Unpopular Opinion: Kekkai Sensen

Kekkai Sensen is a show that I both absolutely love and am frustrated by to no end.  It was a show that I thought had basically everything going for it but we’re now about halfway into the season after Kekkai Sensen aired and its final 1 hour long special episode is sadly nowhere in sight.  So begins he tale of a show that had vision, which has been given to us by businessmen or network heads with no common sense at all.  From here on there will be spoilers, you have been warned.

I’d love to give you all a summary of Kekkai Sensen’s premise but for the most part it’s made of semi-related episodic adventures rather than a cohesive narrative.  As far as I can tell the story is about the battle between Libra, the secret organization that is terrible at keeping its members secret, who fights to protect humanity from various threats, the greatest of which is the Elders 13, the top level vampires, and the Thirteen Kings, who are mix of odd but dangerous individuals like Femt and Aligura.  Why both enemies are stuck with the number 13 is anyone’s guess.  Of all the threats Libra faces, its battles against the vampires have been the consistent point of the story though even these encounters vary wildly.  Towards the end the premise shifts to the King of Despair restarting an event called the Great Collapse which psychics were able to stop three years prior to the beginning of the series.  But even if the premise is a bit hazy, the setting is anything but.

Ironically, despite the otherworldly mists that surround it Jerusalem’s Lot is a sprawling mass of color and detail.  Aliens and monsters of every stripe imaginable walk down the streets alongside humans.  Though the city, formerly known as New York, is still made mostly of grey skyscrapers and the like, its inhabitants make it one of the most visually interesting settings I’ve come across in a long time.  It reminds me a lot of the film Redline, not so much in terms of the animation quality but the way that humans and loads of exotic aliens species are hanging out all the time and how there’s crazy shit happening all over the place.  In any event if I start comparing a show to Redline that means it’s doing something right because I fucking love Redline.  But even if you take away all the people and monsters, the setting still looks great.  The hazy fog clouds and stark gray buildings make for a pretty impressive overview of the setting and the amount of detail poured into the buildings and streets make the city come alive.  I don’t even like New York in real life, but damn if this show hasn’t made it look appealing.  Time to talk characters.

If there was any one thing that saves the nonsensical premise from being boring it’s the characters.  Kekkai Sensen’s characters are a load of fun and their interactions with each other are priceless.  They are essentially a gang of goofballs armed with powerful weapons in the form of their blood manipulation techniques and an even more potent sense of humor.  Part of the reason I love this show as much as I do is because I think it’s end goal is to be entertaining.  It’s not trying to make a big symbolic point, it’s not trying to wow us with a deep narrative, it’s just here to have fun and make sure we have fun with it.  And the characters are integral to that process.  Some characters don’t even have to do much overall to be entertaining.   Take for example Chain and Lucky Abrams, Chain almost always does observation work and tracking but no actual fighting.  But she’s one of the more important parts of the cast in my mind because her back and forth with Zapp is a constant source of fun and laughs, she keeps low key scenes more interesting where a more serious character would let similar scenes fall flat.  Likewise the inherent ridiculousness of Lucky Abrams, both in his behavior and circumstances turn everything that happens around him into a stupid riot of hilarious coincidences.  Perhaps Libra’s greatest strength in the story is not their interesting array of powers and members but how they all interact around each other and their quirks.  It breathes a lot of life into the show where a more serious and dramatic cast thrust into a plot about humans versus vampires (oh hello there Owari no Seraph) would be a lot more mediocre, and certainly a lot less fun.  Luckily for Kekkai Sensen, there’s more life to the series than just the characters.

I mentioned earlier that the setting looks great but I neglected to mention that Kekkai Sensen is constantly playing with its visual style.  It’s so full of odd camera angles, and interesting backdrops that it’s hard to get bored.  Take for example the montage Zapp stealing pizza from Leonardo which we see through the lenses of security cameras.  That montage was funny, in part because of the action, but the visual presentation of the montage lent it a lot more character than if we had seen it presented more normally.  Kekkai Sensen is a show that knows how stupid it is and embraces that, which is a good thing as I explained in this post here.  It intentionally plays up the weird and goofy scenes with unusual visuals to add to its sense of style.  Unfortunately this occasionally leads to shots that are very confusing to process and fights that are a bit of a mess.  But overall I think Kekkai Sensen’s odd stylistic visual direction paid off because it meshes so well with the silly characters and humor of the series.  The we get the soundtrack.  Like everything else about Kekkai Sesen, the soundtrack is a riotous array of variety.  It has slow and sad tracks right alongside upbeat jazz, goofy electronic and even some tribal African music.  It has a number of songs in English, really good English too, as well as few tracks in languages I don’t recognize.  The opening song is also pretty decent but the ending song is amazing and I like the little dressy dancing scenes that play alongside the music, they’re a very nice touch.  Ok but if I like some much about this show, why does it frustrate me?

Well it has to do with the idiotic decisions of the people airing it.  Kekkai Sensen is still currently unfinished because someone had the brilliant idea to make the finale an hour long special.  I think that would have been cool had it aired in a timely fashion.  As it stands Kekkai Sensen has 11 episodes of substance and two recaps with the hour long 12th episode nowhere in sight.  The first recap was actually ok since it happened via radio interview and it just felt the kind of quirky thing Kekkai Sensen would do.  But the second recap was not needed at all and it pissed a lot of fans off.  So I have a few questions.  If you couldn’t get a convenient timeslot for the hour long finale, why not just make it into three episodes?  If you had dropped the second recap the series would have been fifteen episodes in total and while that is an odd number for series to end on, I have seen shows end on weird episode counts before.  Hell both of Kingdom’s seasons end just shy of forty episodes, so why can’t Kekkai Sesen manage fifteen?  Look if Kekkai Sensen had been running continually it would be on episode 18 or so by now.  But currently our final episode is that obnoxious second recap, and our big finale doesn’t even have a release date.  Are you guys trying to sabotage the good will of the fans?  I’ve never seen anyone fuck up the release of an anime this badly.  This blows the problems of split-core series I talked about here out of the water.  By the time his finale comes out rather than a bunch of excited fans looking forward to it eagerly, it mostly be a bunch of frustrated fans saying “Finally!” assuming they haven’t dropped all interest in the show entirely by that point.  This whole setup is fucking stupid.  If the series were complete people could marathon it and this issue disappears, but the damage is already done.  I think a lot of people who might have bought the dvds for Kekkai Sensen won’t bother after this bullshit.  I can’t fathom the mind of the idiots who came up with this scheme, it does way too much damage to the reputation of the series to be worth anything.  Kekkai Sensen is a good show and it had the potential to be a great one, but this idiotic bullshit will likely see it consigned to mediocrity by fans who shouldn’t have to put with this pathetic presentation.  I don’t blame anyone who looks at Kekkai Sensen in a negative light, the people behind it have given us more than enough reason to do so.  I’m sad however to see such a bold new IP that brought a lot more life to the medium than most anything else I’ve seen for a few seasons suffer such an ignoble fate.  I hope you all enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.

You can now find my review of the Kekkai Sensen finale here.

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