother to take her daughter to the outside world, I'd sure love to know more. It seems to be some weird family tradition that the women of the Kuhouin family aren't able to leave their home's inner sanctum, but I'd really like to know more about the situation because I'm really intrigued. Especially since it seems like such an ancient tradition and this takes place in modern-day Japan, a time and place where one might assume a situation like that would no longer exist.
I was a bit irritated with Murasaki at the beginning of the episode when she intruded on Shinkurou's work and put herself into danger, but by the end I could see how much she had grown in just the few episodes so far. She tries her hardest to do things that her servants normally would have done for her, like washing her hair and cleaning up the apartment. I'm hoping that maybe next time we'll learn a little bit more about her history to balance out all the new insight we have about the other characters.
Kurenai Episode 3 - The Fraud's Face
Summary: While Shinkurou is at school for the day, Murasaki spends the morning watching trashy dramas and discussing men with Shinkurou's neighbor, Tamaki. Tamaki wants a real man who will take care of her, so she and Murasaki leave the apartment in search of one. Meanwhile, Shinkurou is at school enjoying a handmade lunch from his friend Yuuno, when he receives a call from his other female friend Ginko. She's been looking up information for him about the Kuhouin family, but wants to provide him info about another job. Murasaki arrives at Shinkurou's school and explores the grounds, and mistakes an anatomical model for a person who's suffering. She phones Shinkurou, and he assumes it's some nasty thing that Tamaki's keeping in her apartment. While running around, Murasaki meets Yuuno, and they begin walking together. Yuuno recognizes her surname right away and lets on that she knows a bit about the Kuhouins, and is rather surprised that there's a Kuhouin that doesn't recognize her family's name.
When Yuuno tries to borrow Murasaki's phone to talk to Shinkurou, she runs off and all three meet in the hallway. After a confusing conversation in which Yuuno completely misinterprets the relationship between Murasaki and Shinkurou. After school, they take the train back home, and Murasaki witnesses some thugs picking on an old lady to get her to stand up. Murasaki confronts them and Shinkurou has to diffuse the situation before a fight breaks out, which Murasaki doesn't understand. She hates the phony face Shinkurou put on in front of the thugs, since it reminds her of the way her mother would smile even while being abused by the other woman of the household.
That night, when Shinkurou leaves on the job that Ginko gave him, Murasaki follows him out. Yayoi, another of Benika's subordinates, follows the two of them out.
Thoughts: For a show that's mostly focused on drama, I have to admit that I got a good laugh out of the scene where Yuuno, Murasaki, and Shinkurou were trying to explain or figure out just what the "relationship" between Murasaki and Shinkurou entailed. Especially since Shinkurou had been lying about this particular job, claiming that he was in charge of watching an elderly man, not a young girl. This is about as close as this show has gotten so far to suggesting something of a lolita-complex plot element, and I can't help but think that they did it as a joke, since the natural assumption of most people, myself included, was that having a little girl would lead the story in those sorts of directions, which it thankfully has not.
I like how they've started to reveal a bit more about Shinkurou's past, including the fact that he used to live with Yuuno's family and learned the martial arts he uses in his job from her grandfather. Yuuno no longer seems like some random girl from his class who assumes she has a closer relationship to him than seems logical. They're actually close to being siblings, though who knows if romantic overtones will develop from this point on anyway. I'm still a little confused about Ginko, who I thought was just a well-informed classmate of Shinkurou's until she hands him a job involving the Yakuza and their former elementary school. So they've known each-other for a long time, apparently. I'm not sure how this gives her authority to hand out missions to him, but it may be just a favor for the help she's been giving him in trying to locate some solid information on the Kuhouin family. It's hard to say, but I'm betting there'll be more info in the next episode.
I also enjoyed Murasaki's confrontation with the thugs on the train. I think that it did a good job of pointing out some of the issues of the way that Japanese people normally handle situations like that. While Murasaki instantly sees the injustice and rudeness of the way that the guys made an old lady give up her train seat, Shinkurou instantly responds in the most Japanese way possible - by apologizing and trying not to cause a scene rather than to take care of the guys like they deserve. When the old woman thanks Murasaki after they leave the train, this causes Shinkurou to stop and think a moment about what happened. I'm sort of left wondering what might have caused Murasaki to come right out with an attitude like this, especially since what we know of her upbringing seems to suggest that she's been raised in a very traditional atmosphere and probably wouldn't have come up with this confrontational attitude on her own. Perhaps it's her late mother's influence? I'm hoping that we learn more about this later, because it would be kind of lame if the show didn't try to examine this.
Gyah! This show can be so difficult to summarize. There are so many things going on at once and not everything has been made quite clear yet. So all my summaries sound kind of lame.
Kurenai Episode 2
Summary: Shinkurou and Murasaki are working out the kinks of their odd living arrangement. Murasaki has to learn to survive during the day alone, though she has problems opening up canned food and nearly freaks out when she opens the door to go to the bathroom and finds one of the building's odd female inhabitants sitting right outside. Shinkurou checks up on her throughout the day, worried that she'll run off on her own again, then returns home to find her trying to bathe in the sink.
The two go to the public bath house where Murasaki learns a few lessons about saying "thank you" to people who do nice things for her (not everyone they meet is a servant, after all), and he buys her a new futon so she doesn't have to sleep on his old smelly one. That night, Shinkurou goes out on another mediating job and teaches a group of thugs a lesson before returning home to sleep.
Thoughts: The reasons I liked the first episode of this show - the story that unfolds slowly, the great character interaction and the odd but appealing style - continue to be present here. The second episode doesn't reveal a whole lot more about whatever is going on with the plot, but there are some extremely brief glimpses into Shinkurou's past via a nightmare, and some of his physical abilities are revealed when he pummels a group of thugs bloody as part of his mediation work. I really want to know what's up with his right arm, since we've seen him clutching at it at least twice and it seems to be pulsating or jutting out in some weird way underneath his clothing.
Murasaki is a pretty unrealistic child since she's so articulate while still being incredibly naive. Even though she's a loli, however, I like her. I thought that her snotty attitude might be hard to swallow after a while, but since she seems to at least be listening to and learning from the things that Shinkurou has tried to teach her so far, including learning to say thank you when people do kind things, so I can forgive her.
Once again, decent pacing, revealing only what's needed, and keeping things interesting are this show's strengths and I'm more than ready to continue with the series.