An Endearing Young Hero: An Early Review of "Kekkaishi"
During the day, Yoshimori appears to be like any other 14 year old boy, going to school (i.e., falling asleep in class) and talking with friends. But by night, he and his childhood friend/rival/love interest, Tokine, guard the school grounds from the dangerous "ayakashi" that gather there to gain power.
This action anime, Kekkaishi, has strong elements of comedy, romance, and the supernatural. Its original run in Japan began October 16, 2006, and ended February 12, 2008, with 52 episodes. It first aired in the United States on May 30, 2010, and its fifteenth episode aired September 4, 2010. What this anime also has is an intriguing premise and appealing characters.
"Ayakashi" is a Japanese term that refers to spirits and other supernatural creatures. Specific characteristics of ayakashi alter from tale to tale, anime to anime, but in this particular series, these creatures can come in nearly any form and with any intent. The one thing all ayakashi in this series have in common, however, is the amazing amount of power they can gain by gathering on sacred grounds known as Karasumori.
Yoshimori and Tokine come from the Sumimura and Yukimura familes, respectively, and both clans' chosen heirs are responsible for ridding the Karasumori grounds of any ayakashi that steps its proverbial foot there. This "work" of theirs is done at night, but coincidentally enough, the school both teens attend during the daytime just happens to be built on the very same site.
The concept, while not entirely unique (other series depict heroes who battle ayakashi, youkai, and other Japanese spirits/monsters), proves itself to be worthy of attention and popularity. The original manga series that spawned the anime is still running at 29 volumes and counting.
And if the premise seems borderline cliché, then its hero is the prototype of a standard sh?nen protagonist ("Sh?nen" meaning manga/anime aimed at a young male audience). He has immense, unimaginable power and stamina, only hampered by his lack of practice and technique. He has a love interest, but his affections for her aren't played up in any sparkly, overly romantic way. He also has a strong desire to prevent anyone from getting hurt...an essential quality for a protagonist of his genre.
And yet, stereotypical or not, Yoshimori is an extremely endearing hero. Let's face it: some clichés got to be cliché because they work. People like following the progression of a hero they can really, genuinely relate to and root for. Simple as that.
Yoshimori has a lazy streak, but he's certainly willing to do the task appointed to him. Albeit, he does complain once or twice along the way, but that seems reasonable given the situation. Not many other teenage boys have to sacrifice sleep and safety to protect a mysterious ancient site (and, by extension, humanity in general) while maintaining a certain level of secrecy about it to his daytime friends. His immaturity isn't too over the top, really. Actually, I'd go so far as to say, in spite of the "slacker" aura he generally gives off, Yoshimori is a rather mature 14 year old.
His desire to protect people comes from an incident in his childhood when Tokine got hurt trying to protect him. From that day forward, he vowed to protect her -- and everyone else in his path, for that matter -- from ever getting seriously injured like that again. And isn't it nice to see an adolescent male protagonist who wants to protect his love interest, rather than chase after her skirt? It sure is in my book, anyway.
As I write this, the series isn't anywhere near over, but I suspect Yoshimori will continue to grow as the episodes progress. He's already made a bit of progress in the first 15 episodes. I can hardly wait to see how much stronger and skillful he becomes in the episodes to follow, and I have enough confidence in the character to recommend this anime to anyone who might appreciate a semi-traditional hero fighting against monsters of Japanese lore.