Kurau Phantom Memory

Christmas is a spitting image of Kurau.

In the year 2100, humanity is experimenting with a new form of energy called Rynax. Little do they know that the Rynax are in reality sentient alien beings until Dr. Hajime Amami conducts an experiment that goes horribly wrong, resulting in a Rynax taking over the body of Amami’s daughter Kurau. Kurau then goes onto live a lonely life as an Agent until the arrival of her Pair Christmas. It doesn’t take long for Kurau and Christmas to find out that that people are after the Rynax in their bodies.

Kurau Phantom Memory is a 2004 anime series released by Studio Bones. The first few episodes basically led me into believing that Kurau was basically going to be yet another generic action anime, but that is precisely what Kurau is not.

One of the recurring themes of KPM is loneliness. Every Rynax has a Pair, which is essentially a twin that the Rynax is unable to live without. The need Kurau and Christmas have for one-another is pretty obvious throughout the series, but this theme also shows up both with other Rynax as well as humans, such the recently-divorced Agent Doug who only occasionally gets to meet his son.

I probably would have enjoyed the story a little more if it was paced more well. At 24 episodes, KPM is not a long series. However, it felt that things didn’t really get rolling until the second half. Up until then, it was just one episode after another of Kurau and Christmas being on the run from the global police force GPO. For a while, nobody was getting the development they needed, particularly Detective Ayaka Steiger. Thankfully, after about episode 12, things really improved as the action toned down to make way for the drama that is what KPM is all about.

The animation was good, but not great. Things moved very nicely. Unlike You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle, KPM meshed computer graphics with traditional animation very nicely. While the art was not bad, I couldn’t help but feel it was a little bland. The character designs in particular felt somewhat uninspired. I couldn’t help but feel Kurau seemed somewhat masculine. It may have been the length of her hair and her manner of dress, but Christmas was very obviously a girl, despite being a younger version of Kurau herself. Sometimes, like with closeups, the art had its moments of brilliance, but I felt that characters lost detail too often in distant shots that were not too distant. Finally, I felt like the atmosphere was just a little lacking.

Overall, the music stood out in a good way. Much of the soundtrack was made of jazzed-up techno, which fit the series nicely. For once, I have an issue with an Arai Akino song. KPM’s opening was Arai’s “Natsukashii Umi”. “Natsukashii Umi” is an excellent standalone song, but I didn’t really feel it fit Kurau, especially when compared to Katsuki Yukari’s “Moonlight,” which served as the end theme. At the same time, I can’t think of a better theme off the top of my head.

The voice-acting had a lot to do with how I felt about the characters. Kurau was voiced by Kawasumi Ayako; I know her for her debut role as Melfina in Outlaw Star. Kawasumi has been one of my all time favorite voice actresses, and her performance as the title character in KPM definitely was one of the better ones. Kawasumi has proven that she has impressive range as a voice actress since I was initially unable to recognize her voice because of how different her portrayal was from Melfina, which makes sense because Kurau was a totally different character. Ogata Mitsuru as Dr. Amami and Furusawa Tohru as Inspector Wong also stood out as among the better voice actors in this series.

My biggest problem was with the voice of KPM’s other lead Christmas. Kobayashi Misa voiced Christmas, and she seemed to be overacting pretty much for the entire series. It got really irksome whenever Christmas ate something she liked (yes, it happens more than once). Upon tasting, she would exclaim “Oishii!” in the most annoying voice. Personally, I think it would have made more sense if Kawasumi voiced Christmas in a dual-role; as it is Christmas was a younger version of Kurau, and a more Melfina-like voice probably would have worked fine. On the other hand, Irini Miyu underacted a bit as Yvon, thus his reaction to Jessica’s death didn’t really have the impact it should have.

While this review seems harsh, overall I would say Kurau Phantom Memory was a good anime. It was a thought-provoking drama about relationships, loneliness, as well as ethics in science and engineering. However, KPM had many unfortunate shortcomings that kept it a good anime instead of a great one. Much like with Noir, KPM is a good series, but was rather rough around the edges. I just need to warn you that you will be disappointed if you picked this up thinking it was a pure action anime; Funimation’s marketing and the art on the DVD case didn’t help matters.

Score: 3/4