It is the year 2100, and on the colonized Moon, a project is under way to explore new aspects of energy. Amami Kurau is the daughter of the chief scientist on the project, and on her 12th birthday, she accompanies her father to the lab to observe the experiments. Then something goes awry, and Kurau is struck by twin bolts of light. In the aftermath, her father is dismayed to find that his daughter is no longer his daughter. Rather, her body is now home to two energy entities with fantastic powers.
The premise: In the far future when mankind has advanced technologically to colonize the moon, two girls are hunted by the authorities for their mysterious supernatural powers.
Perhaps that's one of the reasons why this series doesn't get enough attention; it's so easy to dismiss KURAU Phantom Memory as just another generic sci-fi/action title. Of course, there are several familiar elements such as mecha, power plant disasters, conspiracy theories, beings from another world, and rogue subjects from questionable scientific experiments, but the lack of any elaborate explanations only goes to show that most of these technical details are mere plot devices. At its core, KURAU Phantom Memory is a drama about personal relationships.
Although many other anime titles have had similar themes in the past, KURAU makes no grand proclamations about ideals (ex. Love! Friendship! Hope! Etc.) and neither does it delve into any of these topics through abstract and verbose mono/dialogues. Instead, the viewers are simply shown the various relationships between the characters: those of colleagues, friends, couples, siblings, as well as parent and child. As if to stress the point that no man is an island, the story even introduces a new kind of bond: that of a Rynax and its pair. The connection between the two beings can be described as a binary existence characterized by intense (yet apparently asexual) longing and inability to live (literally and figuratively) without its pair. As the characters are separated by distance and, for some, by death, the series reveals the emptiness of solitary life and the joy of being with loved ones.
Just as important as the content itself is how the story is executed and in this, the creators of KURAU did a splendid job. Despite all the drama, none of the emotions seem exaggerated; quite a feat considering the number of characters (full-grown men included) who shed their tears throughout the series. Even if you’re sick of watching sad girls in the snow, this show gives you nothing to worry about since everything flows naturally. The pacing is also pretty even since there’s hardly any filler material and it doesn’t slow down to give long lectures about technical details or the philosophies of the characters. As the words “Phantom Memory” suggest, quite a number of flashbacks are shown but none of these drag on for too long and they’re always relevant to the development of the story.
The show isn’t lacking either in terms of audio and visuals. The character designs are unusually realistic and down-to-earth by anime standards, the animation of the battle scenes is pretty slick, the mecha are somewhat reminiscent of those in GitS, the landscapes of the terraformed moon and the scenic Swiss Alps are beautifully illustrated, and uncontrolled Rynax wreaking havoc are always a sight to behold. However, the impressive art is simply icing on the cake when compared to the integral role of the music in conveying the emotions of the story. Moonlight (ED and main theme) evokes feelings of loneliness, sadness, and at the same time, hope, while the cheerful and upbeat Natsukashi Umi (OP) serves as a counterbalance. The insert song Lonely Freedom also does well in highlighting several dramatic scenes with its mysterious and calming aura.
For all of its strengths, it's a pity that KURAU Phantom Memory does not get the attention that a show of this calibre deserves. This may be one of those cases which demonstrate that a show need not be abysmally boring despite the number of tropes used.read more
Kurau was one of those anime I went into with certain expectations, thinking that it’d be a more action based anime, based off some artwork and what I’d heard. Instead, I got a deeper show that didn’t focus on the actions as much, but was even more enjoyable than I had anticipated.
Story: Kurau takes place a couple of hundred years in the future, where multiple world wars and uprisings have given birth to a single power, the GPO, who provides security for the earth and the colony on the moon. Beyond that, Agents are often used for jobs that may fall outside of the GPO, and when the series starts, that’s the role that Kurau plays. Given that description, Kurau doesn’t seem to be any different than any other futuristic anime out there, and would seem plain on the surface. Fortunately, there’s more depth to the show due to the Rynax energy, its importance to Kurau and the rest of the humans and how that all plays out. The story of Kurau is a bit of a roller coaster throughout, as there are a lot of chase sequences due to the fact that the main characters are almost always on the run. These are broken up by the more mellow scenes that resemble your average quiet, slice of life type show, before more chase sequences emerge. This progression is recycled a few times, and while it works for the most part, each sequence is relatively short lived, thus leading to the eventual feeling that you’ve seen it all before. I couldn’t help but feel that the show might have benefitted more from having less of these cycles, and simply extending a few of the better ones overall, leaving more time to get invested with the characters situations before they’re forced to move on again. Fortunately, there’s a few things going on behind the scenes that keep the show interesting, and some of the side characters do a great deal of service to the show by adding more depth. There are some mysteries to be had, but nothing is out of the expected or norm here, and they aren’t really enough to keep you hanging on throughout the entire series. The story behind the characters is the best part, as it delves a lot into the relationships between people, whether it’s as family, friends or on a deeper level. Seeing the growth between the characters is what drives Kurau forward, even if the overall story of the show is rather lacking in a lot of areas.
Characters: As I said before, the characters drive this show, and they do an exceptional job at it. When we first meet Kurau, she’s a young woman who’s incredibly lonely and isolated, as a result of not having her other half in a literal sense. Pretty soon we’re introduced to Christmas, and the majority of the show is watching the growth and development both between these two characters, and almost more importantly, inside of Kurau who often has to deal with balancing her desire to protect and be with her other half, and the safety of the world. Kurau really turns out to be an incredibly strong protagonist, easily one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen in a very, very long time. You can’t help but root for her throughout, as she keeps her desire to help others no matter the cost to herself. Christmas seems initially naive, as but she grows throughout the show as well, both in her desire to protect Kurau, and in her understanding of why it’s important to protect everyone else. The two main side characters are strong in their own right as well, with Doug and Ayaka. Doug isn’t as well fleshed out, as he’s your average loving father who’s along to do the right thing, and I have flashbacks to Maes Hughes from Full Metal Alchemist, although a lot more toned down here in Kurau. Ayaka Steiger is a vastly more interesting character, as she’s got a lot of personal baggage in tow, and spends most of the show hunting down Kurau and other Ryna Sapiens for what she believes is the safety of everyone, only to have her beliefs challenged. Watching her find the truth, overcome her past, and move forward is almost as rewarding as watching the deepening relationship between Kurau and Christmas, and she does a remarkable job in terms of adding to the show as a side character. Another great character is Kurau’s father, who spends the show coming to understand his true role both in the events that changed Kurau’s life, as well as the research and damage he’s done in the years since. He, like many of the other characters of this show, grows into a truly fantastic character that changes along with the world. Beyond them, there are a gang-load of other side characters that don’t tend to resonate as well, but they still add some to the show overall. In the end, this is a show almost entirely about character growth and development, and while that sounds like it’d be a slow and dull show, these characters have a wealth of depth that manages to keep you enjoying their journey, even if there are a few pacing problems.
Artwork: The artwork for this show is really hit or miss, which I find rather surprising as I’m usually a really big fan of Studio Bones. The character animation in this show has a much calmer, almost mundane look to everything. That adds a lot, as you aren’t distracted by the crazy looking characters you might get in other shows. There’s no pink hair, cat ears, or big innocent eyes here. These are characters that draw you in by seeming more real, largely due to their more natural portrayal. The problem is that the animation is rather sketchy at times. Sometimes, the characters are animated gorgeously, and you can’t help but be impressed. At other times, it’s like they have no facial details at all, and they appear to be a pair of floating eyes on a face, and that’s incredibly jarring. These lapses can be seen in the background and scenery as well, as a scene can go from a gorgeous setting of candles floating down a river, beautifully animated to a rather plane scene on a train that shows flat, texture less and rather bland backgrounds. It’s not always bad, and it’s not enough to really detract from the show in my eyes, but it’s certainly not as breathtaking as a lot of other shows, and you can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have spent a little more effort on this one. Bones has a great track record, so I applaud them for trying something new with their art here, I’d just say that they should maybe pay a bit more attention to detail, as that gets lost a lot here.
Music: Kurau’s music isn’t really anything that’s going to stick with you for an extended period of time. The beginning and ending songs are nice, rather mellow and enjoyable, but they aren’t the kind that makes you decide not to skip them. I watched them each once, and then felt no remorse about skipping them for the rest of the show. The insert music is a lot better, as it adds a lot of strength to some of the more emotional scenes, increasing their impact a lot and helping the show. The downside to this is that it’s the same music, splashed throughout the entire show during these moments. It works, but you can’t help but wonder here if they couldn’t have come up with perhaps one or two more songs to help out a bit more. While the music does help overall, in the end, it’s really not a soundtrack that you’ll likely be running out to buy.
Enjoyment: Throughout the entire show, I really enjoyed this series, but that was mostly due to the characters and their growth and relationships. It’s nice to see how all of them play out together, but the pacing problems throughout keep this from being an outstanding title. The fight scenes which I had certain expectations for were rather skimpy, although they do get better towards the end of the series, but the action certainly isn’t the highlight of this show. If you enjoy your shows with a bit more character development and a bit less action, then you’ll probably enjoy Kurau.
Overall, I certainly find it easy to recommend Kurau to people. The pacing and artwork can be a bit sketchy art times, but the characters more than make up for that. This was a show that I certainly didn’t get what I had expected out of it, but it turned out that wasn’t a bad thing. I had expected a more hollow action show, and got a slower, but more mature and deeper character driven show. If that’s what you’re looking for, then I encourage you to give Kurau a shot, as you may be surprised by it as well.read more
Characters: Boring and disappointing for the most part. Which is very sad when in the first few episodes there is much potential in Kurau, the heroine of the series. Literally the first image in the series is of Kurau standing alone on a building structure high above the busy flying cars of a future city, apathetic to what should be dangerous to any normal human. Very Ghost in the shell, Major Kusanagi visually......also there are doves flying in the backround. Which you understand later what that scene represents in the story, but this is the moments of the first episode, so I was thinking more along the lines of John Woo and Kurau was about to do a slow motion dive through a skylight. Taking out a room full of bad guys with dual pistols. (End Tangent)
Later on you find out when she was 12 years old, during one of her fathers experiments with a new energy type called Rynax there is an accident, causing two particles to break free from the test area and enter Kurau's body. The "Rynax" is a sentient life form that lives it's life in pairs and when entering our "world" need symbiosis with a human to survive (perceivability). Taking over the host's personality, and gaining memories from that persons past (usually), while giving the human special powers and abilities as well. We are then treated to a "6million Dollar Man" team of scientist testing of her physical abilities, dubbing her super human.
Fast forward back to the current time and Kurau is a bad ass freelance "agent", which are basically Bounty Hunters or Mercenaries that do any job that falls beyond the scope of the GPO(Government Police). Cold, brash and the best in the business, she is even called Krazy Reckless Kurau by her co-agent while on the job. Passing threw solid matter, the ability to break her body down into light and pretty much "scan" her immediate area. She can also obliterate or bend matter and effect electrical systems. You are even treated to a battle where Kuraru takes down a Mech in a mid air battle...... with nothing but a "Riot Sword". All in the first episode!!!
What happens next is Christmas appears, who was the second of the pair of Rynax Kurau took into her body, after 10 years of resting. And in one night, Kurau turns from the number one power babe mercenary to a crying, whiny, punching bag for the rest of the series, about 20 episodes in total. Spending much of the time beaten up, bruised and crying, her spiral down to an emowreck really turned me off to this show. There are some moments where she shows true power, like the first GPO ambush were their most effective weapon against Rynax doesn't put her down. But most of the time she is face down and bleeding after the GPO begins to try and track her down for being a rynax sapien.
"Where's my Christmas!!!!!!"- Get used to hearing that over, and over, and over again.
And other than Kurau, I had zero attachment to anyone else in the series, specially since she is the only character they develop in the series. Nobody else even matters for most of the show besides Christmas, whom follow from her "birth" into the series.
Plot:Keeping it short now. The rich look for greater riches and the powerful look for greater power. And I guess in the case of the Rynax, those who can move threw dimensions, search for new worlds to experience. The ethics of the Rynax exploiting people to stay in this state of being and people exploiting the Rynax for power, is on display in the series. And that the connections that people make are special, because nobody wants to be alone, being the over riding theme. That is the gist of the story.
Also don't mind that Christmas is literally a walking plot hole against the last half of the series and nothing really is completely explained in the show. Like why the Rynax need to be in pairs, because by the end of the series Kurau and Christmas have to spent a pretty large amount of time apart from one another, but neither one is effected negatively. When in contrast, threw out the show you're made to believe that being a part from your partner physically hurts the Rynax and causes a slow and painful death.
Also what happened on the pirate ship??? No spoiler, but it makes no sense and they never talk about it afterwards. Like a married coupe who just avoid bringing up an affair in the relationship. It just goes a way.
Sound: Nothing really to speak of, the intro and closing songs were nothing special. And if I'm am not mistaken they used sound effects from the Proton packs in Ghost Busters when Kurau first comes in contact with the Rynax. So bad....... I really didn't pay too much attention afterwards because of how hackney it was to use the Ghost Busters SFX.
Art: Dull and drab, nothing stands out. The doldrums would best describe the art and personalities on display. Which would work if this was a gritty, life is hard and everybody dies type of show. Instead of being a cry fest trying to make you relate to every characters life and understand the greater value of love and friendship. Much like if Monster was about a brother and a sister beating all the odds to open a cupcake shop, instead being as real as a heart attack, dark and twisted mind f@#$. Drab works when it fits the story.
I think only two recurring characters in the whole series don't cry at some point, the evil scientist and the evil GPO director. My confusion is, is this a compelling story I want to explore or some 14 year old Gothic girls diary I should stop reading or laugh at!!!!! I enjoyed the first episode and I continued to watch this series only because of the first episode. I would not recommend this show to anyone. read more
The science fiction elements form the backdrop for the story, and there are bits of mecha, and routine space travel to a populated moon and some people with extraordinary powers. There are some heroic conflicts and battles and issues of both good and bad effects of technology, but ultimately this is a story about the relationships between people, loss, loneliness and ultimately happiness. This story touches me on a very emotional level - much more than most. There are many plot twists about who is friend or foe, and as in real life, it is often not that simple as people grow. Christmas is a recurring theme, but one of both great happiness and great sadness. The story arc was written as a single season, and all the episodes advance the overall story line, and everything reaches a satisfying conclusion. Not as grand an adventure as Fullmetal Achemist was for me, but it is still a great series.read more