So apparently, no one watches this show in the U.S. This makes me sad. Because this is by two huge, huge guys in the industry. Kodomo and Suwa, who we talked about in our Otakon report, these guys make the grand-slams of anime for Japanese television. They are responsible for City Hunter and Detective Conan, which just recently passed episode 480 I believe. And Suwa was also the producer of Inu-freakin-Yasha.
Silly. No one in the U.S. likes City Hunter or Detective Conan. They are both definitely shows that have a huge Japanese fan base but most modern American anime fans could care less about. As far as I can tell City Hunter never really caught on here and Detective Conan basically flopped. So they seem really good at making shows that the Japanese love but the U.S. won’t even send the time to download off bittorrent.
Kekkaishi seems to be following in these footsteps well, gaining momentum after only 35 episodes. It airs directly after Conan, or was it vise-versa, in the prime-time slot of the evening. And in the same footsteps, with the exception of Inu-Yasha, of no one caring about it in the U.S. At Otakon, they showed us part of an episode and gave a little handout about the show. I was immediately struck by the opening animation and song so I decided that we had to get some of this show.
A lot of people really seem to like the opening song to Kekkaishi. I was drawn in by Kodomo and Suwa’s sales pitch of a strong female character who is a capable partner to the main male character. I also thought it was slightly odd I had never heard of what seemed to be a decently big deal show in Japan.
This too surprised me, I thought I would have at least heard something about it. But there has been zero internet buzz about this show. Hell, I didn’t even know the manga was licensed in the U.S. and already up to like book 9!
Karasumori is a cursed land. Ayakashi (demons to you and me) who come to Karasumori slowly gain power as they stay in its magical domain. Although a school has been built on this ancient place of power, it still radiates its powerful aura that ayakashi lust after. Tokine and Yoshimori are the teen-aged protectors of the land of Karasumori. They use the mystical arts of the Kekkaishi (Barrier Master by rough translation) to trap ayakashi in magical boxes and destroy them before the ayakashi can grow too powerful. Tokine and Yoshimori are from rival families who, due to a long standing grudge between the bloodlines, compete to prove themselves as the legitimate protectors of the land. Yoshimori harbors a long time but unspoken crush on Tokine that complicates their relationship. But romance has to be but on the back burner because a shadowy organization of ayakashi is targeting Karasumori and its power.
I was pretty surprised, and said so after the first episode, that love was a major part of the plot. Yoshi’s main reason for becoming better is his feelings for Tokine and his desire to never let her get hurt again. The moment she got those scars would haunt him for the rest of his days. But I don’t feel that it is constantly in the forefront of the story, but as the viewer you know what Yoshi is feeling. And I really like this aspect.
Most shonen actions shows tend only to pay lip service to love. Characters tend to fall in love because it’s convenient for the plot. Otherwise, love is just used as a point for comedy or a reason for a power-up. In Kekkaishi, love seems a more organic part of the plot. They never beat you over the head with Yoshi’s love for Tokine but it’s always effecting the characters actions.
Also to my roommate’s joy, so far Yoshimori has yet to win any battles using the power of love. Tokine and Yoshimori mostly seems to win through creatively applying their powers.
Yoshi(mori), I really like as a main character, he endeared himself to me coming right out of the gate. His ability to create boxes to capture ayakashi, is different, but his control is somewhat typical of shonen characters, he has a lot of power, more than anyone can imagine, but hasn’t learned to harness and properly use it yet. He also loves to bake cakes and sleeps through school mostly. He is funny and kind, but also brave and powerful. His expressions often mirror my own, maybe that is why I feel a kinship. Yoshi is not terribly arrogant, in fact, he seems to recognize the powers of others and not his own.
I think Yoshimori can be a somewhat generic shonen protagonist, but he has more flavor than a lot of shonen heroes. I like Bleach but Ichigo is kind of bland. In fact, most shonen fighting characters are horribly generic quite possibly to be as easy as can be to have the reader imagine themselves in the place of the hero. Yoshimori seems more realized as a character. I can’t imagine a large part of the male viewers being baking otaku. But the series give Yoshimori enough quirks and characteristics that he seems a little more real than most shonen heroes.
Tokine, for once, is not a throw away female character in a shonen series! She is better at the job of Kekkaishi than Yoshi, but in a different manner. Her power relies on control more than strength. So they are opposites of the same coin. Tokine also grows in strength and skill as the series goes along. Yoshi doesn’t just become better than her and that’s the end of Tokine. Also, just because Yoshi wants to protect Tokine, doesn’t mean she needs it. She is powerful on her own and saves his butt as much as he does hers.
Tokine is about a strong a female character as your going to get in a shonen fighting series. She actually grows along side the main male character. It’s very clear to everyone, except Yoshimori, that she will never be as strong as him. However, she grows and gains news skills in her area of proficiency. Yoshimori gains powers and abilities based on his raw strength and high stamina. Tokine gains powers and abilities on her speed and accuracy. Their powers often complement each other and work together to be greater as a team than the sum of their power individually.
As for supporting cast, they are all strong and add either drama or comedy. Madarao and Hakubi, the dog spirit partners of Yoshi and Tokine, are both quite funny while also helping them with difficult spirits. Both grandparents are also a source of comedy, each goading and fighting with the other, much to the amusement of the audience. There is also a lot of mystery since there are many characters that we only see briefly or merely hear about.
Gen Shishio is also later introduced as a partner to Tokine and Yoshimori. He adds another element to the team’s working dynamic. I don’t think he supposed to be a romantic rival to Yoshi but he definitely changes Tokine and Yoshimori’s overall sitiuation by having to work with a person who does not have the powers of a Kekkaishi. Plus, Shishio is a character who plays his cards very close to his chest so it’s often a little hard to see where he is coming from.
I like everything about the teaming up aspect. Their working together on Karasumori can be thrilling and fun to watch as they take on bigger and more difficult foes. But also the friendships that pop-up, especially between Gen and Yoshi are pleasing to see. It definitely has the feel of growing-up and finding your place.
Masamori is also an interesting character. He is Yoshimori’s older brother, that for some reason was not picked as the legitimate successor. He is a very ambiguous character. We are never really sure if he’s working for the good of the family, for his own good, or if he is working for someone or something else we have not been privy to. All we know is he is powerful, he clearly has some kind of agenda, and he is willing to play dirty pool to get what ever it is he is working for.
I like Kekkaishi because the characters are actually smart. Yoshimori and Tokine actually figure things out on their own. They don’t have to be spoon fed information by outside characters because the writer does not want them to be too clever and get ahead of the plot pacing. They don’t make improbable leaps of logic to advance the plot but they don’t ignore information or act stupid to aid the plot either. It’s a refreshing change of pace.
You’re right, it is great to see them using their wits at times! Although Yoshi tends to try to barrel through at first, when it doesn’t work he then uses his thinking cap. They often come up with a strategy using both their strengths. Proving that, while they aren’t the best yet and everyone tells them so, they can make it through using a little mental ingenuity.
This is a kid’s show, I always try to keep this in mind when watching something like this. There are certain things that I expect will happen and there are certain things I don’t expect to get from it. However, I don’t think this show is dumbed down, this show doesn’t think its audience is stupid. Even though this show is playing towards kids, I think there is a lot of be enjoyed by anyone. There is a good blend of action, drama, comedy, and mystery where one doesn’t seem to dominate the other. I am definitely a fan of Kekkaishi and intend to continue watching.
I think that if someone took a chance on Kekkaishi and got it on Cartoon Network, it might do well in the U.S., but I don’t think it will get that chance. It’s a good kids show that does not talk down to its audience and has strong characters. It could also spawn some great toy lines which would make American companies drool with delight.
Oh, I know! Sponsored by Mickey D’s is all over this show. Can we say Happy Meal toys!? I would be delighted. Hoping to find some on Rinkya if and when they appear in Japan.
I have a nasty feeling that it seems to much like a kids show for the American otaku to get into it. I think a lot of people watch shonen shows like Naruto and Bleach because they think they are “oh so much more sophisticated than American cartoons.” The problem is, they don’t realize that while they might be more sophisticated than some American cartoon, these shonen shows are still for kids. These shows are not the edgy mature shows they think they are. But as long as a show comes off as more kiddie than Naruto, even if it’s a better show, then they won’t watch it because it’s beneath them.
That thinking is so silly! Why can’t ya just watch a show because it’s fun? I like a great masterpiece work that causes me to think but I also like to have a good time! Kekkaishi is a good time and we are caught up to the fan-subs so I sit waiting for the next episode!
I feel without that American otaku support we are not going to see a U.S. release of the anime so I’m hoping that people will give this show a chance. It’s a good show that just needs to find it’s audience.
Update: Viz has licensed the anime since we last posted this and you can even watch in streaming on Hulu. Go out and buy the DVDs.