I first reviewed Kurau Phantom Memory (originally titled Phantom Memory Kurau) just over three years ago – it seems like ancient history now. I remembered two things about Kurau from my original viewing – I LOVED it right up until the very end and I HATED the very end. So once again, I was forced to manage my expectations in order to be able to view the much-delayed release of Volume 1, without too much bias. BTW, Volume 1 was supplied by the lovely Ted. Thanks Ted, for making it possible to write today’s review!
Immediately, as I watched the series, I began to like Kurau all over again. She’s my kind of gal – competent, powerful, fun, and a little butchy. As we watch current, adult Kurau in her job as an “agent” for an independent “agency” – i.e., she takes on bodyguard, protection, stealth and rescue missions – the story of young Kurau and how she obtained her powers runs parallel to the current plot.
Young Kurau was a typical child who accidentally got caught in the backlash of experiments run by her father on what appeared to be a new energy source. The energy turned out to be a sentient race, the Rynax. When a Rynax inhabits Kurau’s body, her father does everything he can to continue treating this alien as his daughter. In return, the Rynasapien grows to love him as her father.
But Rynasapiens live in pairs and function poorly by themselves. “Kurau” lives every day as half of a whole, loving her father, living as a gifted human girl, but not complete. When the experiments upon Kurau push her past her limit of tolerance, and her powers cause her father to lose an arm, her father distances Kurau not only from himself, but from the organization that has made her a guinea pig.
We meet Kurau ten years later, her Rynax powers fully formed and utilized and her life as an agent well-established. But those very powers which make her a brilliant agent have made her visable to the organization and she is being tracked.
And every day of her life, Kurau is alone.
One day, her pair appears, and for the first time in this Kurau’s life, she knows completeness. Her pair takes the name Christmas and they live happily masquerading as sisters. For a short time. Because the organization, the GPO, is on their tails. When Kurau realizes that she is being watched – and more importantly that Christmas, whose powers have not yet developed, is in danger, she leaves her life behind and they take off on the run.
Special Investigator Ayaka is assigned to their case and it’s immediately apparent that she is incredibly dedicated and willing to do whatever it takes to get a job done. Even if someone has to get hurt.
Right away all over again I was drawn into, not only the chase, but the whole future world, with it’s partially terra-formed cyborg-like moon. I wanted to know more about how we got there, about the science and economies and daily life of this Earth. And the people on it.
Kurau is likeable, but I realize now that I like her more for her Rynax power than her personality. (Competence is sexy, yes.) Christmas is also likeable and not at all whiny or irritating. As a pair they seem perfect for one another – one can easily see them living forever being happy about dinner together or a day in the park. The drama imposed upon them by external forces seems particularly cruel, since they are just so darn happy to be together.
Which brings me to the “Yuri.” The Rynax relationship is presented as extremely multi-faceted, almost to the point of being indecipherable in our human experience. In human society, the only relationship we have where another person completes you is love. So it’s understandable that many people see Kurau and Christmas as lovers. Kurau herself explains Christmas as her little sister, because they look so similar and again, in human experience we have a limited number of relationships in which that kind of closesess is considered appropriate. That Kurau would care about, be affectionate to, and want to protect Christmas is all acceptable if she is viewed as a sibling. The multi-faceted nature of the Rynax pair relationship is left ambiguous in Volume 1, although it will be explored in later volumes. For now, we are seeded with the idea of Kurau and Christmas as sisters. That Kurau chooses this human relationship colors my interpretation of them as a couple. Although later Rynax pairs might appear more as lovers, I choose to see Kurau and Christmas more as sisters – twins of a sort. I do not see them as lovers. There are plenty of people who do. I’m sure it’s left ambiguous on purpose. But I do weigh in on the side that says Kurau looks damn hot in a tux. ^_^
In terms of adaptation, ADV does a fine job. Nothing made me grit my teeth. I should try watching the dub, but I’m not going to. The only extra is a copy of the original cover art for the Japanese DVD, which is notable. The American DVD cover art is totally different from the original cover art – I think it’s a major improvement over the original. The original art is dark, fuzzy and hard to understand. The new art is brightly colored, dynamic and full of energy. I approve. I wish they included mini-posters or pencil boards or even a sticker with it.
As an anime, Yuri or not, I still think Kurau Phantom Memory comes out of the shoot at a fast pace, with engaging characters, a fascinating background and a great story. I watched this volume nodding like a drinky-bird, remembering all the many, many things I enjoyed about it the first time.
Story – 8
Character – 9
Art – 8
Music – 8
Yuri – 5
Service – 1
Overall – 8
Kurau Phantom Memory is a rare breed in anime – a strong, character-driven science fiction story with no mecha. A good watch.