First Impressions – Kuromukuro

Kuromukuro - The oni

There’s trouble coming…

spring15-irenes Well, surprise, surprise, but an original mecha series comes out by PA Works of all studios, and I’m pretty amazed by the job done so far.
winter15-highw For maybe the last FI of the season, we have this departure a bit from the norm for PA Works, their 15th anniversary series Kuromukuro. But I don’t know if it’s really too much of a departure since the things that make a good anime, to me, are the same no matter what the genre is.

Knock ‘Em Down
Kuromukuro - Go humans

Go Humans!

IreneSharda: P.A Works is trying their hand at a mecha tale, and an original one at that. For a mech aficionado like me, how does it measure up? Well, would it be too outrageous to say that Kuromukuro, might just be, one of my favorite anime series this season so far? Even more so than Spring big-hitter Kabaneri? If so, give me a pink wig and call me Jem, because I’m going to be truly outrageous, truly, truly, truly outrageous! 😉

Kuromukuro - Nice aesthetic

I love this design aesthetic

Highway: Before the first episode, I think it was a bit hard to get a handle on exactly what Kuromukuro was. People were trying to put pieces together – PA Works, Mechs, a director in Tensai Okamura who has a ton of experience in the industry but not a lot of directorial experience (he directed the off-the-wall Zvezda a few years ago), an original story – but the answers were coming up as mostly a lot of questions. And let’s be honest that the distribution model for this show is a little different as well, with Netflix licensing the worldwide streaming rights but not simulcasting outside of Japan, their first foray into currently airing anime.

Kuromukuro - Detached mom

This seems more like the punishment room than the conference room

So the end result is a lot of unknowns, and the first episode didn’t do a whole heck of a lot to dispel those. We got the introduction of the main character, Yukina Shirahane, and a little bit about her school and life situation. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do, and yet her successful mother, the director of the nearby UN Kurobe Research Station, is happy to support her in her apparent dream to become an interplanetary explorer, even though Yukina isn’t really considered to have the aptitude for it. It was an interesting opening scene, with a mother seemingly defending her daughter’s future, but perhaps more defending her own position and worldview that her daughter can achieve anything she wants (and perhaps validate her own parenting). But it’s not really a dream for Yukina, who you get the feeling doesn’t really know what she wants, and feels pretty overshadowed by her mother’s achievements. To me, “Mars” seemed like the kind of thing to put down to say “I can be something, too!”

Not Just Giant Robots

Kuromukuro - Don't push the red button

Yukina couldn’t resist The Big Red Button

IreneSharda: The animation is really well done, and when you first enter this world you can see that it’s going to be something special. There is really so much that I could gush on, but I’m going to keep this simple and concise. What did I like? Let me count the ways:

Kuromukuro - Two on one, but the two are idiots

These bad guys were pretty much just mooks

The Plot: The idea of mechs that somehow existed in Edo period Japan fighting against alien invaders is interesting enough as it is. However, you also have the added component of the modern world having to deal with the aliens’ return and a man out of time having to deal with this new world. At the same time, there is a girl who is just trying to grow up with all the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, while having an irresponsible but vaguely supportive genius parent whose very success acts as a divide between mother and daughter. We have two storylines that are moving together simultaneously: one is the literal fight for survival against an insurmountable enemy, and one is a figurative fight for one’s identity through obstacles both from without and within. It’s only the beginning, but I’m interested in both these plotlines and I want to see more!

Kuromukuro - You don't look like who I thought you looked like

“You’re not the Princess that I thought you were!”

The Characters: Believe me, there have been many a plot that gets completely gutted, because of poorly conceived, bland and/or annoying characterization. Thankfully we don’t have that problem here. Between our hero and our heroine, the hero is the one I guess I enjoy the most. Ruggedly handsome, mysterious, rough-around-the-edges, but also heroic and dutiful at the same time, Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma (whom I will refer to as Kenn from now on) has got all the good qualities of a main mecha pilot. I enjoy the fish-out-of-water potential that’s there, but I also greatly respect the fact that he is a character that doesn’t let the drastic changes in his surroundings and his overall confusion at his situation, divert him from the job at hand. Also, his old-fashioned ways have an attractive charm to them that I find, gives him an added bit of character. As for our deuteragonist, Yukina, I honestly like the “realness” of her. “Genuine” is the word I think of when I see her. She is a girl who knows she’s a bit weird and that she’s not the smartest crayon in the crayon box, and yet she’s okay with that. She just wants to be herself, to be “normal”. Like any teen, she has both likeable and annoying features to her that ebb and flow depending on the situation. I said there seems to be dual storylines going on here, both separate and yet also intertwined with each other. Kenn seems to be the protagonist of one story line, while Yukina is the MC for the other, and as they cross paths, their plots crisscross along with them.

Kuromukuro - Narrow space

Watch those narrow spaces

The Animation and the Action: PA Works have outdone themselves here, I’m not a connoisseur of animation, but I can only say that I really like what I saw. Of course the character designs and the settings are quite well done. But what is a mecha series, without great mech battles? I have to say, the action scenes are extremely well done. The raw fluidity of seeing these mecha monsters engage in swordplay was some of the most beautiful anime fight choreography I have seen in a long time. The abilities they have given these enemies are awesome, from their incredibly awesome shields to their incredibly fast speeds and agility.

The Soundtrack: One of the best this season.

One Way or Another

Kuromukuro - shanghaied

Doesn’t look like the most comfortable seat thingy, tho

Highway: For me, the second episode was able to fill up a lot of the interest meter by expanding the scenario quite a bit. After the initial robot attack was put down in the first episode, the second made it seem a lot more serious with the attacks throughout Japan and the world, and with the slow, steady march of the big yellow robot through a seemingly random area. (That gave me a little hope that this giant robot series would treat giant robots like GIANT robots, but alas, the hero robot squashed that idea, running around like it was the size of all the small robots. Alas, maybe someday someone will make a realistic giant robot.) And that was the catalyst for Yukina’s hero turn. Even acknowledging she’s not his Princess, Kennosuke takes her along as the back-seater for his robot, the Black Relic. And I think she does a great job. They’re not winning because she’s lucky, or in spite of her. She does a good job as a copilot, even though she doesn’t understand what’s going on, doesn’t know how she can read the writing, doesn’t know what the Relic can even do. But that doesn’t phase her. I saw a quote once: “If you want to be a successful detective, when a door suddenly opens in front of you, don’t act surprised, just walk through it.” To me, that’s what Yukina does, walks through this door that suddenly opens and establishes herself.

Kuromukuro - Trouble coming

This looks bad, doesn’t it?

IreneSharda: So what didn’t I like? Well, precious little really. Our antagonists so far are faceless “demons” that are merely “the enemy”. Will they stay that way or will we get a some characterization for our alien force? I love me some alien swarms, Independence Day is one of my favorite sci-fi movies ever. And if that’s what these guys end up being, I’ll still enjoy it. Yet, I would prefer there to be more to them that. Other than the aliens, I’m hoping that Yukina has gotten over her initial histrionics when it comes to being dragged into dangerous situations. I thought she started to get a little grating after a time.


I think that the first episode did set up a lot as far as what the setting could be, but that the second episode played a lot of connect the dots and let the picture appear. And I think that PA Works certainly showed they can do well enough with giant robots off the bat (as I knew they would). But they haven’t given everything away, and there’s a lot still to discover about the show. It may not be the show that’s on my mind the most this season, but it’s been very good through the first two episodes.


All in all, I’m really loving this series and I’m glad that I won’t be starved of great mecha action this season. I like the characters, the plot, the premise so far. And I’m liking it not just as a mech series, but also as a character exploration, which PA Works has been known to do well. I’m interested in not just the present, but also the past and this princess who looks so much like our present-day heroine. As PAWorks’ 15th Year anniversary series, I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start. I just wish a lot more people would take a chance and actually watch it.


We live, laugh, enjoy and strictly believe on "more the merrier". When together, we usually come up with very chatty, conversation-based episodics and interesting posts.
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23 Responses to “First Impressions – Kuromukuro”

  1. zztop says:

    Slight correction to the review – the old timeline is Sengoku-era Japan, not Edo-era. For example, princesses of that period wore their hair long and flowing. Edo ones wore geisha type hair.

    • IreneSharda says:

      Arigato for the correction. I did catch the name of the period thanks to the 3rd episode. I haven’t studied the periods like I should. I was thinking Kabaneri, when I should have been thinking Inuyasha. 😛

      • skylion says:

        …thank goodness it wasn’t Heian…blacked out teeth and huuuuuuuge amounts of makeup along with enough piles of silk to make you wonder if a person really was in there…

        • zztop says:

          Edo-era women and Kyoto nobles still continued teeth-blackening until the Meiji era…then they stopped after realizing it was scaring the gaijins…

  2. skylion says:

    Alas, maybe someday someone will make a realistic giant robot

    see: Robotics; Notes

    If that’s the groove you’re on, if I take your meaning correct regarding giant robots and how they should really move. But then that would really cut into audiences expectations a bit too much. I think that, from a design standpoint, they’ve done good to make giant robots look much more mechanical rather than…well, the oddly and imaginary robotic suits of samurai armor they’ve always been up to now. But asking they behave according to physics in a modern action scene might be asking a bit to much of audiences…

    I mean, I want more history in anime…we take what we can get…

    • Highway says:

      Even Robotics;Notes was too fast. The issue is that something that big can’t move that fast in Earth gravity. It is not a question of tech, it’s a question of “the earth cannot pull down the body of the robot fast enough”. So it’s not a situation where handwaving about tech or magic helps you. But then, no anime ever does it right, so there’s that.

      I felt the design of the robots was spot on. It was obvious that the purple ones were AI controlled and less-capable. And I really like the “command cube” in the Black Relic.

      • skylion says:

        …that command cube is a such a good idea, I can’t wait to see the writers mess around with it as it’s almost too much the perfect valet…

      • zztop says:

        It’s a cool Cube! It’s easily detachable, transforms into a flying hovership and becomes a centuries long life support pod.

      • IreneSharda says:

        That cube is awesome. It’s the perfect idea. A detachable, all purpose cockpit that can actually come and get you when needed.

  3. zztop says:

    There’s an interview with Kenn’s VA, Azakami Youhei, from anime magazine G’s, confirming Kennosuke will be the main character.

    When asked what he thought of the character, Azakami replied:

    Kennosuke is quite violent, seems like he’s always angry, and at any rate, an awkward guy.Playing as Kennosuke who doesn’t know how to act around his surroundings is enjoyable, and sometimes it seems like I will lose track of his character. When that happens, I try to remember the foundations of his character — ‘he sticks to his own guns, and is man of honest principle’. When I get a little lost when playing as him, I remember these principles and am able to act as him again.

  4. zztop says:

    The Kurobe Dam’s a real life landmark that is open for public visits, but there’s no UN research centres around. It’s mostly for electricity generation.

    The white bridge from Ep 2’s the Shinminato Bridge, built in 2012. It offers excellent views of the mountains and Toyama Bay on clear days.

  5. zztop says:

    Will we get a some characterization for our alien force?

    There’s a lot of mysteries which need exploring – like why they were kidnapping people then and now, and how Yukina’s missing dad figures into this (his research did say the demons/aliens would return again). Plus how Kenn got his hands on the Relic and alien sword to start with.

    • IreneSharda says:

      Yes, there is a lot of potential here. I have a feeling the father was abducted, but I’m wondering why they are doing it. What do they need these people for, and why did they leave centuries ago, only to come back again suddenly? Are these the same aliens? If so, they must have much longer life spans. What is their interest in Earth. And can somebody tell why, everyone isn’t being a little more serious about an alien invasion attack?! I’d expect at least the US to be trying to blow that mothership out of space by now!

      Yes, there are a lot of questions. Let’s see how well they can answer them.

  6. Painboy says:

    Where can I watch this? I see articles saying it’s going to be on Netflix but it’s not turning up in any of my searches.

    • IreneSharda says:

      Right now, it’s being subbed by fansubbing groups because anytime Netflix gets their hands on anything, they don’t seem to have any real idea of what “simulcasting” means. Look for it around anime download/viewing sites and you’ll find it.

      • Painboy says:

        Ah, thank you. It looks like torrents to the rescue again.

      • BlackBriar says:

        The problem with that is it’s difficult to find anime download/viewing sites that have animation and audio quality you’ll be satisfied with for whatever series you’re following.

  7. BlackBriar says:

    Definitely a series out of P.A Works’ comfort zone. Surprisingly engaging and fun. Should it continue like the way it is so far, I’ll be more than inclined to keep following.

    I can see why most would instinctively steer clear of this show. Not that I could blame them. Mainly because of the fact the studio is P.A Works and they’re most reputable for producing “Slice of Life” based works, a genre that has little to no popularity at all. I, myself, admit I would’ve avoided Kuromukuro completely if not for the knowledge of mechs being involved because I’ve basically ignored every other P.A Works’ show for a long time now.

  8. Rathje says:

    Just watched a couple episodes of this and I agree it’s really good. Going on my follow list this season.

    One thing I really liked about it was that the regular human military is not just helpless fodder. When the little “cactus” robots rush the base, the human soldiers are taken off guard, and sustain losses, but you actually see them managing to gun down the rank and file enemy effectively. Most shows like this – even the little zerglings are freaking invincible to conventional human weapons and only the extra-super-special-giant-mecha-potato-kun-MC can do anything about them while all the human soldiers stand around and gape at his sheer awesome.

    Not here – by and large the military gives as good as it gets. The only exception being the giant boss robots and their force-fields. But even that fell to two teams of side-characters in their own experimental giant mechas.

    Seriously refreshing to see a show where they don’t make the MC do everything useful.

    Even the base commander guy gets props for realizing that his conventional ordinance isn’t getting through the giant mecha shields and ordering his soldiers to ignore the big one and focus on the little ones – which they were actually getting results against.

    Solid tactical thinking from the anime military? Is that even allowed?

    • Highway says:

      I liked that aspect as well. And the way that the military backed itself up: When the tanks were overrun by the cactus bots, they pulled back and let the infantry suits come up and fight those guys. I did like the callback to Godzilla movies and their ilk, with the rows of tanks and rocket launchers all firing.

      Even more, it seemed like if it would be a war of attrition, the humans would win. The losses the humans sustained were all at the beginning, and then they changed tactics and won. You also got the feeling that the GAUS frames were, if not the equal of the Black Relic, at least 80% as capable.

  9. Namaewoinai says:

    I’am Sorry I’am late for this (I mean does anyone around there to blog this show)

    Let’s see now, So PA Works doing a Mecha Show eh…and it’s looks…great…really great, The CG the BG yeah it’s great, kinda envying.

    Now the Question is: do i care about it…
    Well…I Don’t think so…Cuz, yeah i seen them all, i mean really, you can’t explain it alright. Bah…Well i guess i lost my interest on these genre, as least for me.


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