I’ll have a go at explaining this, although I’m not entirely sure I understood it all after watching the whole series. Also, it’s one of those series where everything you think you know at the start turns out to be not quite right at the end, so I’ll stick to the basic premise. This is one of many anime series where spirit creatures co-exist with humans, something that taps into Japanese beliefs. As is common with this sort of story, only certain people can see the spirit creatures, known as “youmu”. Some of them co-exist peacefully, some don’t, and I think the idea is that they represent emotions and different sides of human nature, so that’s quite a thought-provoking idea.
So let’s get to some of the main characters. There’s Akihito who is half-youmu and immortal. He also has a thing for girls who wear glasses. That’s handy, because the other main character is Mirai, who wears glasses. She is one of several characters in the series who go around trying to kill the youmu, and her main target is Akahito. There’s not a lot of point in that, because he’s immortal, so it doesn’t matter how many times she stabs him. The other characters are mainly made up of other warriors who try to kill the youmu, and I won’t bother going into any detail about them because frankly none of them stood out particularly much to me.
I’ll be honest. I’m probably not the target audience for this kind of thing. This might sound odd, because I’m writing a blog that mainly covers sci-fi, fantasy and anime, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a sci-fi or fantasy fan. I’ve watched loads of the stuff, but I think that’s because both genres at their best are brilliant at examining the human condition, and that’s what fascinates me. Give me a sci-fi that’s also a great soppy romance, or a sci-fi that’s hilarious, or a sci-fi that has a brilliant cast of memorable characters, and I’m in. Give me a sci-fi that exists to wow the audience with space battles and knobbly-headed aliens and I’m nodding off. There has to be something more to it than that. That’s why I absolutely loved the sixth episode of this series, and only the sixth episode. It concerns the team trying to defeat a youmu that releases a flood of stinky liquid when it is under threat, and features repeated attempts to distract it, including an elaborate dance number. It’s absolutely hilarious and just the right amount of silly, and I loved it.
Unfortunately, that’s the exception. Too many episodes focus on a big, impressive battle, and I can’t deny that Kyoto Animation do this kind of thing with incredible style, but it’s just not enough for me. The romance element could have solved the problem, but it never really goes anywhere until right at the end, and is too reliant on Akihito’s glasses fetish. If I’m going to watch a soppy romance I want to see characters falling in love for some other reason than their looks. Yes, there is a little more to it than that, but mainly on the side of Mirai. Despite having something akin to a split personality, Akihito is a decidedly one-sided main character, openly admitting to being a pervert. That’s disappointing, because I need to like the main characters to be invested in a show, and if I don’t like them they need to make me laugh. A glasses fetish isn’t enough of a basis for comedy, and just makes him seem shallow. At times it also looks like a love triangle could be developing, but it never comes to anything much, and I doubt I’ll remember any of the supporting characters after a few weeks.
I realise I have been very critical about a series that is quite acclaimed, and I have to acknowledge that the problem might be more with me than the series. Maybe I just don’t have the right kind of brain for this stuff. Half the time I didn’t have a clue what was going on. So my advice is this: if you are a fan of sci-fi anime then this is a high quality one of those and you will probably love it. If you’re not, give it a go anyway, and if you don’t feel inspired to continue after the first episode then at least skip to episode six and have a look at that. The sight of the main characters getting repeatedly washed off the school roof by a flood of stinky liquid is the highlight of the series. If only every episode could have been more like that.
Beyond the Boundary is a 12 episode series of the usual 20-25 minutes episode length. There is also a prequel OVA episode, not included on the “Complete Collection” region 2 DVD set, despite the running time on my set bizarrely being listed a 2775 minutes. Somebody got their maths wrong there I think. I haven’t bothered to track down the OVA. My “to be watched” pile is heading for the ceiling, so there are bigger priorities.
I’ll leave you with the dance from episode 6, edited together into one complete dance routine. RP