Episode 6: Fearful Fire Sorcerer – Kurei!!
Kurei Mansion Arc
Chapters adapted: Volume 3, Chapters 20 and 21
Last time we left Flame of Recca, our heroes were left beaten and embarrassed in the rain in the anime, and Recca and his group were ambushed in the manga as volume 2 wrapped up. With a cliffhanger like that you might wonder just what would happen next after everything fell to pieces and our hero is left unconscious in the rain. You might be chomping at the bit to see what happens next, and that’s all well and good, but before we begin I’d just like to say a few things.
First, unlike the last episode which very loosely followed the manga, this episode more or less follows the manga . . . up to a point. The differences this time, though, are more than a bit strange. The first half of the episode adapts two chapters (in mixed around order) and the last half is . . . well, I’ll mention it when we get there.
We start episode 6 as Yanagi awakens in a bed in a strange mansion. She is also naked, because, well, I have no idea. It makes less sense when it is explained later. Nonetheless, she is being treated quite well considering the people she’s with almost murdered four people when they captured her and Mr. Tatesako. In the manga she awakens in a small concrete room, fully dressed, and frightened out of her mind, as she should be, and backed into a corner.
She is visited by Koganei who gives her back her clothes after having washed them. This is all well and good. He explains his regret at what transpired in the mansion and states to Yanagi that Mrs. Tatesako is “probably” okay. Kurei then shows up and decides to explain what she is doing there in the first place by inviting her into another fancy room.
I got to say, I prefer Koganei being ignorant about the truth in the manga as opposed to knowingly doing evil things here but ignoring them because it’s Kurei. It makes him a bit less likeable and less innocent. He was originally someone on the wrong path because Kurei, who is like an older brother to him, leads him that way and tries to convince him right is wrong and wrong is right. This makes him morally confused, but still with a sense of justice. In the anime he just appears to willingly turn a blind eye to bad things. Though he doesn’t show up in the mansion in the manga yet–this scene was taken from a later chapter and changed around.
But back to the story. Now Kurei is finally going to tell her, and us, the truth about what is going on. The episode then cuts away to remind us that Recca was left for dead.
Recca wakes up in the emergency room at the hospital screaming for his princess.
His father knocks him on the back of the head and chews him out for making noise after just waking up from nearly freezing to death in the rain. This is a bit weird for several reasons. The first is that Recca had no idea where he was, the second is that he could have been delusional from his head wound, and the third is that his father seems relatively unconcerned about anything that happened. He didn’t ask about where Yanagi was, question what happened to the half-dead woman at the scene, or the fact that her husband was missing, too. He just seems to think it was a schoolyard fight or something. Which, considering the stab wounds on Mrs. Tatesako would be a very odd schoolyard fight.
The weirdness is partially because he wasn’t in this scene in the manga. It’s also partially because Recca’s dad in the anime is a really flat, one dimensional character. He doesn’t have any of the manga’s eccentric humor or his introspective side.
Originally, it was Domon and Fuko who found him in the manga and came to the hospital not knowing anything about Mr. Tatesako or his wife since they didn’t go with Recca or Yanagi in the manga. Recca explains what happened and both his friends leap to his side to rescue their friend, Yanagi.
You see, the Flame of Recca manga has love as an overarching theme, which also includes the love between friends. Fuko and Domon have no reason to risk their lives to help Yanagi, but they do it because they care about her and won’t let Recca risk his life alone. Because of all the background we learned about Domon and Fuko so far we know that they are a lot closer to Recca and Yanagi than we first might have suspected.
This is entirely ruined in the anime.
In the anime, their motivations are stupid and as shallow as any generic battle series.
Instead of a heartwarming scene where Recca prepares for war and Fuko and Domon talk him out of it before deciding to back him up, we get more moping and dark colors as the pair tell them why they’re going with him. And no, it’s not out of the goodness of their hearts.
They want to go to “avenge” their defeat at Mokuren’s hands. They aren’t going for Recca, Yanagi, or Mr. Tatesako, or to avenge Mrs. Tatesako who they actually met in this version and never mention again, but for themselves. Not only does this fly in the face of the original series, it is the flattest most boring reason for doing anything. The laziest and most generic motivation in any anime is for a character to do something “because they wanted to” and it actually being true and not being a cover.
I say it isn’t a cover because it’s never touched upon again. In anime or manga when there is a character that does something because they wanted to it either a cover for the truth such as Tora and Ushio & Tora who has to constantly reaffirm that he’s a bad dude to protect his rep, or the character actually has that flat a motivation.
And since neither Fuko or Domon have much character in the anime, they have no motivation to go except for a fight. It’s unbelievably lazy writing.
This doesn’t happen until later in the episode, but it’s worth mentioning now before we get there. This change was bad and entirely unneeded, once again. Because they didn’t leave in any of the character building or development that the manga had, the anime writers had to concoct a reason for Fuko and Domon to help Recca like they did in the manga. So instead of seeing a bunch of friends gather together to rescue a fellow friend, you now get a bunch of people only looking for a fight and nothing more.
Back at the mansion, Kurei explains his plan for Yanagi after revealing Mrs. Tatesako will survive her wounds. It’s nice that someone in the anime finally cares about her because they never seem to mention her again in this arc in the anime.
Mori Koran, chairman of the Kokomu Corporation, the man who puts up a front of giving to charity and good causes, is secretly after a much bigger prize. He is also Kurei’s father. Koran, like Kurei, is a murderer, who has no qualms about doing what he wants to get what he wants. And what he wants is Yanagi’s power to find the secret of immortality. Because what’s the point of getting what you want all the time if eventually you have to stop? It’s a good question.
Kurei, showing that he moves in strange ways, drugs Yanagi’s tea and burns her just washed and cleaned clothes to cinders as she falls unconscious to the floor. Why he does this except to reveal he has flame powers is unexplained. Not to mention, why did he have her clothes cleaned if he was going to burn them anyway? That’s a bit awkward.
In the manga, Yanagi doesn’t drink the tea (because she isn’t stupid, I’d wager) and is burned by Kurei’s flames as she gets hysterical about her predicament, as well she should. There’s a bit more context for everything here including the fact that Kurei is far more unhinged and intimidating than he is in the anime where they have to use background transitions and effects to play his creepiness factor higher.
This is also where the rumors come into play and how they found out Yanagi was the rumored girl in the manga. You see, there was surveillance footage near the end of the fight between Recca and Mikagami in the house of mirrors where Yanagi healed Recca from loss of blood. It was the only footage of the fight caught, but it turned out to be invaluable for Koran’s scheme. He’d bought the tape from the owners and kept it on the backburner for when they could find her.
The tape is also played in the anime . . . begging the question as to why someone was following them in the first place to tell them the rumor was real.
But you know there will be no answer to that. There never is.
Kurei is the one Kagehoshi warned them about earlier. He’s the flame master they were going to have to face eventually. But what does it all mean?
Now this part of the anime flips the manga around a bit. In the manga, Recca went to get his ninja supplies and then went to find Kagehoshi; in the anime this occurs the other way around. The manga makes this into a bit of a gag that Recca was rushing ahead without knowing where he was going, but the anime, well, yeah, there was no chance that bit of humor was going to stick.
Recca goes to the place he first met Kagehoshi with Fuko and Domon in tow and he calls her out. She reappears claiming what happened to Yanagi wasn’t her fault though Recca insists she help them find her and Mr. Tatesako since, you know, she did try to murder them before and everything. In both versions she concedes to help, though the manga version is a bit more believable since she never tried to outright murder any of the characters.
After some convincing, she finally gives and tells them the location of where Yanagi is using her madogu to do so, making him promise to come back alive. The scene is a bit more heartwarming in the manga than the anime, but there’s no time for that! No, after hearing Fuko and Domon’s asinine reasons for helping Recca, we’re off to the woods and . . . we diverge from the manga again.
Now for some filler!
From everything in the middle of the episode to the final few minutes is all original material. The first half of the episode crammed in two chapters so we can get some fighting. Because this is an action show! Who wants pesky character development, comedy, or plot advancement? No, let’s see some broken faces!
What we have next is a bunch of anime original material of the three storming the secluded forest mansion. This includes a scene where Fuko reveals she had never even tested Fujin out since being freed from it (despite, uh, carrying it around all the time), Domon gets dragged through some bushes, and Recca actually manages to flip through open machine gun fire to take an enemy out in one hit.
The action here is nothing like the action of the other episodes, so much so that it’s actually jarring. Recca isn’t knocked down thirty times, and is able to avoid machine gun fire when he couldn’t avoid a highly telegraphed spin kick only two episodes ago. In fact, they manage to beat down a cadre of highly skilled and trained guards. Amazing.
But the capper comes at the end when Kurei blows up most of the forest to take care of the three intruders. So much for a secluded base away from the public.
This fails as Recca fires off some fireworks to show he’s okay to Yanagi and she celebrates before being knocked out, yet again, by Kurei. Oh, and she’s naked again, too. In the manga they would just bring her to the experiment room, but expecting Anime Yanagi to do so much as walk is apparently still asking too much.
The episode ends as they finally break into the mansion and are stopped by a statue that can detect their movement. It’s in the center of a narrow hall which means they can’t pass unless they destroy it.
It even fires lasers at them!
This is where the episode ends and dovetails back into the manga again. It also includes a bit of the next chapter in the manga, but I won’t include it here since it is only properly adapted (using the term very loosely when it comes to this anime) in the next episode. It’s also a single page of content.
All in all, this episode is a hodgepodge. It crams in two chapters at the beginning of the episode and changes the motivations of two characters (making them much shallower in the process) and adds in a bunch of filler fight scenes leading back up to chapter 22 in the manga at episode’s end. I don’t fault them from wanting to get right to the mansion, but it still would have benefited from not whip-lashing around scenes and POVs like this episode did.
Now, the added material isn’t all that bad, but what was changed included the fact that Recca and his friends were able to sneak in and take out the guards (you know, like ninjas) before entering the mansion in a scene of awesome adrenaline and good-natured humor. There were no mass of explosions taking out a large chunk of the forest or tons of armed guards that couldn’t shoot a teenager at three feet away. This is the benefit of being a ninja, which is kind of the whole point behind Recca’s duty of being one.
In fact, Recca fired the fireworks off from miles away. It was still bravado, but at least it wasn’t in response to Kurei nearly detonating the whole forest to kill three people. If I wanted my secret compound to remain a secret from the public, I would probably not detonate bombs at my doorstep. But then, I don’t have a secret compound of evil, so maybe my opinion doesn’t mean much.
But this episode wasn’t a disaster. Despite the pointless changes and unyielding dark tone stripping the fun out of this arc and story in general, it remained more or less accurate to the plot of the manga. But we still have quite a ways to go into Kurei’s deadly mansion, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t stray any more than this for the rest of the arc. The manga really deserves a proper adaption in the spirit of the original story.