Take Darker Than Black, add a touch of Ghibli and a dash of character designs that look like Leiji Matsumoto and what do you get? Something perhaps in the mold of BONES’ 6-part movie project, Towa no Quon.
There’s an interesting pedigree behind this one. It was originally the project of director Umanosuke Iida, who passed away at 49 last November. Veteran BONES director Mori Takeshi (Vandread) stepped in. Character designs are by Kawamoto Toshihiro (Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain). Director Mori-sensei did the storyboards for DtB, which helps explain the similar feel of the two projects. As you would expect from a BONES big-screen project this looks terrific, with fluid animations and detailed backdrops cut from the classic BONES look. Kawamoto’s character designs are extremely retro in a good way, and suit the material well.
The touch of Ghibli comes in the somewhat heavy-handed environmental message, with a group of humans who’ve either mutated or been seeded with odd powers living in a sort of for-profit Garden of Eden and doing battle with an evil quasi-secret organization called Kestos, who have cyborgs to do their dirty work for them. Their battleground is the fate of the newly awakened souls whose powers apparently manifest themselves sometime in adolescence (this being anime, after all). It’s a race to see whether the residents of the Fantasium Garden can get to the kids before the evil Kestos cyborgs can… Do whatever it is they plan to do. Kill them? Capture them for experimentation? Not clear, but it’s bad. And their leader is a Priest, too, this being BONES and all.
The apparent leader of the awakened beings is a young man named Quon (Kamiya Hiroshi, Natsume from Natsume Yuujinchou). He’s one of their two actual warriors and far more powerful than the other, Yuri (Shiraishi Ryoko) and as such it generally falls on him to save the newly awakened children, usually at the cost of grievous harm to himself. This pisses off his best friend Takao (the great Irinu Miyu) – who has some sort of teleporting power – especially since Quon has taken it upon himself to try and save every child no matter the risk to himself. The two kids who need saving in the premiere are a boy named Yuuma (Komatsu Mikako) whose parents have apparently abandoned him, and a girl named Kiri (Hayami Saori) who has lost the ability to speak since a terrible accident claimed her parents lives.
There’s a lot that isn’t made clear just yet, such as why being inside the Fantasium Garden – a sort of nature’s idyll theme park near Shinjuku – keeps the awakened safe during the day, and just what Kestos’ motivations are. We’re sometime in the near future but there’s also no indication of what’s causes these awakened to be the way they are. In that sense and in most others, this is pure BONES despite the Ghibli accent – full of bishounen, quasi-religious science fiction and a bewilderingly complex premise that they can’t be bothered to fully explain. Yet for all that it’s derivative of every BONES work ever, it’s also quite entertaining and very pretty to look at – as indeed most BONES projects are. The action sequences are superb and while the conflicts are as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead, it’s hard not to root for the kawaii children as they’re being hunted like animals for no seemingly good reason.
This being composed of six 47-minute episodes initially released cinematically (the first three have already screened), obviously subs are going to be a little slow in the making. I enjoyed it though, and I’ll continue to blog it as future episodes become available.