Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Movie Review: K: Missing Kings

As I mentioned in my Fall 2015 Anime Round-UP, K is back after a two year break! But in those years this movie came out and the second series is a direct sequel to this movie, which was a direct sequel to the first series. Basically, you need to watch the movie first and, for American viewers, it just went up on hulu a few weeks ago for those of us who missed it in theaters. Do to the fact that you are only going to be watching this movie if you're already a fan of the show I am going to put some spoilers in the review! I imagine most people reading this review will either be seeing if my views matched up with theirs for the movie or if they can possibly read the review to skip watching the movie immediately, newcomers this is not the place to start!

But for those newcomers, since my review of the first season is a little old by now let me do a general recap of the entire show up to this point and hopefully sell you on "the most anime to ever anime". In a slightly alternate world, a discovery in Germany back in World War II has enabled some people to gain powers through a mysterious slate and others through pledging themselves to a "king". There are always seven kings in Tokyo (where the Dresden Slate was moved to) and hapless high school student Shiro is accused of not only being the new Colorless King but also of killing a beloved clans-member from another clan who is now out for his blood. He doesn't have any memory of this but everyone else has video so he's on the run with a sometimes-cat-sometimes-girl "strain" (people who have powers without a king, can be animals, there is honestly a pegasus in one of the spin-offs) and a man from yet another clan. Kuroh had orders to kill the next Colorless King if he was evil but has been won over by Shiro through sheer force of charisma than anything else. Look it's a rather ridiculous set-up but trust me, this trio somehow works and this is one of the rare times where I care only about the these characters and barely about the (more popular) side characters. It's a pretty silly story and a go-to example for "style over substance", especially with it's over-use of colored filters making every scene look even more rainbow-y than an instagram at a pride parade, but the show is also sneakily good at foreshadowing and more subtile hints too. Shiro's situation is eventually explained and it was a funny payoff since I had seen people speculating about it for weeks at that point and while their proof was winning me over I couldn't quite believe until that moment that the show had some idea of what it was doing.

This is also a multi-media project so in these intervening years there has been a beaucoup of manga, light novels, and drama cd spin-offs as well. There aren't necessary to enjoy the show but I have looked into a lot of them so I will reference them in these reviews since that's where you get a lot of the world-building details from and again, some surprising foreshadowing. And so, with all of that said, onto the movie!

K: Missing Kings

For all that the title is Missing Kings, this story is much more about the red clan Homra rather than the Silver Clan, our two kingless factions. Our story starts a year after the explosion filled finale of K, Neko and Kuroh recently reunited after splitting up for some time to search for Shiro and came back empty handed. The year has almost been worse for Homra though, after the old red king Mikoto's death the group has practically disbanded with various characters drifting listlessly around in twos and threes with fading powers*. They're in even worse shape than they realize when Kuroh and Neko run into one of the members and Anna, a clairvoyant strain who was part of Homra even if she wasn't bound to them, as the two of them are on the run and out-powered by the Green Clan who want her to scry where Shiro is.

Yep, we finally get to one of the other clans! They're big players here and, for all that I tease K about it's rainbow filters, it actually uses them in a big way to show which groups have power in which scenes. There is green creeping into over half of the shots in the film (notably, while there is plenty of red and blue of course). Back during the tv series there was a lot of speculation that the Green King must be a student at Shiro's high school due to how green those scenes were and, even though that's likely not the case, Jungle operates a lot like Durarara!!'s Dollars where the clan has a lot of members via phone apps who contribute power, literally, for the higher ranking members who are full clansmembers with powers. It's not clear why exactly Jungle is interested in our missing Silver King but they seem to be interested in Anna for other reasons as well given that they go so far as to kidnap her, knowing that her powers have been unstable for a while and couldn't see Shiro even if she tried. 

A little bit of reconnaissance later (the Blue King seems THRILLED that he's going to have a samurai vs ninja standoff between Scepter 4 and Jungle) and the ninja and Anna have been tracked down to the headquarters for the Gold King. Despite the gold clansmembers putting up a resistance earlier, and that Scepter 4 was supposed to be keeping an eye on the area, the tower is strangely undefended. As the visuals hint, the Gold King isn't home and that makes it easier for Jungle to slip in and place Anna on top of the Dresdan Slate, the kingmaker itself, with no resistance. And one has to wonder if that was one of their goals all along; as Kuro and Neko help Yata and other Homra members fight their way to her one of them says to her the words she seems to be expecting, she is the new Red King. She accepts her new powers in a blaze of fire, reigniting the rest of Homra, and this outcome really makes a lot of sense. There were only one or two other members in the group who had the personality to unite the rest and someone else had already tried to do this. Back in K: Side Red, one of the light novels, a gold clansmember tries this, so I'm not surprised that the series revisits the idea^.

But despite this victory and Scepter 4 and Homra reaching a truce (with some nice lines by Anna), in some ways the story is still where it started. Jungle is gaining power with murky intentions and as Kuro and Neko finally catch a glimpse of Shiro the audience has a chance to see what else is going on. The Gold King was absent since he was dying (he is pretty old after all) and the story ends again with two missing kings, one dead and one high in the sky.

It's amazing how fast this movie pulled me back into the K world for all that I haven't really read anything from it in months.  And I am interested to see where the second season goes, the pieces have changed positions both from where the first season ended so there's potential for different conflicts and for the sometimes-hazy world-building to come together a bit more coherently. By now I'm not expecting miracles from this series but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a silly, action-filled adventure romp (although too bad the fights won't look nearly as good as in the movie, it was so gleefully action filled AND gloriously on model the entire time).

*the end of the anime implied that clansmembers lost powers once their king died but apparently this is not the case! Also confirms why Kuro still has his old, colorless clansmen powers, killing the "is Kuro a strain?" theory which was the other explanation.
^confirming that despite the title the King doesn't have to be male