Airing back during the Fall 2013 anime season, Kyokai no Kanata or Beyond The Boundary wasn’t a series that too many people viewed positively or at very the least, felt was out place among Kyoto Animation and it’s usual campy comedy-drama adaptations. Having more of that campy spirit than the dark fantasy edge most people excepted, after revisiting the series I do feel that is a much better production than its made out to be. Not a personal favorite, but one that proves itself to be a nice change of pace.
Title: Beyond The Boundary
Studio: Kyoto Animation (Licensed by Sentai Flimworks)
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, Romance
The dark fantasy follows a high school sophomore named Akihito Kanbara. Although the boy appears human, he is half youmu and invulnerable to wounds because he can heal quickly. One day, Akihito meets freshman Mirai Kuriyama when it seems she is about to jump from the school rooftop. Mirai is isolated because of her ability to manipulate blood, which is unique even among members of the spirit world. Disturbing events begin to unfold after Akihito saves Mirai.
As previously stated, while Beyond The Boundary doesn’t set a strong precedence for itself as a brooding and moody type of fantasy, it is at least one that has a lot of creativity and details that are implemented into the story to create a compelling world. Everything from the role of the Spirit World Warriors to the nature of the youmu, all of it feels very intricately constructed and adds great deal of personality to the occult ambiance. With the Spirit World Warriors acting as the unseen protectors of the world, the theme of isolation and loneliness plays an integral role as Mirai Kuriyama begins to develop a relationship with Akihito Kanbara while trying to make a living as a Spirit World Warrior. Not exactly being a tale of star-crossed lovers a la Romeo and Juliet style, there is a fair amount of platonic and romantic chemistry going on between the two as their past and present situations begin to intertwine. And while the episodes tend to move at a brisk speed, the first few initial ones introducing characters and building the world, for the most part, the pacing or rather, events for the episodes tend to be all over the place. For example: in one of the earlier episodes, there is an event concerning a certain character that is cut short and isn’t revisited again until two episodes later. Being perfectly fine with its place in the story, the conflict does feel unnecessary and only serves a weak transitional point to the real meat of the narrative. Seeing how the series goes through many directorial hands and contains a few original characters created for the occasion (including the aforementioned), the show does have logistical problems and can’t really say that they manage to improve later on.
Where the execution does leave a lot to be desired, the cast of characters and there personalities is a positive point. Besides liking the back and forth antics between Mirai and Akihito, more or less, the other characters do bring a lot to table either that be for the purpose of humor or narrative related. Of course, I find the former to be more evident. Whether it be Hiroomi and his playful relationship with Akihito or his younger sister Mitsuki’s dismissive attitude, there is nice balance between KyoAni’s usual type of exuberant side and the more serious nature. As aforementioned, comedy is an aspect that the series does tend overextend and the character dispositions only making that more apparent, yet appreciate the attempt more than shun it.
For a studio that is steeping outside its element, Kyoto Animation does a fine job with the animation. The combat sequences are overtly flashy and accented by superfluous details, but do like that the style and oddly fits in with the overall presentation. Around episode 10 onward, the animation quality does seem to get unwieldy with transitions and movements seemingly choppy, but holds up throughout. Knowing Kyoto Animation and its usual style of bright-eyed characters and moeblobs, the artwork and designs were also just as expected. While it should go without saying, my favorite in terms of design would have to be Mirai and her oversized glasses that definitely perpetuate the moe charm I mentioned earlier. Composer Masumi Ito (or known as Hikaru Nanase) provides a nice soundtrack that is mostly orchestral in nature and has very somber or fearful timbre to it. My favorite tracks are Overcoming The Past (Norikoeru Beki Kako) and Raising The Curtain On A Strangers Story (Sukoshi Fushigi na Monogatari no Kaimaku), both containing a very light, yet haunting melody. Of course, the ending theme Daisy by Stereo Dive Foundation is also not bad and has very mellow, upbeat tempo to it. With Sentai Filmworks bringing the English release, this does include a dubbed track alongside the original Japanese that is actually very nice. I personally enjoyed Krystal LaPorte as Mirai using her signature catchphrase of sorts and other familiar voices like Monica Rial as Mitsuki Nase did a fine job.
Ending off on the same note as it began, except with a few more useless story threads unraveled that will probably serve as the basis for the movie, Beyond The Boundary is a less than admirable production. Having issues with the pacing, episode flow, and too many genre shades working against each other, I do at least like how it captures some of the fantasy elements and concepts, along with character personalities and setting. For long time Kyoto Animation fans, it probably won’t be a title that you be too fond of, but for the adventurous, uninitiated, and those that don’t mind something different from the usual thoroughfare, there is some enjoyment that can be had. All-in-all, Beyond The Boundary is a title that definitely squanders the potential it has going for it, yet still turns out to be anything less than average.
Pros: Nicely built fantasy world and concepts governing it, interesting character roles and likable personalities, animation quality has its moments, soundtrack,.
Cons: Episode events and pacing feels slightly off, comedic relief and humor used too often, animation quality has issues in later episodes.