ANIME & MANGA - Review
08:29 - 25th June 2014, by David West

K: The Complete TV Series

Yashiro Isana is the flakiest guy in class. He never brings a packed lunch and always loses his PDA, which he is supposed to use every time he enters and leaves the school campus, located on an exclusive island. But he's outgoing and charming, so everyone lets it slide... until the day a video appears online that shows him shooting someone in cold blood. Yashiro can't remember doing any such thing, even as he is pursued by both the authorities of SCEPTER 4 and the members of HOMRA, the gang that the murder victim belonged to before his unexpected demise.

It's always encouraging to see an anime series based on an original concept, rather than adapted from yet another manga, but K is too cluttered for its own good. The script avoids delivering the sort of information dumps that plague many anime where huge chunks of exposition are deposited in unwieldy dialogue, but K is a step in the other direction, where there are large gaps in the script crying out for some exposition to help the viewer orientate themselves in this strange world. Some mild spoilers ahead - Yashiro's attempts to evade his various pursuers are aided by Neko, a girl who can transform into a cat (and who likes being nude, hello fanservice). Where she came from is a mystery. The only hints are vague references in the script to her being a 'Strain', but what that means is anyone's guess. Then there are apparently seven clans, each with its own king. The origin of these clans and their purpose and rivalries seem to be taken for granted by characters inside the story, but their existence is never explained. There is some clumsy exposition in the later episodes when two clan leaders, the Red King and Blue King, tell each other things they both know so the viewer has some idea of the stakes in their battle, but their exchange barely scratches the surface of the questions surrounding these characters.

Directing duties are split between six different people, resulting in noticeable shifts in style from episode to episode. There are energetic fights in the first half that look they have been pulled from a video game by episode director Yuuichi Sugio, but then Hiromitsu Kanazawa and Katsumasa Yokomine, who take over in the concluding instalments, show no interest at all in staging detailed action sequences. Episode 11 is particularly awkward, with clumsy transitions between scenes and very underwhelming fight scenes. The treatment of some characters is inconsistent - the swordsman Kuroh Yatogami goes from being largely incompetent in the early going, when he can't seem to hurt Yashiro for trying, to being a major butt kicker. And in later episodes, Yashiro suddenly starts carrying an open umbrella everywhere. It's not even raining. What is he doing? The show has a sense of visual style, the character designs and costumes are attractive, but the half-baked world-building means that the screenplay leaves more questions unanswered at the end than there were at the start.

Too many cooks threaten to spoil this broth, with abrupt shifts in tone and directing style plaguing the series. There is no shortage of ideas, they just need more room to be explored - and explained - for this to gel into a coherent, self-contained world. Still, the pacing is sprightly and K offers mystery, fantasy, action and a curvy cat-girl.
SCORE: 3/5
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