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Tuesday, 07 June 2011 15:13
11eyesOriginally simulcast by Crunchyroll a few seasons ago and now getting the uncut treatment from Anime Network, 11eyes follows the story of a group of high-school kids thrown into a nightmare alternate world where dark forces are trying to destroy them, for reasons they initially don't understand....

Raised in an orphanage after witnessing his sister's suicide, Satsuki Kakeru's life has already been dark and cruel enough. However, when he and his friend Yuka are thrown into an alternate dimension called the Red Night, life takes a gruesome turn from bad to horrific. Now, trapped flickering between our world and the Red, Kakeru quickly discovers that he and Yuka are not alone and that, together with the other so-called "fragments," they must defeat the malevolent entities known as the Black Knights. Facing monsters from beyond imagination, at the center of a deadly hunt, Kakeru's only chance of saving their lives now hinges on finding the power buried within himself and unraveling the mystery of his own origins and family. If he can survive long enough to do it...

So sayeth the official blurb, anyway. In reality, things are a little more complex than that, as the series weaves quite a complex little web of relationships: Kakeru is very close to his childhood friend and fellow orphanage "inmate" Yuka, who would do anything for Kakeru, while their trips to the Red uncover a group of fellow fragments that they must learn to work with: Misuzu, raven-haired shrine maiden and inheritor of a fighting style that has a long and proud history; Shiori, the at-first-glance shy and quiet new transfer student who may know more about what's going on than she at first lets on; Eastern European girl Yukiko, host to a split personality - kind and cheerful on the one hand, a cold and ruthless killer on the other; school delinquent Takahisa, who has a hard time getting to grips with this "teamwork" thing; and mute girl Kukuri, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Kakeru's dead sister.

They're quite a varied group. Some, like Misuzu and Yukiko, clearly have a head start on the idea of fighting for their survival - they're both very capable at what they do, and when added to the powers they gain just by virtue of being in the Red Night, you wouldn't want to mess with them. The others, though, take a little bit longer to find out what their powers are, and to learn how to use them - a process that sees Kakeru and Misuzu grow ever closer, and Yuka reacting ever more badly to the situation that she sees as driving a wedge between them. Yandere alert...

Arrayed against them are the Black Knights, guardians of the crystal prison in the middle of the Red Night that holds young girl Lisette captive. The Fragments have the power to release Lisette, and so the purpose of the Knights is clear: to make sure that doesn't happen. But while the series starts off being presented as Fragments good, Knights bad, Lisette the innocent captive, it's not that simple - and that's where things start to get really interesting.

It also gets into territory that I don't want to delve into for fear of completely spoiling the series. What I was expecting when I started with 11eyes was a fairly generic harem show with action elements. It's a little more clever than that, with some nice twists and turns along the way that helped it to handily beat my expectations - always a good thing. It's also very well presented, and has a slight streak of fanservice to it - just the occasional nod here and there, the way it used to be done, and not at all in your face. The characters are a decent bunch as well, perhaps with the exception of Kukuri (whose muteness makes it very hard to give her anything in the way of character development) - each has their little quirks and backstory that gets properly explored as the series goes on.

The show also isn't afraid of throwing the odd shock in, the occasional scene that's far gorier than expectations, just to keep you on your toes. Ultimately it's not anything hugely original or special, but it's the implementation that makes it work better than it should, and easily well enough to be worth watching (especially when it's free, as the TV edit version is on Crunchyroll). It's not anything breakout or spectacular, but for some decent action from a group of likeable characters, it's not bad at all. If I could rage at anything about it, it would be the ending, which has a large dose of reset-button to it - a pet hate of mine - but overall there's enough good elsewhere in the series to just about make up for it. Well worth a look.

Version notes: Crunchyroll are streaming the TV edit (episodes 1-12), for no charge; Anime Network are streaming the home video version, including the bonus 13th episode, but require a subscription.


Rating - ***