Life After Yuri on Ice – Beyond the Boundary Episode 1
Everyone is coming off their Yuri on Ice highs and are thirsty for more great story. If you’re looking for gay romance, well…um, hi there, but also, you know, there’s a bazillion other books and here are some others I’ve read, just a handful. Mostly though people are looking for anime. I’ve joined MyAnimeList and am trying to keep it updated (still thinking of things and adding them), but I’m also going to start rewatching and recapping the shows I really love and posting reviews on that site and my various blogs. It does double-duty as research/background amp for an upcoming work-in-progress of mine, but it’s also my happy place. So with no further ado, let’s dig in.
Tonight I’m starting with Beyond the Boundary, also known as Kyoukai no Kanata. The anime is based on a Japanese novel which has, alas, not been translated into English. I’m learning Japanese, but right now I can almost write out the basic hiragana with a cheat sheet and I can parrot back a few basic phrases and recognize a few in anime—Japanese characters are still almost entirely nothing but scribbles on the page to me, so I won’t be reading any manga or novels anytime soon. The bottom line is BtB isn’t quite like Yuri on Ice in that it was created specifically to be an anime, but it isn’t like Noragami or Haikyu! in that it’s being made into an anime as the manga is still being written.
I’ve already watched BtB all the way through, but it’s been about six months so some of the fine details get fuzzy. I also am absolutely no expert on Japanese culture or Japanese anything, so expect to hear me talk about aspects of what I’m seeing and be bemused by stuff that someone who knows better will pipe in and say, “That’s because X” or “that’s a Y” and this is all fine. I’m here to make all new mistakes in 2017.
This is post is analysis but also recap, so if you don’t want spoilers you should go watch it first and then get back here and read. You can stream it as of this posting on Hulu as well as Crunchyroll.
The first thing you need to know about BtB is that it is beautiful. I recommend it as something to watch post YOI because beauty is one of the things we fell for, and BtB delivers in every episode. The animation is often breathtaking and sometimes heartbreakingly breathtaking. The opening sequence is absolutely stunning, full of pans and sunsets and so much beauty you want to keep watching just to see what else they’re going to deliver if this is how they open the show.
The characters aren’t exactly slouches either. We begin with narration from Akihito Kanbara, who has spied a new female student standing on the ledge of the top of a building, and he assumes she’s ready to jump and commit suicide. He gives us a few thoughts about suicide in general, about what it means to take one’s life, and he remarks, without explanation, that this isn’t something that’s going to be an option for him in this life, so far as he knows. He also points out that he has two choices, to passively watch to see what happens with this girl or to be active and try to stop it, and though he’s normally a passive person he can’t help but rush to the rooftop and try to stop her. He omits part of what he says to her, though he lets us know he complimented how good she looked in glasses as he begged her to reconsider her suicide.
The girl remains still for a moment, then remarks, calmly, “How unpleasant,” backflips over the chain link fence, lands in front of Akihito, forms a sword out of her own blood, and stabs him with it. He cries out, falls, then asks, politely but out of breath, if she could please take the sword out of him for now. “What are you?” she asks, and he points out he should be asking her the same question. And that, he tells us, he how he met Mirai Kuriyama.
It’s a killer opening…and in the grand tradition of Japanese anime, instead of answering all those questions, we now migrate away from any attempt at those and instead go to high school, or university, or whatever kind of school we’re at here. All I know is there are virtually know parents, everyone lives alone in apartments or in big empty houses with older siblings, and they’re pretty much independent, yet they all go to school and despite dealing with paranormal issues on a daily basis, they still have to study for tests and tend to their club activities.
Which is where we open now. Akihito is in the literary club room with Mitsuki, who is one of my favorite secondary characters. She’s sassy, intelligent, and a cool head in a crisis. Also, sexy. In any event, she teases Akihito as they try to select manuscripts, but he’s distracted by noises in the hall, which turn out to be Mirai, who has come for her daily attempt to kill him. He is annoyed by this and attempts to explain to her, again, that he’s immortal and can’t be killed. In their back and forth they give us some grounding backstory we need to understand the story world: Mirai is a Spirit World Warrior, the last of a cursed clan with the rare and despised/feared ability to control their blood and used it as a weapon to kill youmu, which are these kind of demon things which can possess people but mostly run about making a muck of things and need to be killed. Mirai’s job as a Spirit World Warrior is to kill youmu, and she’s supposed to be really good at it.
Akihito isn’t possessed by a youmu as he keeps trying to tell her; he is a youmu, or rather is half youmu, half human, and because of this he’s immortal. It’s not something he chose, but there’s nothing he can do about it, so would she please stop trying to kill him. She nervously, fussing with her glasses (which he finds attractive as he has a serious glasses fetish) says she’s sorry, she must keep attempting to kill him. He stalks off, frustrated, and returns to the club room.
Mitsuki suggests he let Mirai keep trying, but Akihito angrily points out it hurts when she stabs him. When Mitsuki wonders why Mirai is so persistent, Akihito is struck with a wonderful idea, thinking perhaps Mirai is in love with him and that is why she keeps trying to kill him. He’s very pleased by this thought, because he’s all behind being loved by a girl who looks great in any pair of glasses. Mitsuki calmly labels him a deluded pervert, pops her lolly back in her mouth and continues reading a fiction about dismemberment.
Did I mention how much I love Mitsuki?
Then Mitsuki turns serious, suggesting Akihito should avoid any further interactions with Mirai. He’s surprised and asks why. Mitsuki reminds him that her family, the Nase family, are Spirit World Warriors and have jurisdiction over all the other Warriors in their district. She points out a Nase daughter is giving him advice, and if that doesn’t spell things out for him, then he’s stupid. On that note, she leaves.
Akihito, who is apparently stupid, meets up with Mirai, or rather lingers until all the other students are gone so when she tries to kill him there’s no one around. He does attempt to outrun her this time, but she’s pretty spry and after a merry chase they end up having a duel in a classroom which involves her being by terms as intense and clever as a ninja and clumsy as a clown. Their battle is interrupted by an invasion of a full youmu, however, and when it attacks Mirai not only hesitates but trembles, afraid to attack. Another Spirit World Warrior appears and gives chase, but the gig is up now: Akihito realizes that though Mirai has no trouble stabbing him over and over, she’s too scared to actually attack a youmu.
He takes her to dinner to talk things over, and while she eats out half the restaurant (on his dime) she explains she’s never killed a youmu, that she’s been too afraid. She was using him for target practice, basically, and since she realized he couldn’t die it was super handy. He gets angry at this, reminding her that stabbing hurts, and then the waitress reappears with more food for her and he’s even angrier at the idea that she’s bleeding him dry. “Wasn’t that the deal?” she asks. “You feed me in exchange for not trying to kill you?” Then he realized she intends to not try to kill him only for tonight.
He walks her to the train station, still trying to reason with her and point out she could be hunting youmu like a regular Spirit World Warrior, but she will barely talk to him and simply thanks him for dinner before she leaves.
The next day Mitsuki tells Akihito to meet her in the cafeteria for lunch instead of the clubroom, which is odd, but he does it because it’s what he does. She gives him a cryptic message, telling him once again to stay away from Mirai, more forcefully this time. She lets him know the Nase family is keeping an eye on her. But she also acknowledges that despite her warning, he’s probably going to have contact with her anyway, right? Probably, he admits, then laughs. “But hey, I’m immortal, right?” She leans forward and whispers in his ear, as serious as a heart attack, “If only you could die.”
Now it’s the end of the day again, and Mirai is meeting up for her usual attempted murder. Except instead she goes out for lunch in the park with Akihito, where he gets her to admit everyone talks bad about her on social media, she has no friends but him, and she avoids her apartment because there’s a youmu in there that she can’t kill. He declares this must be fixed. If she learns to kill youmu, then maybe she’ll leave him alone, he thinks.
She says she doesn’t want to, and he asks her, exasperated, why she doesn’t simply quit being a Spirit World Warrior. She shoots back, just as frustrated, that she can’t, reminding him of her cursed blood. She says she tried, but she can’t walk away from it whether or not she wants to. This is what she has to do. He goes quiet, gives her a small, sad smile and says, “It’s the same for me.” Then he leads her to her apartment.
They arrive, and at first it simply seems empty and quiet, but soon there are strange noises and movements, and the youmu appears. Mirai whips out her blood sword as the youmu forms, looking like some kind of floating unwrapped mummy…and the episode ends.
I love a lot of things about Beyond the Boundary. I love that the girl is the one whipping the sword around, to start. I love that the guy is pretty beta. There’s actually more about the guy to come and we’ll discuss that in upcoming episodes, and this will include ships, but we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them. I also love the whole monsters inside theme, which isn’t new at all of course, but I love the way BtB plays with that theme. I love that it’s Mirai’s blood and Akihito’s identity, that neither one of them want what they have inside them but to take it away is to end them and so live with it they must.
I also adore what I already mentioned, how we go through this whole thing with mega ultra paranormal background and it is only going to dial up, but meanwhile, don’t forget your school books. As a writer I’ve got to remember this grounding, because it seriously works. They lose it a bit in later episodes, but I really dig this whole “the world is a mess but school must go on.” Everyone writes it for kids but hey, it works for adults too because that would be Life 101. All damn day all I wanted to do was enjoy anime and maybe do some fun things but I had Things I Had to Do. Oh to only have high school in my way. At least then someone would be making me dinner. I’m the asshole who has to cook and make sure there’s food to be cooked. This is why I love the high school magic. Someone is taking care of the background noise. Oh, to have a cafeteria! A clubroom. An adult above me to pretend to have answers so I didn’t have to be the one standing up and lying my ass off about how it’s fine and we’re not all about to go down in a flaming Cheeto apocalypse.
The thing I’ll tell you too is that this anime ends happy enough that I’ll rec it. Now you may end up shipping people who don’t sail together, and that’s fine—the ending is vague enough you can still pilot side boats if you want. I’m not sure that the “movie” or extra version or whatever you call it is out on Crunchyroll. I think I watched it on Youtube but to be honest I’ll be buying the Bluray because I really dig it and need it in my life. For now, however, I’ll continue recapping the episodes one at a time once I have my life homework done and my word count/WIP goals met for the day.
If you decide to give Beyond the Boundary a try, I hope you like it.