Review & Discussion About: Kyokou Suiri
Yokai, demons, ghosts. This trifecta of supernatural beings (and more) come from the urban legends and the mythical tales we tell each other. I’m not one who believes in these out-there stories, but they can have an appealing allure when considering their fantastical nature.
Kyokou Suiri not only upholds these fantasies but argues for their manipulative powers.
Yet, interesting enough, the anime focuses more so on their “caretaker” than strictly the ghosts themselves. Known as the “Goddess of Wisdom”, Kotoko Iwanaga has sacrificed much (intentionally or otherwise) to oversee these creatures and subsequently solve the mysteries of their world. She teams up with Kurou Sakuragawa, a man with unique talents, so that their combined strength can seize the day.
But such seizing can feel more like a seizure of the confiscating kind. Kyokou Suiri uses its first three episodes to smartly establish most of its key elements: the main players, the dialogue-heavy explanations, and the flakes of comedy. The last nine episodes, having set that foundation, center on one particular event known as “Steel Lady Nanase”. Unfortunately, not much goes on within this entire arc as the narrative stretches thin the plot, rehashes the same concepts, and meanders the conclusion. This downward trend ultimately drags the show down and steals time away from some of its other precious ideas.
Arguably, one of its most precious ideas takes the form of a major theme on truth, fiction, and the blending between the two. However, while Kyokou Suiri manages to incorporate the idea well enough, what with the inclusion of the Internet and its discussion on what makes an entity “real”, it fails to dive deeper into this theme. Instead, it holds back, allowing the story to play out as is without much exploration of it beyond the fact that this blending can and does occur.
But the occurrence of some positive artistic decisions allows the anime to stay in high spirits. Character designs are an easy shoutout, for Kotoko has her pretty looks, Kurou has his unassuming normalcy, Saki has her tomboyish persona, and Rikka has her frail features. Same sentiments go for the yokai, for their variety, sizes, colors, and diversity coincide with the motif of the show quite well.
Actual animation lands well as well. Plus, imaginative presentations for certain sequences and the different comedic styles further help the show’s cause. What doesn’t help is how Kyokou Suiri falls short in its setting and in making the visuals more engaging during its long-winded explanations. The former uses areas and locales that hold back its background art from shining. As for the latter, not that what it creates has a distracting angle, but there’s only so many times the same cuts or panning shots can be made without creativity coming into question.
Thankfully, questions about at least a couple of the characters go unrequired. Namely, Kotoko and Saki give the show the life it needs.
Kotoko essentially carries Kyokou Suiri from start to finish. Her kindness and her honest attitude make her likable, and her yokai-speaking abilities and her wisdom-filled brain give her the edge she needs to maintain natural order. Indeed, she isn’t defined by her harsh handicaps but rather by her strong leadership and calculated moves. Sadly, the anime rarely (if ever) challenges Kotoko, so she ends up an unstoppable force for the most part and therefore not the most complex person imaginable.
Saki, on the other hand, stands as a cool supporting character. She’s the outsider that cannot handle these yokai without mental trauma. Despite this setback, she throws her police hat into the ring, trying her best to contribute to the investigation as needed. Her most interesting role, though, is that of the passive third wheel. She has no interest in splitting up Kotoko and Kurou, no matter what Kotoko may think. Instead, Saki provides the uncommon perspective of an ex that aids, not hinders, the others.
Speaking of Kurou, he and his cousin Rikka do not go into the same fulfilling category as the other two ladies. Kurou has his backstory of monster meat and consequences, and he represents the brawn in the main relationship. But his arc, his impact, and his purpose within the story are hardly compelling. Moreover, his weird relationship with Rikka instills little else besides confusion. Rikka herself is even worse off. She gets introduced somewhat late, her personality is forgettable, and her overall drive lacks a sound basis. It all culminates into her position as a terrible antagonist.
The audio direction follows the opposite path, creating for Kyokou Suiri a robust aural experience. “Mononoke in the Fiction” charges up the anime as the opening track, using its neat guitar riffs, fast pace, and vocals to prep the audience for the ensuing drama. Better yet, “LAST DANCE”, the ending track, is the best piece of music in the anime. Its jazz composition and its flavorful choices secure its wonderful sound.
Security for the voice acting also exists. Specifically, Akari Kitou as Kotoko uses a cute lilt and a leveled delivery for her myriad number of lines, capturing the behavior of the leading lady in excellent fashion. Even the original soundtrack deserves some props. Spooky tunes, mysterious offerings, and lighter arrangements complement the content of the anime much better than what the artistry put forth.
If nothing else, the anime has fun here and there during its run. A more mature atmosphere – evidenced by the blasé euphemisms and the adult cast – did not go unnoticed by me. And, as a big romance fanatic, I thoroughly enjoyed the romantic asides. They were infrequent, and I would hesitate to coin them as lovey-dovey, but they certainly had me smiling.
Otherwise, the rest of the anime was passable – and that about sums it up.
Kyokou Suiri reaches that average plateau. The good execution in its music, a couple of interesting characters, and the swell designs tip the balance in its favor, but a subpar story, some middling artistry, and a couple of uninteresting characters tip that balance back to neutral. Combined with the mild level of entertainment, this anime definitely misses that legendary, powerful status.
Story: Bad, a yokai-filled mystery that sits on the same events a bit too long, that avoids deeper exploration of truth-fiction themes, and that comes off as a primer to a much larger tale
Art & Animation: Fine, nice designs for the cast and the demons, alongside some solid movement, imaginative sequences, and comedic styles, give the artistry a chance even if the setting and the cinematography remain unengaging
Characters: Fine, Kotoko carries the project while not exactly being challenged as a person, and Saki makes for a cool support, but Kurou isn’t the most compelling, and Rikka is a terrible antagonist
Music & Sound: Good, a charged OP, a jazzy ED, nice VA performances, and a complementary OST bring about a robust audio direction
Enjoyment: Fine, a lot of fun to be had with Kotoko and the random romance moments but not a whole lot else to be found
Final Score: 5/10
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