‘Kuromukuro’ – A Mecha Anime With a Little Bit of Everything

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'Kuromukuro' screen capture from P.A. Works' promotional video.
‘Kuromukuro’ screen capture from P.A. Works’ promotional video.

I recently discovered the anime series Kuromukuro on Netflix. I was pleasantly surprised that it entertained the whole family… well, mostly. My nine-year-old daughter didn’t so much watch it as sit in the room and assemble her latest LEGO Friends kit; she did look up occasionally and ask questions, so she got some fun out of it. However, despite some grumbles from my twelve-year-old son that it was subtitled, he enjoyed it as much as my wife and I did.

In present-day Japan, a research facility was built on top of a giant robot discovered underground 60 years prior. Although the robot and the large cube found with it have been unresponsive since they were found, Chief Researcher Hiromi Shirahane has developed mechanized armor (aka mecha) based on the strange technology.

Everything changes when a large meteor turns out to be an alien attack, which splits to hit the research center and several places around the world. It is the return of humanity’s mythological enemy, the “ogres” from Japan’s ancient past.

Yukina is Chief Shirahane’s somewhat directionless high school-aged daughter who is visiting the research center when the alien robots begin attacking. The previously inert cube activates and opens right in front of Yukina. The cube dumps out a naked samurai warrior from 450 years ago, just in time to defend Yukina from an attacking robot. The samurai, Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma, at first mistakes Yukina for the princess he was sworn to protect. Sophie Noël is a young foreign exchange student from Yukina’s school who turns out to be a genius and works for the research center as a test pilot.

'Kuromukuro' main cast from left to right: Kuromukuro (the robot), Sophie Noël (one of the research center's test pilots), Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma (the samurai), and Yukina Shirahane. Photo: P.A. Works
‘Kuromukuro’ main cast from left to right: Kuromukuro (the robot), Sophie Noël (one of the research center’s test pilots), Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma (the samurai), and Yukina Shirahane. Photo: P.A. Works

In addition to the usual anime mecha adventure fare, this show is packed with tropes popular in anime and other media. We have Kennosuke as the lone wolf warrior, paired with Yukina as an unlikely battle couple. Kennosuke is also a man out of his time, protecting a woman he just met yet feels a strange attachment to (like Kyle Reese from The Terminator). Yukina herself is a possible princess with a lost royal lineage. The so-called “ogres” are strange beings from humanity’s mythical past who suddenly attack after a long absence (like Attack on Titan). As if that wasn’t enough, we have a high school romantic comedy (like too many anime to mention). Although it sounds like a pastiche of concepts, the show is well executed and it somehow hangs together perfectly.

As I mentioned, the show is only available in subtitles. If that is a problem for you or your kids, you might give this anime a pass for now and hope they will come out in an English dubbed version soon.

Netflix gives the show a maturity rating of TV-14, meaning it is intended for teens and older. Personally, I did not have any problem with my kids watching it.

Kuromukuro is directed by Tensai Akumura, who also directed such anime greats as Wolf’s Rain and Blue Exorcist‘. The show is produced by P.A. Works and distributed in the U.S. by Netflix. Although nearly the full run of 26 episodes have aired in Japan, only the first 13 episodes are available from Netflix now as “Season One.” Netflix will begin airing “Season Two” starting October 10th. I can’t wait!

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