Review for Beyond The Boundary: Complete Season Collection
The January review discs from Animatsu and Manga turned up, and this month instead of the usual pressed check discs, we have single layer DVD-R screeners. Despite the fact that they are copies of the final retail discs, this review will be useless if you are looking to see what the AV quality is like. With the compression (in a couple of cases almost 4 hours of video on a single layer disc), these discs aren’t in any way representative of the retail copies. The review will be about the content only. If there is a bright side, I don’t have to write as damned much!
Kyoto Animation makes beautiful anime. Their work is always exquisite, gorgeous colours, strict attention to detail, wonderful composition and imagery, and fluid and carefully observed character animation. But you might be forgiven for thinking that they don’t do conventional narrative, that slice of life is their speciality. Certainly in recent years they’ve focussed on shows like K-On! Free, Tamako Market, and Nichijou. It’s easy to forget that they can tell stories too, such as the Key Visual adaptations like Clannad and Kanon, as well as Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid. Still it had been a few years since the last, notable anime story from KyoAni, so when in 2013, Beyond the Boundary was streamed, I certainly paid attention. I don’t exactly recall it making much of an impact (even though it has spun off movies and OVAs), and in my mind it’s sort of merged with Red Data Girl, which was also streamed on Anime on Demand or Wakanim or whichever defunct streaming service existed back then. This then is my second chance to engage with Beyond the Boundary.
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.
12 episodes of Beyond the Boundary are presented across 3 discs from Animatsu. The show is also out on Blu-ray.
3. Moonlight Purple
4. Bitter Orange
5. Chartreuse Light
6. Shocking Pink
7. Color of Clouds
8. Calming Gold
9. Silver Bamboo
10. White World
11. Black World
12. Gray World
The picture format is 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC widescreen. You get DD 2.0 English and Japanese, along with subtitles and a signs only track. The images used in this review were kindly supplied by Animatsu and Fetch Publicity.
The discs present their content with static menus, there’s a translated English credit reel after each episode. Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for No Game, No Life, and there are further trailers on the disc, as well as the textless credits.
Disc 3 gets 3 minutes of Japanese Promos. It also gets the Beyond the Boundary Idol Trial! –They Who Judge You Even Though They Waver– net animations. There are five in total, a total run time of around 41 minutes (including translated credit reels), where certain members of the cast are put on trial for their character flaws by a panel of chibi popstar judges, that pronounce their verdicts with a song.
Beyond the Boundary has a prequel OVA episode, Daybreak. You don’t get it on the UK Blu-ray or DVD, you don’t get it on the US standard BD or DVD, but you do get it on the expensive collector’s edition release from Sentai Filmworks in the US. The US Blu-ray is Region A. Australia’s Hanabee on the other hand have thirteen episodes listed on both their DVD and Blu-ray releases, suggesting that the OVA is standard.
Beyond the Boundary is breathtakingly beautiful, has intricate world designs, lavish backgrounds and is animated with a deft eye to character and emotion. It looks fantastic, just as you would expect from studio KyoAni. It’s also not very good. It has a supernatural action story to tell, and it manages to do so over the course of its twelve episodes, but the storytelling is flawed, there are nits to pick with the characterisations and there are aspects of the show that just rub me the wrong way.
For one thing, rather than just tell a decent supernatural action story, KyoAni decided to mix it up with what they are currently doing best. Beyond the Boundary becomes a supernatural slice of life comedy drama, and when the characters aren’t fighting world threatening demonic forces, they’re engaged in pointless banter in a Literature club room. That might not be too bad, but the character archetypes on display here conform to the light and fluffy K-On! school of character writing, rather than the kick-ass spirit warrior that you might expect. Our protagonist for example, Mirai Kuriyama is in appearance and attitude a cross between Yui from K-On!, and Rikka from Chunibyo, dressed like a grandmother in an oversized baggy pink cardigan and glasses perched on the end of her nose, wielding a catchphrase (‘You’re unpleasant’), with alarming frequency. And when she isn’t being dorky and ditzy, she’s battling demons the size of mountains with a sword formed from her own blood. Incongruous is an understatement.
Beyond The Boundary’s comedy is hit and miss as well. The male protagonist Akihito has his perversion; he likes girls in glasses, which makes his pairing with Mirai predictably awkward. But his friend Hiroomi is nursing a perversion of his own, with which the two of them have battles of perversity in the club room. The only trouble is with Hiroomi it’s a sister complex. He’s sweet on his little sister Mitsuki. Anime does the incest thing again! I don’t understand how this thing sells, but it’s been a growing trope in recent anime, the forbidden love aspect, and obviously there are customers for it, or animators believe there are customers for it. Fortunately in Beyond the Boundary it’s never more than words, but I’m becoming worryingly accustomed to just saying “Yuck” and moving on.
But the real problem with Beyond The Boundary’s story is that there’s not enough of it. If you’re interested in how Akihito and Mirai’s relationship pans out then the show will just about satisfy you, but if you want to know about the world of Yomu and Spirit World Warriors, if you want to know the details behind the story, the characters and movers, the politics and machinations, then you’ll be disappointed. Motivation is severely lacking in this story, it’s hard to understand just why these things happen, and the key players, Izumi Nase, and especially the series villain, Miroku Fujima are woefully underdeveloped. Then there is Akihito’s mother, whose antics are funny once, but not three times. The ultimate disappointment is that when you do learn what is going on in Beyond the Boundary’s story, it’s unearned, just an episode of exposition with characters standing around revealing stuff, the worst being villain Miroku talking to himself outlining his evil plan... to himself!
Speaking of unearned, the nadir might actually be the series conclusion, a happy ending which makes no narrative sense whatsoever, a pointless gift to viewers who obviously would balk at a downbeat conclusion, but with no rhyme or reason. In comparison, Clannad After Story’s climax is a masterpiece of plotting. So Beyond the Boundary is visually magnificent, a show that should only be watched on Blu-ray, and if you just invest in the two main characters it offers a degree of satisfaction. But if you’re actually interested in the story it will fall flat. But then again, Beyond the Boundary does have the sublime 6th episode, Shocking Pink, which on its own, might just be the single best episode of anime from 2013, reason enough to buy the collection.
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