Kuromukuro is first and foremost a mecha anime. Why do I need to make that clear? Because first appearances make it seem that it’s a harem anime.
What is harem anime? Harem anime stresses the “love triangle” or the group of polygamous relationships of the individuals that surround our protagonist, who in this case is Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma.
It’s obvious that this mysterious new guy at school will be the one the harem revolves around. (Anyone that is new in an existing setting (lately it seems to be school) is always going to be either the hero or the villain, never just a minor character, at least in any anime I’ve seen recently. Robotech does the same with Rick Hunter.) Kennosuke, the pilot of the mecha, is oblivious to his appeal because he is too busy trying to fake not having feelings for Yukina, whom he mistakes for his long lost princess Yuki. But before we dive any further into why this isn’t a true harem anime (and it has to do with Kennosuke and Yuki), let’s look at the story.
We meet Yukina, an underachieving student whose got no hope for university, but has to live up to her parent’s reputations, her mother director of the UN research facility and her father a brilliant historian, before he vanished. Yukina finds herself at the facility to return her mother’s cell phone and she stumbles in to a research room with a giant box. She knows exactly what the black box is. It is an artifact that was dug up 60 years ago. Along with the box was a mecha artifact, which the UN reverse engineered to build a pair of Gaus mecha.
Yukina, inadvertently unlocks the box (how she did it is a mystery at first, but you’ll get there by the end of the first season) and we meet a naked and scarred Kennosuke. He mistakes Yukina for Princess Yuki in his disoriented state, having just been released from the box. It turns out that it’s the pilot pod for the mecha artifact and Kennosuke is one of two pilots, the other was Princess Yuki. We learn that Yukina may be the key to getting the mecha artifact to work. Oh and to make things interesting … Kennosuke is a 400 year old samurai. Yes, this is just in the first episode! There’s so much more than this brief bite.
One of the things I loved about this series is how it handled flashbacks. As a screenwriter you don’t want to use flashbacks because they seem hacky and over used for way too much unnecessary exposition. But for the purpose of Kuromukuro we need the exposition or we would be lost and they aren’t over done. They explain Kennosuke and his connection to Yukina, as well as the history of the artifact mecha (kind of in the first half of the season), and Yukina’s father. (Please tell me you noticed the names!) There’s a sci-fi element to this series and I like it.
The animation was superb, but then again I think that Japanese animation has a higher standard than American animation (Steven Universe, the current iteration of Teen Titans, and Spongebob are a few of the recent disappointments in animation. It’s almost like we’ve forgotten how to animate well (Tom and Jerry, Loony Tunes, or even She-ra: Princess of Power are drawn better). A lot of kids today are drawing manga or anime characters rather than American cartoon characters. Why is that? I don’t know, but my own artist is always drawing manga style and so are her friends. It could be the detail that Japanese animators put into the art. The lines are thin and the forms are believable rather than being thick and blocky.
Now, how is this not a harem anime? Kennosuke only cares for one person and one person cares for him. Ken (what he’s nicknamed by the UN) tries to hide the fact that he loved the princess and wasn’t just her protector. It’s not apparent right away, but wait for the latter half of the first season and the second season to realize that it was a great set up for harem anime. The story wouldn’t allow it, the character of Kennosuke wouldn’t allow it, and I’m pretty sure Yukina wouldn’t have allowed it. She, too, is invested in Ken, and the harem implies that Ken – or Yukina – would be willing to consider more than one interest. Without letting anything else out of the bag, that’s all I have for you.
I urge you to check this series out! If you like Robotech, Mobile Suit Gundam, or giant robots that fight with swords, you will absolutely LOVE this series!
I give it 5 samurais out of 5!