Checkmate: Thoughts on K
K (Anime, 2012)
Produced By: GoHands
Directed By: Shingo Suzuki
So I’m not a big fan of the sci-fi or supernatural genre, but there are a few manga and anime that caught my eye. One of them is K, also known as K Project, a 2012 anime series developed by the studio, GoHands, and was directed by Shingo Suzuki. What first got me interested in this anime (that I waited until now to watch) is the trailer’s background music. K‘s original score was composed by Mikio Endo. If I could describe the music, it is mysterious, but also inviting. While watching the anime, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by some of the catchy, soothing melodies.
Besides the music, what also makes this anime appealing is the art. I was impressed by how realistically Tokyo was presented. The background art consisted of various skyscraper buildings with gigantic, eye-popping billboards, and the streets of Tokyo were filled with people and cars. In addition, the action sequences between characters using their powers are captivating. It is stunning to see various lights and color patterns used as effects in order to show their special powers.
The anime, K, is about a boy named Yashiro Isana, also known as Shiro, who is the prime suspect in a murder case involving the death of Tatara Totsuka, a member of HOMRA ( an infamous group led by Mikoto Suoh, the Red King). Shiro is the prime suspect because he resembles the murderer that appeared on Totsuka’s film footage. Shiro lives an ordinary high school life until various clans, HOMRA and Scepter 4 go after him. In addition, Kuroh Yatogami—a highly skilled swordsman and is also known as the Black Hound—has his eyes on Shiro. Kuroh’s previous master and “Colorless King,” Ichigen Miwa, handed him a mission to hunt down and kill the new “Colorless King” if he is deemed as evil. Kuroh believes that Shiro is the new “Colorless King” and is evil because he killed Totsuka. Yet later on, Kuroh agrees to cooperate with Shiro to help prove his innocence.
One thing I noticed about this anime is that the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t seem to resonate within the characters right from the beginning. The only evidence suggesting that Shiro committed the crime is a video showing a guy intentionally using a gun to shoot Totsuka who is filming with his camera. Although the murderer does look similar to Shiro, it is too dark to tell from the footage that it is really him. Also, there is the possibility that the film could have been tampered with by another person. Henceforth, the video footage could be seen as only circumstantial evidence. There isn’t any direct evidence nor any proven facts that can pinpoint Shiro as the perpetrator.
Before watching this anime, one of the questions that was lingering in my mind was why the title of the anime is K. It didn’t click until the middle of the first episode that K refers to the term, “king,” which is what each leader of the clan is called. For example, HOMRA’s Red King is Mikoto Suoh and Scepter 4’s Blue King is Reisi Munakata. Furthermore, the term, “king” could also be a reference to the game, chess; in which, the Red King and the Blue King represents the kings on a chessboard.
As I continued to watch this anime, I couldn’t help but visualize that each character represents a chess piece. The clan members of HOMRA and Scepter 4 are vassals to the king; hence, they could be seen as the knights, bishops, and etc. on a chessboard. Like chess pieces, each clan member possesses his or her own set of powers and skills used to protect the king. For instance, Misaki Yata of HOMRA uses his skateboard as transportation and as a weapon. It is also interesting to notice the limited amount of female characters in this anime. Although limited, the female characters that are in the anime partake important roles for the kings. Through the characterization of Neko, Anna Kushina, Seri Awashima, the audience could assume that these women show the most devotion and loyalty towards their own king. Each king has one female member in his clan, and each female character has a set of immense powers and abilities that are highly valued by her designated king. For example, HOMRA”s Anna Kushina can use her red marbles for psychic navigation and mind-reading which were important skills when tracking down Shiro. These female characters could be seen as the queen in a chess game. Unlike the other chess pieces, the queen is the most versatile; in which the queen can move in various directions and is the most powerful when it comes to attacking and protecting the king.
Furthermore, in one of the early episodes, Kukuri Yukizome commented on the meanings of Shiro and Kuroh’s name. Shiro’s name means white, and Kuroh’s name means black in Japanese. The colors, white and black, could refer to the colored squares on a white-and-black chessboard.
K has a good plot line with very detailed action combat sequences, but I felt that thirteen episodes wasn’t enough to tell the complete story. However, in July 2014, the K franchise released the animated film, K: Missing Kings, and is planning to release a second season later this year. (I’m very excited about it.)
I enjoy your comparison of the characters to those of chess pieces. Your words on the “versatility” of the queens (female characters) were really fitting and help express the capability of these girls. I have not watched the show, but your review paints a great overview of the premise.
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If you watch it, hopefully you enjoy it as much as I did. I can’t wait for the second season coming out later this year.
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