Tokyo Ravens is still a series I want to like – and there are parts of it I do like – but it has two huge flaws that are proving hard for me to overcome: too much bad CGI and light-novel disease.
The first of those two issues is pretty clear-cut – I can either live with it or not. A series has to be exceptionally well-written to overcome really awful CGI, like Kingdom – but the CG isn’t as bad here as it was in Kingdom S1. Neither, though, is the writing as good. I still can’t shake the fact that like so many LN adaptations, Tokyo Ravens can’t resist throwing every wearisome cliche in the book at me. Every female character has been a walking trope, and we were even treated to the inevitable turn where the villain turns into a sympathetic character because she’s a cute loli.
But Suzuka at least is gone (for now) and the bigger problem of course is Natsume, as she’s sticking around as the female lead. This is a performance Hanazawa Kana could do in her sleep – and she may very well be, for all I know – which doesn’t help. She’s a very tired creation – the tsundere ojou-sama who blushes at the drop of a hat. Harutora is OK as the male lead, though he hasn’t exactly blown the doors off. And I haven’t heard a character shout another’s name (“Harutora-kuuun!”) since S1 of Nanoha.
I’m sticking around for at least another week, because these first three episodes basically seem like the preamble and the series itself is just starting – we haven’t had any Tokyo or Ravens until Shibuya Eki made an appearance. With a new setting and a new main plot, hopefully some of the potential in the premise will start to come out.
Kyoukai no Kanata – 04
Well, I was this close to being out but Kyoukai no Kanata manages to tease enough interest out of me to stick around for at least another week. That was easily the best episode of the series, and the only one I would call genuinely interesting.
There’s still a problem, in that I don’t really feel anything for any of the cast – it’s always a bad sign when I have a hard time separating the supporting players in my mind, as I do here. The whole cast is pretty generic and Mirai is worse than generic, she’s annoying and still in need of saving pretty much every time she steps into the fire. But the scenario itself is showing a pulse, and the visuals this week were quite good – I was especially impressed with the labyrinth scene – though that’s probably the most CGI I’ve seen in any KyoAni episode.
What made this episode work was the high-energy drive that ran through it just about start-to-finish, culminating in Akihito showing his youmu side for the first time. That the battle sequences would be technically well-done was a given, but there was a purposefulness to the episode direction that I haven’t seen up to this point. I did think the Hollow Shadow was taken down too easily considering how much its supposed strength was built up, but it was nicely-staged nonetheless. And maybe seeing just how idiotic she was being, wallowing in self-pity while Akihito was bearing a much heavier burden, will cause Mirai to grow up a little. The comedy between the two of them still doesn’t work and there’s zero romantic chemistry, but in terms of their relationship there’s nowhere to go but up.
It’s too early to tell whether the growing conspiracy plot surrounding the Spirit World Warriors is going to yield anything compelling, but while this premise isn’t too original I’m mildly curious to see where KyouKan will take it. The Nase family (probably the most interesting cast members, generally) are obviously at the center of it, and I’m not at all sure they’re all working for the same side. It appears that Akihito’s life is only being spared conditionally, which suggests he’s even more potentially important and/or dangerous than his rather spectacular display of power at the end of the episode would indicate.