Kekkai Sensen Ep. 6: They’re just monsters, anyway

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Man, I could really go for a burger right now. People here really love In-N-Out, but I actually think Five Guys is way better. I just think messier burgers are tastier burgers, and In-N-Out can be a little too neat and prim. But ahem, you guys aren’t here for burger talk. And some of you might also be wondering why this post isn’t Kekkai Sensen Ep. 1-6. After all, I haven’t written about Kekkai Sensen before. Why won’t I cover the entire series up until now? Well, there’s a simple reason for that: I just don’t intend to say much about the show as a whole. The simple truth is that there’s nothing particularly wrong with Kekkai Sensen. I actually think it’s a pretty solid offering from Bones. It’s just… well, it’s really just not my type of show. Overall, that is. Oh, I can hear it now: “There E Minor goes again! Always finding something lacking in everything that he watches.” But there’s a crucial difference here. Kekkai Sensen isn’t bad. It honestly just isn’t my type of show. Put it this way… most people out there aren’t bad people, but it’s not like we’ll ever be friends. Some people just don’t click, and likewise, some shows just don’t click with me.

I’d be lying if I said that Kekkai Sensen doesn’t have its moments. That’s why this post is mostly about episode six, after all. I find the weird, little mushroom’s story and his friendship with Leo to be rather touching. Y’know, as short as it was. When stressed, our mushroom friend releases a cloud of pink spores. Said cloud will also knock you out and erase your memories. How much does it erase? Well, that’s the tricky part. Leo ends up forgetting the events in the past two weeks of his life, but that can’t be the extent of it. After all, our mushroom friend’s own mother supposedly doesn’t even remember giving birth to him. Did she perhaps get a larger dose of those spores? And who’s to say she didn’t have that same power herself? Maybe it wasn’t the mushroom friend who got stressed one day and caused him and his own mother to forget each other. But there’s perhaps one more melancholic thought to consider: Leo still felt a sense of deja vu when he ran across his mushroom friend again. You would think the bonds between a mother and her child would be stronger than what Leo and the mushroom friend shared… but who knows? So the episode is touching in that regard.

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Our mushroom friend is easy to take advantage of not simply because of what he can do, but also because his personality just lends itself to exploitation. He’s like a kid who gets really excited about burgers and perhaps comics. He holds no ill will towards others even when he knows they’re taking advantage of him. But that also speaks to how those like Nej (I’ll just use his name from here on out) can’t help but accept their lot in life. When I was a kid, they used to say that America was a melting pot. Oh, we’ll just come together and create one unified culture. It’s that easy! But of course, this notion turned out to be hopelessly idealistic. No matter how much my parents try, they’ll never be wholly American. You can’t expect them to just discard their old identities and just become American. But likewise, certain Americans will never want to “melt” and adopt any part of my parents’ culture. Finally, being an Asian American, I can never fully embrace my parents’ way of life, but it’s not like I can just watch the average mainstream TV show and feel like I identify with the characters on my screen either. America really isn’t a melting pot, and there are certain places I don’t belong even if I try my best to pretend to be what I’m not. Sometimes, it can be frustrating. Sadly, those like Nej just accept it.

So I guess we’re supposed to be a salad bowl. Isn’t that the politically correct suggestion nowadays? That a salad bowl somehow triumphs the richness of multiculturalism? I don’t know. You can call it whatever you want, but the truth doesn’t change. I will always be the so-called good minority because we don’t get “uppity.” And yet, perhaps because we don’t lash out, I can’t really see myself in this pastiche that we call American culture. Only now do we have a show like Fresh Off the Boat, but I still haven’t given it a chance because… who knows? Feelings are weird. Back when I was a kid, maybe a show like that would’ve appealed to me. But nowadays, I’m no longer in search of a role model. I’m no longer trying to find my place in American society as an Asian-American. So it’s all lost on me. In some sense, I’ve stopped caring. But nevermind all of that. I’ve somehow veered off course and started talking a small bit about my experience as an Asian American when this is supposed to be a post about Kekkai Sensen. But that’s just the thing, really: Kekkai Sensen has the ability to draw me in thanks to its “multicultural setting.” It, however, has more on its plate than just a show about race and race relations.

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The last sentence isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Kekkai Sensen is about a lot of things. For example, it’s about Leo’s place within the Libra organization, and how they try to keep the peace in Hellsalem’s Lot. Sometimes, this involves Klaus playing a life-or-death game of chess-on-steroids. Sometimes, we do battle with vampires. Sometimes, there’s just a crazy girl who wants to retrieve her boyfriends at all costs. All in all, Kekkai Sensen is one hell of a kinetic ride… but while these episodes are okay, they’re not particularly memorable for me. But like I’ve said at the start of this post, Kekkai Sensen just isn’t my type of anime. For people who enjoy these stories, the anime does its job quite well. But it’s not for me. It’s the same reason why I think Baccano is not my type of anime, but the show is often regarded as one of the best anime series ever made. Not every story out there will appeal to everyone. Still, Kekkai Sensen isn’t wholly uninteresting to me. As my last two paragraphs might suggest, the race angle is intriguing. There’s just so little of it.

And for some, that’s just the perfect amount. I know a lot of viewers don’t want a show to get too burdened with real world moralizing. People watch anime as a form of escapism, so they’d rather just get lost in a world full of weird and bizarre creatures — a world where individuals have crazy, exciting powers. In contrast, the most recent episode also happens to be my favorite episode yet. And I always think it’s interesting how uneasy we are when it comes to confronting the real thing. It hurts us enough to see someone as innocent as Nej being pummeled by those two assholes. But what if we hadn’t disguised minorities as “monsters” in this show? What if Nej had just been any other human being, but the only difference is his skin color? It must be hard to swallow, especially if you consider your own culture to be so friendly and respectful. But it’s also a homogenous culture. And because it can be such a homogenous culture, children of mixed race face a ton of ostracization and bullying at schools across the nation. Remember Sentaro from Kids on the Slope? Yeah, I’m not talking about America anymore.

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So we pick New York City, because it makes some sense. More sense than Tokyo, anyway. New York City is pretty damn ethnically diverse, and it’s also pretty far away. It’s not right on our door steps. And again, they’re monsters because monsters are exciting. This way, we can have vampires and crazy lolis. And supposedly, there are casualties. Lots of them. Maybe not hundreds of thousands. That’s probably an exaggeration, but who really knows? I mean, most of them are probably just “monsters” anyway. They just have to stay on their own little area, and we’ll make damn sure of that. So like a horror movie, we can use this opportunity to explore some of the more difficult issues in our lives, but should it ever get too heavy, we just throw some punches and we’re right back to good, ol’ action. Let’s just wrap this up, though. I’m not sure what I’m prattling about anymore. Well, maybe I do, but I just want to cut it short here. Kekkai Sensen is an alright show. At times, it can greatly appeal to me, but even when it doesn’t, it has enough imagination to be a decent time-waster. And, y’know, at least there isn’t a fucking high school.


7 Replies to “Kekkai Sensen Ep. 6: They’re just monsters, anyway”

  1. Since IMHO this is probably the most positive you have been about a show in several months, maybe you should blog it anyway and drop one or two of the others that either give you ulcers or bore you to tears. You could spend your time complementing the action and direction or the animation as a nice balance against the other shows you complain about.

    I actually found your blog due to your insightful positive reviews of shows like Mushishi. It would be nice to get some of that E minor back.

  2. Great post. For what it’s worth, I thought the whole mother thing resulted from postpartum depression triggering the spores.

    1. See, I had thought he probably hit his mother with the spores as soon as he was born. Babies scream and cry so much, so I’d expect the spores to go along with that.

  3. “but it’s not like I can just watch the average mainstream TV show and feel like I identify with the characters on my screen either”

    lol wut. I’m not even living in America and I can identify with characters in American TV shows just fine.

    Sounds like you’re just being whiny.

  4. “lol wut. I’m not even living in America and I can identify with characters in American TV shows just fine.”

    Just curious: Do you happen to be male and white?

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