Beyond the Boundary (Anime) Review
Anime fans often pose this question to the general public of its industry: “What makes an anime so great?” Or, “Which characteristics are essential to you within a series?”
(…Okay, maybe not in those words exactly… but thanks for asking!)
Well, while this might be a tad unfair of me to say, artwork and animation take top priority over everything else by a landslide. If any amount of visual style is presented so poorly that it distracts and/or confuses the audience at first glance, we have a major problem. And friend, you’re reading the blog from someone who takes pride in being a very, very picky audience member. Art, story line and character development are what I tend to to put in the spotlight upon reviewing an anime (or any sort of film, to be honest).
Fortunately for this series, it seems to pull through enough for each of these categories. I present to you 境界の彼方, Kyōkai no Kanata, or more commonly known in English as Beyond the Boundary.
Story Line and Pacing of Beyond the Boundary
The first episode opens up with one evening at sunset, when a high school boy by the name of Akihito Kanbara witnesses one of his fellow classmates standing precariously atop the ledge of their school building. Assuming she plans to commit suicide, Akihito hurriedly rushes to her aid, approaches the girl from a distance, and shouts, “At any rate, someone who looks as good in glasses as you do simply should not die!” The young freshman, later known in the series as Mirai Kuriyama, then proceeds to take on the rational solution of stabbing him in the chest with a sword made entirely of her own blood. Strangely enough, Akihito kneels over in extreme pain… but does not die. Mirai learns that the boy is actually a half-youmu – the offspring of both human and youmu DNA – and utilizes this ability to her advantage by using Akihito for batting practice. Because as a Spirit World Warrior like herself, she is still unequipped with enough courage to kill another youmu for the good of humanity.
In the interesting world of Beyond the Boundary, these odd creatures called youmu are actually raw manifestations of all mankind’s negative emotions, such as hatred, sadness, jealousy and the like. Therefore, it is said that so long as humans exist, youmu will continue to thrive as well. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can even take the form of a common person. Their abilities may also vary, though the basis on which they exist remains the same. And while most youmu can co-exist peacefully and unknowingly among humans, every so often a few of them will upset the balance of nature and need destroying, thus is the job of a Spirit World Warrior like Mirai. When one of these rotten creatures is finally terminated, their remains take the form of a small stone which is then traded as currency among other Spirit World Warriors.
This is a very unique, and rather symbolic idea. You could go as far as to say that these youmu represent how human kind’s imperfections, if not dealt with properly, can cause the downfall of society, and even the world. Much later in the anime, this notion is visualized quite literally and I personally like it. A lot.
The only thing I don’t particularly understand about the world itself is that most of mankind isn’t even present for the majority of the series… Hello? Where are all the people whose negativity supposedly created all these hideous monstrosities!? And why is no one alarmed that a handful of attractive teenagers are wielding weapons, playing with magic and essentially bleeding to death? Oh, Japan…
Art and Animation of Beyond the Boundary
While I’ve seen better eye candy prior to viewing Beyond the Boundary, Kyoto never seems to disappoint regardless. The characters were built to move with exceptional fluidity; my inner artist still cried tears of joy every time someone did so much as lift a finger. From motion, to lighting, to color, to scenery… this anime had everything relatively down-pat and polished. It’s no wonder you see so many Mirai fan drawings – they’re all quite beautiful. And while its physical aesthetic was often skewed due to lack of action sequences where an art style like this one truly reaches its full potential, you can’t say even its still composition wasn’t absolutely stellar.
Characters of Beyond the Boundary
Our main character, Mirai is a first-year high school student with the unique ability to use her own blood as a weapon. Despite its great power, however, Mirai is constantly shamed by other Spirit World Warriors due to the dangerous consequences of this rare talent when she was only a child. After accidentally murdering her best friend as an adolescent, Mirai’s had an intense fear of killing and often complains about her life via Internet. (Don’t we all?) “How unpleasant,” is her appropriate catchphrase. On the side, Kuriyama’s hobbies are raising small plants, blogging and mooching off her friends. She bears a fearsome appetite due to her deadbeat lifestyle, and timidly asks people to treat her from time to time.
So she has a history, a dark past… and it’s adorable. Classic, even. As one of my favorite female roles thus far, Mirai has the look, the personality and the skills which make her an excellent main character. She has a problem, a fear, and must overcome it to save a loved one. She has a goal, a longing, and must achieve it in the end, otherwise face an ultimate peril. Mirai the protagonist changes throughout the embodiment of the series. Perfect. 10/10. I love her.
Her possy, on the other hand…? Ehh.
Now don’t get me wrong, I adored Akihito’s no-nonsense personality from the get-go and knew his voice of reason meant well to the story as a whole. The banter between him and Hiroomi (far left) is priceless and without both of them, the plot would not have thickened the way it did in the first place. However, what do we truly understand about any of the supporting main characters other than their own strengths and weaknesses? Nothing. There were so many necessary questions left unanswered. And with a seemingly great cast like this, that is a huge issue. Their sorry excuses for back stories were unbalanced, whereas one character got a few lines of exposition, and others were never mentioned once. And for what? They seemed to be of pretty equal importance to me. Why one over the other? Of course within a certain time frame, not everyone can be fully described to a ‘T’, but some helpful information about each character in order of said importance would still be appreciated.
Soundtrack of Beyond the Boundary
The very eerie original soundtrack for Beyond the Boundary was written and brought to us by Hiarku Nanase, a Japanese vocalist and composer from Ibaraki prefecture. She’s developed soundtracks for several other television shows in Japan and is part of a few different bands. The sound of this series consists of both the traditional positive slice of life bounciness we all know and love, with its own blend of strings and choir hymns that will leave you chilling with excitement, knowing something equally breathtaking is just around the corner.
The moment I heard the very first hum voice the entrance of Mirai perched atop the school, wind blowing through her hair, it immediately felt like pure fantasy. The tracks grow more and more suspenseful as time passes, and while it does emulate what an anime soundtrack typically has to offer, some parts of it were so charming and mysterious, they reflected the intentions of each individual quite nicely and almost forced the plot to slow, focusing intently on a single moment in time between two characters. Definitely a work of musical art worth listening to, twice!
Personal Enjoyment of Beyond the Boundary
I have to say, my motivation to watch this traveled in waves rather than an actual build-up. Usually I don’t take pure interest in an anime until about episode four or five, and after that I’m hooked ’till the very end. In the case of Beyond the Boundary, however, I’d been hooked, dropped, hooked again, and then left limping to the finish… then hooked a third time. There were moments of tension, frustration and bad-ass fight sequences, however few (not to mention one of the most amusing filler episodes I’ve ever seen)… and then there were episodes so stagnant and still I didn’t know whether to call them boring or just downright puzzling altogether. I’m not so sure if writers were scrambling to provide proper information while still making this anime fun and original, but again, it was a bit unbalanced.
All in all though, I completed the series and was satisfied with its ending, which I can’t say for most. A nice little thumbs-up to those who may want to watch it in the future. It was solid. Not perfect, but solid.
Overall Score: 7.75/10
Your Friendly Enthusiast,