Posted on 24 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Kurozuka


From the director of Death Note, Kurozuka is Madhouse’s latest action series. This time, it’s packed with lots and lots of Japanese-styled horror, and comes in a package that just oozes style. With an OP that’s even more extreme than the second one from Death Note, this is the perfect watch if you need to lose some frustration, pump some adrenaline or find some other excuse to watch a bit of tense action.

Because really, this series hardly gives the viewer any time to take a breath. There are lots of quiet moments throughout the series, but even they remain clouded the show’s very thick atmosphere, as it prepares for the next climax. This series set out to create an combination between action and horror, and it pretty much succeeded in this.

But yeah, Kurozuka is all about action and atmosphere, so don’t even try to expect something special from the plot or characters. The plot is actually pretty decent. It’s simple, yet it’s got a number of surprising plot twist, and even though the ending isn’t going to answer every question that’s left behind, it succeeds in keeping an air of mystery around the show.

The problem with this show is the cast of characters. They’re just… there. They hardly get the time to be fleshed out, but none of them make a particularly strong impression, safe for a few minibosses, who manage to provide the best action-scenes of the series. The main character Kuro has his own background, but we never see any sides of him, other than the silent stoic side that doesn’t talk a lot and wants to fight.

But then again, if you want deep characters, you can always watch a different series. Kurozuka knows exactly what it is: an action flick that never really goes anywhere deep, and that’s where it succeeds at. The graphics for this series are downright awesome, and they turn every single episode into a visual feast. There’s always something nice to look at and a continuous atmosphere. My only real complaints are that the ending doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the series, but nevertheless I personally enjoyed watching this series a lot.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: The plot of this episode is obviously going to be one big spoiler, but even then it can’t be summarized in just one sentence…
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10 (Good)
Aha! So the creators decided to go for a big WTF-ending. And WTF it is! Since I kept associating this series with Ultraviolet because of their similarities, i expected a similar ending, one where all the threads that were left hanging were wrapped up inside a nice conclusion. Well, even though Ultraviolet’s conclusion was pretty straightforward, this one MOST CERTAINLY ISN’T.

I’m still not exactly sure what the heck went on there. Kuro first slaughters the kabuki players (of which I have no idea what they were even doing there), suddenly blood comes raining down from out of nowhere with buckets at a time and then he finally arrives at the room where Kuromitsu is. The one who’s talking to her: Benkei. That bugger seemed to have received immortality was well (or at least a body that ages very slowly, as becomes apparent later in the episode).

As it turns out, he was no traitor, but instead he couldn’t bear to see his friend that’s fallen in love with such a person as Kuromitsu, which is why he betrayed him. I’m not sure whether he was actually in love with Kuromitsu, or didn’t see her fit as someone who Kuro should love… it’s there were he obtained a body that wouldn’t die, though over the years, his body did age a bit, as he’s turned into an old man. As it turns out: Kuro has become immortal, but Benkei chopped off his head. Apparently, he spent ages without any body whatsoever, and that’s why Kuromitsu created Kuon to serve as a body for Kuro. That plan failed, however, and in the end she had to settle with a random soldier from the bad guys.

Okay, so far so good, but why did Kuromitsu still go after the guy’s head once he got a new body? I’m still not sure at this point, and the rest of the episode didn’t make things any clearer: Kuro and Benkei fight, Kuro wins. Kuromitsu then finally manages to chop off Kuro’s head. Time then reverts, we see a bunch of flashbacks and we suddenly see Kuro and Benkei again as if they were in the first episode, only with the rest of their surroundings destroyed. Eh, what?!

To be honest, I’m not sure whether this was the bets ending the creators could have gone for. Sure, the confusion is fun and all, but it’s leaving a strange taste in my mouth. The threads, such as where did the bad guys come from, why did they last 1000 years, and why did they work together with Kuromitsu in the end are unsolved. What was the purpose of the kabuki players, why are they so keen on killing every single being? What’s up with their blood obsession? What was Benkei doing at Kuromitsu’s, after 1000 years? I really need to watch this episode with subs, but even with that there are just too many threads left hanging for this series.

Overall, it was a fun series, and it’s got an excellent sense of horror, but when I have to compare this to Ultraviolet which aired this summer, then I’d prefer the latter. That mostly is due to the rather lacking characterization, that’s plagued through this series, safe for two or three episodes. Ultraviolet on the other hand did have a strong cast that was fun to watch.

Posted on 20 December 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: Kuro attempts to get rid of the final two villain-henchmen.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10 (Good)
This is going to be a short entry, since it was a minor episode anyway: it just meant to set the stage right for the finale of the show. Thankfully, most of the episode was spent on the fight with Kuon, and the “evil overlord” went down pretty quickly. His fight was fun and didn’t drag, thankfully. And yeah, like predicted: everyone dies apart from Kuro and Kuromitsu. What I also liked was that the kabuki-players at the beginning seem to have an actual role in the series. They’re like, the real evil overlords it seems, but what I especially loved was the way Kuon met his end. Such a befitting death for him. ^^;

My one disappointment was that this was THE time for the animation to get back up to those awesome levels of the first episode, but unfortunately it’s still of the same level. It’s a shame, I would have loved to see what the director can really do, without him having to resort to epic chips-bag-opening-scenes.

Posted on 10 December 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: This time on Kurozuka: exposition.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10
Well, I must say that, expecting nothing big out of the story for Kurozuka, this episode pleasantly surprised me. While not every mystery has yet been revealed, the complexity of the whole storyline seems to have tripled with this episode. The big bad guy works for Kuromitsu, Kuromitsu seems to be performing human experiments, with both Kuro and Kuon as her subjects. And who knows what she did with Sanniwa.

Kuon’s supposed twin brother also didn’t last long at all. He was there for like what? Five minutes? That’s probably one of the shortest amounts of airtime for a villain in like ever, but the guy did at least make an impact in providing back story for Kuon (who needed that one really badly).

Okay, so with this there are two episodes left. It would be great if this series were to finish with a great finale, but there are several things that are bound to get in the way. The next episode will focus on the fight with the big bad guy, but the guy is just a typical one-dimensional overlord. I really doubt that the creators can get an interesting fight out of him. Then next up is the big confrontation with Kuromitsu, but I fear that at that point, there will be too few characters alive to really make for an unpredictable ending. Ultraviolet for example had a final episode with lots of characters still alive, and therefore it finished with a pretty strong finale. Will Kurozuka be able to do the same?

Posted on 3 December 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: The attack on the headquarters of the bad guys.
Highlights: Turtle dude rocks
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8,5/10 (Awesome)
You know, I really consider this episode to have the best action-scenes of the entire series so far. Okay, so they still weren’t as well animated as episode one, but they were one thing: incredibly fun to watch. Really, so much went on, and more especially, the major characters involved showed their best sides. It’s strange, the fights definitely weren’t the most well animated, or intense, or had the best fight coordination out there, but they kept my interest throughout the entire episode.

This episode felt so out of place in this series, but yet it worked. The car-chase-scene, the motorbike, it all fitted, and just about everything in this episode was really creative. The characters aren’t deep at all, but they’re fleshed out just enough to make us care about them. And I think that that was why I enjoyed this episode so much.

The problem is of course where this series is going to go after this point. The fact remains that the two characters who made this episode so much fun to watch are dead now, and we know hardly anything about the big bad guy. Seriously, WHO IS HE?! This guy seriously lacks fleshing out. I really wonder where the creators can be able to take him as such a stereotypical evil overlord. But then again, I do have high hopes for the reunion with Kuromitsu, and the deaths of the final two partners of Kuro (I mean, there’s no way that those two are going to make it to the end of the series with this pace ;P).

Posted on 26 November 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: Kuro suddenly finds himself approached by a strange old man.
Highlights: Now this is psychological horror!
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8,5/10 (Awesome)
Best episode of the show so far since the first episode. It’s taken a while for this series to arrive at its real meat, but now it’s finally about time to work towards the series’ finale and this episode really showed the building up come together.

What especially made this episode work well were the bad guys. They were no longer strange caped dudes who kill lots of people, but instead had real personalities. I felt like they were people, rather than a bunch of literal killing machines, and it’s good to see this series spend some effort in its weakest area: the characterization.

I especially like that lizard man, who uses illusions to get rid of his enemies. This episode starts out at a point that doesn’t make any sense at all, where Kuro suddenly finds himself in the middle of a huge city, while in fact it turns out to be one huge illusion by this guy. It really increases the subtle paranoid level of this series: as long as the lizardman is around, you won’t know what’s real or not.

Ooh, and Kuromitsu showed herself, but she immediately leaves again after she saves Kuro. Her own agenda still remains a huge mystery at this point, but I think Kuro is somehow very much needed in it, so she wanted to make sure that he’d survive. How she knew where he was… the only explanation for that is that she’s been monitoring him from the beginning with the strange time stopping power of hers. It also turns out that she knows Sanniwa, suggesting that either Sanniwa was very old, or she and Kuro split ways more than just that time.

It’s also interesting that the story of the anime seems to diverge from the manga. I have no idea by how much this has happened since I’ve not read the manga, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as the creators know what they’re doing. This will of course only become clear in the final episodes, when everything in this series is supposed to come together. What the creators must make sure of is that they need to shed light on every mystery in that episode, and at the same time pull off a satisfying climax. Bringing back the godly animation of the first episode helps too.

Posted on 19 November 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: Kuro is brought to a cave where Kuromitsu is kept.
Highlights: Nice little bit of depth for Kuromitsu.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10 (Good)
If I had to pick one show out of the series that I’m blogging this season, where the decision to cover it on a weekly basis may not have been such a good idea, then it’d be this one. I’m happy that out of the shows I’m watching this season, none of them is mediocre or disappoints. The previous Spring- and Summer season really showed me that I’m not someone who enjoys blogging a bad or a dull show, and I think that if I didn’t decide on blogging stuff as Macross Frontier, Soul Eater, Allison to Lillia and Nijuu Mensou no Musume (God, I really picked the wrong series to blog back at the past spring-season), I’d think back to them with a lot less annoyance.

But anyway, I’m getting off-topic a bit with that. The thing with Kurozuka is that it exactly knows what it is and does: action, horror and eye-candy, and it does do that so well. The story isn’t anything special, but it knows exactly that it’s only second fodder in this series: it’s there to support the action, to prevent it from getting boring, to add a bit of intrigue and to provide enough settings where the animators can show off their talents. It’s nice and all, and I really like the end result, but really… there’s not much you can write about it on a weekly basis. ^^;

So yeah, this episode again was exactly what this series was about, and I like the little twist that it added, where Kuromitsu once cut off Kuro’s head. There’s this whole mystery around that woman that really keeps the story of this series flowing smoothly. Sanniwa (at least, that’s what I assume her name is) really is screwed by now, with nearly all of her subordinates killed off (at least, with so many dead bodies, I don’t think there are much more people left apart from Kuro&co). I liked that part that showed her, because it really adds to the characterization of this series, something that it had ignored a bit so far. ^^;

Posted on 12 November 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: Kuro and the others attempt to vend off the attack from the bad guys.
Highlights: Very nice mid-boss fight.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10 (Good)
Whoa, talk about the huge contrast with the relatively quiet previous episode. This episode just had one purpose: action, action and more action, and it did a really good job at that. So yeah, there isn’t much to say about this episode so this post is probably going to be rather short. I’m just a bit disappointed at the animation. Don’t get me wrong: it was of a very high quality in this episode, but I really hope that at least one episode in this series will return to the huge animation-quality of the first episode. Come on, Madhouse: you’ve made us hungry with that first episode, now provide something that at least comes close to it in terms of animation.

In any case, I must say that Kurozuka has become a pretty similar series to Ultraviolet: both are action-series with a plot that doesn’t try to be anything special, yet is fun to watch, both rely heavily on their style in their storytelling, both have similar character-designs in Kuromitsu and 044, and both make a lot of use of CG-overlays. I think the biggest difference between the two is that Kurozuka has a large animation-budget, while Ultraviolet had Osamu Dezaki.

Posted on 4 November 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: Kuro gets brought to the place where Kuromitsu is.
Highlights: Calm mood for a Kurozuka-episode, but still powerful.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
Ah, a build-up episode. The series takes a bit of time to catch a breath, and uses the time to give the viewer a few more glimpses of the major bad guys. The pacing in this episode was very slow, but like mentioned above, I really liked how it slowly progressed, while providing a bit more background on what happened between episode 2 and 3, and making the viewer anticipate when Kuromitsu might turn up again.

And of course, the visuals were better than ever in this episode. This also really was an episode in which the art director could go all out, and the number of beautiful and diverse sceneries he created is astounding. It’s interesting: while Porfy no Nagai Tabi still stands as the currently-airing series with the best outdoor background-art, Kurozuka definitely wins the fight in terms of indoor-background art. The use of CG really works, and it actually made a CG-car not look out of place somehow.

Anyway, about the plot, I think the first part of the episode showed the boss of the bad guys. I’m not exactly sure what he was doing, killing all these random people, and why he’s still doing that after centuries, but he seems to be after Kuromitsu, explaining the attack that started at the end of this episode. It looks like Kuro’s new allies allowed him to meet Kuromitsu again, and although I didn’t pick up the exact reason either, she seems to be vital for their survival as well. My guess is that it has something to do with how she turned Kuro into an immortal being.

For the next episode, I want to see the gorgeous animation from the first episode back. The animators have already shown that they don’t lack any sort of inspiration, but what really would make this series is the combination between the awesome art that this episode had, along with the detailed animation of the first episode. Now that would seriously rock.

Posted on 29 October 2008 with categories: Kurozuka



Short Synopsis: Kurou remembers what happened to Kuromitsu, and the story takes an interesting turn.
Highlights: Matrix, anyone?
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10
I remember that during the winter-season, I was very annoyed with Madhouse for some strange reason. If I recall correctly, then apart from Mokke and Ooedo Rocket, every of their recent series at that time had some sort of annoyance that brought it down: Dennou Coil and especially Saiunkoku Monogatari had their endless amounts of hiatuses, Shigurui and especially Claymore had their disappointing endings, Death Note was unbalanced, Kaiji dragged on and Devil May Cry, Maple Story, Nougami Neuro, Kaibutsu Ojou were just badly written.

And here I am right now, seeing them continue to churn out hit after hit, for three consecutive seasons. Is this really the same Madhouse we’re talking about? I’m not sure what happened, perhaps some high-ranked official found it a good idea to put more emphasis on quality and originality, perhaps it’s just chance, and they’ve chosen a string of excellent series to animate (in a way, it’s like Gonzo’s string of excellent series from 2006 till Summer 2007). In any case, whatever it is, I really appreciate it, and I hope that this string of excellent series will last as long as possible.

This episode of Kurozuka again adds a whole new dimension to the series. We learn that when the screen turns funky, it’s not simply because of the visual effects, but at that time Kurou can also slow down time significantly. We also learn that Kuromitsu has been kidnapped by the strange enemies, but the end of the episode reveals that it was Karuta’s allies that took her away, making this not just a story of good vs evil anymore. It does make me wonder why they were walking around in enemy-suits, though. And why the heck the enemy’s after them, and why they needed Kuromitsu in the first place.

One problem that I have with the series is that it’s aired a bit too soon after Ultraviolet. I just can’t help but think that Kuromitsu and 044 are alike: their character-designs are so similar, and Paku Romi uses nearly the exact same voice for them. She’s going to have to be fleshed out a bit more if she really wants to stand apart from her Ultraviolet-counterpart, especially since their roles seem to be completely different. Ultraviolet was a strong-minded killer on the run, while Kuromitsu feels more like a damsel in distress (please don’t let her end up captured for the rest of the series).

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