Episodes seen at time of writing: 4
It’s been a while since I’ve watched a show that made me want to keep on watching. The standard twenty plus minutes has always felt like a very comfortable quantum of anime to me, and I’m normally content to watch episodes of the same show one at a time – lighthearted shows so that I can take them in thrifty bite-sized chunks, and heavier content so that I can afford myself some time in musing digestion. Kyoukai no Kanata seems to strike a balance somewhere between both these worlds – serious enough to be exciting, but not quite at the density that makes it straining to keep on watching.
Taking a step back and continuing that thought, I feel like balance has more often than not been a conspicuous strength of Kyoto Animation’s production work. It is common to find portions and parts of a KyoAni show lacking finesse and/or thought, but they are usually flanked with just enough quality to smooth things over, and usually never accumulate sufficiently to bubble onto the surface as a serious flaw. The team always seems to have a solid eye on the big picture. And I think this is something pretty pronounced in Kyoukai no Kanata, which tends to feel like a constant juggle between the bad blocks and the good morsels: weak worldbuilding, generally unoriginal plot and characters, straightforward, obvious ideas; against excellent animating, great cinematography, well-measured pacing. It manages to present itself as a show about cute girls doing cute things, about magic users fighting monsters, about isolation and emotional conflict, and about moe-laced comedy, all the while retaining a remarkably integrated image. Great balancing. Through it all it feels like there’s constantly just enough going on to keep the show palatable and captivating.
Put another way, Kyoukai no Kanata ultimately shines in execution. KyoAni’s strong animating chops combine with some solid scenes and some great directing and pacing to bring to life a very rough fantasy setting and some very rehashed character interaction paradigms – making them bite. Even if it felt like you knew well in advance what was going to happen next in the presented conflict, when it actually arrives KyoAni lingers on it just right and invites you to drink deeply. Without essentially saying anything new, KyoAni shows that you could take something non-novel and still retell it in riveting fashion, thus still creating A-class entertainment.
There are just some really great scenes, complete with complementing lines, in the thick of the action in episodes 3 and 4. Scenes that really defy the mediocrity of the whole “I thought you didn’t understand me but I was the one who didn’t understand you” conflict structure. While I do hope they explore some more interesting territory moving forward, I have to say I can’t really complain about how things have gone so far. Solid stuff.
…Needless to say I’m sold, and can’t wait to see what the show brings next. I also want to give the ED a mention. I really like this ED – not quite the song, but the whole of it. I don’t trust myself to venture a real interpretation yet, but listening to and watching it at the end of every episode has been wonderful. It never failed to add a final, very palatable finishing touch of magic to close things out.