Original Run: Oct 5, 2012 to Dec 28, 2012
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Supernatural
Isana ‘Shiro’ Yashiro is an ordinary student; cheerful, friendly and utterly mundane. He has neither knowledge of nor involvement in the chaotic world of the Kings, individuals with immense psychic abilities, and their loyal clansmen. At least that’s how it is until a video of Shiro killing a red clansman surfaces and he finds himself hunted by the Red King who seeks revenge for his fallen friend.
But Shiro has no memory of the murder and holds fast to his belief of being a normal student. But it’s hard to hold on to the belief that he’s innocent when evidence keeps piling up to the contrary and even his own memory starts failing him. It’s not long before it’s clear that there’s more to Shiro’s existence than what meets the eye, and he may have a part to play in the conflict between the dangerous Kings.
I watched K back when it came out but missed both the movie and the second season, and a re-watch was necessary to refresh my memory. I didn’t find it quite as good the second time around but it’s still a perfectly watchable show.
K has an interesting premise which is not explored to its full potential in the first season but keeps your attention all the same. There are different clans known by their signature colors, each possessing unique abilities given to them by their King. This King is an individual possessing great power that comes at great risk. While they’re arguably the most powerful human beings on the planet, the instant they lose control of that power spells destruction not only for themselves but also a vast area around them. Add to this the conflict between two of the major clans – Blue and Red – born of their inherently contradictory natures and we have a messy but entertaining situation. The actual main plot, which is a murder mystery that escalates into a tangled war between clans, is not always as gripping as the background conflicts but it’s still a well-written element of the story that eventually reaches a surprising and mostly satisfying conclusion.
Another plus point of the show is its humor. It’s not the extravagant laugh-out-loud kind but the main character Shiro’s antics are typically funny and the interactions between different sets of characters with a myriad of quirks never fail to amuse. However, this does feel out of place in certain situations and there are moments of abrupt tone shifts that may not sit well with everyone.
Now on to the negatives. The main fault of K lies with its antagonist. They’re practically invisible, though loudly implied, for most of the story. And when they do show up, they’re so cartoonishly evil that it’s hard to see them as an organic part of the much more well-developed main cast. They do some despicable things but we never find out what drove them to it or how they started out. All we get is a generic thirst for power and that’s not really enough to make a good villain. Even when it’s eventually revealed that they are the driving force behind the events from the first episode onwards, they don’t seem as important as the rest of the characters. When the main plot of the show takes a backseat to other elements, you know it’s doing something wrong.
But despite its faults, the fact remains that K has a highly engaging story with very likeable characters, some interesting if incomplete world-building and a halfway okay plot. Moreover those who continue on to the second season will find answers to a lot of questions the first leaves unanswered so there’s that.
K has a huge cast and sometimes, even the less prominent of them have important roles to play in the story. But even setting aside the minor players, we have quite a few who are pivotal to the story. These ones are not bland archetypes but well-rounded characters who have complicated relationships with each other. K gets points for the way it develops some of those with only a handful of scenes in such a way that their significance comes through loud and clear.
The main trio, in a manner of speaking, consists of the protagonist Shiro, his cat Neko who’s actually a girl who prefers being a cat, and Kuroh, his assassin turned ally turned friend. Shiro is nice and funny but unremarkable for the majority of the story until a shocking reveal exposes his true character. He’s not the best this series has to offer but he does work as the main character. Neko alternates between being cutely charming and rather irritating. While her feline characteristics function well in their own right, there are times when her simple, childish nature makes her too loud to like. Kuroh manages to be gravely serious and lovably innocent at the same time, and his development throughout the show is rewarding though predictable.
From the Blue Clan, we have their King Munakata and his underlings Awashima and Fushimi. All three are wildly different characters who are fascinating individually as well as in a group. Munakata’s seriousness and unwavering dedication to justice combines with his rare emotional side to make him a character worthy of much thought. Same can be said for Awashima who’s all business most of the time but softens up now and then when it counts. Fushimi is more interesting than the two of them combined because he’s got issues and none of them are even remotely close to being fixed. They’re a fun group, really.
Same can be said for the Red Clan whose members are said to be chaotic by nature. Curiously, the most notable member from this group and also one of the best people in the show is the posthumous character Totsuka who manages to be extremely endearing despite appearing only in a handful of flashbacks. The Red King Mikoto is a hothead on a mission but manages to transcend the typical tropes of his temper by being both gruffly affectionate and fiercely dedicated, while also managing to be the most tragic character in the story. Others like Kusanagi, Yata, Anna and Rikio all have their roles but don’t leave too much of an impression.
Art and Music:
K has a very distinctive art style with bright and vibrant colors. The somewhat futuristic world is brought to life skillfully and the charged battles always flow quite well. The character designs also have a unique tint to them, though they might appear awkward at times.
The opening theme, Kings by angela, is catchy and manage to encapsulate the violent energy of the story. The ending themes are average in terms of music but the visuals do stand out.
K is your average above-average anime with just enough charm to it to remain in one’s memory for some time. I would recommend giving it a chance if you’re interested in action-packed fantasy with a touch of humor.