Kuragehime: the curses of an adaptation

In the prime real estate market of Tokyo, there is a place where no stylish people are allowed, which no man can step into: a paradise for otaku of the ‘fairer sex’. A refuge hidden away from the critical eyes and harsh realities of modern Japan, a place where they can be themselves, fangirling trains, old men, history, dolls and jellyfish to their hearts content. But what will happen to this paradise when the outside world barges in?

A fateful encounter…

If I remember correctly, Kuragehime probably had the best average reception at the start of the Autumn season. I don’t think there were many manga readers at the start, but even looking back on that beginning now that I’ve half-read the first five volumes, Omori Takahiro and his production team at Brain’s Base managed to capture the atmosphere of Higashimura Akiko’s manga just about perfectly. From the occasionally yawn-inducing snippets of otaku banter to little DAAAWWWW moments of love at first sight, there really was something magical about the first few episodes, even as we rolled out eyes at how the force of fashion that decided to blow his way into the Amamizukan. It helped, of course, that the opening sequence was full of classics!

…my favourite Kuranosuke outfit – well, until THAT DRESS.

One aspect that is particularly attractive about Kuragehime is the development that the main characters receive. Slowly but surely, the Kuranosuke hurricane learns to accept the idiosyncrasies of the Amars, and even begins to appreciate some of the skills that their interests have given them. Likewise, Tsukimi’s great fear of the outside world and its perception of her is slowly overcome as her great otaku obsession is turned into something that she can share with others.

Kuranosuke should really become a makeover artist!

However, the romantic development was what most viewers really enjoyed. The “love at first sight” situation between Shuu and Tsukimi may have been cliched, but the introduction of Inari, the scheming property developer, gave it another dimension through the revelation of Shuu’s most traumatic memory. As commentators on AS noted then, it’d be no laughing matter if such a trick was played in the real world, and I could only feel for Shuu as he took comfort in simply holding the hand of his ‘angel’.

This kind of trauma really shouldn’t be played for laughs.

Unfortunately, the last quarter of Kuragehime did not live up to these high standards. Manga readers started to worry about half-way through, as it became clearer that the anime would end in the middle of nowhere if they kept up the pacing til that point. Sure enough, the development between Shuu and Inari suffered heavily: though the trigger for Inari falling for Shuu remained, it felt somewhat empty without some of the additional interaction that they had in the manga. Admittedly, several anime-only fans were still incredibly happy with how everything was wrapped up, especially with our other main couple growing closer ever so slowly through the venture born out of their interests. Perhaps I too, would have liked it better had I not jumped ahead.

What will become of this love quadrangle? Unfortunately, you’ll have to read the manga for that…

As a result of the unfulfilling compression in it’s final third, Kuragehime would probably have taken the title of “Greatest Disappointment” had I written my normal year review. It’s unfortunate that Higashimura-sensei’s pacing of the story simply didn’t lend itself that well to an adaptation of merely 11 episodes, but this is definitely the worst series composition I’ve seen in the noitaminA timeslot*, barring perhaps the first season of Nodame. I will never forget how delightful the first half was – that alone will have me buying some of the manga in support of the author – but this adaptation has left a bitter taste in my mouth: that its primary purpose was to be a glorified advertisement for the manga. Still, in memory of the good times, let’s finish on a bright note:

☆KIRA☆BOSHI☆ !

* p.s. If you want to know, my other noitaminA shows are Honey and Clover I and II, Ayakashi and Mononoke, Nodame, Moyashimon, Genji, Eden of the East, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Trapeze, House of Five Leaves and Shiki. (Entire NoitaminA list here)

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Kuragehime: the curses of an adaptation

  1. Pingback: Wit and subtlety in Shinrei Tantei Yakumo « HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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