by Theron Martin,

K: Missing Kings


K: Missing Kings BD+DVD
Nearly a year has passed since Mikoto's death, and HOMRA (aka the Red Clan) is still in disarray. Many have gone their separate ways, with Izumi doing research in Germany at Seri's request and Yata pining for what's been lost. Kuro and Neko have also seen a fruitless effort to locate Shiro, their Silver King, or even determine if he's still alive or not. They aren't the only ones interested in the answer, since the Silver King represents the greatest potential threat to the Green King's plans, leading to their plan to kidnap Anna. In attempting to protect Anna, Kuro discovers that a fellow disciple of his former master is now one of the Green King's most powerful underlings. As Kuro, Neko, and Yata fight to save Anna, Scepter 4 cordons off the domain of the absent Gold King. A certain Silver King makes a decision, and a new Red King finally emerges.

If you're looking for an entry point into the K franchise, this 2014 movie is not the place. It represents the transition point between the events of the first series and second series K: Return of Kings, including a sort of epilogue to the affair with Mikoto and the set-up for the future schemes of the Green King. While not essential viewing for those preparing to watch the second series, it's still strongly recommended for franchise fans, as it introduces some new key players and depicts two pivotal events – one being the franchise's best scene, in my opinion. For those reasons, I'm glad that Viz Media actually licensed and released this movie.

Though the film originally had a running time of 103 minutes, the first half-hour was just a recap of the first series. That part is not included in this release. The remaining 73 minutes primarily focus on two overlapping story threads: Kuro's struggle to contend with a man he once regarded as a Big Brother, and the Green Clan's effort to kidnap Anna, who they believe can locate the Silver King for them or determine if he's alive or not. (They are unaware that she can't currently do this.) Of the two storylines, the one involving Kuro is by far the less compelling, to the point that it sometimes becomes an unwanted distraction to the other thread. Granted, a lot of this impression is because I find Kuro's rival Yukari to be supremely irritating, but it's also just a sidelight to the main story. At least Yukari does provide Kuro with a potent foe to test himself against and fall short of.

NOTE: The following paragraph contains significant spoilers.

With Scepter 4 not doing much beyond an annoyingly long mobilization scene and a battle of wills between Fushimi and Munakata over whether or not one Green Clansman can properly be called a ninja (one of the only comedy moments in the movie), that leaves Anna and would-be rescuer Yata to drive the main plotline, with Neko being Neko along the way. Though much-beloved and treated well by HOMRA, Anna was always essentially their mascot, as her ability to locate people never regularly played a significant role in events. In the absence of Mikoto, she now has to step up as a unifying force for HOMRA, which she does in a big way. The movie implies that she was always slated to be the new Red King, and the dream sequence where she finally accepts that she must move on from her sorrow to this new destiny is the series' pivotal moment, while the spectacular ensuing scene of her awakening represents the movie's dramatic high point. The meeting between her and the Blue King that occurs after the climax effectively brings the story of Mikoto to a complete resolution, allowing the overall story to move on. Meanwhile, the Silver King's commiseration with the Gold King sets the stage for Shiro's return early in the second series.

For better or worse, the movie fully retains the distinctive visual style of the first TV series. That means that male character designs are rendered in a lanky, bishonen shojo style alongside the delicate, hyper-moe Anna and the buxom fanservice targets Neko and Shiori. It still uses a color scheme that tends to favor off-base colors (maroon and mauve instead of true red, for instance), and it still uses interior designs that mix the near-photorealistic ordinary and lavishly elaborate CG creations. A very active camera conveys a great sense of depth and ambitious movement in action scenes. It isn't on a level of smoothness with the more robust anime movies out there, but it never looks static or boring either. Fanservice and graphic content are both comparatively mild.

The musical score is a similar kind of eclectic ride to both TV series, with mixed results. At its best – when using both low-key and more rock-oriented versions of insert song “Flames of Red” (by Anna's Yui Horie) – it magnificently sells the sentiment and grandeur of the scenes, but much of the time it has a more mellow, innocuous, piano-infused flavor. Ending theme “Different Colors” is wholly unremarkable.

The English dub, courtesy of STUDIOPOLIS, Inc., returns the entire cast from the TV series, with generally solid results. The weak point is the rendition of Anna by Colleen O'Shaughnessey (the voice of Ino in the Naruto franchise), who overdoes trying to play her soft and cutesy, but that's more than balanced out by a beautiful performance by Chris Hackney as Yukari, characterized with effeminate flair.

Viz Media's release of the title comes in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, all in a single case housed inside a slipcover. The main included extra is a digital K Character Book, which looks like it may just be a digital scan of a booklet that was originally physically printed. That would explain why the profile text that goes with the pictures is only partially legible, and then only with great difficulty. I have to wonder if this was QC'd properly, since this problem is so glaringly obvious, on a 40” HD screen for the record. Other extras are a pair of movie trailers and the English version of the credits, as the original Japanese credits were retained for the movie.

If evaluated solely on whether or not it fulfills its raison d'etre, K: Missing Kings is a success. Granted, it sometimes feels like it's needlessly stretching things out to earn style points, but the places it runs thin on characters and plot development are compensated for by its firm connections to both TV series. It isn't must-see fare, but if you became invested in the franchise after the first season, then you should see it.

Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B

+ Emergence of the new Red King, dynamic action sequences, occasionally lavish background art
Character book in the extras is not very legible, sometimes thin on plot logic

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Production Info:
Series Director: Hiromitsu Kanazawa
Original creator: GoRA
Mechanical design: Hiroshi Okubo
Cgi Director: Takanori Kikuchi

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K (movie)

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K: Missing Kings (BD+DVD)

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