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Beyond The Boundary (2013)

Japanese Highschooler Akihito happens upon a fellow student named Mirai Kuriyama apparently about to throw herself from a rooftop. As he tries to talk her out of jumping, the girl pulls a sword- apparently out of nowhere- and stabs Akihito right through the heart. Beyond The Boundary sure knows how to make an entrance.

Mirai, it turns out, is a Spirit World Warrior, a spiritually attuned individual who is tasked with tracking down spirits known as Youmu. Youmu are created from negative human emotions such as despair and hatred, and although mostly harmless, can sometimes attack or possess humans. Akihito, for his part is a rare half-human, half-youmu and therefore conveniently immortal. After this slightly less than ideal meeting, the pair form an unlikely alliance, as Akihito tries to help her gain confidence in her youmu hunting abilities. Partly so she'll stop attacking him for practice.. and partly because he's got a major thing for girls with glasses.

Beyond The Boundary creates a compelling parallel world where Spirit World Warriors carry out their work among a completely oblivious population. The warriors work as bounty hunters part-time while continuing to live apparently normal lives attending school or going to work. So far the set-up sounds similar to almost any other supernatural anime such as Bleach or Noragami. Yet this is a show with a unique atmosphere and a feel all of its own.

The series is adapted from a series of light novels and is produced by Kyoto Animation (KyoAni). The studio is better known for series such as K-On, Free and Kanon and is frequently associated with the Slice-Of-Life genre. Beyond The Boundary certainly has elements of that, and the super-natural stuff is mixed in with the usual high-school hi-jinx and character drama. There's even time to take in a festival, despite the oncoming threat.  The combination of the two seemingly disparate genres is surprisingly effective and makes for a bewitching whole. The extra time spent with the characters in these parts of the show give the action and later dramatic twists extra emotional heft and added impact.

There's a distinctly melancholic thread running throughout the series that effectively captures part of the universal teenage experience. These moments are balanced with humour and lighter moments too, so there's no worry that it ever becomes too bleak or depressing.

KyoAni are frequently lauded for the high-quality of their animation, so it's no surprise this series is something of a looker. The animation is smooth and fluid, the designs are appealing and the show is packed with imagery that will make your jaw hit the floor. For best results, pick up the Blu-ray and watch it on the biggest screen you can find, because this is a real treat for the eyes.

The studio may be best known for more down to earth series, but their first steps into full-blooded supernatural and fantasy territory are supremely confident. They handle the action as adeptly as the quieter moments. The designs on the various youmu are also brilliant, creating a whole range of creatures running through the cute to the downright unpleasant.

It's not perfect of course- Akihito is fairly bland as heroes go, with only his aforementioned glasses-fetish to set him apart. Worse is the other main male member of the cast, who's over-attachment to his little sister may be played for laughs but it's still creepy. There will be a touch too much high-school shenanigans for some too, although the emphasis here is firmly on the otherworldy.

Overall though, Beyond The Boundary is a captivating series which grabs you from that undeniably memorable opening. Fairly unusually in the world of anime though, it even sticks the ending, with the twelve episodes coming to an effective and emotionally satisfying conclusion.

Travel Beyond The Boundary, and we're pretty sure you won't regret it.

BEYOND THE BOUNDARY is available on DVD and BLU-RAY from ANIMATSU in the UK and SENTAI FILMWORKS in the US. Also Streaming via Crunchyroll, Animax (UK) and Hulu (US).   

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