K Season 1 Series Review: Is Looking Good and Being Cool Enough For A Series?

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Overview:

There are 7 Kings and each King can bestow their powers upon their clan. While the Blue King works to keep order, the Red King is pretty much all about anger and right now the entire red clan is out for blood because one of their members was murdered by the self-declared colourless king.

Review:

For anyone who watches this story, there are two things that will become immediately apparent. The first is that there are a lot of males characters and most are drawn to be seen as the various types of attractive that they usually use in anime. So lots of tall and slender guys with various hair colours and accessories so that you can be sure to find your favourite type. Or why not just collect them all? And the second is that this show isn’t above relying on spectacle and shock to grab your attention if you aren’t into the predominantly bishonen cast.

The opening scene see HOMRA (the clan controlled by the Red King) essentially break into an apartment and beat the guys inside up for information (that they do not even have). This is break and enter followed by assault, and low level torture before the loli girl walks in and declares they know nothing and they all just walk out. If that isn’t actually enough to get the audience engaged and their hearts pumping, the red clan then walk smack into the blue clan for a fight that ends with the red king handing himself over.

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Throughout all of this, no explanation as to what kings are, or their swords, or why they have powers, or even what information the red clan are after, is given to the audience. It’s just expected that you are going to be so mesmerised by this cool and confronting action and gorgeous cast that you’ll shut up and buckle in for the ride.

And you know, it actually works pretty effectively.

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Admittedly, the good looking guys in the cast are kind of wasting their efforts trying to charm me, particularly the crew from HOMRA who they later on try to endear us to but to be honest they’ve come across as thugs and little that happens later changes my mind about that. So while they are the most exciting characters to watch, mostly because every scene they are in explodes with violence or humour, I don’t really care about what happens to them. Anna, the girl I described as the loli earlier, is the exception as she actually gets quite a nice character arc and isn’t quite so prone to violence, at least not the direct kind, as the others in the clan. Admittedly though, you’ll be waiting through the movie and season 2 before you really care about her.

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Still all of this is actually background because this is the story of Yashiro Isana. He starts out as a seemingly normal student who likes cats but is then chased by both HOMRA and Kuroh (a vigilante sent by the previous colourless king to kill the evil king).

The problem being that the carefree guy who slips in and out of trouble and through all the chaos of the clans throughout the series isn’t that compelling to watch when compared with the scenes dominated by the Kings and their clans. Most scenes involving Isana are only interesting because of Neko (the cat) and Kuroh and the banter between the two. While I don’t dispute that ultimately Isana’s story turns out to be interesting and quite compelling (and I’m not going into any spoilers here), as a character he is the low point of a lot of the early part of the first season. Part of this can be attributed to the trope of protagonist with missing memories. It is very hard to be compelling as a character where basically you get to tilt your head a lot and wonder about things you have no clue about.

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Fortunately, the rest of the cast, including the normal school students surrounding the central trio, have more than enough personality and presence to make up for what Isana is lacking. And I do mean more than enough. We have rivalries between clans, long standing histories, potential romances and bromances, old grudges, and just so many details that are touched upon or hinted at but because this story isn’t about them they seldom get to take centre stage and when they do it is at the cost of the actual central narrative.

But I have to wonder if that even matters in a story presented as this one is?

The pace keeps moving along as we go from one conflict to another. One chase sequences blends in to the next, and there are only a few moments in the early couple of episodes where the focus is on the school and kids getting ready for a festival where you have to wonder if things are going to actually progress. The sheer size of the cast and the complexity of the world (not the story because it is pretty straight forward when you separate it from setting) works in its favour because it means you are seldom bored by what is on the screen and the number of details makes it feel like a rich and real reality that has existed prior to the writing of the story and will continue afterward.

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And of course the fight sequences look fantastic. They are full of energy and interesting uses of powers. They are visual feasts and usually accompanied by suitably energised music, and all and all they are just fun to watch. The final sequence between the blue and red king at the end of the series is both grandiose and heart breaking, and gets the balance right between visual spectacle and portraying the human emotions of the scene.

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So while K is actually pretty easy to criticise for some of its story telling choices and its over-emphasis on looking good over actual characterisation, the end result is something that is reasonably compelling to watch and ultimately fairly rewarding for the viewer as things do come together. Obviously there is then a movie and a second series so don’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up, but Isana and the mystery of how and why he lost his memories, and who the real murderer was, all of that is concluded and you are left with a sense of real satisfaction.

I’d love to know your thoughts about K.


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Karandi James