The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
Love of Kill
How would you rate episode 1 of
Love of Kill ?
Community score: 3.3
What is this?
Chateau Dankworth is a bounty hunter who can't remember her past. Son Ryang-ha is a professional hitman who seems to be obsessed with her. He begins following her everywhere, and attempts to leverage information he has in order to go on a date with her. It seems like Ryang-ha might know more about Chateau than she knows about herself.
How was the first episode?
Before we get into it, can I just say that the Japanese name of this show, “Koroshi Ai,” might be my favorite Japanese pun ever? In normal conversation “Koroshi Ai” (殺し合い) means to “fight to the death.” But this anime's “Koroshi Ai” (殺し愛) is literally “Killer Love.” The combination of both meanings is basically the best title for this story I can possibly imagine.
Now, with my love of puns out of the way, this first episode of Love of Kill is incredibly creepy—and that's by intention. The entire show is basically a clash of two different genres, ultraviolent crime drama and domineering love story. It's one thing in fiction when the female lead refuses to open up her heart but the man of her dreams keeps trying. It's quite another when said man is a trained assassin who could suddenly decide to kill her—and it's largely played straight. Moreover, Son Ryang-ha's not only doing the standard creepy stalker crap—i.e., calling and texting constantly, running into her “by coincidence”—but also interfering in her job. Capturing her bounties for her and kidnapping other targets just to blackmail her into dates just takes everything to an even more terrifying level.
What makes this episode work so well is that it's done almost entirely through Chateau's viewpoint. She cannot believe that Son Ryang-ha spared her life and keeps trying to meet up with her just because he wants to date her—because that'd just be crazy. There has to be another reason. Yet, at the same time, she can't see what she could possibly offer him. He is already more skilled than she is and has a better intelligence network (since he's getting to her targets before she can). Why he is so insistent on dating her looks to be the main mystery of this series.
Yet, as creepy as the whole thing is, sometimes it is just so absurd you can't help but laugh. It does feel like he is truly interested in her romantically and is trying to woo her in his own messed up way. He's attempting to appeal to her as both a normal woman and a bounty hunter—which means taking her on a normal date and giving her the corpse of her bounty target so she can cash in. It's weird, disturbing, and, somehow kind of... I don't know... cute at times? Regardless, it's got me hooked.
What we seem to have with Love of Kill, at least based on this first episode, is a kind of mystery/romance/thriller featuring a stoic bounty hunter who will inevitably be entangled with the roguish and vaguely threatening hitman who insists on pursuing her. Given the ingredients we're working with, I think it's reasonable to apply my patented Two-Thirds System and expect Love of Kill to succeed in at least two of the following three categories:
1. Its leading characters should be cute, romantic, sexy, and/or dramatically engaging, both as
individuals and when they get together (the show is a romance, after all).
2. There should be some decently exciting mystery afoot, both in regards to the long-term story, and also when it comes to the individual episode.
3. It's called Love of Kill, and the main characters are a bounty hunter and a trained killer, so maybe throw a little action our way.
Unfortunately, I don't think Love of Kill does any of these things very well, which doesn't give us a whole lot else to work with when it comes to finding a reason to stick with it. That first point is probably where the premiere suffers the most, because I genuinely couldn't tell you what we're supposed to find interesting about either of our characters. Outside of her ridiculous name, Chateau Dankworth has maybe a dozen lines throughout this episode, and none of them display much personality beyond being generically tough and reserved. Conversely, Ryong-ha Son won't ever shut the hell up, but he is never able to express even a modicum of the charm or raw sex appeal that would make it easier to go along with his dweeby creep/stalker shtick.
Chemistry is an incredibly difficult thing to get right in the medium of animation, though, and while I don't know how successful an anime like Love of Kill can be when the “Love” part of its equation fails to make any kind of impression, who would I be to turn down some good old fashioned killing, so long as the killing is good? In regards to the mystery and thriller elements of the story, I guess this premiere technically does a better job of hooking its audience compared to the romance angle, but I wouldn't exactly call it gripping. Scenes like the one where Ryong-ha kills his would-be assailant and then uses his phone to make a snarky remark to the call-girl he'd been sleeping with feel much more appropriate to the pulpy tone the show seems to be going for most of the time, and I am kind of curious as to what this weirdo murderer's deal is, and why he's so obsessed with Chateau. It doesn't make his interactions with her any less stiff and lifeless, mind you, but it's something.
Still, a half-baked grasp of airport paperback techniques isn't enough to get me on board with Love of Kill. I appreciate seeing more adult oriented stories in anime, especially when it comes to sex and romance, but I also kind of want them to be…you know, fun to watch?
I think this is one of the most tonally confusing first episodes I've seen. Most of the problem is that Love of Kill desperately wants us to believe that the romance, or rather “romance,” between Ryang-Ha and Chateau is incredibly romantic. The lighting, background music, and camera angles all scream it. But in reality it's more like Ryang-Ha Song is stalking Chateau or at the very least ignoring all of her signals and she's not even a little interested in his advances. That leads to a pretty major disconnect for most, if not all, of this episode.
The interesting thing is that if the show wasn't trying so hard to sell us Ryang-Ha and Chateau as some sort of fated couple it'd be a pretty interesting episode. Chateau is a bounty hunter while Ryang-Ha is an assassin, and that's not a bad set up for more of a cat-and-mouse sort of story. In that type of narrative, his (blatantly fake) cheeriness would offset her more dour personality well, and it could still lead into a romance plot. The issue is with the fact that Ryang-Ha falls in insta-love with Chateau and immediately devotes himself to pursuing her in a variety of red-flag waving ways. If it had just held off on the romance for a bit, this might have worked rather better.
But it didn't, and the result is an episode that could have been kind of amusing instead feeling like many women's worst nightmare. Chateau can at least defend herself, but he did get the jump on her in the opening minutes, so even that's not much of a certainty for her. She still manages to tell him where to get off, but there's an implication that if he didn't want to stop or step away, he wouldn't. That's more than a little unsettling, and all the implied backstory in the ending theme about how both of them had terrible childhoods doesn't make it right. That it's being passed off as a romantic comedy really is a large part of the problem, although if that's the goal, the gruesome bodies that we see repeatedly throughout aren't really helping. I remember thinking when I read the manga that it was a story that was trying to fit in multiple genres, and that feels even more true seeing it animated, at least in part because of the music and the oddly washed-out colors used for most of it. I think I'll leave this show where I did with the manga – one volume/episode was enough for me.
Well, this was kind of a bummer. I haven't read the original manga this series is adapting, but just based on the premise I thought it could be a pretty entertaining story. Two underworld killers, at once enemies and potential lovers! Entrenched in a life of danger and blood, yet finding romance in the darkness that may prove even more deadly! It sounded like a real fun idea, and I was ready to eat it right up going into this episode, but sadly it's all just kind of a wet fart.
Mostly that comes down to our leads. You'd think a pair of professional killers, hunting down targets for the criminal underworld would be at least a little interesting. Alas, the most interesting thing about our lead is that she's named Chateau Dankworth, the funniest bad “western” name since Baccano! graced us with Jacuzzi Splot. But otherwise she's a blank slate who wanders through this premiere barely speaking and just looking annoyed at everything around her. And she's annoyed largely because Song is, well, pretty damn irritating. It seem like the show is going for a devious trickster vibe, where you're never sure if anything he's saying is true, and there's always the veiled threat of danger if you confront him, but mostly he just feels like the guy who got your number at a bar and won't stop texting you at 3am for a booty call.
So instead of a dark romance spiced with the tinge of danger, we have Casa Blüntsmoken trying to fend off a Reply Guy in her DMs for about 20 minutes, and that's just not compelling television, especially not when the dialogue isn't up to snuff and the animation is workmanlike at best. There's no sense of tension, or attraction, or danger, or really anything in this episode that would make me want to come back. Then there's just little, annoying details like Chateau's coworker who's animated without a visible mouth for some reason, and speaks in a horribly unconvincing “foreign” accent that was grating every time he was on screen. Or just goofy details like bystanders barely reacting to Chateau obviously trying to knock Song out with a stun gun in broad daylight. In a better show these would be questionable but ultimately negligible, but in the absence of anything interesting happening in the main story, they stick out a lot more.
It's a shame, but “disappointing” is about the only word for this premiere. There's a good premise here, but the execution and presentation actively suck the wind out of its own sails, and I can't say I'm interested in seeing if it gets any better later on.
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