Kekkaishi (anime)

Fourteen-year-old Yoshimori is a Kekkaishi—a particular kind of ability-user whose powers mostly revolve around making kekkai (box-shaped barriers). For 400 years his family has been charged with protecting the sacred site of Karasumori. It just so happens to be where his school is built. But during the night, when evil spirits known as ayakashi prowl, the school grounds become his hunting ground. He and his neighbor, Tokine, must prevent ayakashi from entering Karasumori and remaining there, because the ayakashi absorb the land’s power and can become unstoppable if left unchecked.

The series, like most shounen I’ve watched, does take a while to really hit its stride. Yoshimori’s obsession with baking a candy castle gives the series a focus on sweets (and baking!) that I hadn’t expected, and though it’s often played for laughs, it helps show him as someone who wants to have a life outside Karasumori. I was less fond of his grandfather’s feud with Tokine’s grandmother about which of their families is the real Legitimate Successor, but even that gets subverted time and again as the two prove they really do know how to work together and not let personal grudges get in the way of what’s really important.

The anime slightly rearranges some things to make them flow better, and adds a bit of fleshing out to some of the things I found rather abrupt in the manga. Otherwise, there aren’t really any major additions or subtractions. I do really enjoy seeing everything in color, sound, and motion, so for the beginning of the series I would probably prefer the anime; however the anime only goes to about volume 13 of a 35 volume series, so there’s definitely a lot of story it doesn’t tell.

It’s hard to say much more without getting into serious spoilers. I do like how the kekkai-jutsu which seems so simple opens up a lot more complications as Yoshimori and Tokine learn to use it better. From making straight boxes around an enemy and blowing it up, they’ve learned to make its walls flexible and bouncy or rigid and strong, to trapping only certain things and not others, to impale ayakashi with spear-shaped boxes, or my favorite part, making a staircase to the sky so they can have somewhat of an aerial battle.

Character-wise, Yoshimori and Tokine play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses extremely well. Tokine is the tactician, always thinking ahead and strategizing, utterly ruthless, and very good with technique. Yoshimori, on the other hand, rushes into things first and figures he’ll come up with a plan later—but he’s got the raw power to (usually) pull it off anyway. He’s more the kindhearted one (there is a particularly funny episode where Tokine gets attacked because she’s the weakest, and she proves just how big of a mistake it is to mess with her).

And Yoshimori’s ultimate goal is not the typical shounen “I must become stronger.” That part’s actually a side effect of what he really wants: protecting those around him, especially Tokine. Karasumori is a place they defend from relentless invasions, night after night, and he and Tokine are destined to spend the rest of their lives doing this, unless something drastic changes. I was particularly impressed with how Yoshimori reacts to other people being in danger. When the enemy tries using hostages against him, rather than back down for the moment to ensure they won’t be hurt and try to figure out a plan later (interestingly, this is more the way his older brother Masamori behaves despite Masamori’s generally more ruthless character), he just unleashes ten times the rage and practically goes berserk trying to wipe the enemy out. This has the amusing side-effect of enemies quickly realizing hostages are not only not helping them, but if they refuse to let go of the hostage they’re not going to be able to defend themselves against the now-crazed Yoshimori.

In short, though there’s the expected giant conspiracies, pressing attacks, and evil masterminds—which are a lot of fun in and of themselves—it doesn’t stop there. The author isn’t afraid to pull any punches and things frequently take unexpected turns. I rate this series Highly Recommended.

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