Shelf Life Beyond the Boundary: I'll Be Here
by Paul Jensen,
I'm happy to see that the English dub project for Aria the Animation is doing well on Kickstarter. I own all of the old DVD sets of that series, and while its absurdly slow pace isn't for everyone, it's a delightful little slice of life show. Since it'll be a while before that new Blu-Ray set releases, let's take a look at what's coming out this week. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Beyond the Boundary: I'll Be Here
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: High school student Sakura Hane joins her school's motorcycle club after growing tired of riding her ordinary bicycle.
Synopsis: Akihito Kanbara and Mirai Kuriyama are both outcasts in a world of supernatural beings and demon hunters, but can they find happiness together?
Synopsis: After falling in love at first sight, high school student Natsuki Hashiba enlists his three friends to help him win over the girl of his dreams.
Shelf Life Reviews
Nothing this week.
Beyond the Boundary: I'll Be Here
Nothing this week.
The two Beyond the Boundary movies go under the microscope for this week's review. Let's see how this recap and sequel fit into the story that began with the popular TV series.
Before we dive into the new stuff, let's start off with some background information for the uninitiated. Teenage protagonist Akihito Kanbara is only half human; the other half of his lineage comes from a yomu, a supernatural monster with the power to cause immense destruction. Akihito's existence is a problem for the people who protect humanity from the yomu, especially since his ability to quickly recover from any injury makes him nearly immortal. This is where Mirai Kuriyama comes in. A “Spirit World Warrior” from a cursed clan, Mirai is able to use her own blood as a weapon. She's initially called in to kill Akihito, but the two of them end up working together to find an outcome where nobody has to die.
The first movie in this set has all the problems you'd expect from a film that tries to squeeze three hundred minutes' worth of plot into around ninety. The pacing feels rushed throughout, jumping from one scene to the next in a way that can feel disorienting even if you already know the story. It does at least make a reasonable decision to focus as narrowly on the main characters as possible. Supporting characters get very little screen time, and entire plot arcs are cut out in order to make room for the relationship between Mirai and Akihito. This makes for a more organized viewing experience, but it also means that the first movie leaves out information that the second expects the audience to have. It's a mildly helpful refresher course if you've seen the TV series, but it's not an effective substitute if you haven't.
The one reason to watch the first movie is that it modifies an important plot point in order to set up the sequel. Mirai still comes back after disappearing in a climactic battle, but now we're told that she's lost her memories. The second film begins with Akihito and his allies trying to watch over Mirai while hiding the truth from her; Akihito thinks he can spare Mirai a lot of pain if he can keep her from rediscovering her abilities. This leads to some very emotional moments as Mirai starts to put the pieces together on her own. The film is very clever in the way it revisits familiar locations and recreates memorable shots from the series, as these visuals help to drive home the idea that Mirai won't find happiness unless she can reclaim her old self.
From there, it's a relatively standard case of stopping the bad guy and saving the girl. Series antagonist Miroku and Nase clan leader Izumi return to wreak havoc, and things can only be resolved through some big action scenes and emotional monologues. The movie ultimately comes to a much more satisfying conclusion than the TV series, and it feels like the story has reached a more concrete stopping point. It all feels pretty compelling as the conflicts play out, and you'll likely enjoy it if you're a fan of the show.
If I have an issue with the second film, it's that it suffers from the same problem as the TV series. Beyond the Boundary was always entertaining and even poignant in the moment, but it didn't really stick with me after the credits rolled. The same thing happened with these movies; as much as they held my attention while I was watching them, I just don't feel that burning desire to go back and watch the whole thing again. Maybe it's because the story sticks too closely to the standard genre formula, or maybe it's because the cost of resolving the conflict feels too low. Whatever the cause, my switch never flipped from “like” to “love.”
Regardless of whether or not Beyond the Boundary is able to get a firm grip on your heartstrings, there's no denying that these movies look absolutely gorgeous. Kyoto Animation brings its “A” game here, and everything from subtle body language to frantic action scenes benefits from that strong visual presentation. Most members of the English dub cast reprise their roles for the movies, and the dub is good enough to be a viable option. On-disc extras are a bit more substantial than normal for a standard-issue Sentai Filmworks release, with the biggest highlight being a music video-style version of the dance sequence from episode six of the TV series.
It's somewhat difficult to give this set a single rating, as these two movies are such a mixed bag. The first is a poor replacement for the TV series, so I'm almost tempted to classify it as an on-disc extra instead of as a self-contained piece of entertainment. The second movie does a much better job of fulfilling its purpose as an updated and improved conclusion to the story. Think of this Rental rating as an average of the two; the second movie on its own is certainly worth watching if you enjoyed the original show. Even though Beyond the Boundary doesn't do much to push beyond the basic structure of its genre, it's a well-made and entertaining ride.
I'm still keeping Shelf Obsessed on hold until everything's back to normal on our site, so that wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading!
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