One of my "do I still like anime" tests, randomly suggested by another anime fan. The name certainly gave nothing away. And the result is in the affirmative, this was good fun to watch, I'm just worried I got addicted to another anime that will continue indefinitely (or until the money runs out).
The story begins with Ichigo Kurosaki, an overly physical brat with spiky orange hair, kicking the butts of three other youths. They had the misfortune to disturb a road-side tribute to the departed, and since Ichigo can see the ghost still bound there he is pretty aggravated. And considering his physical abilities seem almost unlimited, whether due to his spiritual power or more likely sparring with his insane father, things go very badly for them.
However this also marks a start, for seeing the ghost so clearly indicates his spirit powers are growing. This is not such a good thing, as there are greater spiritual forces than ghosts within the world. Specifically he gets to see a hollow, a corrupted ghost, and a shinigami (god of death) who is hunting it. Indeed it is not long before he finds himself rather more deeply involved in this conflict, both protecting and endangering those around him, including the shinigami herself whose powers are torn from her as Ichigo's grow.
Tried to avoid too many spoilers. If you know shounen action series you can probably guess much of it. Hyper-energetic and seemingly indestructible (no matter how much damage he takes) youth discovers he is gifted with surprising and growing spiritual powers. And as they grow the caliber of monstrosities that face him keep pace leading to ever more impressive threats and battles. And this cycle will continue until... well, the author of the manga gets bored of it or they run out of people willing to keep reading.
So, another excuse for a super powered teenager to beat up on monsters right? Well, sort of, certainly for the first 10 episodes it is pretty damn traditional and it's easy to discount it as another version of a familiar story. After all if you called it a modern version of Yu-Yu Hakusho you wouldn't be too far off the mark. But even here it does begin to show some interesting strengths.
The first of these is that it is really, really loud... but manages to somehow balance that. For example it happily wanders off into loud comedy, and verbal sparring, even in the middle of serious fights. This is not that unusual, but the way it can integrate it with serious stories, and switch between the two so successfully, shows real skill behind the anime. Likewise the characters have more depth, and more intensity, than one might expect. In other words, it's rather good.
And then it just keeps getting better, growing along every metric that matters. The characters grow both in number and depth, there's even the seeds of romance slowly maturing. The mythology of this world grows as well. We get to see that it's not just "bash the baddie" but the whole process is part of a complex and ongoing process, rich in detail and paraphernalia. And, most interestingly the politics grows. There are various factions involved, and even dramatic differences of opinion within the factions. This gives a sense of history and meaning to the unexpectedly interesting story that unfolds.
In other words yes, it is what I call magic warrior in a pretty pure form. But the added character and depth makes it some of the better stuff in that genre. Although I will freely admit that some of the politics is simply to widen the pool of people for Ichigo to fight. It also, around episode 25+ (second season I suspect), seems to have settled down for a potentially long series of fights. The new openings and closings showing a distressing number of potential opponents and many of the non-combatant characters have been cut off from the story (or more interestingly having become combatants, including one who seems to have gotten lost on her way to a magical girl anime). Will it continue to entertain or become bogged down in endless and increasingly silly fights? It really could go either way. Been a rather enjoyable trip so far though.
The production is pretty good too. Interesting character design, a good ability to give the feel of motion without blowing the budget and varied fights and encounters. One advantage is that spiritual powers are largely filtered through Japanese mythology, thus traditional magic and martial arts (specifically swordsmanship) are the means through which spirit power is expressed. This is a lot more interesting and atmospheric than "pure energy" powers even while it is sort of illogical. Needless to say each character has their special moves which adds to the variety. The voices are very good, the calm and depth of Rukia being a vital foil to Ichigo's performance, and the music is modern and "spiky" which works surprisingly well as ambient music.
Spiky haired, overly physical youth develops potentially immense spiritual powers and find monsters who need a good dose of it. The setting is traditional magic warrior anime, but this title does it pretty well. Lots of variety, depth and character as well as some unexpected plot developments to keep you interested. Good production too, with spiritual powers strangely ending up with a lot of ninja style battles which may not make sense but which looks pretty cool.
None of my regular sources have a review of this title, it's pretty new at the moment I guess. I'll have another look when I extend this review.