Number of episodes: 12
Production Studio: Madhouse Studios
Fansub Release Viewed: Shinsen
Subs and Yuurisan Subs
Likelihood of US Release: Medium
A twelfth-century warrior named Kuro takes refuge in the home of a woman named Kuromitsu, who harbors a dark secret in this story that spans multiple time periods.
A warrior monk named Kuro and his disciple are on the run from sinister forces, not the least of whom is Kuro’s brother who is after him. This night, however, the two are running from enemy samurai who appear to be non-human. When Benkei kills the last of them, it disintegrates in a sea of green flame. In the darkness he spots a lighted home, and the two head for it to try and find refuge for the night. Inside the home they meet a beautiful woman named Kuromitsu who invites the two of them to stay as long as they wish on one condition — that neither of them peek inside her living chambers which she says are a mess. Kuro appears to have a fever, and he is taken to bed. The next day, Benkei travels down the mountain to obtain medicine.
One night, before Benkei’s return, Kuro hears a noise coming from another part of the house, and he is drawn to investigate. What he finds is startling — peering into the room he was told not to, he witnesses Kuromitsu ingesting the blood of a dead man. As she notices him, the two come under attack from Kuro’s pursuers, and Kuromitsu loses an arm. Kuro gets stabbed, but manages to wield his blade long enough to dispatch most of the enemies. As he bleeds out, Kuromitsu returns, apparently unable to die, and kills the last of their enemies. She takes him to an ancient tree in the woods, and as he lays dying she invites him to travel eternity with her.
This series is intriguing directly from the opening scene, which appears to take place in some sort of post-apocalyptic destroyed cityscape. Kuro jumps through the air, above the broken buildings, but as he lands the landscape reverts to that of ancient Japan. From that point, I knew this would be more than just another samurai tale. Of course the remainder of the episode could have come from many Japanese ghost story shows, and it’s difficult not to be a little bit skeptical of anything that contains what are essentially immortal vampires, since those creatures are more than overused these days and tend to be emo and annoying in most incarnations. But something in my gut is telling me that there’s something special about this series (of course that may also be the fact that I’ve shirked my normal impartiality duties and watched ahead a few episodes at the time of this writing; oops).
I’m not going to lie, though. Some of what happens in this episode is just cryptic enough that it might put off people who like to be held by the hand and explained everything as it happens. Personally I enjoy a little bit of mystery in what I watch, to keep me guessing and to keep me interested until the answers are revealed, but there are some people who aren’t interested in waiting for answers or trying to deduce them on their own. The big mystery for me at this point remains what has happened with Benkei. As Kuromitsu’s house burns down during the battle, Benkei is seen talking with another samurai, suggesting that perhaps he may not be as loyal as he seems, but there aren’t really any clues being given as to what is going on with him. Something for future episodes, obviously! That aside, the origin of the monster samurai is still a mystery, and the post-apocalyptic stuff from the opening scene is still a point of intrigue, so there’s plenty to look forward to.
The animation from Studio Madhouse is good as expected, and incorporates some interesting visual elements, including a very unusual color palette during scenes of supernatural importance (the lead-up for Kuro’s first glimpse of Kuromitsu’s true nature, for example). There are a few scenes that border on being a bit over-the-top, including one scene where Kuro jumps up and cuts a guy’s neck from above, but it’s easy to forgive an animation studio for being a bit overzealous when so many take the easy route instead. The character designs tend to be a bit odd and lanky, though not to the point of awkwardness like most recent CLAMP character designs tend to be. Just be prepared for some skinny chicken legs on a few of the characters.
This series is a strong contender for one of the best this season, due to its high production values and unique take on a vampire story. It’s definitely not a simple show to watch, but for those willing to put in the effort, I have the feeling it may culminate into something excellent.
- Good animation with an interesting choice of color.
- The story leaves enough mystery to remain intriguing.
- The vampire so far is not whiny or emo.
- The story might be too Japanese and complicated for some viewers.