Anime Caw of Fame

Caw of Fame Review: Beyond the Boundary

What’s it mean to be in the Caw of Fame? It’s a take-off on Hall of Fame, and since crows make the sound “caw…”

Well, I think it’s funny.

For a series to earn this “honor,” it has to meet these two criteria: the last episode has to have debuted at least a year ago and I have to like the series. A lot. As in re-watching it over and over.

Without any more fanfare, please welcome Beyond the Boundary to the Caw of Fame!

Beyond the Boundary: What’s it About?

Youmu stones earn cash for Spirit World Warriors. Ayaka, herself a youmu, appraises a youmu stone for Kuriyama. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Human emotions create spiritual creatures named youmu. Negative emotions create youmu that might be dangerous to humans, so a long time ago, certain families (clans) of humans with magical abilities created the Spirit World Warriors. Spirit World Warriors have different kinds of magical abilities, some of which can be used as weapons. If a youmu attacks humans, these Spirit World Warriors will respond and kill the offending youmu. When a youmu dies, it leaves behind a youmu stone. The more powerful the youmu, the more valuable the stone. Merchants, some of them youmu, appraise and pay for the stones.

Most youmu are invisible to humans. Others look very human and interact normally with human society.

Clans sometimes politically clash, and there are times when a significant event requires the clans come up with a unified response. The Spirit World Warriors Society manages those interactions. As with any human endeavor, the clans strive for advantage, and there’s a lot of intrigue.

Characters and Plot

Warning! This review contains spoilers, especially for the first four episodes.

Izumi Nase is behind much of the intrigue in the series. She’s also ridiculously powerful. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Two major plot lines power Beyond the Boundary. The first involves intrigue between the Nase clan, especially Izumi Nase, and the Spirit World Warrior Society. Izumi wants to maintain the balance of power or perhaps tilt the balance in the Nase clan’s favor. To do that, she enlists Mirai Kuriyama’s help. This plot is mostly in the background and provides a context for the story.

The other plot line follows the relationship that develops between Akihito Kanbara and Kuriyama. It’s the more interesting and better told of the two. We first meet Kanbara as he’s walking home after school. He happens to glance upwards and is alarmed to see Kuriyama standing on the school building’s roof, outside of the fence. Terrified that she was about to jump off to commit suicide, he dashes to the roof and tells her that someone who looks so good in glasses shouldn’t die.

What happens next is too good to spoil. You should really watch it. Even if you’re not sure if you want to watch the show or not, go to Crunchyroll and watch the first 2 minutes and 15 seconds of episode 1 (Carmine). Let’s just say that we in the audience learn three important things from this scene.

First, Kuriyama is a Spirit World Warrior. Second, Kanbara half-youmu and is immortal. Third, we learn that Kanbara loves girls in glasses so much that he was willing to disrupt his daily routine to try to save one.

For a reason Kanbara cannot understand, Kuriyama doesn’t want to tell him what she’s really up to. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

For the next few days, Kanbara tries to figure out what Kuriyama wants from him. He belongs to the school’s literary club, and the President, Mitsuki Nase (also a Spirit World Warrior), tries to warn him to stay away from the petite, glasses-wearing young woman. But he’s becoming more interested in her, so he doesn’t heed Mitsuki’s advice. All he gets out of Kuriyama is that she’s the last of a cursed clan, all of whom used their blood as a weapon. She even creates her sword out of her own blood.

The Spirit World Warriors Society issues a warming that a very powerful and very large youmu, named Hollow Shadow, is about to pass through the city. All Spirit World Warriors are ordered to keep their distance and wait for it to pass. Kanbara learns that it had possessed Kuriyama’s friend years before, and she had to kill it — unfortunately killing her friend (Yui Inami) at the same time. Now, Kuriyama wants revenge or atonement. She thinks she has convinced Kanbara to leave her alone, and she enters the Hollow Shadow. Kanbara, though, isn’t about to let his “bespectacled beauty” die, and he goes in after her. As they fight their way through the illusions and other attacks the youmu throws at them, she tells him he has friends, unlike her. He responds that her she’s the one who doesn’t understand anything.

Though hard to get across in a still shot, the series conveyed the power and ferocity of magical combat in a visceral way. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Together, they manage to strike a near-lethal blow against Hollow Shadow. Her strike was so devastating that a rain of her blood denudes the trees for hundreds of meters. They let their guard down; the remains of the Hollow Shadow try to posses Kanbara. He convinces Kuriyama to use her sword to kill it. In doing so, she so weakens Kanbara so much that his youmu half starts to take over.

It’s at this point that Mitsuki, her brother Hiroomi NaseAyaka Shindou, and Shizuku Ninomiya arrive and erect a magical cage around Kanbara. Kuriyama realizes that the people around him weren’t his friends, they were his guardians. And they weren’t protecting him from the world; they were protecting the world from him. He’s so powerful that when a single fireball of his power escapes from the cage, it destroys acres of forest.

This is where Kuriyama and Kanbara’s relationship really begins.

What I Liked About It

The series effectively used art to convey emotion, like Kuriyama finally understanding the full extent of Kanbara’s power. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kyoto Animation published the series, and it shows: the art is beautiful. Just as in more modern works from the studio (like Sound! Euphonium Season 2), the animation is wonderfully fluid; small gestures provide character detail that dialogue could not. What really stood out to me were the emotions the characters conveyed. Watching Kuriyama’s expression and body language when she realized the truth about Kanbara; or Kanbara’s expression when he regained consciousness and realized what he’d done (both in episode 4, called Bitter Orange); the series consistently showed honest, raw emotions from its characters.

Not only are the characters fully realized, but so are the environments. Beyond the Boundary takes place in a believable world that’s sometimes normal and sometimes supernatural and eerily compelling.

It was heart-warming to watch the relationship grow between Kuriyama and Kanbara. At first, she perceived those around him, like Hiroomi, Mitsuki, and even Ayaka, as his friends. Out of a combination of jealousy and a sense of her own alienation, she kept her distance from him, even when he tried to help her. It was only after she saw the damage he did to the hillside — and to Hiroomi, Ayaka, and Ninomiya — that she understood just how alike their situations were. And yet, she continued to be conflicted, and we see why as the series goes on.

Kuriyama’s pride tried to stop her from accepting the youmu stone’s bounty; her hunger, though, won! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The series has a great sense of humor. Kuriyama is proud, but given her reluctance to hunt youmu, she’s very poor. Though she turns down the youmu stone bounty after Mitsuki tried to share it with her, Kuriyama couldn’t help but reach for the money as Kanbara held it out to her — even as she protested that she didn’t need it. In another scene, Kanbara’s human mother sent him a magical postcard in which she dressed as a cat. Ayaka was merciless as she teased Kanbara about that — and it didn’t help that Ayaka’s ward, Ai Shindou, Kuriyama, and even Mitsuki arrived just in time to watch it.

I know magic doesn’t exist (at least in the world we call our reality). However, if it did, I think it would look just like how Beyond the Boundary portrays it. Take the scene where Hiroomi, Ayaka, and Ninomiya try to contain Kanbara. The shimmering, shifting light patterns in the cage, along with the talismans that Ayaka used to regenerate it as Kanbara tore it apart, were as functional as they were beautiful. Everything from the hand gestures to the effort the character put into the spells just felt right.

Kanbara’s power is, to borrow a cliche, off the scales, and that affects how others see him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I’ve always been attracted to characters who were insanely powerful and had to deal with the effects. Like Kanbara with his usually submerged youmu half, or Layfon Alseif from Chrome Shelled Regios and his ability to wield a Heaven’s Blade, these characters carry a burden that others don’t. In Layfon’s case, he had others to learn from and lean on; Kanbara had no such luck. His alone-ness added a sense of tragedy to his character as the series started. It also added a poignancy to his relationship with Kuriyama. Kanbara’s isolation should feel similar to many of us who see the world in a way that’s not common, whether it be an artistic streak, a writer’s mentality, or dozens of other perspectives that conflict with what others call “normal” (and the older I get, the less convinced such a state really exists).

Most shows dealing with magic share a trait that’s bothered me: even if there are non-human species represented, all magical power seems to be human-scale. If there’s a dragon, some kind of human magic can bring it down. If there’s a demon, some kind of human ability can defeat it. Though I understand dramatically why that’s so, I wondered why a series couldn’t portray a creature who was simply on another level from humans. For a while, Beyond the Boundary addressed that when the Spirit World Warrior Society forbid any warrior from trying to attack the Hollow Shadow because it was too powerful. Granted, Kuriyama and Kanbara managed to kill it, but I give the series credit for acknowledging that such a situation was realistic in the first place.

The OP’s music and art were a perfect introduction to the series. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The OP and ED were perfect fits for the series. The singer’s voice in the OP is warm and inviting, and the visuals show off Kyoto Animation’s understanding of how to use color and movement to capture an audience. It’s also a succinct introduction to the main characters and the world. The ED, while less overtly beautiful, nonetheless captured the show’s other-worldly perspective, as well as Kuriyama’s sense of isolation that was bridged only when Kanbara came into her life.

More than anything else, the characters and their interactions keep me coming back to Beyond the Boundary (which you can watch streaming on Crunchyroll). I mentioned Ayaka’s sense of humor earlier; she also runs a photography business on the side and sells pictures. She convinces Kuriyama to pose, and she ends up selling pictures of Kuriyama dressed as a maid to Kanbara (which to Kuriyama’s chagrin). Mitsuki tries to keep her distance as one of Kanbara’s observers, but she seems to really be his friend, and she often gives him little pieces of information or advice. Kanbara’s mom is delightfully exuberant, though Kanbara’s embarrassed by her displays of creativity and affection. I didn’t even mind Hiroomi’s sister complex, though I have to agree it was a bit extreme (on, Jitendar Canth called the relationship “otaku-baiting creepy”). In the end, it’s Kuriyama and Kanbara’s relationship that holds it all together. I guess I’m a sucker for isolated outsiders finding one another!

If you’re still not convinced this is a great show, try watching it on Crunchyroll. Stick with it until the end of episode 4 (called Bitter Orange). When I watched it for the first time, it was the ending of that episode that convinced me I was watching something special.

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5 thoughts on “Caw of Fame Review: Beyond the Boundary

  1. and now I love this series just a little more. One day I’m going to rewatch it very carefully an analyze those episode titles

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