You know, it’s kind of strange that I’m watching two beautifully animated shows about a world where demons and supernatural powers are apparently the norm in the same season. There’s obviously major differences between them of course. You can sort of see the LN influences regarding Kyoukai no Kanata whilst Yozakura Quartet could be mistaken for an anime original adaptation (although the latest episode showed signs of shonen manga cliches). KyoAni has never shown a panty ever since the days of Full Metal Panic whilst YQ won’t stop flashing Ao’s underwear at me. But I think the most interesting thing about them is how they differ in regards to building up their stories.
Both series pretty much start out by throwing you into the world and expecting you to buy that demons exist without any questions whatsoever. Both start out with a hook: supernatural creatures are out to cause trouble and the main characters must defeat them. However, the tone of the introduction is different for both shows. KnK basically tries to get you to know the characters through that ol’ KyoAni moe comedy that really isn’t funny and needs to stop, as well as engaging in witty banter that kinda feels like it was written by Joss Whedon at times aka it’s pretty bad too. With that said, it does tell you all of the essentials you need to understand what’s going on at a reasonable pace and the first episodes ends with some cool supernatural action that ends on a semi-serious cliffhanger.
YQ‘s pacing by comparison is a bit more rushed. This is obviously because this is a reboot that has already had two previous iterations, and just like FMA: Brotherhood, it kind of assumes you know who the huge cast of characters already are and thus introduces them rapidly with only a couple of lines and them doing stuff. Whilst I appreciate getting to know a character through their actions rather than words, I’d prefer it if you didn’t introduce that many characters with that method. You’re not exactly Ryogho Narita you know. And like KnK, the first episode ends with a guy causing some chaos with the only difference being that the chaos is resolved in this episode and the characters are having more fun. So it’s a bit of a messier hook, but it’s still a hook nevertheless. And the fact that it accomplishes what KnK does not as succesfully but with a lot more ground to cover, is an achievement on its own.
These are just their first episodes though. From here, the buildup to whatever story is trying to be made differs quite a lot, at least based on the three episodes so far.
KnK has so far favored plot and comedy over character-building. It basically gives you the bare necessities in order for you to find what’s happening interesting whilst not being invested enough to relate to what’s going on. In a sense, that’s a good thing because it avoids all the false-character building tedium that made Shana a chore to watch, despite its visual aesthetics and all. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of supernatural stuff like Shin Sekai Yori and Shiki, you’re probably not going to like what’s going on. The story itself isn’t exactly heavy so far and the characters are serviceable but not memorable (although you’ll be hard-pressed for me to recall a single character from Shiki or SSY aside from Squealer). In short, KnK so far is meant to be a standard supernatural story with standard KyoAni characters set in a really cool world, except unlike Railgun, it uses that world for actually cool things rather than yuri antics.
YQ goes the opposite approach in that it’s more episodic character-based in its buildup. Not much has happened threat-wise and whatnot, but it’s dedicating its time to making you hanging out with these characters in order to grow attached to them. Thankfully though, it does all this with an internal structure for each episodic event, so it doesn’t tediously meander like one of those slice-of-life shows that are about healing or whatnot, allowing me to anticipate the plot whilst being satisfied at the stand-alone episodes. The tone is light-hearted, but in a more natural way than KnK (barring the panty shots I mean). The character development is mostly important to the plot (so far) because it introduces new concepts and fighting techniques that will most surely be utilized later. Its only real downfall is that if the plot that happens later doesn’t make use of Akina’s tuning or whatnot, then these episodes, whilst interesting, will be as pointless as performing a bunch of flips in a karate tournament.
Personal opinion-wise, I liken Kyoukai no Kanata’s storytelling method to Danganronpa’s. It won’t get anything more than a decent score from me at the rate it’s going, but at least its entertaining me throughout without insulting my intelligence, and the characters (minus Mirai, and I can deal with her when she’s fighting people) are interesting enough to the point that they aren’t taking me out of the experience. Hopefully something post-apocalyptic happens at the end though because I really want to love a KyoAni show again. Yozakura Quartet’s storytelling method is definitely for a more mainstream audience with a great style so I should praise it more, but unfortunately I’ve read the manga and know how things go. And I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of some of the story directions the source took. Unless the adaptation changes things up a bit, it probably won’t get more from me than a decent score either. However, it’s also the safest of the two because I know it’s not going to end up being extremely crap later on, provided the director doesn’t lose it; whilst with KnK, I can mostly predict, but not confirm at all.
Both shows have my attention and similar premises, but the execution as of this writing couldn’t be more different between them. And that’s pretty cool.
PS: By the way, have you noticed that the two noitamina shows, Galilei Donna and Samurai Flamenco, are pretty much the same as KnK and YQ respectively in regards to their buildup, despite being completely different stories? I was going to do a post talking about their differences in regards to how they tell their story too, but realized it’d be a rehash of this post and stopped.
PPS: Hopefully this is the last time I name drop Kyoukai no Kanata in a post for a while.