Kuromukuro Ep. 5: Back to school

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Well, we all knew this episode was coming, and I can’t say I’m thrilled at the prospect of it. I wrote last week that I’m interested in seeing how our anachronistic hero would adapt to modern life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to send him to school. But this is anime, so what else can we expect? Don’t get me wrong, though. For the most part, this is an okay episode. It’s not Kuromukuro’s best, but it’s not bad. And of course, PA Works has never struck me as the most daring or the boldest studio out there. So again, we knew a school episode was coming. Luckily, some action does kick in during the last quarter of the episode, but until then, we simply have to endure a few rather obligatory scenes. As such, I’ll deviate from my usual format in order to cover this week’s episode.

The good…

— As always, the animation is top-notch for an anime series. Whereas most shows would start cutting corners around this time in the season, Kuromukuro keeps up its high standards. The show doesn’t transport you away to a magical world or anything. It hasn’t got a unique, awe-inspiring art direction or style. It’s just technically very, very proficient. From a certain perspective, that’s not much to write home about, but again, I’m not gonna ask much from an anime series.

— It also helps that this week’s episode has stepped it up in terms of framing the action. We get a few shots that are a lot more visually impactful than what the show have given us in the past.

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— If there’s any quibble, it’s that the characters themselves don’t always measure up to the show’s backgrounds. And, y’know, when anime’s gotta anime, I sometimes wonder how Koharu’s top-heavy frame can be supported by those tiny legs of hers.

— During the episode’s quieter moments, the soundtrack is forgettable. In fact, I sometimes don’t even notice it. But when the action starts to build, that’s when the epic-sounding tracks start to kick in. It really gets you hyped up for the upcoming battle.

— I still like Yukina’s characterization. She’s clearly a kid thrust into a position she wants no part of, but she feels as if she has no voice. What I especially like, however, is that this is all written on her face. Our heroine doesn’t have to clumsily narrate to the audience how she actually feels. You can just look at her body language and understand what she’s going through.

— Some school scenes are kinda fun, I guess. Like Ken being bored during kendo, so he tries to subjugate a classmate the only way he knows how.

— Ken’s existential crisis. What is a samurai? I haven’t really studied the topic whatsoever. I’ll have to admit that pre-1900s Japanese history has never really interested me much, so my knowledge of the samurai is embarrassingly dependent upon pop culture depictions. As such, it’s interesting for me to see the conflict play out within Ken’s character. Who is he supposed to be? Is he supposed to exemplify all those grandiose characteristics that Sophie rattled off? Or have we been completely hoodwinked by revisionist history?

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— Not only that, our hero seems a bit forlorn when he realizes that there are no samurais in this current era. It’s not just about being the last of his kind. The very ideals that he believes in are dead along with the rest of the samurai class. He should be dead. He doesn’t belong here. It makes you feel a bit… worthless. We define us by our values, so it must feel rather strange to be in a world so different from our own. At the same time, though, Yukina narrates that the world needs a samurai more than ever now, so things can only look up for Ken.

…the bad…

— I’m rather disappointed that Yukina’s mother is pretty one-dimensional in this week’s episode. First, she doesn’t really seem to pick up on her daughter’s unhappiness. Then for the rest of the episode, she’s just involved in some mundane command room scenes. Your oldest daughter is about to be put in harm’s way. Not only that, she clearly doesn’t want to be a soldier. It’s obvious to me, so it should be obvious to, y’know, the girl’s own family. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure the great researcher has equally great expectations for her daughter, so maybe she’s just excited to see Yukina placed in a position to excel. But that’s just speculation on my part. If this is actually how Hirome feels, the narrative doesn’t do much to convey it whatsoever. I’m left feeling as though Hirome is just underdeveloped in this week’s episode. She should either be concerned about her daughter, or too excited about her future to see the negatives. But we got neither.

— I also don’t like that they kept the whole “Ken is going to school!” thing a secret from Yukina. Yes, it makes for an amusing but trite reaction on the girl’s part, but it doesn’t really make sense from a logical point of view. Why would these seemingly responsible adults fail to tell the girl that she’ll be classmates with an unstable samurai from the past? It seems absolutely reckless of them. Oh, it’s a TV show, so it doesn’t have to make sense, but that’s such a cop-out excuse. How much the audience is expected to suspend their disbelief depends upon the context of the story. Yes, I can suspend my disbelief and imagine that mechas are viable weapons of war or that Ken is somehow from the past.

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But when properly functioning adults decide to withhold information for no particular reason, that’s different. You could weakly argue that they didn’t want Yukina to complain and object, but so what? Parents deal with this all the time. Your children aren’t always going to be happy with your decisions. They’re also children, and they’ll just have to suck it up. Anyways, I’ve belabored this point enough.

— The obligatory school scenes that aren’t amusing. For instance, we have Yukina’s classmates surrounding her to ask boring questions I don’t care about.

— Sophie is a pretty annoying character. She seems pretentious and self-important. I get that we need character conflicts, but man, I’m not looking forward to her bouts of jealousy as she watches Yukina ride around in “two of humanity’s greatest assets.” So Sophie riding around in them means what? World peace? It’s such a silly thing to be worked up about.

…and the ugly.

— Apparently, there’s a guy crushing on Yukina, and not only that, his friends are perverts trying to take upskirt shots of Ryoto. None of these characters appear to be very compelling, and they don’t seem to have much potential to them either. Take the guy crushing on Yukina; I can’t see this subplot going anywhere, so it just feels like a waste of time. If there’s going to be romance in this series, we all know where it’s going.

— Sebastian. He says that his position as an SDF soldier “is merely a cover” for his “true calling [as a] butler.” I rolled my eyes at that.

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— Marina. What is with this school counselor? First, she looks like a student, but I mean, that’s to be expected, right? Every female teacher in anime has to be hot, cute, and somehow innocent all at the same time. But what’s with her demeanor? It almost seems like she’s got a crush on our samurai. Please don’t go there.

— Oh god, the existence of the school makes no sense whatsoever. You’d think these child soldiers would be home-school, but instead, we have to attend an actual campus where non-combatants are trying to get an education. So whenever there’s trouble, it becomes a huge, unnecessary distraction. Sebastian literally shows up on a helicopter right outside Yukina’s homeroom. Yeah, yeah, it’s an anime thing, but it’s such a stupid thing. Naturally, the rest of the class can no longer focus, and I’m not even sure if their teacher bothered to do anything about it.

Everything else

— When I saw Ken’s sketch of their demonic enemy, I thought it was supposed to be silly. Apparently not.

— We’ve seen them in action in previous episodes, but we are finally formally introduced to the GAUS pilots. They’re nothing to really write home about. I only wonder how much action these guys have actually seen before the events of the anime. Y’know, is this a world full of war-torn nations and conflicts? Have they been deployed in serious situations in the past?

— I like Ken’s thoroughly unimpressed face: “These guys are supposed to be soldiers?”

Final thoughts

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Again, it isn’t a terrible episode by any means, but it’s a forgettable one. We send Ken to school, because it’s anime so we just have to do so. At the very least, however, we’re going to jump right back into the fray next week. Had it been two weeks of school life in a row, I would’ve been sorely disappointed.

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4 thoughts on “Kuromukuro Ep. 5: Back to school”

  1. Kuromukuro’s been confirmed for 26 episodes, so there’s (hopefully) plenty of time for the writers to ( hopefully) flesh out all these new characters amidst this alien conflict.

    The alien mechs also landed next to the real life Toyama Airport, the central airport for Toyama City.

    1. Kuromukuro’s been confirmed for 26 episodes

      Oh good. This episode wasn’t very compelling, but I’m glad to see this get the number of episodes that it deserves.

  2. The guy who has a crush on her might become a new pilot later and that’s why they’re spending time on him.
    You can’t home school your child in Japan. As written in the Constitution, parents have to make their kids go to school. Well, there are futôkô kids but parents don’t legally have the right to home school their kids.

  3. I’m 4 episodes late into the kuromukuro train and I can see this was not the best jumping-on point. I am interested to see where this goes, though.

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