Anime Reviews: Kekkaishi

2006; Director: Kenji Kodama; Studio: Sunrise
2006; Director: Kenji Kodama; Studio: Sunrise

I am beginning to grow tired of shonen action series. I’ve seen so many of them that they’re all starting to run together. Some teenager, usually male, gets superpowers or some kind of superweapon and is suddenly charged with defending his neighborhood and his friends from a dark supernatural force or a generic bad guy who threatens to shear the very fabric of existence for his own gains. Each fight is stretched out for episodes at a time which slowly add up to a series run of a hundred or more episodes, and since they’re all based off a manga, occasionally the animation studio runs out of material and slaps together some unnecessary, insufferable filler story while waiting for the manga artist to catch up. They are tedious, they are repetitive, and they are dime-a-dozen. But as long as the Jump magazines stay in business, and Adult Swim has airtime to fill on Saturday nights, there will always be a market for them.

Kekkaishi follows the escapades of Yoshimori Sumimura and Tokine Yukimura, offspring of rival families and natural heirs of a legendary demon exterminator, or kekkaishi, who is charged with exhuming the monsters, or ayakashi, from the ancient land of Karasumori, where their high school now sits. Using their powers of kekkai, the two of them return to their high school every night where ayakashi of all shapes and sizes are drawn to the spiritual power harnessed underneath, and with a simple ketsu-metsu, contain and dispose of each supernatural threat. The series focuses mostly on Yoshimori, who has a great power within him but is otherwise clumsy, reckless and a little bit lazy, although he has a dream—to hopefully one day expel Karasumori’s spiritual power altogether so he and Tokine could maybe live normal lives...and because he doesn’t like to see anybody, particularly Tokine, get hurt.

Okay...where to start on this one?

I can find very few likable characters on this show, because I’ve never seen a cast in any anime series harness this level of contempt. Everybody on this show seems to HATE Yoshimori. ...Well, maybe “hate” is too strong a word, perhaps a better term would be “heap endless abuse on.” Tokine and their ghost dog companions keep nitpicking and criticizing his every move before, during and after every action scene, his grandfather keeps yelling at him at the top of his lungs, and everybody calls him a reckless idiot more times than I can count. Meanwhile, Yoshimori’s grandfather is the most annoying character in the cast bar none with his short temper and constant shouting, and he and Tokine’s grandmother loathe each other to the point where they can’t go five minutes without arguing with each other in a fruitless attempt to inject comedy into this plot. And if I were Tokine, I wouldn’t be complaining about how Yoshimori fights if I spent every major battle sitting on the sidelines like a token chick.

I also can’t help but notice that it has a plot which borrows certain elements from other series. The hero is a powerful but reckless idiot (as in Naruto), he and his female companion fight powerful demons (as in Bleach, Inuyasha or Yu Yu Hakusho) by trapping them in containers (Pokémon is a demon who can disguise himself as a human (Inuyasha again), the main female character is mostly ineffective in battle (Bleach, Naruto, Inuyasha and maybe Dragon Ball), there’s another female character who falls in love with the main hero but otherwise has little to no effect on the story (Bleach or Naruto), everybody yells at each other (Bleach or Dragon Ball) and the main character wants to get stronger for the admirable purpose of protecting their loved ones (any one of the above, except maybe Pokémon).

Also, one of Yoshimori’s classmates has a little notebook where he keeps notes on his friends that I swear looks like a Pokedex...

But believe it or not, despite all these self-condemning flaws, this show is not entirely terrible. At a fifty-two episode length, it avoids the pitfalls of a series of never-ending fights in that it doesn’t get boring or hamper itself down with too much filler. In fact, once you get past the first fifteen episodes or so (which also include a story about the ghost of a dead chef not unlike a certain filler episode of Bleach) the plot eventually kicks in and everything annoying about this show slowly goes away. Much of the action scenes are decent and quickly paced, and as for the cast, there are a couple of decent characters in it, such as Yoshimori’s older brother Masamori and a new hero named Gen who enters the show near its midway point and becomes a major plot element.

Kekkaishi is by no means a perfect show, but as a shonen series, you could do a lot worse. It’s certainly preferable to a hundred filler episodes f Bleach, Naruto and Inuyasha combined. It borrows quite a bit from these shows in terms of plot, characterization and story elements, but not so much the boring and most stupid parts.

tl;dr:

PROS
CONS
Interesting story; doesn't wear out its welcome
Not very original; some characters are irritating and/or unlikeable

Kekkaishi: awesome or crap?

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