I've really been rooting for BEYOND THE BOUNDARY, also known as KYOKAI NO KANATA. It's one of the best animated shows that came out last fall, and despite being moe bait I found a lot to enjoy in the interactions between characters. There was a rich setting of Spirit World Warriors fighting youmu demons (which represent the negative feelings of humanity) and the politics associated with such a powerful and important group of people.
It's a shame, then, that so much of this potential is wasted by inconsistent storytelling. Elements are introduced, then shelved for several episodes. Politics are used as explanations, but never explained themselves. And, in the final few episodes of the series, the plot moves at lightspeed in a desperate attempt to cram as much closure in as possible. My best hypothesis for this is that Kyoto Animation, the studio that brought us the show and the light novels it's based off of, wanted to do a full season of 26 episodes but only had the budget for 13.
The story goes that Akihito Kanbara, a rare half-human half-youmu, befriends the lonesome transfer student Mirai Kuriyama because she looks so good in glasses. It turns out Mirai is from a cursed clan of Spirit World Warriors who can manipulate their blood, and after several failed attempts to kill Akihito -- immortal thanks to his demonic heritage -- he convinces her to join his circle of friends (who happen to be other Spirit World Warriors tasked with watching him in case his demon half gets out) in their high school's Literary Club.
When describing BtB to people I often mention the superb fighting, which is something you don't really expect from a moe show. Combat is fluid and intricate, full of flowing ribbons of destruction and explosions with great lighting effects. The supernatural powers on display, even if they're just punching stuff real hard, shows wondrous imagination. Mirai's blood sword deserves special mention as not only does it look good, she uses it in several interesting ways like changing the direction it's facing.
And this continues through to the end of the series, where the granddaddy of all youmu shows up and only Mirai can take care of it. Unfortunately that's also where the show starts falling apart.
Now there are some huge plot twists in the last few episodes, as one might expect. Unfortunately they have almost no gravitas because their setups are so brief. When one of your villains is a villain because he's crazy, your plot is already on shaky ground. Combine that with monologues about character relationships we only assumed were present, and it seems like you're trying to retroactively cram in character development.
Sure things are revealed, but major questions about the origins of the show are never addressed. Big things like who Akihito's father is. Or if Hiroomi Nase was in love with Akihto. Or even just what the heck the Society of Spirit World Warriors does. It seems like the show knows what these answers are, but doesn't have the time to tell you and so rushes to the inevitable conclusion.
But then the worst part—the worst part—is when the show undoes it's own ending. By the last frames of the final episode and thanks to some blatant deus ex machina, everything is basically at square one again despite all the conflict. Little is resolved and the relationships that remain feel artificially happy and hopeful because there's no explanations for how things got to start all over again.
So basically, if you're down with some light moe fluff with an eye toward amazing animation, BEYOND THE BOUNDARY will hit the spot just fine. Just don't expect great things from the story, despite what it might lead you to believe.
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.