Today I shall be reviewing K (aka K Project), another random anime that I found on Animax. This one drew me in with a mix of decent looking animation and a generally cool look. Did it mange to progress beyond that though?
Background: Released in 2012 by GoHands Studio (of Mardock Scramble fame), the series was written by GoRa and has seen several prequel Mangas run in various Kodansha publications, as well as a selection of Light Novels. A sequel film was released in 2014 and a second series is set to air soon.
The series is primarily about a friendly lad named Yashiro Isana. While he appears to have led a pretty ordinary life, the recent murder of Tatara Totsuka, a member of an infamous group known as HOMRA, is about to flip that upside down. You see, the man responsible for the murder looks exactly like Yashiro. As a result, he ends up hounded by HOMRA, gets drawn into their conflict with another group known as Sceptre 4, and is hunted by a skilled swordsman known as ‘The Black Hound’ Kuroh Yatogami.
Amidst all this, we get to meet several powerful characters known as ‘Kings’ (each of whom have been assigned a colour), see a flashback to some secret experiments in World War II Germany, and watch a catgirl mess with people’s heads.
The Good: The first thing I want to mention here is that the quality of the animation in K is stunning. It remains consistently smooth throughout and features an interesting colour palette that shares more with the works of Mamoro Hosoda than it does the mainstay long-running series like Naruto and Bleach. The overall quality could in part be attested to the short running time of the series: clocking in at 13 episodes, it’s entirely possible that GoHands had a healthy budget and were able to utilise to its fullest potential as a result of not having to deal with another 13 or more episodes on top of these ones.
The story is enjoyable and we get to see some varied interactions between the different members of each faction. The whole concept of the Kings, while not fully explained, is given enough time to draw you in and keep you interested, which is no bad thing as their role becomes more integral as the series progresses. Action scenes seem to fly by due to their sheer speed, but remain thoroughly impressive to watch thanks in a large way to the slick choreography and ever present animation quality.
The characters were quite a surprise for me too. When a studio focuses on style (which it is abundantly clear that GoHands did here), you can sometimes find that the cast are ‘cool-but-little-else’. In this case, the sprawling backstory and long-standing conflicts that play out around the central murder ensure that the characters are more rounded that you may expect. Most shocking is perhaps the catgirl, Neko. The combination of the END CREDITS and her general demeanour when we first meet her give the distinct impression that her existence is designed entirely to provide fan service and an atypical, bland cutesy character. As the episodes move forward however, you learn that Neko is not only quite sweet, but that her behaviours are actually fairly authentically cat-like. On top of that, her powers turn out to be an interesting little addition to her character … but I won’t spoil that.
The Bad: Now, most of the character designs in this show are pretty cool. If you want proof of this, you need look no further than the OPENING CREDITS. That said, you will likely find the same thing that I did while watching them: you’ll start thinking things like, ‘is that Kanda from D.Gray-Man?’, ‘isn’t that Shizuo from Durarara?’, and ‘hang on, is that a cross between Hawkeye and Oliva Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist?’ That’s right, a lot of the character designs are just plain unoriginal. While I can appreciate that there are a limited number of ideas in the world, even a slight twist would have sufficed to remove this feel from the show. Oh, and Sceptre 4 seems to be full of a lot of characters that fit various people’s idea of ‘hot’. I had no idea that the police had an ‘attractiveness’ part of their entrance exams … OK, so placing that as a negative is a bit nit-picky. It just struck me as a bit odd when HOMRA shows a much more varied mix of styles in its members is all.
There are certainly times throughout the series that you kinda wish that the team had maybe revealed a little bit more than they did, even if it is clear that there is more to come. Don’t get me wrong, the story is great and what they do show is done well, but you do end up wanting more at various points. The ending meanwhile is fine insofar as it ties up some loose ends and leaves ample set-up for the sequel, but it did mean that my favourite character ended up dead. That makes me sad, and so I have decided to include it as a mild negative.
Subbed or Dubbed: While there is an English dub of K, I haven’t watched this and so cannot compare the two forms. One look at the Wikipedia page for the anime will tell you that the English Voice Cast is a highly experienced one, so I don’t doubt the quality though. I can confirm however that the Japanese Voice Cast is very good. The main characters are lent a decent amount of charisma and I can’t think of any particularly weak performances.
Final View: K is definitely a ‘cool anime’. It succeeds in being stylised, smooth and driven by cool concepts and a good story. The minor problems I have mentioned don’t really take too much away from the overall quality of the piece and the short running time means that it can be comfortably watched over a short period of time. In all, it’s well worth watching and manages to leave you hungry for more, which is undoubtedly a sure sign of a quality show.
Final Score: 4 / 5