First released: October 2012 Version reviewed: BluRay
The first scene of the first episode of K is an animatedslideshow of castnames in English, each set with a different font. It’s definitely an odd way to start the series, given that as a fresh viewer, the names mean nothing, but the lingering sentiment is that, as with the clash of different fonts, this is a series that is fighting desperately for a personality of its own. There’s no question it has style, but rather than having too much of it, it has too many.
eternally trapped building its world rather than getting on with telling a story within it
There’s the main story, for instance, of Yashiro Isana, a mysterious boy who has been framed for murder. Then there’s the other main story of Mikoto Suoh, the Red King, and his street gang battling against the Blue King, Reisi Munakata. Or the other main story about Kuroh Yatogami attempting to hunt down the Colourless King before he ascends to power, and the relationship he may have with the all powerful Silver King. There’s an awful lot going on but in spite of this, the series manages to be almost unceasingly boring.
As I was sorting through the screenshots for Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun) I found myself first smirking, then chuckling, laughing, and then finally guffawing so much that I had to rewatch one of the scenes just to provide some kind of closure. It’s that kind of series: where in context it’s funny but in isolation, it’s perhaps even more so.
grinning since the moment the episode started
It starts humbly enough with that most stalwart of high school romance tropes: the confession. In this case by the adorably diminutive Chiyo Sakura to the tall and stoic Umetarou Nozaki. Confusion abounds when he thinks she is asking for an autograph because she’s a fan of his shoujo manga. That’s the hook at least, in reality the series relies on two core jokes that the rest orbit around.
Just try all the keys in the bloody pendant. I don’t care whether it’s a metaphor for sex anymore or who out of the numerous girls you made the promise to when you were a toddler, this kind of tomfoolery has gone on long enough. Based on a lot of anime, Nisekoi (False Love) especially, if I ever have children I will impress upon them the perils of making promises to childhood friends because from the evidence, all it causes is trauma further down the line.
Nisekoi’s initial hook is standard “only in anime” fare: the son of a Yakuza boss, Raku, is forced to pretend he’s romantically involved with the daughter, Chitoge, of another gang boss. The two obviously fight like cats and dogs yet must maintain the facade of a couple in love lest hostilities between the two criminal enterprises escalate into a full on street war. I say “initial” hook because although that’s all covered in the first episode, the storyline the series is more interested in telling is about the promise Raku made with an unknown girl when he was younger, a girl who holds the literal key to his figurative heart / literal pendant.
There are innumerable possible classifications for anime series. There are ones that are unique and one-of-a-kind, ones that could never be bettered or impersonated. There are ones that are distinctive, flourishing because of their individuality. There are genre pieces that may not stand out on topic but do by embodying the best of their genre. There are derivative series that cherry pick the tropes du-jour and throw them together in the often futile hope of producing a hit. Then there’s D-Frag. A series so staunchly bereft of personality, so picked over by committee and with all its rough edges sanded down that it’s difficult to lump any kind of praise upon it beyond “it’s not terrible”.
at its best when it goes completely off the reservation
Not great, but not terrible. A pleasant mediocre. It goes laser like for the apathetic part of the brain that isn’t particularly engaged with any of the characters or events, but isn’t offended enough to discontinue watching. Its a school club love story with a light comedy scaffold with an all-too familiar one guy - multiple girls setup. The protagonist, spikey haired delinquent and chronic screamer Kenji, has been coerced into joining the “Game Development Club” in order to save it from forced disbandment; cue hijinks.