Review written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of Bones and Funimation
Each anime season can be cruel, in the sense that it can be difficult to keep up with the hits of the season. In the case of my watching habits, I always seem to miss one or two shows that seem to find a sense of popularity. When it comes to catching up with the shows I miss, I end up facing that all too familiar enemy known as hype. If the show has garnered a significant positive reaction, then I am mostly left disappointed because my expectations were too high. In the case of the anime I am reviewing this week, it also possessed the added issue of production, which caused the last episode to be aired months after the previous episode. As a result, this anime never managed to escape my attention. It was always on the forefront of the various anime news sites that I habitually visit. Of course, I am talking about Kekkai Sensen. A majority of viewers raved about this show, but I had more of a lukewarm reaction. It was good, but my already high expectations really highlighted some of the flaws regarding the show. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.
Kekkai Sensen focuses on the area known as Hellsalem’s Lot, formerly known as New York City. A few years ago, a portal to the Alterworld emerged from New York City, bringing with it a variety of monsters and other fantastical creatures. As result, the city became a melting pot of the everyday and the fantastical. The story focuses on the crime fighting organization of Libra, a secret group that works from the shadows to preserve peace in the city. In a case of mistaken identity, the young man Leonardo Watch, accidently joins Libra and is thrust into their struggle to protect the city.
The series is a perfect blend of emotion and comedy. The tone can seem almost schizophrenic at times, but it perfectly suits the tone of the series. A rather less serious moment can quickly change into a dire situation. In terms of actual plot, Kekkai Sensen does possess a misstep. The earlier episodes of the series are mostly stand-alone stories, but the show quickly manages to set up an overall conflict. Then in the last few episodes, this overarching conflict is largely tossed aside. This is really disappointing because this conflict involving vampires was so interesting, from the lore to the methods by which Libra fought them. Everything about this upcoming conflict was great, only to be set aside for an anime original ending. It’s not that this anime original ending was bad; it is just that it came at the cost of what I consider the more interesting plot of the series. In my eyes this is a detriment to a show that started off so well; just to have it falter a bit in the end. Again that doesn’t mean that the last few episodes are not good, they are still very entertaining. It’s just that they don’t meet the standards set up by the first three fourths of the series.
Kekkai Sensen possesses quite a large cast of interesting and quirky characters. Most of this cast is part of Libra, but there are a few standouts which are not part of this organization. The two characters I will focus on in this review are Leonardo and Klaus. Leonardo Watch is the lead of Kekkai Sensen. He’s a young photographer that came to Hellsalem’s Lot to find help for his sister. Before the series, a mysterious entity gave him a variety of ocular powers at the cost of his sister’s sight. The guilt regarding this incident is his main motivation. Leonardo is a very kind character. In spite of his lack of fighting skills and fear, he always seems to put himself in harm’s way for the sake of others. He also possesses a sense of doubt regarding his ability to actually help. As the series progresses, Leonardo becomes more comfortable with himself, enough to overcome some of his fears. This is the main focus of Kekkai Sensen, the evolution of Leonardo as he deals with the insanity of Hellsalem’s Lot.
Klaus Von Reinherz is the leader of Libra and an immensely powerful fighter. There is little shown about his background throughout the show, but he remains interesting enough nonetheless. He’s one of the catalysts for Leonardo’s growth. He possesses an immense loyalty to those that serve beside him in Libra, at one point becoming visibly enraged at the news that a member was injured in battle. He also has a soft side. There is a lot of comedy that comes from his interactions with the other members of Libra. Between Zapp’s attempts to defeat him, to dealing with Lucky Abrams, Klaus is surprisingly funny. He really is the character that inspires Leonardo and really every other member of Libra. That can be said for a lot of the characters. Each one leaves a lasting impact on Leonardo, enough that each character manages to be interesting in their own right.
Kekkai Sensen is a beautiful show. The animation quality here is absolutely top notch, which is to be expected from Studio Bones at this point. My personal favorite moment involves any time that Leonardo uses his ocular powers. It is absolutely breathtaking the way his eyes are animated in these scenes. Of course it couldn’t be an anime review without talking about the animation of the action scenes. For the most part, they are very well done. The way each character fights is perfectly captured by the animation of their respective tools of combat. My only problem is that there is not really an abundance of fight scenes on par with the one in the first episode. That is just because of the length of the fight scenes. Most of the fight scenes after the first episode are very short and they are over in flash. Considering the flashy nature of the characters and their interesting abilities, it is a shame that they are not shown off more.
The sound design of Kekkai Sensen is excellent with the highlights being the voice acting and the music. The voice acting is great. Every character manages to sound interesting. The voice actors manage to show off everything from Leonardo’s fear to Zapp’s incessant yelling. The voice acting for the mystical creatures is also very well done. With the large variety of supernatural entities, the cast manages to make each one of these creatures sound unique. Now the best aspect of the sound design is the music. Kekkai Sensen has phenomenal music. There is a large variety of jazz employed which perfectly fits with the New York theme. The anime also features a plethora of insert songs which add an extra level of gravitas to the scenes in which they are employed. The soundtrack alone is one reason to check out this show.
Kekkai Sensen is a great show that sadly did not manage to meet my over inflated expectations. I really expected this show to blow me away, but that feeling was never reached. It’s a great show, but not one of my favorites. The story has some issues regarding the changing of focus from vampires to the twins. The characters are all pretty good, with Leonardo being the standout. The animation is also superb and the music is the highlight of the series. It’s just that it’s good, but it didn’t manage to grab me like some of the other shows that I have reviewed. Kekkai Sensen earns my Watch Rating. I recommend that you check it out, but temper your expectations.