Life lessons from a seven-year-old girl: Kurenai anime review and discussion

My habit of writing about random anime continues. This time I write about Kurenai. Since this is yet another out-of-date review, I’ll make sure that you won’t be reading conventional one. Here, I am raising some noteworthy points I gathered from watching the series along with interesting lessons that make this anime worth the watch and even re-watch.

The primer

There’s nothing outstanding about the story of Kurenai. Kuhoin family was rich and the women of the family were forced to live in a sanctuary completely isolated from the world. Their duty was to give birth to offspring of pure Kuhoin blood. Murasaki was born a Kuhoin girl and was locked up in the sanctuary since sh was born. Trying to do what Murasaki’s mother wished, Benika kidnapped Murasaki from her golden cage and hid in a lowly apartment under the protection of Shinkuro. Most of the story was about Murasaki’s life as a commoner. She eventually fell in love with her new life, her new friends and became stronger person. Despite the slice-of-life theme, the viewers would occasionally find themselves in bloody gangster action-thriller scenes and, in one episode, musical plays.

Dominant female characters

It is not uncommon to see characters made up mostly by female in slice-of-life shows. Kurenai’s casts were almost entirely female. Not only that, I also noticed that these ladies were very dominant in characters compared to men. The two prominent male characters were Shinkuro and Renjo. Shinkuro was young and felt insecure for most of the time. His lack of self confidence was evident in his decision to implant blade (‘horn’) in his arm. During the show, we saw him grew stronger as he became attached to Murasaki. Renjo was also weak. He was, by name, the head of Kuhoin family but was unable to stand for what he thought was right even when it concerned the ones he loved.

On the other hand, the female characters were portrayed as being strong and dominant. Even the seven-year-old Murasaki, she was young but very intelligent and in the end could make her stand against her powerful family. Benika, Yayoi and Lin were skilled fighter and in Benika’s case, she was an idealist who did everything in her power to make things right. The quiet Ginko used her connection and information as her shield and weapon. Yuuno, who always acted innocent and cheerful, was actually trained in martial arts.

I thought these strong women’s roles could easily be replaced by male characters. The use of female characters in such dominant position was one of the most distinguished qualities of Kurenai. I wasn’t sure about the logic behind this choice of characters’ gender. Maybe it was because the target audience was female or maybe the anime just subtly inserted gender equality issues to the viewers.

When the filler episode was the best episode in the series

As a result of trying to incorporate a few too many contrasting elements into one show, Kurenai often stumbled in its narrative and the flow of story. There were slow slice-of-life sequences and then there were faster-than-light brutal fight scenes coming the next moment. Some episodes wandered significantly too far from the main plot. And it was curious to see 12-episode long series having so many fillers and finding itself hastily wrapping up the story in the final two episodes.

But as it happened, one of those filler episodes was, for lack of better word, fantastic. I didn’t know the official name of this episode but it’s the sixth one. I called it ‘Kurenai the musical’. Aside from the fact it was immensely amusing, this episode somehow got me into all of the characters of Kurenai in a way that regular episodes could never have. Plus, the lyrics of the musical were parallel to the relationship between the characters. Music dual between Yuuno (playing ‘Jennifer’) and Murasaki (playing ‘Maria’?) that represented their conflict over the same man (Shinkuro) was the most obvious example of this observation.

There’s a difference between giving up on your life and embracing your destiny

Now this is probably the heart of this article. Kurenai did not give me the most satisfying conclusion, or the most convincing one. Sudden change of character and abrupt improvement in combat skills were too incredible to believe. But the final message the anime tried to deliver was interesting and, well, deep. At first, Murasaki’s decision to stay with her abusive family seemed crazy. Why didn’t she just run away or choose to bring down her rotten family like her counterparts in other anime?

Murasaki did not deny her own destiny or that she was born a Kuhoin woman. She did not run away from the Kuhoins but instead, embraced it and tried to protect it. And by protecting, she meant to change the old tradition of her family. A noble resolution, I give her that. It took a stronger person to confront his/her own problem rather than simply dismiss it and dream of another life. I liked how Murasaki faced her own problems.  It might look way too mature for a seven-year-old and the anime didn’t reveal if she succeed in her mission. But that’s beside the point, I supposed.

In conclusion, Kurenai was a neatly made anime in terms of looks, sound and content. Though it was not all that consistent in storytelling, it had many shining moments that really impressed me. Plus, it gave me some valuable lessons in life.

Rating: B

Facts

Title: Kurenai
Genre: slice-of-life, drama, musical (?!)
Released date: April 3, 2008 – June 19, 2008
Episodes: 12
Animated by: Brain’s Base

11 responses to “Life lessons from a seven-year-old girl: Kurenai anime review and discussion

  1. Atcharee Vivattanaseth

    Interesting story!!

  2. The anime version was fine, but the liked the OVA’s slightly more along with the manga.

  3. The last time I watched this series was back when it was airing in 2008. Though oddly enough in the past few days I’ve been thinking back on this series and remembering how enjoyable it was, and then sure enough you write this great review that has convinced me to add this series to the top of my list of anime to rewatch!

    I completely agree that the musical episode was by far the best of the series! It was just so amazing in every way! Also in terms of making the cast dominantly female…I can’t truly find the logic behind it either, but I think it’s partially just to contrast Murasaki’s home life (an overpowering patriarch) and the real world. Or I at least think it would have seemed awkward if the series was mostly male characters and that Murasaki would be able to interact with them the same way as she does with the females.

    • Thank you for sharing!
      I think you could be right about Murasaki’s interaction. With female characters and mostly passive Shinkuro, Murasaki could act more naturally and possibly less awkward ;)

  4. What a resolute choice for a 7-year-old! I’m sure if I watch this anime, Murasaki would certainly become one of my favorite characters as well.

  5. Interesting! I was just recently reading about this on MAL and considering watching it some time soon this summer. It seems rather unique–perhaps even more than I thought?
    I mean… an episode that’s a musical? This I’ve gotta see.

    • It was definitely more unique than its image and general summary would lead you to believe. So yeah, it’s a good choice for summer :)

  6. Pingback: Life can always start anew: 2012 wrap-up and 5th year anniversary! | Canne's anime review blog

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