How many anime reviews have I done in 2013 thus far? Four? A bit slow on my part, but that is because I have yet to see anything that necessarily wowed me. And there is nothing like seeing something that could potentially do that fall down into a sinkhole, but in a way that makes me feel like I read a book with missing pages. But more on that in the actual review, this time being a show that took a single letter for its name, because of reasons.
(Project) K Season One Review
Length: 13 episodes
Availability: Subbed on Hulu and Viz Media
K, or Project K as many call it. Seeing as how K could mean anything from potassium to that nifty metal man from Virtue’s Last Reward. Is a high concept show with a lot of style and money behind it that dreams of telling an interesting story. While having a coat of style to help it drill into collective memory, with the help of mangas and light novels.
It is one of those storylines where there are about five things going on, but one main-ish one to hold them together, or at least start it out. The starting point of the show involves a high school student in a positively lovely view of 20XX, Shiro Inaba. A platinum blonde who is accused of murder with the evidence for it being incriminating. Meaning they got him shooting the man on camera. He takes the accusation well in a bit that is actually one where the show is more than a bit clever when faced with subsequent revelations. Seeing as how an assassin and shape shifting cat that can alter reality end up having dinner with him by the third episode… Yeah.
Trying to spoil as little as possible, Shiro Inaba is a person known as a King. A loosely explained man of great power, with the ability to rally up followers referred to as clansmen. This, along with the murder, puts him as a prime target for a street gang known as Homra, and a blue clad group of swordsmen called Spectre 4. The later of whom I think are some sort of unseen police force, or at least they have lots of resources. Both of which are led by kings, who it is more implied than anything that they have a lengthy history with each other.
If it sounds like I am having trouble describing this, it is due to how the show does not so much as build up entities and explain how everything works. As much as it tosses ideas at us, like it is a sequel or spin-off to something. It is not very clear where Kings come from, what they can do, why they sometimes have a giant stone sword over their head, what their powers are. I mean, the street thugs can shoot fire, because of some sort of tattoo, but I have no clue where the power actually comes from. Is it within the actual person? Is there a limit? Do they drain their fire powers from the King’s big sword of energy?
Why did these specific people become Kings? Why is it never really explained how Kings work together until the very end? And even then, I was scratching my head, because the show could see an invisible path induced by eating from the tree of forever. It is a very interesting series of mythos, but the kind that really could benefit from a full episode’s worth of backstory. Sadly, there are only thirteen episodes. So the viewer must be content with the fact that the leader of a street gang has a fortune teller little girl with an implied romance plot with the older leader. Yes, it is cool how there is a character with the ability to track people using marbles, and it is hinted at that every character has something unique about them. However, it just feels like the writer, who goes by GoRA, wanted to get straight to the action, when this is not the way you do it.
I am all but certain this has been repeated ad nauseum, but some stories need more time to be told. And with the pacing presented, which is perfectly fine for the most part, I couldn’t help but feel that the writer began to assume he already explained what a “Stain” is. Although, he could have in the light novels and two manga series that were going on around the same time as this show. And if the lore was all explained there, congrats, you misunderstood how multi-medium-media is suppose to work.
Still, I find the show overall to have a very nifty style in place, and while a lot of it is hard to grasp, there is enough explained to prevent it from being a total mess. Like Sword Art Online, but with less than a tenth of times where I paused the video and just asked, “What?” You wrote that someone hid by putting on a dog suit, before he was glomped on by a cat girl. That is cool, but where did the magical cat girl come from? Because even the minor character see her as normal.
I refuse to believe that this GoRA person is just a bad writer. There were at least three points where I paused the video, and clapped due to genuine cleverness on behalf of the story structure. And the most main antagonist practically gave me a narrative stiffy in terms of my ideal villain archetype. Rule one of writing is to show rather than tell. However, there are points where you need to have people sit down, and explain how they can accumulate a small army of Jet Set Radio rejects. You have a scene where two rivals share a smoke together, and they don’t talk about their backstory before they do the thing you do in a climax? Why? Yeah, it’s not “original”, but sometimes the old tricks are the best!
What makes the story more depressing as concept is how there was clearly a lot of time and money placed in the other aspects of the show. The animation is lively, with some especially cool fight scenes. The designs border on the familiar, but still mesh to a colorful cast. Earning some points for how I get the impression the “fanservice” bits were more for laughter than anything. And the backgrounds depict a very keen and plausible look at the not so distant future. I honestly can’t think of a 13 episode series that looks like it cost this much money other than maybe Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt.
Although, I do have some personal gripes. Namely how the coloring is very… bright, one might say. In an attempt for stylization, there is often a lot of light over more pastel tones. I can see why someone would like the style, but I am more into solid and bold colors, not an art style where fire somehow is pink. I also couldn’t help but notice how certain scenes feel a bit empty, kinda like the characters are over a green screen, and the background was added in later on. Which is obviously weird, seeing as how this is an animated show. Meanwhile, the soundtrack most likely played part in how it is difficult for me to talk bad about this show. Because of how energetic and fun it can be when it wants to.
I never enjoy needing to turn in these book reports of entertainment with a more negative note. Sure, I love deconstructing things, and breaking them apart. Yet I don’t like getting excited for something that ends up being riddled with issues. It is difficult to recommend K, yet I stand by it as a good show. Just by presenting something fascinating, it get a bunch of points, along with a very high quality presentation. Project K’s problem is a simple one that would be hard to properly remedy, but the show surprised me a few times before. So maybe season two will improve things. Yet as its own thing, the good outweighs the bad.
A solid title that may be lacking in an infinite amount of different ways, or just a few big and difficult to ignore issues. Varies based on the medium. But still worth giving it a go!