Rant From The Past: Kurenai

Warning: This is chock full of spoilers and walls of text.

Apparently, I ranted to Rho enough to go beyond her threshold, and then she cunningly convinced me to blog about this so she would no longer have to listen. Devious.

Here, I'll be offering my thoughts (supposedly, I have many of them) about series (that I just finished watching) that are a little too old to get proper reviews, but affected me in some serious ways.

I wonder if these corner buildings really exist...

Today's installment is Kurenai, the 2008 series spanning 12 episodes. I'm attempting to get the 2010 2-episode OVA, but I hear it's completely unrelated to the main series.

Kurenai was a series with a good premise, some really interesting concepts, but extremely poor execution, serious (and unexplained) deviation from the original work, and ultimately a terrible ending that made sense only if you threw away a lot of logic.

Murasaki really made the shown, whenever she wasn't being needy and/or annoying.

I assume you would know about Kurenai if you're here, but just in case: A 7-year-old girl named Kuhouin Murasaki is taken from the Kuhouin Compound against the wishes of her caretakers (including her father), but according to her own wishes, by the Mediator Juuzawa Benika, who leaves the girl in the care of one of her newer underlings, Kurenai Shinkuro (titular character). This happened in the first few minutes of the first episode, so the story thereafter is how Shinkuro adjusts to taking care of Murasaki, how Murasaki (having never been outside) adjusts to the "real world", and why she actually had to be "stolen" from the main house. So, on with my complaints~

All the characters you really need to know about.

Why was Shinkuro so weak?
I hear that this is a characterization that was anime-only, and he was entirely different in the light novel. I would sincerely hope so; his character in the anime made no sense. It was as though the producers (or parties responsible) were trying to introduce some kind of Achilles Heel by making him eternally emo about the Hozuki Horn, but all it did was introduce confusion. Why did he have the horn put in if he didn't "like" it? I mean, was it mandatory for him to get it put in if he wanted to learn the martial arts style? In that case, he should have had some serious experience with the horn, considering he must have trained with it while learning the style. If he had it put in at the very end, as a method of "succession" to the house, then why did he have to go along with it? I mean, he left the house anyway; what could he have gained by pleasing his master? The idea that he would have such a powerful item in his possession, but not have the confidence to use it, despite his ability to wield it, seemed extremely contradictory (and maddening). It might be a fallacy of a 12ep series; there wasn't enough time to explain fully why he was so scared of the horn. (I mean, he might have accidentally killed with it, and then Benika would have bailed him out, and then cue the psychological trauma...) But, you know what? If you don't have enough time to fully explain it, stick with the original. It would be, in most cases, better done.

I kind of wish she wore kimonos more often in the series...

Why did the Kuhouins need to practice inbreeding?
After doing some research on the matter, I found out that there were two schools of thought: one that the Kuhouins wanted to inbreed, in order to preserve bloodline purity, and the second that the Kuhouins needed to inbreed, due to a mutation of some kind that left them unable to outbreed. Without more information, unfortunately, neither of these two schools sound too legit.

Let's begin with the first one: they want to preserve bloodline purity. Unfortunately, silly things like "natural selection" and "genetic mutation" get in the way. There's been a lot of historic inbreeding, mostly due to the same thought process that the purity should be preserved, but it didn't last for too long, in comparison to total human history, and the reason it even lasted as long as it did in each case was because of the outbreeding that occurred along with it. Genetic mutations are generally caused by the degree of the relationship; marrying your first cousin would obviously have less detrimental probabilities (in general) than marrying your direct sibling. From what I could gather from the anime, the Kuhouins had one nuclear family that inbred; Person A and Person B would have Person C and Person D, who would then reproduce Person E and Person F. This degree of inbreeding theoretically should not be able to last so long (unless it's only on its 3rd generation, since we did only see 3 generations of people, which makes it only slightly more believable), especially when they're constantly exposed to human beings who are not inbreeding. A single virus that this line's immune systems cannot fight back against would mean that the Kuhouins would face extinction (or widespread exposure to society). Honestly speaking, it's not impossible that such direct inbreeding could carry on without a hint of a genetic mutation; it's not guaranteed that inbreeding would produce defects, after all. The idea is that recessive traits, when present in both parents, have a much higher chance of manifesting as a dominant trait in the offspring. Forgetting mutation for a second, the Kuhouins were so "pure" to begin with that they had no debilitating recessive genes?

I had initially thought that Kuhouins had a genetic mutation that meant they couldn't outbreed; that is, for some reason, their genes could only reproduce with genes that had a very specific trait that only Kuhouins would be born with. Once again, however, the idea that they would avoid severe genetic mutations is strange. Their gene pool is extremely small, and it's still inbreeding that's going on due to the degree of relation between the people. Without knowing exactly for how many generations they have been solely inbreeding (I assume that, at some point, they were able to outbreed until the mutation occurred; otherwise, we're getting into serious evolutionary questions), the idea that they haven't hit the inbreeding depression is strange. The question in the anime was always about whether or not it was right to keep Murasaki (and all Kuhouin women) locked up in the Inner Sanctuary, with implications to the gravity of "forced" incest; there was never any talk about mutations. There were never any visible mutations (Murasaki looks pretty big and healthy, after all), although the more serious deleterious traits seem to be the non-visible ones (i.e. reduced immune system and reduced fertility). However, they never talked about either Soujo or Renjo (Murasaki's parents) having faced any problems in conceiving, or their children being genetically useless (the notion that Murasaki's brother would want her back in the Inner Sanctuary so that they could reproduce when she was of age directly insinuates that both of them are fertile).

In terms of what kind of mutation would even cause them to only be able to reproduce within their own genetic line: I don't know clearly what stops certain species from reproducing with certain other species, to be honest. My extensive research into this subject taught me a lot, but not enough to explain this. Rho says that it has to do with chromosomal count, which means that the mutation must have involved deleting or creating chromosomes, thus taking the Kuhouins out of the human gene pool and placing them into their own. I genuinely have no idea, though.

It's hard to say that this wasn't a harem anime.

Why was Murasaki's father, Renjo, so weak?
(This seems to be a recurring problem with this anime.) The series ended on an extremely sour note. As if it wasn't bad enough that I was already questioning some things by that point (for example, why could Benika not bring any more pro fighters? how come the Kuhouins did not have any more pro fighters? and so on), it was extremely hard to swallow that Murasaki would lay down the condition that she would stay in the Kuhouin Compound only if the rules were changed. It seemed extremely unbelievable, no matter which school of thought I subscribed to regarding their reproduction habits. If they had chosen inbreeding and Murasaki led Renjo to accept that their ways were wrong, then am I to believe that, in all their years of inbreeding and maintaining purity, not a single person spoke out against the unfairness of it all? It had to be the combination of Murasaki, a headstrong Kuhouin female heir, and Renjo, a loving and caring Kuhouin father, that broke the traditions? Moreover, how could the traditions be so easily broken? I mean, Renjo was shown to have dwindling power due to his father and son's collaborations. Despite being the head of the family, it's ridiculous that he can make these decisions single-handedly when it was shown in just a handful of scenes ago that there were some really powerful men out to get him. What's keeping them from fighting back, in the future, long after we've stopped watching? It's like Murasaki walked into a trap and everyone left her there, as though the entire series hadn't been about protecting her.

Nonetheless, this is more believable than the alternative: the Kuhouins can only breed amongst themselves by design, and Renjo just opened the door to extinction. If Murasaki, after having grown up, is allowed to choose her own partner, there's a ridiculously good chance that it won't be her brother. If she was locked up in the Inner Sanctuary, only able to see her brother regularly, and holding on to her memories of Shinkuro, then the chances of extinction would be kind of lower (after all, her brother could woo her off her feet, right?). However, she's allowed to go out (a promise that they seem to live up to, considering she's sitting in Renjo's lap at the end, telling him stories), meaning that the number of her possible suitors has exponentially increased. No matter how much of a loving father Renjo is, can he really so easily accept extinction? The hopeful tone that the anime attempted to close on was baffling; I fail to see how the remaining Kuhouins could accept this decision so easily.

Her hair was always seriously disturbing. Genetic mutation?!

Final Thoughts

So, all in all, I think those were the points that most bothered me about this anime. I think I should make it clear, though: despite sounding like I'm bashing the Kuhouin method of reproduction, I'm really not. It was an extremely interesting idea, from both scientific and social viewpoints. The idea of inbreeding being the only method for survival (given that I assumed it hadn't been a choice on their part) was extremely fascinating to me.

As far as recommending this anime or not goes, I think the ending broke it to a point where it's pretty unacceptable. If I knew the ending was horrendous, I would still watch it, because Murasaki was an absolutely delight and her interactions with Shinkuro (and others in her path, for the most part) were interesting to see. However, I'm pretty rare in that sense; most people, I think, don't tend to watch something that's overall bad for a single good thing.

Maybe I'll attempt to find the light novel or the manga?

Disclaimer: I did a lot of research on genetics to figure out what was going on. It's all pretty amateur-level stuff, though, and there's a good chance I understood concepts or terms wrong. I'm open to corrections~ I don't want to bash Kurenai; I want to understand it.