Hiiro no Kakera Dai Ni Shou – It still looks great in red
October 5, 2012 1 Comment
Hiiro no Kakera was the token otome game adaptation for the spring season, and while it had some good elements; it was seriously hobbled by certain fundamental problems with the story and characters. It was a mixture of things, with excellent animation and a fascinating story, but also incredibly dull parts and characters that never quite seemed to progress. The series is about our central character Tamaki discovering that she is someone known as the ‘Tamayori-hime’, a celestial being charged with protecting the ‘Onikirimaru’ a sword that holds the power of a great oni and in the wrong hands could destroy the world. It is a classic plot not unique to Japan but used in other cultures and found in numerous other stories.
Naturally in such a series we have to have an antagonist, which comes in the form of a diminutive blonde haired girl called Aria Rozenburg and her four followers, Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier (numbers one-four in German). They are sent by a mysterious group known as Logos who appear to believe that by controlling the Onikirimaru they will be able to create a world free of strife and suffering. Naturally such an organisation is dubious to say the least, especially when you realise that it appears to that Aria is the sacred maiden blessed by god and will carry out some sort of great deed (Aria herself seems to believe this as well, which is a little strange). The central conflict is between this group and Tamaki with her five guardians who are descended from the original guardians of the Tamayori-hime.
What is fascinating however is the ambiguity surrounding the antagonists and a third group who appear to be bystanders, but are equally mysterious in their role and goals. Logos are essentially a faceless organisation, and all we know is that they appear to follow something known as ‘The Black Book’ that appears to foretell of some calamity or perhaps a way of using the Onikirimaru. Aria’s role in all of this appears to be that of retrieving the sword and various artefacts that guard it. She constantly talks down to Tamaki as if she were her superior, seemingly suggesting that the fight is meaningless and that Tamaki should simply give up.
Her reasons for doing this are unclear, and there are times when she comes across as being ignorant of the world and of the reasons behind the actions of Logos. Similarly we have her four followers who are also mysterious and immensely dangerous. Vier appears to be the trustworthiest and she is always around Aria, like a maid or a constant helper, the others however are more mysterious and clearly are not trusted. Drei is a fascinating character, someone who appears to be involved merely for the power and almost looks as if he is trying to steal the Onikirimaru for his own nefarious purposes. One of the most interesting elements of the entire series is the cracks that appear within this group, mirroring those that happen in the group surrounding Tamaki, but infinitely more interesting.
The power of the Onikirimaru and what it would mean if it were ever to be released is also up for questioning. Initially we are told that should the sword ever be released terrible, world-ending consequences should ensue, and yet as the series progresses, the reasons for sealing the sword and what its power means becomes less clear. Furthermore, there also appear to be other organisations who do not agree with the idea that the Tamayori-hime along with her guardians are the only ones in possession of what they seem to view as an incredibly valuable ‘asset’. Hiiro no Kakera is therefore a series with a fascinating political undertone, one that feeds into the idea of myth being ambiguous and open to numerous interpretations. While it is clear that Tamaki and her guardians can be considered as on the side of good, it is unclear where the line is drawn and once again we have shades of grey.
The major issue with otome game adaptations and reverse harem in general is the need for a brilliant central character, someone who can really bring the series together. Tamaki for all her faults was a brilliant character, someone who did change and grow as the series progressed and was never truly comfortable with second best, always wanting more. Her growth as the Tamayori-hime was central to the story and we really saw her strive to learn about her and her predecessors past in order to save the world from apparent destruction. The other characters, however, left a lot to be desired, seemingly spending the majority of this first series (there is a 2nd on the way apparently) blaming Tamaki for their lack of power and consistent failures to stop the people from Logos. They were also generally dull and generic, having little charisma to match Tamaki in terms of performance, character and style.
Tamaki is the character that is thrown in at the deep end and because of the riddles and cryptic answers that her grandmother and Mitsuru give her must work things out for herself. She has to unravel the mysteries that surround the Tamayori-hime and her guardians in order to truly understand the task that has been put before her. While there is a lot to be said about her progression over the course of the series, the eventual revelation that she comes to seems oddly anticlimactic, and also a little late for a thirteen episode series. The plot progression was very slow in the first season, often with very little or no explanation as to who all the characters are and how they link to the story itself. In a longer series this works because you have more time to explore the story and the characters – but in a series split into two separate seasons this can and does hamper Hiiro no Kakera. There is not enough explanation and too much melodrama that accompanies the increasingly useless male characters.
We also have an issue with the male characters being bland and quite generic; while Takuma and Suguru are fascinating, the other three are generally quite dull and bland. There is nothing to really distinguish them from other bishounen. Other reverse harem anime such as Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love 1000% have fascinating male characters who are all distinct from each other and make a lasting impression. That does not happen in Hiiro no Kakera, and you are left with the impression that the guardians are essentially useless but blame their own faults on Tamaki’s inability to manifest her powers as the Tamayori-hime. Having such one-dimensional and generally useless characters limits the stories impact and the ending of the first season wasn’t especially brilliant. Having Tamaki thank everyone for their hard work, despite these characters utter uselessness, along with their constant attempts to blame their own failures on Tamaki, a girl who has been thrown in at the deep end never quite worked.
Now, why am I talking about the first season rather than the second season? There is a superb reason for all of this explanation and simply revisiting the original series, and that is because the first episode of Hiiro no Kakera Dai Ni Shou is mostly a recap. The problem with this is that it has brought up all of the faults with the original series, especially the annoying and one-dimensional male characters that almost ruined it for me. But fear not, for there is some development during the last five minutes of this episode. Obviously Tamaki feels that she has succeeded and now that her grandmother has put up some seals the Onikirimaru is safe and secure, however this is not to be. Obviously Logos and Aria have not given up on their quest to gain control over what we are supposed to believe is a world shattering power. Everything seems to be getting more serious with Takuma having finally released the Oni that resides within, along with the shadowy nature of Aria’s servants who all seem to have their own agendas.
Furthermore there is now talk of sacrifices and other rituals in order to seal the Onikirimaru, along with kamikakshi (spirited away) phenomenon happening. Hopefully the story goes somewhere since the first season was all set up and while I did enjoy large sections it did become tiresome at times as well. Hiiro no Kakera has at least kept the elements that I enjoyed such as the questionable nature of the Onikirimaru, and what its power really means to the world. We also have all these various organisations working away in the shadows, clearly trying to undermine the power of the Tamayori-hime. There is also the wonderful animation, which is something that Hiiro no Kakera did exceedingly well considering the kind of series that it is. There are only a select few series that use such a wonderful colour palette mixing reds, oranges, gold’s and yellows to create a beautifully vivid aesthetic. The series is beautiful, but the use of red and orange constantly points to a significant battle to come, so it is beautiful, romantic, but also foreboding. We shall have to see how the series progresses from here, but since the introductions and large sections of exposition are already out of the way we can always hope that this second series will at least rectify some of the problems that the first one had. Still, if you don’t like reverse harem anime your unlikely going to enjoy this one.