Sometimes, in the course of doing so, we are confronted by the same questions that every person dreads: why am I alive? What’s my purpose? Who would miss me if I was gone? Add to this the questions that a person who hurt others and regrets it now must also ask: could I have done things differently? Am I causing more trouble by being around than simply going away? Beyond The Boundary has all of these questions and more but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Akihito Kanbara is a typical half-human, half-demon kid who lives in a town where the demons and ghosts, Youmu, live in relative peace with the Youmu-sensitive people of the town. These Spirit World Warriors (SWW) only cross paths with Youmu whenever they get out of control. To that end, Akihito has a cover of being in the literary club along with Mitsuki and Hiroomi Nase, a sister and brother in the Nase family, one of the oldest and most powerful SWW families in the area. This way, he can hang out with people who understand him and the Nase siblings can keep an eye on him. See, he’s a powerful demon and his demon side constantly is fighting to get out. So they hang out with so they can catch him before he destroys, you know, the entire town. But Akihito is a good boy, albeit with a girls with glasses fetish, and he walks a tight but noble line. Into this comes Mirai Kuriyama, the last of a cursed clan of SWW. Her clan could manipulate their blood into solid weapons and it is also caustic to touch for both humans and Youmu. She can sense Youmu and her talent plus her glasses see her attract Akihito’s attention. Then she stabs him multiple times over the course of the next few days. Ah, schooltime. How I miss it.
The beauty of Beyond The Boundary is that it draws you in, wrapping you up in the smaller details as the show moves toward its ends. Like from the way the Nase siblings work at getting under Akihito’s skin (in a nice way) while looking at each other and silently worrying that their friend will ask the wrong question and then a whole can of worms will be opened. To my surprise, the show throws a feint and tries to suggest that it is questions about Mirai that he shouldn’t ask and then throws another feint by saying that he’s not asking the right questions. As Akihito learns the truth behind how Mirai came to have to kill her best friend and why she’s as despised by the SWW community, the script changes to fit the tone and emotional upheaval he and she go through. Simply put, all of the jokes about Mirai being withdrawn and Akihito having a fetish about girls wearing glasses are all confirmed as true but then the show accepts this truth and moves past it to talk about their feelings and what each of them is carrying by way of guilt. For Akihito, it’s the memory of his friends as a child who died (it’s implied by his hands) while he lived. His demon half makes him immortal and impervious to most woundings but he can’t forget these children. For Mirai, it’s the fact that she killed her best friend out of fear when her friend was possessed by a powerful Youmu. Even though she was probably right to stand her ground, the memory of Yui is always there. The fact that Yui’s younger sister, Sakura, is gunning for her makes Mirai even more resigned to her fate. It’s like for both kids, they follow Alec Baldwin’s line from The Shadow and: “[to have] done things that you can never forgive yourself for?”
As the mystery of why they have found each other comes together, the show’s others characters begin to show off more than just their Youmu-killing talents as we learn about the humans in the cast and the Youmu who choose to live peaceful lives. Of all of them, I liked the Nase kids the most. They play, tease and make jokes about everything. Mitsuki constantly flirts with Akihito, much to his annoyance while she keeps Hiroomi and his little sister complex at arms reach. Mitsuki says nothing about things that she is concerned about, letting her actions speak for themselves, all while contriving to prod Akihito in the right direction. Hiroomi himself might come across as a bit weird (and he delights in sneaking up behind Akihito and putting his hands under Akihito’s armpits for warmth) but he is a powerful spirit warrior who does what he must to protect his sister and friends. I love his conversations with Akihito where it’s clear he doesn’t want to treat Mirai the same as other SWW’s. He loves using words and meanings to get his point across without having to actually say it. The other characters come into their own but not across the entire series. Sakura, Yui’s sister, comes into the show wanting to kill Mirai but settles her debt with her without either of them dying. She becomes a little sister to Mirai even though Mirai is very undependable.
Ayaka Shindo and her “daughter” Ai are both Youmu, working at appraising the Youmu remains (they look like rocks with crystals embedded in them) in exchange for money while maintaining the cover of a photo studio. I love Ayaka most, serene and calm even when others are losing their cool, with her conversations with Ai really mirroring mother and daughter. There’s a little weird bit in the photo studio when Mirai comes to work for them and they offer her more money to pose in various costumes (maid, schoolgirl, etc.) and Ayaka makes an almost off-hand remark that some clients pay extra for nude photos. What’s strange about the scene is that Mirai is queasy about nude photos so Ai shows Mirai her own snaps. Ai is even younger than Mirai so it’s a bit sleazy and I can’t tell if the animators were trying to say something or not. It’s not spoken about again so I don’t know. Finally, in an almost aside storyline, we have the Nase kids older sister Izumi and her antagonistic relationships with them, Akihito, Mirai and most importantly, Miroku Fujima. Miroku is a member of the Society of Spirit World Warriors Observation Department and he really is a creep. There’s always something going on behind his eyes. Besides, I don’t trust a man who drinks from a juice carton.
The animation by Kyoto Animation (Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On!, Free!, Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions!) is stellar, with the character designs by Miku Kadowaki really shining through and making each cast member stand out while the actual animation by the KyoAni staff is expansive with huge open shots of the town and the various Youmu spells cast on it alive, malevolent and vital. Some of the traps are very metaphysical, having no structure save what was created by the person trapped in to begin with. I never thought I could see so many scenes of the sun setting and not get bored but this show did a fine job of it.
KyoAni’s efforts to work up toward the big duke-a-roo and have our two main leads back to back, fighting for their lives and the lives of their friends and family pay off handsomely. In the end, the story becomes what it was in its opening episode: a story of two lost souls, thinking that it was absolution that was required of them when it was yearning for completion that will save them. It’s only at the end that they realise the sacrifices of the other pay for the two lovers to complete this stage of their journey. Powerfully, for one of the characters, it is that they could give all of it up so their other half could have another day in the world. While for the other, it is that they can throw that day so that the other might live. Boundary never once worries that it is getting sentimental because, for it, sentimentality gives way to truth and honesty. By the end, I was nearly upset that all would not be right with the world, that it would give me a standard anime ending: ambiguous and insubstantial. But the show ends on an excellent note and I love it all the more for it.