Let’s get my opinion about this show clear, just to be safe; Kekkai Sensen is something you really should watch. I’m not joking when I say this show is so impressive that I think it has the potential to become a classic up there with the likes of Cowboy Bebop and other anime classics of Adult Swim fame. You think I’m joking right, well I’m not. Not only is Kekkai Sensen one of the most visually impressive action spectacles I’ve seen in recent years, but it also has an emotionally interesting story that could potentially put some substance behind the enjoyable presentation. Kekkai Sensen is really that good!
Before I get to the show’s actual content though, I would briefly like to give you a rundown on what makes this show so successful, aka the director Rie Matsumoto. Now, if you don’t already know, Matsumoto is mostly known for her work on the cult classic TV show Kyousougiga (Forget about the OVA’s, they’re completely useless), and I’m going to be honest with you, that show was my favorite one from 2013. It was extremely well directed, and had a heart warming story about family that perfectly blended together a whimsical Alice in Wonderland tone with cool Japanese folklore. I was absolutely amazed by it, and could not wait for the director’s next project! Luckily for me it was announced last year, with Studio Bones and Matsumoto producing a series based of Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow’s latest manga.
The story of Kekkai Sensen follows Leonardo Watch, a former reporter who has moved to Hellsalem’s Lot in order to get rid of his new god powered eyes, and by extension, help cure his sister Michella. However, nothing is that simple in Hellsalem’s Lot, which is crawling with aliens from the Alter-world, otherwise known as the Beyond. This leads Leonardo to seek out and join Libra, a group of super powered Hellsalem residents who try to maintain order and peace within the confines of the closed off city. Will Leonardo be able to cure Michella’s eyesight though? And what how will Libra deal with all the Vampires, deities, and incidents thrown onto them?
In retrospect, Kekkai Sensen is one of those directorial and source material match ups that seems perfect in hindsight. The setting of Hellsalem’s Lot is filled with alien imagery and tons of cool set pieces, making it perfect for Rie Matsumoto’s love of cosmetic minutiae. Combine this with Nightow’s strong religious ideologies, and you’ve got yourself a potentially very interesting series. I say potentially, because while these four episodes have been great, they have yet to reveal what is truly the plot to the series. Is it stopping Femt the King of Depravity? Are the hordes of Vampires the real issue here? And what about that mysterious girl Shiro and her brother?
If there is one thing that’s clear, it seems to be that the show is about how the world is full of crazy things, but in the end surviving it and protecting the ones you love is extremely important. This is best represented through Klaus Von Reinhertz, who is ostensibly Vash from Trigun, albeit not as self-sacrificing. In episode three, he decides to protect a Russian minister from Don Arlelelle, a monster who you play chess-like game called Prosfair with in order to grant wishes. With the minister at death’s door, Klaus bravely goes into a 99 hour chess battle, patiently sitting through the hellish match. Arlelelle eventually asks him why he’s protecting the minister, to which Klaus responds, “People are weak, and because of their weakness, they make decisions that disrespect themselves. But so what? That’s no reason for me to alter the way I live my life.”
Klaus believes that the world is a harsh and cruel place, but persevering and finding something to fight for is something everyone should strive to do. You can see this reflected in many struggles throughout the show, from Leonardo trying to save his sister Michella, to Klaus, well, just being Klaus. Yes, the message isn’t that groundbreaking, but it’s delivered with so much style and panache that’s it hard not to be wowed by even the tiniest of gestures in this show.
That panache is largely attributed to Matsumoto’s spectacular direction, which as I mentioned before, is filled to the brim with little details and beautiful animation. There’s something to look at in every single shot of this show: The backgrounds are amazingly detailed, the character animation is spot on, and the use of shot composition is just perfect. There are some shots in here that I could just drool at for days! Of course, it isn’t perfect. Character models are occasionally muddled from far distances and the screen can get too cramped with weird imagery sometimes, but overall it’s an amazing production from top to bottom. Rie Matsumoto, please direct more shows!
So I think with all the gushing you just heard, you can probably deduce that I really love Kekkai Sensen. From episode one onward it’s been an amazing watch filled with stunning animation, direction, and a story that holds a ton of potential. I still have so many questions that I want answered, and I just can’t wait to see where this show goes in future episodes. Maybe this show will just end up being a flash in the pan of fun episodic adventures, or maybe it will capitalize on its core themes and story; but either way I’ll be completely satisfied. Go watch Kekkai Sensen!
And with that I bid you adieu! See you in the next post.