Kurokami Part 1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, March 01, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

When his life becomes tied to an odd young woman as she takes on his heart, Keita finds himself caught up in a strange shadow world mystery.

What They Say
The story focuses on Keita, a high school student living on his own, lost his mother in his youth. One night at a ramen stand, he meets a mysterious girl named Kuro. Keita is told the story of how if a person runs into another that looks just like them, they would die. From Kuro, Keita learns of the Doppeliner System and the Coexistence Equilibrium and how his life would never be that same afterward?

The Review!

The bilingual presentation for Kurokami is pretty decent though it’s on the slightly weaker side of the technical aspect with the two language tracks in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. The show is mostly dialogue, which is generally well placed when required and showcases some depth as well, but the action sequences that do exist could have used a bit more oomph and impact. The sound design is rather standard TV material with only one or two people on screen talking at any time so a lot of it has a full or center channel feeling to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release contains the first six episodes of the series on one disc and overall it’s a very good looking disc. The animation quality, particularly the backgrounds, is really quite good so the materials here have a lot of detail to them. The show is a dark one in general with a lot occurring at night and it doesn’t look as if much detail is lost to the encoding in this nor is there an introduction of a lot of noise and blocking because of the colors. Brighter scenes look really good with some lush colors at times but by and large the show wants to be dark and mysterious. Cross coloration is non-existent but there are instances of line noise during various panning sequences. There’s little to find fault with here overall though I wish Bandai had not changes the credits, especially the ending ones with the scroll that’s stuttering a lot of the time.
The cover design for Kurokami is something you can say is ok at best, but that’s almost damning it with faint praise. The logo takes up a huge chunk of space along the bottom, though I do like the logo but I hate that inclusion of “the animation” for any show. The rest of the cover has the two principle characters standing there, Kuro in a slight defensive pose while Keita is looking bored, with energy pulsing out from behind Kuro. It’s got the whole murky thing going for it but it’s not all that appealing or eye-catching. Like Keita, it feels a bit bland and dull. The back cover is laid out well but has far too much text as it explains a lot of the premise when it should be more concise and allowing more space for the designs and artwork to sell it. There are a few shots from the show through the middle or so which are too small and fall under the murky line again making them hard sells. The rest is given over to the discs features, episode numbers and titles and the basic technical aspects along with production credits for the Japanese side. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Kurokami is pretty nice and pushes the dark and murky aspect in a good way. The bulk of it is using clips from the show that are fairly dynamic and active that showcase a lot of different parts of the series which makes it pretty engaging as the music plays along. The bottom of the menu has a strip with the logo and a lot of black space while the right side has a strip down it with the individual episode access and other navigation aspects. The layout is very easy to navigate and I liked that the disc read our players’ language presets. This is an easy menu to navigate around but I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a proper disc credits section to be found.
The extras included are standard fare pieces with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. Also included are the original next episode promos which weren’t used in the show proper.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Dall-Young Lim and Sung-Woo Park that's been released under its original title of Black God in the US by Yen Press, Kurokami is a twenty-three episode series that deals with characters that are tied together for life when death visits one of them. The manga series is up to eleven volumes as of this writing so the anime won't cover everything by any stretch. Kurokami has a lot of negativity around its release in general, a good deal of which stems from the way it flopped pretty hard in Japan with very low ratings and a very low number of sales for home video. Of course, shows that flop in Japan don't necessarily flop here, so we've gone into this with a pretty open mind for our first viewing.
Kurokami diverges from the manga pretty significantly in a number of ways so having experience with that won't translate strongly here. The series revolves around two characters that come together early on here. The first that we're introduced to is Keita, a high school student living on his own after his mother died. He's a fairly nicely guy, someone who does decently but doesn't stand out and doesn't have a bevy of women vying for his attention. He's going through the motions and he has some help from a friend named Akane who has known him for years but is a bit older and working for a living. She does things like cook him dinner now and then and checks up on him in his apartment.
Keita's had a difficult time since his mother died, partially because of the story she related to him just before she died. On the day before, she saw a woman who looked exactly like her, a doppleganger. The story goes that there are three of each of us in the world and should we come across each other, one of them will die within a day. The story gets more complicated as the episodes progress and we learn the reality of the story in that each of the three people in this triumvirate have a different amount of power in them. When two of them come together, the one with the greater power will live on while the power of the weaker one goes to them when they die the next day. Keita's mother suffered this fate and it all comes back to him quickly at school when a classmate dies under similar circumstances. The cincher for him is when a grade schooler he knows says she saw someone who looked exactly like her yesterday and she ends up quite literally splattered all over the pavement.
What turns Keita's situation into something much bigger is that along the way he meets a young woman about his age named Kuro. Kuro's a bit of an odd duck who seems to be just a bit different from other people as she ends up in his city. When Keita sees her duking it out with someone after meeting her at a noodle stand late at night, he starts to get the idea that things aren't what they seem. Circumstances end up with her spending time with him and practically moving in with him briefly before it gets even worse; during one attack by the people that Kuro is fighting against, Keita loses his life and Kuro takes his heart and bonds it to her, making a contract between the two. Now both their lives are tied together as he can sync with her and enhance her fighting ability.
Kuro, as it turns out, is a Tera Guardian, a group of people around the world that utilizes special powers within select people called Tera. There are contracts set up between people and those with the powers who aren't exactly human and they work together. The central plot of this show so far, once you get past the introductory episodes which make up a lot of this volume, is that there's a group that is working towards eliminating the dopplegangers for select people in order to increase their power. The group is backed by a woman who is desperately seeking her own dopplegangers, using that organization to do so. The intriguing part is the labeling of everything as the three members of each doppleganger group are called roots with the idea behind it of creating a very strong Master Root. That would then be a person that would take on some important role within the group.
Opening volumes are difficult releases for some shows because they have a lot that they want to cover but are trying to expand on all of it methodically. A good part of this revolves around establishing the setting and getting the contract set up between Kuro and Keita, as well as having Keita really understand what he's gotten himself into. The two sides of the show are given some subplot time here and there and brought to the fore, such as more Tera Guardian's showing and the Shishigami Clan business operations getting something out there about their plans for Master Roots, but it's all just teased and on the surface here. The bulk of the time is spent with Kuro and Keita getting closer and his friend Akane getting dragged into it more and more, particularly when Keita realizes there are many members of the Shishigami Clan out there that now want him because of the contract that he's made.
Kurokami has a very appealing visual design to it, especially with a lot of these episodes taking place at night. It's a very darkly lit piece with a lot of shadows which helps to really make the city feel ominous and overpowering. While the character designs are fairly normal and there isn't anything that stands out as overly stylish, the backgrounds and the set designs themselves really shine. It's an ordinary world for the most part but the color choices for the alleys and rougher sides of the city are great and I loved some of the little things they did in the Shishigami Clan's building with the massive tree inside as it pushes the whole root aspect.
In Summary:
Kurokami certainly starts off intriguing though at times it's a bit awkward in how it's telling the tale when it comes to dealing with the Tera Guardians and the Shishigami Clan. When it focuses on the smaller moments with Kuro and Keita it plays out better as the two of them try to deal with the changing situation. The inclusion of Akane in the show allows Kurokami to have a slightly different feel as it's not just the two primary characters or a group of people the same age on the run. I really like the production values of the show and in some ways that's holding up better than the story itself. There's potential here for something fun and interesting with what we can see with the first six episodes.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing,

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kurokami