After one episode, it’s too early to tell if K is a triumph of style over substance or just a triumph – but the style part is a sure thing.
(Editor’s Note: Watched and composed on a plane, finalized while severely jet lagged and soaked to the bone so apologizing in advance for any errors. More posts tomorrow.
This product of Studio GoHands and the mysterious GORA has been pretty mysterious in terms of plot, but what’s been striking in the previews is just how astonishingly beautiful the animation was. My skepticism that this could be carried over to an actual episode was unfounded, at least for the premiere – like the PVs, this was effectively movie-quality animation. Of course it’s almost a given that will decline some as the series progresses, but if it stays anywhere close to this level, K is going to be a real visual feast.
Flashy animation can be empty calories though if it doesn’t have cleverness and style to it – like a fast food meal that leaves you strangely hungry for more. Again, K silences my doubts in the premiere – this is really beautiful art. From the movie-styled pre-open to the large set pieces to the character designs and close-up shots, the flair and flamboyance are unmistakable. I can’t say whether I’m going to care much about the plot and characters yet, because the premiere was intentionally vague about what it was we were seeing.
In many ways, K is most reminiscent of Baccano! and Durarara. With it’s jazzy soundtrack and cinematic scope, its elements of organized crime (or at least organized violence) and parade of bishounen, it feels like a combination of those two shows. First among equals would seem to be Isano Yashiro, known as Shiro (Namikawa Daisuke) a white-haired high-schooler with a persistent smile who mooches lunch from his classmates and is usually seen with his small white cat, Neko. One of the local girls – who’s taken quite an interest in Shiro – comments that despite his friendly relationship with his classmates he doesn’t seem close to anyone – and indeed, Shiro is clearly an odd duck in many ways,
We also appear to have two rival organizations, Scepter 4 and Homura, who’ve taken quite an interest in Shiro and/or Neko. We’re given no idea why, but when Yata Misaki (Fukuyama Jun) of Homura is chasing Shiro through the streets and has him cornered, Yatogami Kuroh (Ono Daisuke) known as “The Black Dog” intervenes and saves him – only to point a sword at him when they’re alone, telling Shiro that his “late master” had requested that he kill the evil king, strongly implied to be Shiro. Just who Shiro really is and whether he’s even aware of his own significance isn’t clear, but it’s obvious that he’s going to be the central figure at least for the early part of the series.
The pieces don’t really fit together for now, but I’m fine with that. I like Durarara a lot (especially the first cour) and Baccano! even more, and there haven’t been a lot of shows with the same vibe. At some point K will either come up with a coherent and compelling story or it won’t, and that will tell whether it goes down as an entertaining distraction or a show of real quality. Given that the show both looks fabulously expensive and just plain fabulous it’s going to get some slack to spin its tale, because it does a terrific job of creating atmosphere with it’s technologically dazzling near-future setting and fluid animation. It also features a particularly strong cast and there are hopeful signs in the dialogue, which has a snappy rhythm to it. I’m not prepared to call K a winner just yet, but it’s definitely had one of the more arresting openings of the year in anime.