Review for Beyond The Boundary The Movie: I'll Be Here - Past Chapter/Future Arc
I’ve had a flip-flop relationship with Beyond the Boundary. I’ve seen the series three times, and each time I’ve had a different opinion. That it comes from studio KyoAni means that you can’t debate its visual qualities; it is a seriously gorgeous anime. However, its aim to blend slice-of-life romantic comedy with an in-depth narrative about battling monsters and fighting for the fate of the world could be described as uneven at best, a misfire at worst. The last time I watched it, I decided that the best way to approach it was to not worry so much about that narrative, but instead invest in the relationship between the two main characters. It turned out to be a much better experience that way, although it must be said that the conclusion of the series did seem like a magic happy ending tacked on at the last minute.
Still, Beyond the Boundary was enough of a success to warrant a feature film spin-off, and we now get that movie, the conclusion to Akihito and Mirai’s story on Blu-ray and DVD from Animatsu. Hopefully it will make the end of the series seem a little less tacked on. Actually we get two movies for the price of one here, I’ll Be Here: Past, and I’ll Be Here: Future.
Akihito Kanbara is a high school boy who usually opts for self-interest and expediency, which is why it’s a little out of character for him to go up to the school roof to talk Mirai Kuriyama out of killing herself, although her red spectacles play into Akihito’s favourite fetish. She repays him by stabbing him through the heart, and that’s the start of an interesting relationship. The spirit world and the real world exist side by side, although the average person has no idea of this. It’s down to the Spirit World Warriors, those people who can see and interact with the Spirit World, to use their powers and keep malicious Yomu in check.
Akihito Kanbara is half yomu, his mother is a Spirit World Warrior, his father a yomu, and as a result, he’s immortal, which helps when you’ve been stabbed though the heart. Mirai Kuriyama is the sole survivor of a clan of Spirit Warriors, although it’s a clan that was hated and shunned for its cursed blood. She can use her blood to literally form the sword that she fights with, although she’s spent most of her life trying to hide from her heritage. Now, she’s got reason to fight the Yomu, not least to earn enough to put food on her plate, but she’s an absolute beginner, and given that Akihito is immortal, that makes him perfect to practice on. The two might be misfits and oddballs in their spirit world society, but their lives are about to get a lot more complicated, given that certain people are interested in Mirai’s curse, and Akihito’s immortality.
I’ll Be Here: Past lasts 83:13 and is a recap, compilation movie that summarises the important moments of the series, with some new animation bridging familiar scenes, as well as a post-credits coda which sets up the main feature.
I’ll Be Here: Future lasts 91:16.
Mirai Kuriyama is back, following an all out battle against the yoma known as Beyond the Boundary in which it seemed all was lost. Apparently there has been a price to pay for her miraculous resurrection, as she has lost all of her memories. Given what she previously sacrificed, Akihito realises that this is finally the chance that she needs to escape the Spirit World altogether, and lead a normal, high school life. That’s best served by him avoiding her completely. The problem with that is that while Mirai has no memory of fighting yomu, of her cursed blood, that blood still exists, and there are still those in the Spirit World who have dark designs on Mirai’s power.
With most other anime studios, I’d be talking about the increase in animation quality, the greater level of detail, the added imagination when going from TV anime to theatrical feature, but with KyoAni, their TV work is theatrical quality to begin with. The Beyond the Boundary feature film looks just as good as the TV series, and that is a good thing. You get a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer here. The image is clear and sharp throughout, detail levels are excellent, the colours are magnificent, and digital banding is kept to a minimum, even though this is a show that abounds with darker scenes, and the shifts of light and shade that tend to invoke such issues with anime on Blu-ray. Kyoto Animation’s particular forte is character animation, and Beyond the Boundary is top tier work from them, really bringing across the drama and humour in the story in the way that the characters are brought to life, both in the larger, emphatic moments, and the quieter more nuanced scenes.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Animatsu.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with subtitles and signs, locked during playback. The original language track is very much the way to go here, with some great voice actor performances really creating memorable characters. The action comes across with great impact through the surround track, and it gives those action sequences in the Past movie a leg up over the same scenes in the TV series. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos.
The disc boots to a mostly static menu.
You get the Japanese trailer for the film, and some promos, as well as further Sentai trailers for Girls und Panzer der Film, K-ON! The Movie, Wake Up Girls!, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices.
By far the most fun is the “Twelve Star” Dance Music Video, a call back to ‘that’ moment from the best episode in the series. This lasts 4:49, and there is a further 38 second Dance Music Video Clean Closing Animation.
Beyond the Boundary: I’ll Be Here: Past is useful if you have the series, but don’t have the time to re-watch it, and have it fresh enough in your memory to just need the little nudge that this highlights package of a recap movie gives. It will get you in the mood for the actual point of getting this disc, which is I’ll Be Here: Future, the continuation of the story. In that respect, this is just like the first Eden of the East movie, although that at least had the honesty to present the Air Communication feature as part of the extras, instead of selling it as a double feature. I’ll Be Here: Past isn’t very good. It’s disjointed, and it lacks the context to properly tell its story, and while it has been edited down efficiently from around 5 hours of series to get to the essentials of Mirai and Akihito’s relationship, it loses too much of the other characters to make sense, especially as the final episode is pretty much presented in the film in its entirety. The only real reason to see this film is for the added footage, most notably the post credits coda which sets up Future, and that’s repeated at the start of the second film anyway. It’s better just to watch the series again in its entirety before watching I’ll Be Here: Future.
Thankfully, I’ll Be Here: Future is a worthy follow up to the series, giving us more of the characters, more of the quirky antics that make them so appealing, and expanding even further on the supernatural back-story to the show and the film. There are a couple of problems here, one being that a strong point in the series was the relationship between Mirai and Akihito, with their dialogue having an almost romantic comedy paced wit to it. With Mirai having amnesia at the start of the story, that banter is mostly gone for the duration of the film. The second thing is that the back-story to Beyond the Boundary is its weak point, and you need far more than a feature film to readdress that weakness. What we get here, does help in adding more dimension to the series’ most underwritten antagonist, Miroku Fujima, and fills in some the background between him and the Nase clan, but it really isn’t enough, and there are once again far too many questions left hanging.
However, just as it was for the series, the film works best when you invest in Akihito and Mirai’s story. Will they get back together again? Will Mirai get her memory back? Will Akihito get over his justified fear of losing her? The film offers a tale which is the other side of the coin compared to the series. That story was mostly about Mirai learning of the monster that Akihito kept hidden, of her falling in love with him, and when he became that monster, Mirai sacrificing as much as she could to bring him back to humanity. In the film, it’s Akihito who has to come to terms with his love for Mirai, a love that he’s been prepared to forego in order to keep her away from the dangerous Spirit World, but when it turns out that she too has a monster that she harbours within, and that monster is unleashed, it falls to Akihito to be prepared to sacrifice to save her.
The Beyond the Boundary movie does offer more of the same, if in the form of a mirror image of the series, and while the comedy might have been toned down for the sake of some heartfelt romantic drama, that isn’t a bad thing, indeed it makes the development of Mirai and Akihito’s relationship more poignant. The animation is up to KyoAni’s usual high standards, and there is more than enough yomu fighting action to marvel at. I’ll Be Here: Future hits all the right emotional notes to make watching this film a worthwhile expenditure of your time. If you have time though, it’s better to re-watch the series instead of watching the first film.