Anime is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. The bittersweet nature I’m finding with enjoying anime series is that there are certainly incredible shows to be discovered, but a lot of them will be a brief affair. For some context, what I’m talking about all comes down to syndication philosophy. My fellow Americans… let’s face it we love watching the same old shit; we keep watching re-runs of The Office until we choke and die on it. Television just isn’t very profitable without it being syndicated so most networks are extremely careful to green light the right projects and test them with pilots to ensure this is something that will work. The golden number used to be 100 episodes, and 65 episodes for an animated show because then you’d have nice numbers for being able to rerun one episode per weekday. Anime does not give a damn about syndication. Anime don’t have pilots because a great majority are existing properties of a manga or light novel series. Ironically, the shows are kind of the pilots to sell you on the source material, a series DVD… or weeb merch. Series will create a 12-13-episode season to air late at night during a weekly slot over a 3-month seasonal period. Rarely do ratings even matter, but for reasons of the limited shows playing at a time, incomplete source material, or less than stellar merchandise sales most shows are satisfied with calling it good enough there (I assume that’s why production studios find a show they enjoy working on but don’t want to go through the hassle of airing it will do a film instead).

TV Troupes apparently calls it “Awesomeness Withdrawal” when you watch something you’re really into and then ah shit it’s over. “Awesomeness Withdrawal” has hit me hard with my viewing of Kyoukai no Kanata. Kyoukai no Kanata or Beyond the Boundary is a show that feels tailor-made for me. I love supernatural elements, a blend of romance/comedy/adventure, gorgeous animation design, mystery, engaging themes/character arcs, WTF moments, and an intriguing world deserving of exploration and spurring a sense of adventure. It’s strange because this show comparably checks everything off the personal taste checklist as my favorite American cartoon Over the Garden Wall and these shows are drastically different but still seem like different chemistry of these same elements. Do I think Beyond the Boundary is the perfect show in my eyes…no.

There’s certainly flaws in its design and execution; largely due to condensing the narrative. I just wanted the plot to marinate a little, and I would just love to see these characters continue to grow and expose aspects of themselves. Most of the sour criticism of this show is that the characters don’t grow enough or have one-note personalities. It’s a plot driven show and it’s only one season… your side characters aren’t going to be extremely dynamic. Consider where any of your beloved characters were after their first season. Was Tony Stark such a beloved character after the first Iron-Man, did Naruto seem complex after the Zabuza/bridge builder arc? Or maybe in the limits of season 1 can you really only establish an appeal and focus on making alluring characters then dynamic or grown characters.

I really really really liked Beyond the Boundary it is a hell of a ride but because I know you’re not stupid and can read a title I’m going to be discussing in-depth on an episode that I think showed the potential of this series and showed me that it wasn’t just a good series but a great series… that kind of rushed itself. “But K, won’t talking about the best episode spoil the whole series?”. Here’s the thing, I can’t say that the episode I’m reviewing is the best episode because some of the story beats in the final three episodes is just something else, but I’m still going to breakdown arguably my favorite episode which I feel is surprisingly maybe not what you were expecting. The episode that sold me on the greatness of Beyond the Boundary is Episode 6 Shocking Pink.

Episode 6 shocking pink

The episode opens with a clever en media res opening that throws us into an unexpected scene taking place in the female showers (AND THAT’S ALL IT TAKES TO HAVE ME SOLD! No please stay with me). This scene instantly grabs our attention as the usually stoic Mitsuki is uncharacteristically aggravated over something. It’s a proper hook to invest us in whatever is to be revealed to have led up to this. I love in the quick minute opening we have great direct and indirect comedic beats. It’s a funny moment to see both the other girls seem to be as far as possible from Mitsuki for various reasons. However, the humor and character can also be subtle as when Mirai nervously responds to Mitsuki we get sort of quirky character moment when she still tries to do her nervous tick of wiping her glasses despite not even wearing them. It’s a neat little hook that draws intrigue to what’s about to happen as well as give us little human moments before proceeding into the rest of the episode.

OP

I’m weird, but I rarely ever skip the opening theme to a show I’m watching. I always find that part of falling in love with a show is through it’s opening theme. I love when you reach a new one and it feels like you’ve crossed a milestone, I love when you reach the last episode and it really hits you that this is the last time you’ll hear this constant tune at the beginning of each episode. The opening to this anime is rather simple but it’s also dang good. The visuals seem to encompass the show well from the calm mundane settings to the cinematic action. The editing to the music is phenomenal, the cutting and action seamlessly match the musical progression. I also want to draw attention to the final image. Besides being gorgeous, keen viewers will notice that what initially looks like a lakeside view of a glowing moon will question why does the top moon have a rippling effect? I’m not here to spoil the series but it’s nice that there’s deeper thematic imagery in the title sequence as well as foreshadowing of events to come. Especially considering the lyrics are certainly a loaded statement considering the series as a whole. I’d maybe argue that the ending credits was better than the opening, but I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through this one each time.

The episode opens up to the literature club during their daily activities and I swear they rapid fire through every running gag in the show. Like demonstrated in the stinger, the comedy shows a comfortable range of sight gags, verbal quips, and repetition. Beyond the Boundary is normally a serious tone show with comedy acting as the relief to the build up drama. The onslaught of comedic moments seems to be prepping the audience for the more light-hearted tone of this episode. Mirai announces her Spirit Warrior licenses has been renewed and she goes to snag the none hostile big game Youmu/ghost above the school.

The Youmu

I love the creativity in this show, the ghosts of this show could have easily been just humanoids or animal-esque creatures but instead they show how interesting and exotic they can create such creatures. So the monster of the episode is a horny balloon filled with stinky piss (AND THAT’S ALL IT TAKES TO HAVE ME SOLD! I’m kidding I swear). It’s interesting that not all of the youmu have to be such an opposing threat, but at the same time it introduces an interesting dilemma for our protagonists. Our typical tactics of brute force aren’t going to work against this certain foe.

The cuteness

Good characters are often defined by the admirability of their actions and the relatability of their demeanor. I love that the “action heroes” of this anime suffer from real-person syndrome, no Olympic Gods here. I mean quite possibly the most bad-ass character in the entire show looks like she says jinkies. After their defeat, the walk home is just wholesome adorableness. While the characters indulge in larger than life missions it’s the little moments like this that concentrate on embarrassment, insecurities, and unflinching determination that really draws the audience to care for their well being in times of peril.

The Madness

I love just how progressively silly the rest of the episode becomes. Mirai and Akihito rope Mitsuki into helping them and she is just a perfect straight man for the situation. Her unrelenting disinterest with the whole situation is rather amusing.

It’s unfortunate that she gets sprayed with the extra stinky sauce which explains her status at the beginning of the episode though this is only the beginning. Throughout this the show’s great at not heavily relying on exposition dumps and does a great job of presenting plot throughout the series. However, I do agree with those who’d argue this is to the shows disadvantage as they sometimes could use a couple to better example motives and details behind some of the events that occur in the series. This show uses exaggeration to great effect, here It’s rather amusing to see the characters even Yakiimo sporting gas masks to deal with the stench caused by the youmu’s spray.

The comedic timing certainly doesn’t go underappreciated, as Hiroomi arrives to aide his fetish-fantasy little sister, her distraught glance is enough to fill him with ecstatic joy only to be short-lived before the stench causes him to nearly vomit. Oh, and yes, you heard that right, one of the main humors of the show is to mock the male protagonists quirky perverted desires for girls with glasses or little sisters. I typically don’t like this type of humor; I feel that pervert has a strong accusatory denotation to it; almost as strong as calling someone a molester which sounds icky. I never found the conversations to stray too far, “a glasses fetish” isn’t really too different from a type such as blondes or tall, dark and handsome. Hiroomi’s is a little weird, I don’t want to be dismissive of what may exist but I rationalized it as being that maybe he’s not necessary attracted to committing an incestual relationship with his sister, but rather he’s infatuated with little sister qualities such as someone who looks up to you, etc.. Honestly, maybe why I found it humorous in this case was that it is kind of socially unacceptable and yet they are so unabashed about it that they hold these conversations right in front of everyone, especially characters who fit the bill. If these were private whispering conversations between the two they would have just come of as creepy weirdos, but since Mitsuki is there to mock them for it does it just seem more they’re just a couple of buffoons.

The Solution

With Hiroomi’s knowledge on the particular Youmu at hand, the group learns that the way to beat it is to sing some sort of pop idol song. The comedic pacing of this scene is truly great just because of how quickly it turns on its head.

Love that this nonchalant conversation is quickly followed by this reaction shot.

After another shower defeat scene do we see something this show desperately needed and it’s the first time we see the main protagonists really rally together. Their frustration and humiliation by the hands of the horny piss balloon has brought them to their wit’s end and has encouraged them to finally act as one. The 4 main protagonists really have up to this point really only had their own goals on their mind, but finally do we see what they’re capable of as a collective. Part of the potential I see in this series is that this cast of character offers a unique synergy that I’d love to just see them tackle all sorts of Youmu or daily life being high school students an aspect not really explored given the time constraints or really just any type of misadventure.

The Performance

Finally, after a week of prep it has all lead to this. I feel that some will groan at this somewhat forced pop idol inclusion, but I just think it’s such brilliant camp. It’s just funny to see these characters so out of their element yet the song slaps. There’s a cute juxtaposition between how serious the characters take it and just how ridiculous it is to watch it unfold. There’s a lot to appreciate from the sequence, first this:

 Because this show knows I’ve only known Ai for 12 episodes but if anything happened to her, I would kill everyone and then myself. The dance choreography is beautifully animated from how naturalistic the somewhat stiff motions and how they aren’t perfectly in sync. Their secret weapon was great, loved it. The one thing I want to emphasize is that maybe the most important part of the performance is that it also features a montage of their struggles to put it together. This was huge for me because I believe these moments matter, it understands that seeing these characters come together: struggle, bond, and be there for one another is valuable to appreciating the connection between them. The show doesn’t have time to stretch this out into giving proper scenes dedicated to character moments. BUT it refuses to let them be absent. These small moments make a difference. K-On! was almost entirely small moments, Toradora knew when to take its foot of the gas pedal, both shows have great moments that feel reminiscent of these flashes. I don’t feel cheapened by them not being expanded upon because they are magnificent snip-its of visual storytelling. They feel like complete scenes; they trust us to fill in the blanks.

By being dramatic and dynamic scenes do we understand the significance behind each visual being shown and what effect it had into the characters involved in them. The show displayed that it understands that a small argument can develop character just as much as a massive fight scene, they understand that you can tell us an event or character growth moment through entire scenes or by just effective visuals.

The episode tone dictates the content, so I find it a hilarious topper that after all that they do finish it off with essentially a “who’s driving the train?” gag.

A fitting end that of course briefly cuts back to a frustrated Mitsuki trying to get more soap bringing us full circle and to the episode’s completion. This episode stood out to me because it washed away my skepticism that this show didn’t do comedy the best. I thought the show had its funny moments throughout but overall, I was finding it a little too reliant on repeating the same gags that weren’t much aligned with my sense of humor. This episode just proved that if they want to do a comedic episode then they can knock it out of the park.

I really think if we just had more episodes like this to allow the audience to have fun romps with the characters as well as time to deeper explain some plot elements then I think this could be a much stronger story. If I haven’t made it abundantly clear I can’t say that I didn’t have a good time watching this one I absolutely freakin’ love it but I do feel that it is a season 1 of a show that really could elevate into something truly special though I’d say that it already is something special. Please go watch the rest of Kyoukai no Kanata or Beyond the Boundary if you have any trust in my opinion or feel that our tastes align than I can’t implore you enough to see this one show I found really funny, really sweet, and really meaningful. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, below, like if you support my ramblings, and be sure to follow as who knows what I’m going to do next but hopefully you can join me at the movies…. But first It wouldn’t be a K anime review if I didn’t have this segment.

Best Girl?

You can’t go wrong with anybody here, they’re all winners in my book. Ai’s just a cutie pie, she is written and designed to fulfill that role gracefully. I was honestly close to giving it to Sakura as she is the side character that starts off pretty meh, but they make her surprisingly funny and an emotional charged character by the end of it. She’s great but largely inconsistent for the best girl title. Here’s the thing I love Mitsuki, she a great straight man character and I like that she doesn’t put up with any shit. The other thing with Mitsuki is that I don’t know if I’m reaching for her. I feel that there is a lot of intriguing aspects to her character, I’m still wondering what exactly the implications of when she whispered “if only you could die” to Akihito in the first episode (Am I wrong that it went beyond mere teasing and sort of implied that she might have been willing to be more than friends with him if she wasn’t dedicated to the Spirit Warriors lifestyle and if he wasn’t a jinchuriki). I feel that her character development was just starting to get underway and that she could become hands down best girl. As it stands I don’t know if there’s enough concrete complexity to award it to her.

I didn’t initially like Mirai all that much, despite blood bending being a bad-ass power (should consider blood-doping… feel like that would help somehow) her character felt a little stereotypical geeky shy girl. All I will say is by the end of series when she smiles, I just can’t help but smile too (you don’t know how hard the damn feels can hit in this show). So, who is best girl…? I don’t know. Haven’t seen the movie, that will have to be the tiebreaker I guess that or I’ll have to see who’s body pillow could arrive here faster.

Thanks for reading, hope you all have a wonderful day!

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3 Comments

  1. “Because this show knows I’ve only known Ai for 12 episodes but if anything happened to her, I would kill everyone and then myself. ”

    See, the part of my brain that embraces mental health (or at least the idea of mental health) wants to discourage you from this approach.

    The rest of my brain wants to say, “Hold on! It’ll be more effective if we establish a cross fire.”

    I’m glad you wrote this post, because I’ve been struggling to think of how to explain just how amazing this episode was. I think you nailed it!

    Like

    1. I like to think my mental health is just fine though I did think a Brooklyn 99 joke/meme was appropriate for an anime audience… glad to have back up if it comes to that though.

      Thank you for the kind words, I was a little nervous that this post was going to turn into “aren’t these jokes funny” and “these characters are great” but I think I got a little deeper into character relations, what it adds to the series as a whole, and what makes the story effective. Regardless, I’m glad you seemed to enjoy it.

      Actually, I feel it’s appropriate to thank you again because it was honestly you and some of the other anibloggers that inspired me to try and experiment with an episode review, so if turned out not half bad give yourself a pat on the back.

      Liked by 1 person

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