K Project is to Durarara what Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is to Hellsing.
First impression over, clearly I don’t need to explain myself any further!
…ok maybe a little explaining.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is dark gothic fantasy distilled down into its purest and most gothicy form. It’s so devoted and thorough with this vision that you can’t help but be drawn into the world it created and appreciate the lengths it goes to establish that. Hellsing takes that general world and characters and filters it down and makes it a bit more self-aware and off-kilter. Instead of playing everything straight, the characters are quirkier and more outlandish, becoming larger than life people who outshine their surroundings.
Durarara therefore is the Hellsing in this analogy. It takes that same setting and character and story types, but then shifts everything in the tone of the more eccentric with larger than life characters and so on. K is the purer version of that, with the eccentricities shelved and everything reverts back to this original tone, but in a way that so thoroughly embraces that tone and aesthetic that you can’t help but appreciate it on that level.
What tone it’s actually trying to achieve is harder to pin down, since I’m not sure it even has a name. The closest cultural touchpoint I can think of is the sort of garish black-eyeliner wearing asian rock boybands. You know the way they all wear cool street clothing with useless attachments and chains and they all stare at the camera with laid-back glares, like they’re angry at the world for not being cool enough for them. If you were ever a nerdy teenage girl, I’d say there’s a decent chance that you were probably into this sort of aesthetic at some point. It’s kind of like how a lot of nerdy teenage boys go through a phase when they want nothing else in the world more than a battleaxe.
Everything about K filters into this aesthetic it’s going for. The way the entire street gang are perplexingly attractive and stride like they plan to compete in the next Olympics for the gold medal in Swaggering. The weird blue/green filter that was over most of the episode tied into this look too, because nothing makes you look cooler than pretending you’re under neon street lamps in the daylight. Where it does suffer is the characters having to conform to these archetypes in order to fit the tone. It’s particularly jarring when you do the obvious comparisons to DRRR. Which is also kind of a problem with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. D doesn’t really stand up as an interesting character when put next to Alucard.
K couldn’t pull this look off if it didn’t have the budget, which it clearly does. Anyone who had seen the promo material knew that, but woah boy is it nice to see it continue throughout the entire episode. Characters look a bit noodle-people at times, but this blog is named after Geass so fuck yeah noodle people. It also likes to show off an awful lot, which gets a bit eye-rolly at times. Particularly the skateboarding kid and the fish lens. Pretty sure we spent more time watching him skateboard than watching him talk.
Or anyone talk for that matter. For all the hype of them bringing in a hugely talented cast, they sure don’t talk that much. Maybe they spent so much money on the animation and bringing in the voice actors that they suddenly realised they didn’t have any more funds to pay them to voice everything, so instead they cut the amount of actual speaking in the anime dramatically. If that’s the case, long may this trend last! It’s fucking fantastic that we can have an anime that doesn’t have omnipresent narration and actually allows us to figure out what’s going on for ourselves. It was kinda depressing seeing people say they had no idea what was going on because you didn’t have some twat saying “as you know, we get magic from our handsomeness, drawing our power from the blue/green filter”.
K is so full of itself, which makes it incredibly easy to laugh at. But it’s in that same fashion I laugh at Lord of the Rings or Shakespeare plays, where there’s something inherently amusing about something so fully in its own little world. Many of the things K does, like the swaggering bishies or the blue/green filter, would probably be annoying if they were on their own. But combine them together and it breaks some kind of cynical ceiling and I want in on its world.
When the castle spire rocket took off with the vampire prince burning slowly to death as he held his dying lover in his arms in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, I wanted to buy a medieval broadsword and learn how to read tarot cards. When the ponytailed bishie pulled back the blue/green filter and then used it to propel himself over the bandanna wearing skateboarder in K, I wanted to paint my fingernails black and yell at my parents for not understanding how great my new favourite jrock band were.