You know, it’s one thing to go into a show expecting something it to be good. It’s another thing to go into a P.A. Works show and expecting it to be good. Over the years, P.A. Works have shown us that despite having good animation and interesting ideas, you won’t always end up with a good show and meaningful characters. And so, after 15 years of churning out what are mostly original anime (which is honestly quite impressive given how original anime are such a rarity these days), we have Kuromukuro or ‘Black Relic’, another mistake made by P.A. Works which is another case of “Cool idea, terrible execution.”
Shiragane Yukina is your typical high school student with a mother who works in a high tech research facility that produces mechs and studies this giant cube-like object that no one yet understands. Upon what basically equates touching the cube, they find that inside the cube is a man who bears the personality and loyalty of a medieval Japan period samurai who quickly mistakes Yukina for someone else, tells her about the ‘demons’ that threaten the world, and bring her to co-pilot a giant mech that they call the ‘Kuromukuro’. (Hey look, title drop.)
What started out as a mech series with elements of mystery due to the gradual feeding of details and story over the entire 26 episode runtime of the series quickly becomes one of the most boring and poorly written series that P.A. Works has made right up there with Glasslip. The plot of Kuromukuro just has no sense of urgency and as a result, spends most of its time focusing on other ridiculous sideplots than the threat of the world. Rather than saving the world or learning how to pilot the mech, we instead get stuck with a hotsprings episode, the school festival, making a movie, and all sorts of random shenanigans that have little to no place in a story focused on saving the world from the destruction of aliens! It seemed like the show cared more about trying to be a slice of life anime with mecha elements rather than a mecha show with slice of life elements. There’s also the whole romantic sideplot between the two main characters which actually doesn’t make if any sense when you put it in perspective. The show just kinda threw them together to make the two seem important when in reality, these two characters barely do anything at all. This squandering plagues the entire run of the series and puts it in a place where it has a confused identity, dooming the series with its lack of cohesiveness.
So when you throw away all of the sideplot/slice of life garbage that the show tries to implement, what exactly do you get in the end? The action and mech focus while considered as the main plot of the series doesn’t bear fruit in the way you would expect it to. (Plus, it’s only like…20% of the entire show.) Very little of the show is truly mechs sword fighting since the majority of this time is devoted to exposition, more exposition, and even more exposition which is kinda weird considering that the aliens or ‘Efidolg’ as they call themselves have the generic “Take over the world plan” which…doesn’t do the show any favors. It’s a very overused kind of plotline than when revealed, is kind of depressing to see since you sort of assume that there’s something more to it when presented…but no, it’s just “Take over stuff. Muahahaha!” It doesn’t help that the main characters have plot armor so thick that not even a complete alien takeover where literally everyone, protagonists included, are stuck helpless just waiting to be absorbed into the Efidolg’s empire, thus making the entire struggle completely meaningless cause you know they’ll never die. Not only that, but the show has a few mystery elements that it tries to shove in there like mysterious disappearances and whatever that when revealed, don’t actually have much impact on the story overall. On paper they sounded good, but putting them into practice once again doesn’t do any favors because of how unimportant the show made it sound.
Pacing is also a huge leader in Kuromukuro’s downfall and possibly why I cracked my table when watching the final episode. The show is never even and it never wants to get to the good stuff or stay at the good stuff. During the random bullsh*t, the show is at its most lethargic, spanning an entire episode or episodes focusing on an event that doesn’t have in any way have to do with the main plot, before speeding up like a madman to get through the action/plot-relevant bits so that it can go back to its happy-go-lucky annoyances called side characters. The finale especially is the biggest offender of this because it’s by this point in time that P.A. Works realized that they wasted so much time before that they have only ~24 minutes to shove in a timeskip, a reconciliation, more exposition to explain what is going to happen, and a mini fight that scratches more heads than earns smiles because of the quality of its open ending where really nothing gets resolved.
P.A. Works’s attempt to celebrate their 15th year anniversary created a mess of a show that focused on the wrong things, had very generic conflict, and a love story that doesn’t make sense due to how forced everything was. The end result was a generic mech show that created more problems than it could solve, and a very disappointed reviewer who still prays to see a show as good as Shirobako or characters are good as Charlotte from a P.A. Works show again.
– Wasted too much screentime on slice of life
– Main plot was put on the back-burner
– Way too much exposition for a very generic plot
– Horrible pacing issues
– Several mystery parts with drab conclusions
– The most rushed ending I’ve ever seen
As a largely story-based show, the characters in Kuromukuro adhere to that by being puppets on the stage to do stuff in reaction to the current problem at hand. As such, characters in Kuromukuro are far from deep with little to no character development for any of them.
Why don’t we start with Shiodome Miuna, I mean, Shiragane Yukina. (Sorry, wrong series. They just look so similar.) As the main heroine of this series, Yukina honestly doesn’t do anything of value. Her entire character is built around the idea that she’s this meek little girl who eventually mans up and pilots the Kuromukuro along with the other main protagonist, but it really doesn’t come to fruition. Sure she’s less whiny by the end of the series, but the only thing she really does is preach about wanting to save the world from the imminent threat that the show tells us about because “lol, we ran out of screentime”. She doesn’t do anything of significance since other characters always drag her into things, creating a character that truly has no will of her own with a hint of damsel in distress that overall creates a character that I could give less than two shits about.
Then there’s Ouma Tokisada Kennosuke, the 18 year old samurai from medieval Japan encased in a giant cube and preserved until the modern day. You know how it is. He’s a dude that holds onto old and tired values that in the modern day, don’t really make sense, and is also inept at technology because he never had them and as such is surprised at the thought that you can talk to someone via a tiny box you hold up to your ear. Chivalrous as he may be, that’s about all you’ll get out of Kennosuke. His character is that of a generic samurai beholden to the master that he serves and destroy all the demons! His values and what he holds dear eventually change as the series goes on, but the whole samurai aspect and samurai code that he lives and breathes is such a central part to his character that that’s about the only thing that he has going for him. Take that away and you’re left with what equates to an empty husk that doesn’t have any real purpose.
And then there’s Sophie. Oh Sophie. Why you’re quoted as a main character, I don’t know. I chose to talk about her specifically because the show makes such a drastic attempt to make her relevant, important, and overall a half-decent character at the start with this underlying hate towards Yukina that I expected to get explained later on, to a half-baked character with a pension for samurai (that never gets explained) who has little to no importance in the grand scheme of things. I think P.A. Works was trying to fulfill a quota by having a little girl pilot a giant robot or something, since Sophie’s entire existence is just a way of creating some form of plot progression using her character.
Villains are unsubstantial since they assume that the whole “Sending down one person to deal with the threat” is enough to fulfill the malicious plans that they have in store. They’re stupid, none of it really makes any sense, and they’re all generic to a fault.
As for side characters, we have the plot related side characters and the slice of life related side characters. To save the worst for last, let’s start with the former. Want exposition? The guys working at the facility got ya covered. These guys really have no reason to do anything aside from being either a slight nuisance, or be there to feed information to the audience so we know what the hell is going on. There’re also apparently other countries that come in and have their own say/actions in this series, but it’s so minuscule and lacking that they might as well have not done it in the first place.
And then there’re the slice of life characters. Oh boy, where do I begin? These are if not the most annoying characters in the series. Sad part is? You see them more often than any other member of the supporting cast. The most prominent ones are Yukina’s classmates which begs the question of “Why are you friends with these people?”
You have Yukina’s best friend who’s a cosplayer and the supposed ‘wingwoman’ to the romantic subplot, you have the foreign guy who tries to get people to care about him by silently whining to himself when in reality, no one actually cares about him, the completely unnecessary other dude who adds nothing to the series aside from arrogance and a sad attempt at creating a love triangle that this show CLEARLY needed, and the annoying vlogger character who puts any and everyone in danger just so he can get footage for streams even when his life is on the line because clearly, your footage is more important than the dude’s leg tendon that probably got cut when he jumped in and tried to save you from getting killed! (You can probably tell who’s my ‘favorite’.) The show shoves these nuisances in your face so many times that it downgrades the viewing experience as a whole. They desperately try to get you to care about these horrible people which doesn’t turn out very well because they’re so unnecessary, the overall quality of the would increase dramatically if they weren’t in there.
– Lacking main cast
– Generic and uninteresting villains
– Way too many exposition characters
– Terrible people do not a supporting cast make
– F**k you, Jundai. (Hope you get your camera shoved down your throat and choke on it.)
The art is actually really lowbrow for what P.A. works generally produces. While the designs and overall look of the series do seem like a P.A. works show, the quality is severely lacking. Nothing really stands out which is a shame considering the company has Angel Beats, Nagiasu, and Charlotte under its belt, thus leaving me puzzled as to what happened to make this project not be as stellar as some of their previous works since the only word that can be described for it is “average”.
Though despite that, the worst offender for this show’s artwork are the mechs that the series has. They’re produced in CGI and don’t really mesh in too well with the series. Most of the action is done via CGI robots as a mecha show might suggest (plus, it’s probably cheaper), and all I can say for the overall look of the show is…eh. Average really is the only word that can describe this and that’s really a darn shame looking back because I really do like P.A.’s arstyle and quality.
+/- Average artstyle
– Mechs don’t mesh in too well tot he handdrawn background.
I don’t really care much for these tracks honestly. All of them are pretty generic and not particularly worth the time to listen to, so in essence…skip’em. Not worth the time.
It’s pretty clear from the low rating and the rants sprinkled throughout the story and character sections that I LOATHE this show. I’ve consistently been watching shows made by P.A. Works and I truly believe that the company has imaginative ideas and good enough animation to create something that’s good quality overall. But time and time again, I’m reminded that they go the other way instead and end up creating messes that beg the question “How did this show end up this way?” Kuromukuro was a show I went in without many expectations trying to see if P.A. Works would be able to make something half-decent again. The very first episode didn’t amuse me and every proceeding episode dragged the show down farther and farther and farther down the dreaded hole of P.A. failures next to Glasslip and Haruchika. I hated watching this show, agonizing week after week until the final episode where the final letdown finally let me be free.
Did I like this show?
F**K NO! The only thing that I could see as an upside to this gargantuan failure of a cohesive story is the fact that they animated a giant stone pillar crashing through a building that was represented as the main office building for P.A. Works. That legitimately made me laugh and was probably a small apology for the amount of f**k ups that they have done.
What didn’t I like about this show?
Everything. Like legitimately, everything. Especially you, vlogger boy. You have literally no purpose in this series aside from being a gigantic prick. Like seriously, who thought a completely unlikable character like that would be a good idea?!
Would I recommend this series?
No. I would suggest you avoid this show like the plague. It has really one-dimensional and lacking characters, wastes so much screentime that they’re only about 4 proper fights in the entire series (each of which span roughly 3/4 of an episode only), all wrapped up in an incomplete bow where the main plot/threat isn’t even solved in the end. Happy 15th anniversary, P.A. Works, see you next year when you inevitably waste another good idea. (Please prove me wrong.)