Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Betrayal Knows My Name
Sub.DVD - The Complete Series
Fifteen-year-old Yuki has been raised in an orphanage, found abandoned at its gates as an infant. As he's grown up, he's discovered a strange, empathetic ability to read peoples' memories, and that's only gotten stronger. Things come to a head one day when a strange man claiming to be his long-lost older brother shows up and tells Yuki that he's a member of the Giou family, a group that has been fighting against demons known as duras for a century. Yuki is the reincarnation of a woman, also named Yuki, who formed a contract with a high-ranked duras named Luka in her past life, a contract that's still valid. Is Yuki willing to pick up where his past life left off? Is it worth fighting demons and reliving the past to find a place to belong?
Originally released in 2010 and based on a manga whose English release has been on hiatus until this coming July, The Betrayal Knows My Name at first seems like an odd choice for a DVD release. It's clear that Funimation was a bit trepidatious about it as well – this is a very bare-bones release, not just sub-only but also lacking song subtitles and any extras beyond clean theme songs and company trailers. The series also has a largely undeserved reputation for being BL, which may risk driving some potential viewers away from what is actually a decent, albeit flawed, adaptation of a pretty good story.
The series follows Yuki Giou, formerly Sakurai, an orphan raised in a group home after he was abandoned on its doorstep as an infant. Now fifteen, Yuki is starting to think about the rest of his life, and he's been inspired by his older brother figure Kanata Wakamiya, a fellow orphan at the home, to seek out his own apartment. His desire to live alone also stems in part from the strange power that he has had for most of his life – Yuki can sense the emotions and tragedies of others, which makes him both a very empathetic person but also a bit of a freak to those who have experienced his skill. Everything changes for Yuki, however, when he encounters a tall, dark stranger who seems to have some sort of connection with him. Shortly after meeting the man, someone claiming to be his older half-brother shows up at the orphanage and offers to bring Yuki back to his family. The man's name is Takashiro Giou, and ultimately it is revealed that Yuki is not only a Giou, but the reincarnation of a woman named Yuki who has been part of the battle against demons known as duras for a thousand years. The tall dark man is Luka, with whom Yuki formed a contract in the previous life, as well as a romantic relationship.
At this point it may seem as if a romance between Yuki and Luka is inevitable, and there are many strong hints that Luka doesn't care that Yuki has been reborn as a male; he simply loves whoever bears Yuki's soul. That, however, is largely kept to Luka himself, and he never pressures Yuki to return his romantic feelings. Yuki does clearly care about and for Luka, but it isn't necessarily presented as romantic; rather it feels at this point like a close friendship, like Luka is just someone he trusts more than anyone else. This works well not only as a similarity to the way the other pairs of duras fighters in the Giou clan function (the pairs are referred to as Zweilt and all have very close relationships), but also to highlight Yuki's relationship with Kanata, who becomes one of the key betrayers of the series, a concept Yuki is unable to accept.
To be perfectly frank, the title of this show could more honestly be “Everyone's a Betrayer.” Betrayal doesn't just know Yuki's name, it apparently has his number and calls him incessantly. Of course, Yuki himself could also be termed a betrayer for being reborn as male (and thus “betraying” his romance with Luka), but that just drives home the point that there is no one in this twenty-four episode series who doesn't betray someone at some point, either by going against Takashiro's orders or in a more serious sense, such as switching sides of the fight. It makes for an enjoyably complex storyline and character relationships (Hotsuma and Shusei's being particularly interesting), but it can also get to be a bit exhausting as the show tries to cram as much of the manga in as it can. This becomes much more apparent in the second half of the series, when attempts to explain the origins of the Giou/duras fight cause a frantic switching of focus between characters who may become important later in the series but are largely ancillary to the portion of it covered by the anime. This also causes everyone's pasts to be explored except Yuki and Luka's, which is detrimental to the show in that we never really get a clear explanation of how they came to be involved with each other or why everyone is so worshipful of Yuki.
Fortunately the series has a terrific vocal cast, from Akira Ishida as Kanata to Mamoru Miyano as Shusei, with particularly good performances by Shinichiro Miki as Tachibana and Takahiro Sakurai as Luka. The weakest voice is Soichiro Hoshi as Yuki who just doesn't quite get enough emotion out of key scenes, and Takehito Koyasu feels a bit too toned down as Takashiro, which is a disappointment. Luckily the background music also is quite good, which helps make up for it; it does a great job of setting the mood and making battles feel much more dangerous. The visuals are a bit less impressive, featuring a paucity of character designs and chins you could poke your eye out with, and the animation can be stiff for movements, particularly walking.
The Betrayal Knows My Name is, despite its flaws, a good show. As it goes on it becomes increasingly obvious that it's trying too hard to fit in as much manga as it can, resulting in poor choices of adapted material, and the decision to allow adorable Mokona-esque Sodom to turn into a catboy is questionable at best, but the story itself and the characters are more than interesting enough to make up for a lot of flaws. While it's a shame it doesn't have a dub, this dark supernatural adventure's stellar Japanese cast should please a lot of viewers. If you like dark fantasy and demon battles, it's worth checking this out.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Good development of character relationships, great vocal cast, strong background music for action scenes, story is intriguing
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