Written by TheBigN(ew York City?!?)
In regards to Kurenai¸ when I finished watching it, the show filed into my “pretty good, but not great” category in my head. There were a couple of nitpicks here and there (like the confusing first episode), and the ending actually felt a little too “Afterschool Special” to me when all the action was done. It was a pretty solid show, and you can say that it’s one of the best of 2008 (so far, or so I hope :3), and so on. With flowing animation, good music and fun character interaction, Kurenai delighted me on several levels. And some interesting thoughts popped up from it as well.
The pace and pop of the OP does have a noticeable (and in a way, totally uneeded) contrast with the rest of the show, yet it does also serve to introduce us to our main set of character in a unique and groovy way. When looking at these characters in regards to Shinkurou and Murasaki’s sibling-like relationship (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), I found that everyone seems to make up a nice dysfunctional family. Tamaki and Yamie were the big brother and sister, respectively, Benika was the mother, Yayoi was the father, and Ginko and Yuuno were… Shinkurou’s childhood friend and wannabe lover. Of course, the roles may very depending on the interpretation of the view, but you couldn’t deny that this group of people turned out to be very close knit like a lot of families are, especially when the Kuhouin family provides an interesting comparison point.
I think that bond between our main group was thrown out in full force in episode 10. With Shinkurou trying to forget his botched up job as Murasaki’s bodyguard (as well as trying to downplay how much he really does care for Murasaki), you could say that Benika and Yayoi, looking out for his career as a dispute mediator, advise him that focusing on the next job while blanking out any personal feelings about the last one is the way to go. (As a side note, you could extend Yayoi’s light sparring with Shinkurou as a sort of “bonding” experience, but that could be stretching things.) But Yamie, Tamaki, Ginko and Yuuno (as least I think Yuuno helps out), focusing more on Shinkurou being himself as best as he can, all in their own ways tell him that he shouldn’t let things go because he isn’t the type of person that does that. And even when Shinkurou changes his mind and decides to challenge something that’s hard to fight against (the rich. Heyo!) to get back Murasaki, though Benika and Yayoi have concerns, they reluctantly support and help him in his endeavor. Throughout the entire series, we see how Shinkurou has managed to begin to grow as a person with the help of a unrelated acquaintances that happened to provide him with a familial support that he had lost as a child. And we also see that Murasaki is of course a big catalyst in the matter.
Going back to the train scene in episode 3 (you know, the other thing in that episode talked about besides the “nice” conversation), many cheered for the seven year old, including myself, as she stood up to a group of teenagers harassing an old lady just for a seat. And we feel for her when she asks Shinkurou why he capitulated to that “insolent” group (they’re just being teenagers… sure…), especially when we know that he has the power to kick ass and take names. At first, I was angry at Shinkurou because he acted according to the status quo, feeling that he should defy things like that. But as I thought about it, more of that anger came from what tended to be a reoccurring trend throughout Kurenai with the show’s namesake: his willingness to easily acquiesce to “the rules”, be them societal, occupational, or whatever else-al the situation was, even when it conflicted with who he was. So when he was confronted about this, I cheered when he finally decided to follow his own rules in a way, and that was also why I was rooting for Murasaki on the train.
At the same time, when you look at the Kuhouin family, who do follow their own rules and removing themselves from control of normal society, there was a nice little contradiction for me. It was interesting to see Murasaki, who gave off the appearance of someone more confident, “self-reliant” and mature beyond her years, come to follow tradition in the form of her “real” family. We know that her decision came in order to preserve the new genuine family that she obtained at Samidare apartments (and especially preserve Shinkurou’s life), so seeing someone who seemed to defy convention coerced back into it was a little depressing and unsettling. And I think it also helped make the ending a little more realistic. Though the rescue attempt by Shinkurou, Benika and Yayoi gave her that confidence that she had so easily lost, she decides not to defy convention by removing herself away from it, but by changing it from within. Which doesn’t makes things clean-cut and happily ever after, but a little more complex and confusing that we would like to deal with it, like me. I could say that for a show that seems more realistic (in what way?) than most, that this ending does fit, but that doesn’t mean that I was entirely happy with it, if only because I wanted things to make a little bit more sense overall.
But going back to the first point, I do think that one of the main lessons that Kurenai provides us with is about what it means to be a family, as we have two orphans (one literally, one figuratively) come together with others, and begin that process of a fuller growth into a complete human being, I guess. Knowing that you at least have someone, or many someone, that will always support you and see that you’ve come out right allows us many abilities and opportunities to make ourselves satisfied with our lives. By the end of the series, we can see that both Shinkurou and Murasaki might still have a ways to go, but that they’re much closer to their respective goals of growing up than they would have been if none of this took place. Seems like Benika’s intuition turned out right after all. :3
Now if there is a “Day in the Life of Yayoi” extra episode of Kurenai coming soon, I’d be set.