Nabari no Ou anime review : not just as planned
What, a ninja show ? Seriously… I’m out.
First episode in, our main protagonist, Rokujou Miharu, average middle-schooler, clearly shows he is not interested in the project. So was I. Let me explain.
Miharu is in possession of a tremendous power called Shinrabanshou. He discovers that his teacher Kumohira and classmate Aizawa are not just airheads but actual ninjas of one of the five villages, Banten, the town where he lives. They explain the thing with Shinrabanshou. He must not use it, because no one should wield that kind of power. Of course, villains from one other village, Kairoshu, are out to get him. The two will protect him, along with a blond genki samourai girl and some guys from yet another village. They need to gather all forbidden techniques from the 5 villages to learn how to get Shinrabanshou out of Miharu and out of reach for ever.
So. Ninjas, a young boy with hidden powers and a destiny to fulfill, heroes, villains, fights, throw in some random sidekicks, 10 minutes in the oven and you have a generic shônen. 60-something episodes of Naruto had seriously dulled any spontaneous curiosity I could have had towards such ingredients.
Ninjas : yes, there are. Didn’t know they spent so much time talking, though.
A young boy with a destiny to fulfill : yes, except he couldn’t care less about it.
Heroes : weeeeell, I guess there is one guy with a white knight syndrome, but that only makes him a candidate for “most annoying and useless character ever”. Yes, Kumohira-sensei, that’s you.
Villains : yup, pretty much everyone.
Fights : mmmm, yes, sometimes they fight. Not often, never lasts long. Still, can be impressive.
Random sidekicks : Ah haaa, there you get what you expected.
So, in fact, what’s the deal ?
He’s the deal.
Hi, I’m Yoite and I’m taking over this series, don’t argue or I’ll wring your bones. I believe it hurts.
This psycho jumps in at episode 3, kills and maims several people, and before you even have time to say “WTF ????” he becomes the center of Miharu’s world, thus drastically changing the course of the plot. Pretty ironic for a guy whose wish is to never have existed.
Who is he, to thwart my expectations like that ? Yoite is not even his name. He’s also referred as “the Kira user”, which means he has learned the forbidden technique of Kairoshu. He basically sucks the life out of people simply by pointing his finger at them. Of course, life is not so simple, even in anime, and this awesome ability has a price. Yoite dies a little each time he uses it. By the time he enters the story, he’s already way into zombie territory, but it does not affect his will to fulfill his wish. For which he needs Miharu’s powers and won’t mind using blackmail and hanging death threats over Miharu’s buddys.
Such a dramatic character immediately overshadows Miharu, whose voluntary apathy and repeated escape from any kind of involvement do not make for a strong lead. Even if his devilish ability to “cute” people out to get away does make him an interesting character.
Keep blabbing, I’m doin’ my homework in the meantime…
… or not ?
Being a nice kid, he does not want his friends killed because of him, and chooses to follow Yoite. Then starts to care about him. Then wants to actually save the guy. Which is probably the only decision Miharu’s taken by himself and for himself during the whole span of this anime. These two build a special relationship that, according to what I read online at the time, got a lot of people to go “warning, yaoi bait !!!”. I really, really fail to agree to that. Yes, they’ve got quite a few emotional scenes. Yes, they cling to each other like velcro. Still, there is absolutely no romance of any kind between them. The way I see them, they’re just like wild wounded animals protecting each other.
“you and me vs. the world”
I’ve been rambling about the siamese twins for some time now, but I’m not forgetting the supporting cast.
Here’s my favorite for starters. Shijima is scary, she’s mysterious, and she’s always there. She’s one reason I will try and read the manga, because she gets very little development in the anime and I believe she deserves better.
Her partner in crime, the aforementioned Aizawa, is quite a good surprise too.
I will try not to rant to much at Kumohira. I will. But seriously, all he does is getting people and himself in deep shit because he’s not ready to do what it takes. A ninja who can’t kill is a useless ninja. Yoite might be a bigger emo wreckage but at least he’s taking action.
His only redeeming feature is his excellent taste in women
The samurai siblings add a bit of fun too. Sure, their history is quite cliché : blablabla I’m taking the blame for our family’s destruction and I’ll be your enemy but I still love you, little sister, whatever. But Raimei is not as annoying as she could have been, she’s a good friend to Miharu even in times of betrayal, and she can fight. Her brother Raikou has pink hair, a weird clothing sense and a puppy-eyed devoted follower, which makes him an oddly cool character.
The other siblings of the show, the Kairoshu members Yukimi and his sister Kazuho, are much more regular, normal people. Yukimi is the one responsible for Yoite since the leader dumped him on his doorstep. I just love his no-nonsense attitude, useful when you deal with such a difficult kid. After all, he is a gun-using ninja. Talk about practical.
Yukimi, Raikou, Yoite, Miharu, Team Kairoshu. Wait what ?
The leaders of Kairoshu bored me, so I won’t talk about them. Sure, they are charismatic enough, but their motivations are just, duh. Boring.
Last but not least, the beloved and famous Fuuma leader, Koutaro. Interesting guy. And that’s not just because he annoys the hell out of Kumohira. He’s got no other ulterior motive than to see interesting things happen, and just helps with a little push here and there sometimes.
Well, I did find this show interesting. The characters were not all white or all black. You had enemies working sometimes together, shifting allegiances. Betrayal, double agents. Fights, sometimes. And nice artwork.
On the down side, the pace is (too) slow, yet the end feels a bit rushed. This show does have a proper ending and wrap things up, but you feel they dumped things on the way. In fact, they made a good job at making me want to read the manga, since they made up the anime’s end. Damn. Must brush up my japanese reading skills.
All in all, not the best show of 2008, but a refreshing one.