From the beginning, Kyoukai no Kanata reminded me of a mid-major series; the type of show laced with explosive potential and nuclear flaws for which execution makes the difference between all-time and forgettable. There are many of these types of shows, though comparatively few that I’ve followed this season.* And while they might not always end up being entertaining to watch, they’re always very enlightening to discuss, because they’re the easiest case studies for the difference execution can make for the same core set of ideas. This show fits that paradigm to a T; it has a very definite set of strengths and weaknesses, and does not understand what they are. An episode that stuffed in some questionable presentation choices with very genuine moments from the main cast served to underscore that core issue.
It’s hard to mention good ideas executed poorly without mentioning how the music terrifically clashed with the scenery at the end there. There’s no question that opening/ending themes can be used in a number of powerful ways; I’ve seen it work enough times (via Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Un-Go, to name two recent examples) to know it’s a pretty reliable tactic. What separated this from, say, Kuragehime bringing back the love, is that the opening isn’t very well-fitted to the scene in question. It reminds me of Zetsuen no Tempest earlier this year, which ran an upbeat happy ending song that did not at all sync with a scene that was unmistakably hoping to be tragic. I actually liked this scene because of how dynamic that hug was, so it’s a step up from the worst case, but that came the emotions behind it, a strength that came out in spite of the musical accompaniment.
While the show is going through the motions of an extremely forgettable dramatic plot, many of its enjoyable parts, the ones that popped out in the first episodes and continue to carry it as a whole. The non-antagonistic cast still has great banter routines. The fight choreography is still desperately great. It’s at the point where the finale could very reasonably dock or add a point to my final score depending on how the variables shake out. Depending, of course, on the execution of it all.
*By my count, the “least surprising surprises” mid-major slate this season consists of Outbreak Company, Arpeggio, maybe Kyoukai, and maybe Samurai Flamenco that’s it. All the others were ones you either knew what they were about from the outset (White Album and Golden Time with romance, Kuroko’s Basketball with guys playing supersports, Gingitsune and Non Non Biyori with their atmospheric everyday life, etc.), very heavily teased what they would be about, or were checked out of the game from week one. I call bullshit on anyone who claims to have cracked the rubik’s cube that is SF or the lottery that is OBC after one episode.