by Lynzee Loveridge,

K: Seven Stories

R:B -Blaze-

K: Seven Stories R:B -Blaze-
Before Shiro descended from the sky, before Anna became the Red King, Mikoto Suoh and Reisi Munakata battled for philosophical supremacy as the Red and Blue Kings. Their clashes could spell disaster for each respective clan as Suoh straddles the line between a hands-off leader and an out of control force of destruction while Munakata attempts to rein in the kings into something resembling order. A low-level HOMRA member, Daichi Yamata, accidentally kicks the Kings' feud into overdrive when he goes behind Suoh's back and messes with the mafia. Suoh sees Yamata's screw up as a HOMRA problem but Munakata claims it's within his jurisdiction to levy out justice.

As a franchise, K had slipped under my radar; I knew it as little more than the colorful anime by the creators of Hand Shakers. So I quickly got myself acquainted with a story that included two television anime and a movie that bridges the gap between both shows, as well as a ton of spin-off manga. K: Seven Stories is the next incarnation and several of these films are pulling from all those manga side stories. R:B -Blaze- is approximately an hour-long prequel focusing on Red King Mikoto Suoh and newly minted Blue King Reisi Munakata. The two are immediately at odds both philosophically and physically, but even as a film focusing on two fan-favorite characters' backstories, there's extremely little here to chew on.

As a whole, I think I'd describe R:B -Blaze- as extended visual fanservice. Each character's appearance was met with screams of glee from the crowd at the premiere, followed by "oohs" and "ahhs" during particularly sexually tense moments or quippy one-liners. But smoldering eyes and shirtless abs aren't a surefire combo for a successful film; R:B -Blaze- fails to be filling with not enough meat on its bones. Both Suoh and Munakata have blank slates to draw from when it comes to their pasts as Kings, but the film seems oddly resistant to build on its canonical timeline or throw its giant cast into any kind of meaningful conflict.

Instead, the story only reinforces what audiences have known since the first season: Suoh and Munakata have incompatible personalities and don't like each other. Suoh seems tortured on the edge of having a complete meltdown that leads to the destruction of everything around him. Why? The movie isn't interested in answering that question at all. I presumed during the television series that he was unable to cope with the death of one of his clansmen, Tatara Totsuka. But Totsuka is alive in this film, leaving the context of Suoh's inner turmoil as a big old question mark. The guy is tortured for the sake of it being his character "type" and little else. Munakata suffers from the same problem. He's a man that believes in rules because they are the rules, so his strictness is its own appeal. The only added detail the film provides is that he was on an airplane when his King powers awakened and he saved everyone on the flight, a scene that lasts at most 30 seconds before we're back with Munakata and Suoh glaring at each other some more.

I kept waiting for R:B -Blaze- to establish its stakes. What central problem will the Blue or Red clan have to face to ensure events occur in the television series as we know it? I guess the answer is absolutely nothing. R:B -Blaze- has no conflict or much plot to speak of. It also can't decide on which character's point of view it wants to stick with through its brief runtime. The Red Clan sits around HOMRA headquarters and talks about how it has expanded beyond its means to the point that lower-level members are acting out. The name Daichi Yamata is dropped, a new character to the series whose inconsequential perspective also takes over in a "blink or you'll miss it" backstory that's supposed to flesh out why he's trying to throw his weight around. His actions pour fuel onto the fire between Suoh and Munakata, and so the two Kings engage in a dangerous battle over who has jurisdiction over Yamata's actions. Of course, fans know that there's no real stakes in this final fight. Both Kings are going to live on to appear in the first anime series and Scepter 4 is going to claim jurisdiction at the behest of the Gold King. It's just a matter of watching them duke it out for the sake of it. The ending is already established.

If R:B -Blaze- was setting out to be little more than a fanservice film, you would hope that it would bring the dynamic animation and visuals to keep it afloat. The male cast itself is good looking, sure, but the strange photoshop filter aesthetic that defines this franchise is in no way improved by the transition to a movie; it only makes those technical shortcomings even more apparent. If you haven't watched an episode of K, it could succinctly be described as an animated version of a LiveJournal anime avatar circa 1998, right down to the garish credit fonts. Light sources vary from shot to shot and sometimes even from characters to the stock-photo-looking background art. The film's characters sometimes pass muster even with the odd color gradient hues, but the backgrounds are routinely awful-looking. The lack of coherency between light sources gives the characters a hyper-flat look against their respective backgrounds. This is disappointing because the one thing I have the most praise for in K is its use of dynamic camera angles during action sequences, especially whenever Misaki Yata is on his skateboard. However, the previously mentioned issues become glaringly obvious during these sequences, so it's incredibly distracting.

K: Seven Stories R:B -Blaze- is at its best forgettable filler re-establishing characters after a several year break. At its worst, it's a completely pointless endeavor, adding nothing of story value to the franchise.

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

+ Plenty of character moments for fans to squeal over, action sequences are mostly engaging
Technology fails to meet artistic ambitions, no central POV, lacking any real conflict or stakes

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Original creator: GoRA

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