28 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

K episode 1 – Swagger like your life depends on it

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.

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  1. Posted October 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    For all the hype of them bringing in a hugely talented cast, they sure don’t talk that much

    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

    In other words, more showing and less telling :)

    • SQA
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      There’s been a minor revolt in a few places because the series director expects people to make logical conclusions from clearly presented information. “Oh god, we didn’t get our info dump via 5 minutes of inane chatter!” — seems to be the sentiment.

      I’ve lol’d pretty hard.

      • Posted October 6, 2012 at 3:29 am | Permalink

        Minor? My Twitter timeline makes it look like a major revolt (its cause I follow too many people).

      • Scamp
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I’m a bit confused by people’s reactions, because it wasn’t like it was super difficult to understand. Kid killed someone, now street gangs are after him. Also magic. [shrug]

  2. ZabiLegacy
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    It was a very good first episode, but my “This could end up like guilty Crown” sense is sending me all sorts of warnings.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Guilty Crown has ruined enjoying good anime for me

  3. Blackstealth97
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Loved this post and I also look forward to how K will develop. So far I can’t see anything wrong with it but that can easily change for better or worse.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      The only real problem I have is the characters are too keen to stick to archetypes, and boring archetypes at that. Also I’m a bit wary it might get pretentious, but that didn’t happen in the first episode so chin up for now

  4. Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    The mob mentality that requires to bash the living gaylights out of K is astounding. I like how the most common criticisms on the show are ‘it doesn’t say anything about the plot’, ‘Too many hot guys and tries hard to be cool’ and ‘BLUE FILTERS’.

    I like K for the same reasons as you do. It’s unique simply because it embraces its tropes and animation as a visual medium. Even with such a star studded cast, the show opts to show– not tell. It’s just so fucking awesome in that sense. Sure it could be a trainwreck but seeing how most of the stuff in the trailers has yet to make its way into the show, I’m at least counting on a fantastic visual feast.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      I was going to agree with the mob mentality, but I’ve gotten universally positive comments on this post so I guess those who didn’t like it were just much louder?

      • Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        so I guess those who didn’t like it were just much louder?

        I don’t know about that, I mean almost every complaint is same as the other with lends me to think that some opinions are being prematurely influenced even before seeing the show. But oh well, at least people here like K and that’s…oKay.

  5. Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m just surprised that out of all the anime that would be divisive amongst the crowd (besides Tonari), it would be K. Really? This was the anime that people were divided on? The one that actually showed instead of told?

    Out of curiosity, did you get a firm grasp on what the plot of this episode was?

    • Scamp
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Kid kills guy. Gangs chase down kid. Magic. Bishies

  6. Inushinde
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    K is stylish as all hell, and it uses that pretty damn well in the first episode. Some shows can get away with that because they’re so damn fun, and this just might be one of them.

  7. Mr. Anon
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    The directing and music directing was pretty awesome. For a second there I wondered if I was watching a Watanabe show.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen Champloo comparisons, but I think Watanabe is a bit more…different? You know, more eccentric rather than playing it as straight as K does

      • Mr. Anon
        Posted October 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Well that’s why it only lasted a second. :P

        The skateboarding for example really reminded me of Watanabe’s work in the Animatrix (Kid’s Story). As for the music direction, things like how the music changed when that blue haired police(?) guy drew his sword was really similar to how Watanabe will make the music flow in tandem with the animation.

  8. Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    More showing than telling is something that’s supposed to be a good thing and a lot of people don’t really realize this. My problem with K though is that I was so jawdropped with the visuals that I couldn’t pay attention/care about what was going on. Not that I want the visuals to be less creative or anything nor am I actually complaining though it’s kinda slightly obvious that this is gonna be an anime that goes with the rule style>substance.

  9. Billish
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Awesome post, scamp. I couldn’t get past that guys chain tho… soooooo laaaaaammmmeeeee.
    Also the skating scenes camera angle styles … were stolen i’m sure of it.

  10. Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    lol swag.

  11. Lanf
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I really was astonished by the animating, but for me, I don’t think it’s a case that I didn’t understand what was happening due to a lack of dialogue, but not a great deal actually happened. That’s fine though, because it’s just the first episode, I think it’s way too early to be judging the plot…

  12. eternia
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    They steal scenes from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater!

    PS : thechartdriver is lelouch (?)

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      lol, exactly what I said on Twitter. I would NOT be surprised if I had seen, like, Chad Muska or Elissa Steamer or whoever in that same type of fisheye lens while skating on stairs shot.

      Anyway, I dug this episode. I can see how the complaint that not much actually happens in this episode is valid, but the cries for more explanation strike me as silly. Would you really have liked it that much more if a bunch of time had been spent applying Proper Nouns to everything?

      • Scamp
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I’ll agree with Not Much Happening, since most of the episode was establishing the world and setting the tone. Mind you, if they had gone route of having loads happen but the same amount of limited explanation, it would have been pretty bad

  13. Desi
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    The thing that worriers me most is that our MC and his sidekick look a bit too much like NO.6 protagonists for comfort.

    • Embok
      Posted October 7, 2012 at 1:43 am | Permalink

      Oh yeah, this big time. The episode was good but when the protagonist started blushing I definitely got a No. 6 vibe. I don’t have a problem with that, I’m just saying it’s only a matter of time until the kiss scene.

      Also I love how half the important male characters have glasses. So much glorious fujoshi pandering.

      • eternia
        Posted October 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        guys in glasses are dreamy~

  14. Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Swagger? Well…I don’t know about that. Certainly they don’t swagger like their life depended on it. Really. The ultimate is swagger, the measure of swagger, is Cromartie high School. No one swaggers like those dudes from Cromartie High School.

    These dudes don’t. Not in that manly way.

    But…..that’s okay. They do swagger, mind, but it’s more like the swagger of someone who was booed out of the womb.

    As for me, I’m looking forward for an explanation of why Victorique de Blois from GOSICk is hanging out with them. I’m sure that mystery is soon to be revealed.

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