Keeping up with the consolidation of the industry can be a tricky thing. Who is releasing what, and how it's being released, seems to just be up in the air right now. Whatever the case, you can count on FUNimation to be one of the biggest publishers in the business right now. Their acquisition of Sojitz shows from ADV bolstered their lineup and immediately infused them with an abundance of titles. Kurau: Phantom Memory is merely the latest example of that fact.
Kurau was originally released in Japan in 2004 and made its way to the States in 2007 when ADV began releasing the individual volumes. The 24 episode series was produced by Bones under direction from prominent anime figure Yasuhiro Irie. While six volumes were released under ADV, FUNimation has collected the entire series together and presented it on four DVDs, as they have done with several other such shows as of late. If you're unfamiliar with the show then you should know it has a somewhat strong following, even though it's not exactly a mainstream release by most standards.
The whole show takes place well into the future, the year 2100 to be exact, and picks up at a point where a scientist is on the verge of a major breakthrough. Dr. Hajime Amami is working tirelessly on a form of alternate energy, using something known as Rynax, which is actually something of an alien life form. On one fateful day Dr. Amami allows his daughter, Kurau, to visit him at work on her birthday. As you'd expect there wouldn't be much series to talk about if something didn't go wrong, and as it turns out Kurau's present from the good doctor is an accidental strike from a bolt of Rynax energy. From this point the show fast-forwards into the future as it explores Kurau's mutated life.
At the point we join Kurau some interesting changes have come to the world, and to her. For starters the Rynaxian energy she was struck with altered her body in supernatural ways. While normal exposure to this kind of energy seems to generally be a bad thing, in Kurau's case she gains some awesome abilities. She's stronger, faster, can fly, and can do many other nifty things all thanks to the little critter that has formed a symbiotic bond with her. Now, considering that Rynaxians are binary creatures, it's also worth mentioning that the part who didn't meld with Kurau has spawned off into something of a clone of her. Granted this second Kurau appears as she did when she was twelve, but it's still kind of a cool side effect nonetheless. It all kind of makes sense consider the Rynaxians live in pairs, so Kurau would have to as well. Interestingly enough she also names this little Rynax girl Christmas.
Now, while Christmas stays at home most of the time, Kurau pays the bills by working for the GPO. The GPO is basically the police force of the day and as an agent (or mercenary, both terms fit) in their ranks Kurau takes on various missions from episode to episode. Most of these cases allow her to flex her Rynaxian powers in one way or another, but she has to be careful. The world isn't exactly keen on letting super-powered beings run around, and soon enough Kurau comes under the GPO microscope. From this point, which happens early on, Kurau and Christmas are forced to go on the run from the GPO.
During their travels they meet other Rynaxians, and Kurau's world changes ever so slightly. The GPO is also relentless in their pursuit of the pair, and even gets their hands on Christmas at some point, which forces Kurau to travel to the moon to rescue her other half. From start to finish Kurau: Phantom Memory keeps you guessing about what's going to happen next, and the developments are equally fascinating and complex. If you enjoy having your brain put to work while you're watching an anime you'll appreciate how this show handles its subject matter, because right up to the end you'll never know how things are going to wind up.
Kurau: Phantom Memory is a fascinating and original science fiction show that has a lot going for it. There are times where the material may not be quite as well-conceived as it could have been, but aside from these fleeting moments there are strong portrayals of the characters and story throughout. The show does maintain a rather episodic nature for most of its run, and though this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does mess with the pacing a bit. Despite the little nitpicky flaws that persist in Kurau I found it to be an interesting and thought-provoking show. If you like science fiction with a twist that keeps you guess, definitely give this one a shot. Consider it recommended.
Kurau: Phantom Memory is presented with a 4:3 full frame aspect ratio, which is kind of disappointing consider the show was produced in 2004. Granted by that point there weren't many shows produced for anamorphic display, but Kurau is a series that definitely would have benefited from that. This show has some absolutely gorgeous art direction and design. With that being said, the technical presentation of Kurau is strong, but by no means perfect. There is some grain in the transfer here and compression artifacts appeared sporadically throughout the 24 episodes. Neither is really enough to ruin the show, but each is definitely noticeable when they appear. Aside from these flaws there wasn't anything else to mar the presentation.
Kurau comes with Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes for its audio. Both tracks are suitable enough for the material, and the dub quality is fine for each language. The English 5.1 does offer a slightly more robust experience with some directionality and nice use of the rear channels. The sense of immersion isn't quite as strong as it could have been, but it's good enough, and definitely better than what the 2.0 Japanese track. No matter what your preferences are, though, it's nice to know that both tracks perform admirably for what they offer.
Kurau: Phantom Memory presents all 24 episodes on 4 discs, and the only bonus features included are some clean opening and closing animations. It's a shame really, because it would have been nice if FUNimation were able to keep the original ADV bonus features intact. I suppose this wasn't part of the Sojitz deal though.
Thought-provoking, filled with action, and packed with moments that will make you think, Kurau: Phantom Memory is a rather deep science fiction anime. The main characters are well-developed and there's plenty of quality in the plot to keep you coming back from episode to episode just to find out what happens next. I did find that the show was a little too episodic at times, and that the pacing felt off, but regardless of my nitpicks, Kurau was a solid show all around that comes easily recommended.
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