Something stinks about Kyoukai no Kanata, and I love it.
From the very first scene, and opening lines, Kyoukai no Kanata is everything that your delusional teenage self wrote down in your not-so-secret diary to combat your own isolation and awkwardness. It tells its story with the same gravity that you would have given it at that age, with the straightest of faces and the burning desire to impress. Akihito Kanbara is an immortal half-demon – in spite of the his claim that there is nothing special about himself – whose only companion is Mitsuki Nase, the beautiful childhood friend who is also the president of the Literary Club. Cue the incident that changes his life forever, which also involves a cute girl. Oh, and she’s special as well, because she fights demons.
We only have to glance at the episode’s title, “Carmine,” before the stench of an eager individual frantically looking for pretentious synonyms of “red” wafts in. Mirai’s power comes from her blood – this, predictably, is why she is ostracized – and therefore gives the title a deeper meaning. She additionally wears red glasses, just in case you didn’t get the hint. As next week’s episode is titled, “Ultramarine,” perhaps the yet-to-be-introduced older brother, Hiroomi Nase, will have a power steeped in the color blue.
Where Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! gives you a warm hug, and tells you that everything is going to be okay in spite of your teenage delusions, Kyoukai no Kanata teases you mercilessly for them while reveling in its own stink. It sneers at this desire to be special, and tells the exact same story that your dreamy self would have concocted. The only difference is in execution. Kyoukai no Kanata knows that it’s better than your Inuyasha spinoff fan fiction, even if they have near-identical synopses. Tipping the viewer off to the series’ arrogance is Mitsuki who, in addition to fulfilling the childhood friend trope, knows that her series is better than any of your diary scribblings, fan fiction, or original teen paranormal romances. While searching through the Literary Club archives, you can feel her disdain at the offerings of her club predecessors.
“Akihito, your seniors in the Literary Club put their hearts and souls into those scraps of paper. It’s rude to toy with them like that.”
“I don’t sense a shred of respect in the expression you just used.”
-a conversation between Mitsuki Nase and Akihito Kanbara, Kyoukai no Kanata, episode one
Hyouka offers another comparison to Kyoukai no Kanata in its love for the mystery novel. Each character in Hyouka represented a piece of detective fiction, and the series painstakingly led its viewer through various narratives used by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. However, what made Hyouka such a compelling watch were hardly the mysteries themselves, but the strength of the character relationships that it built while presenting its love letter to detective fiction. This series boils down to a giant checklist, much like Hyouka and it knows it. Instead of focusing on the mystery, Kyoukai no Kanata chooses to examine the wish-fulfillment of the light novel.
Like Hyouka, I believe that Kyoukai no Kanata will ultimately live or die by the relationships between its characters. Presently, I’ll simply enjoy the ride along with the mockery. My dreamy, delusional, “original” fiction of my teenaged years was complete and utter excrement, and I love this series for reminding me of that. Mitsuki would certainly not have approved.