Last week, I had Kyoukai no Kanata pegged for an episode full of awesome combat choreography. The first half was just that, a chase through a labyrinth of jumbled escalators mixed with argumentative running and some clever action that screwed with my sense of direction to all hell while never losing me entirely. It definitely helped that the banter, both between Mirai and Akihito and between the siblings when they cut away from the main action, felt as natural as could be. I wouldn’t say the show is firing on all cylinders, but there’s definitely a piston pumping that engine full of organic uncertainty.
The cycle of angst Akihito went through after was a bit less compelling, but it did at least advance his relationship with Mirai a bit. I was mostly tuned out of that scene until she got involved.* I wasn’t really feeling the main couple from a dramatic perspective, but her town-saving hug started a shift in that dynamic.
It was the scene at the end, though, that really did it for me. The one where, after all the battles, all the longest-day crap they had to put up with, they ended up eating Chinese buffet. Mirai happily munching down while Akihito stares blankly (but without worry) at her across the counter. I’m taking that all the way away from this outing. It was very “morning after the now not the apocalypse”, reminding me of a certain other post-climax restaurant scene.
Looking back on it, these first 4 episodes have felt a bit like an OVA. It opened with a character-based scene, slowly built up to the climactic battle with a ratcheted-up sense of the supernatural, and cut out with a final scene that could well have been a decent stopping point. I think the biggest direction the series can grow at this point is by investing more time in making the main cast feel at ease with each other. The biggest potential pitfall would be to introduce a bunch of new characters and keep trying to fill them in (that might work with 24 episodes, but this story doesn’t have that kind of time).
*General statements about this sort of thing are never absolute, but here you go; Second-tier writing is about characters, First-tier writing is a bout relationships. You’ve gotta have the latter to have the former, but even a great character can’t carry a show all the way without some form of help.
Likewise, the best shows tend to be the ones where it’d still be a 8/10, 9/10 product if they took an eraser to the best character. For example, Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji is still a riveting human drama even without the title character.