Monday, 9 May 2011

紅 / Kurenai / Crimson

Make a mixture of the serious tone and subversive organisation themes of Black Lagoon. Spice with just a dash of the body-modification angst of Saikano. Now mix in large quantities of the sweetness, young man-little girl bonding and slice-of-life silliness of Aishiteruze Baby and Kurenai will look familiar. While it evokes these other titles, however, it closely resembles none of them, and can hardly be called unoriginal. The distance between those different titles ought to give some idea of how easily categorised - or otherwise - a show like Kurenai is.

Kurenai Shinkurou is an ordinary young man, except that after school, he works for an underground organisation, involving himself as the neutral party in some shady affairs and training hard so that he can look after himself when things turn nasty. He even has some secrets for when he’s out of his depth. However, he is an unassuming and rather inept young man who is a long way from professional.

His boss gives him a chance to prove himself with a more important job – acting as bodyguard to a little seven-year-old noble-born girl Kuhouin Murasaki. The bulk of the series is given to this adorable, sheltered little thing learning about the world and growing attached to Shinkurou, until towards the end, when it is discovered just why she needs protecting from her own large and wealthy family.

A nicely-animated work from a small studio, Kurenai won’t cause very large ripples but has a lot of appeal for those who watch it. It has sophistication, extreme cuteness, impressive fights and some very funny scenes. It deftly weaves together its overarching and serious plot with heartfelt slice-of-life moments, and there are some excellent characters on display, put into often absurd situations but still believable and easy to identify with.

Some things seem odd: the body-modification angle is the only really supernatural thing in the series and thus seems totally superfluous and somewhat jarring. The other major problem with the series is that while its characters are rich and its tone indicative of the literary source (albeit a light novel), at only twelve episodes, it doesn’t quite manage to flesh its world out in the necessary depth, leaving a sense of incompleteness to Benika’s organisation, Shinkurou’s past and a fair few characters.

Well above average, but not essential.

(originally written 30.11.08. An OVA has since been released)

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