This last weekend was really tough…for a lot of reasons. And I found myself wanting to absorb into a guilty pleasure to make myself feel better, and that guilty pleasure? The kingdom known as K (or K Project). A subpar anime with two seasons, one movie, six OVA’S, and a TON of side content in the form of manga and light novels, K is actually probably my top guilty pleasure anime. It is…really good as a franchise. Let alone you read all of it. Lucky for me, I am obsessed enough to have done it all–thanks to the help of my favorite tumblr, Secrets of the Slate. Anyway, K is an anime about people with magical powers who are parts of clans and those clans are ruled by “Kings”. And generally the clans don’t really get along. There’s a lot more happening in the plot aside from that–everything from magical rocks, to using up so much power that a king will literally explode, to a mischievous body-double, to a mysterious cat-girl, to revenge for murder, to –okay so there’s a lot going on in this mess of a plot. Honestly, it could be organized way better. But I’m not here to introduce everyone to the world of K. No, I am here to talk about what I believe K is all about at its heart. So, those who are treading into unfamiliar territory, hold onto your dakimakura’s! You might get a little, a tad confused, and a ton of spoilers. Let’s get into talking about K.
As I’m sure all fans are aware of, power has always been central to K. The Kings view power differently–Mikoto so famously said in season one that “power is just power” and a king should do what he wants–but Munakata believed it had to be used for the good. Meanwhile when Anna became king she wished to use it to protect. Then Nagare wanted to give widespread power–let unleash the slates so everyone had power at their fingertips and it was simply survival of the fittest–making ones own path with their own power.
The main conflict of season two really was power at it’s heart. Nagare and Shiro have vastly conflicting views on it and this is what leads them to struggle over the slates. Nagare believes everyone will be better off with their own powers to pave their own ways–something that actually sounds like an American dream. Who doesn’t want the power to create their own destiny? This is Nagare’s ideal world–an ideal I’m sure many other people have.
But then Shiro doesn’t wish to unleash that power. Why is this? Well, I think it’s because he knows that power is dangerous–something we saw in season 1 with Mikoto. As Mikoto says ‘power is just power’, meaning what you do with that power is up to the person. And as we know, when someone is offered power they don’t always do the right thing–even if they are a good person. Power, to Shiro is a dangerous, dangerous thing. It killed his sister yet spared him. Lust for power would always be an issue for some. And I think perhaps it’s these beliefs that keeps Shiro from fighting much of the season (and Anna too). We all know Shiro is the first king–and should be the most powerful–but he never fights–never displays his power much to the disappoint of the fandom. But I think his lack of action speaks volumes. He doesn’t really ‘fight’ for the power, instead he works together with other people–interacts and bands together to defend it. Then when he’s failed and he can no longer protect it, he decides to give it up and destroy all the power. But why of course? Dramatic action? Well perhaps…but I think the reason for this is a little deeper. Shiro, when he was Adolf Weiseman, created the slates out of an experiment and I think he may have always been curious about power. Why else create the slate that gave people it? Did he think it would lead them to happiness? I’m not sure what goal he had in mind. However, Nagare believes the slate giving everyone power will lead to happiness–to that ideal world–even though Shiro knows it’s dangerous. At this point Shiro could have killed Nagare–I’m sure he could’ve been capable–but instead he kills the source of power. Because he decides that people sitting around a table together, sharing a meal is more important. AKA power doesn’t lead someone to happiness, companionship, family, love, relationships–that’s what makes someone happy. That belief makes me want to believe that Shiro’s lack of fighting is simply because he knows everyone has someone to go home to. So fighting to kill should never be an option.
The idea of relationships over power is common across all story lines in K. First off, we always see Homra as this tight knit family–even before the first season. Totsuka as mommy, Mikoto as daddy, Kusanagi as cool uncle. Then when Anna takes over the boys of Homra want to protect her and she wants to protect them (which by the way–I believe Anna isn’t featured in fights due to her wish to use her power to protect–she mostly uses it for just that in the second season). Then we have Fushimi and Yata. Best friends until they got swept into this power system, and where did their story line resolve? Fighting with each other instead of against one another, accepting that their worlds are big enough to have lots of important people–each other included. Then there is scepter 4 who have been acting as a police force for too long and not like a clan–at the end of the season we see them defend Munakata and we see just how much he means to them–literally heart wrenching as we see he is more important to them than any law. There is also the green clan even–what are they always doing? Eating around a table together in a very family like fashion–and it’s clear how much they cared for each other–I mean look at how Yukari and Sukuna remain together after Nagare and Iwa’s deaths–look at how they cry and leave flowers for him–for the loss of important people, not a battle. Then of course we have how Mr. Iwa took in Nagare after the Kagutsu incident, creating a family for the boy king who lost everything–more than a king or henchman, Iwa always seemed to be a father to Nagare first (also consult Dream of Green on this). Then there is the final interaction between Kuroh and Yukari–Kuroh sparing Yukari’s life–saying how they were both Ichigen’s pupils once (and we all know also kind of like brothers). And lastly, we have Neko who said it herself–and who has always shown it: she doesn’t care about power–she doesn’t want to get drawn into the power struggles, she just wants a home to go to. She wants the home she made with Kuroh and Shiro–and Shiro did too I think. After spending so long alone in his blimp after his sister died, he finally has a place to belong again–to return to.
Relationships have always been more important than the actual plot line (we can tell simply by the mess the plot is usually in and how the side manga focuses more on character relationships than actual backstory). Power has always been the central struggle but it’s not the most important thing by a long shot–and it’s certainly not the way to happiness. Which makes me wonder what is the intended moral of K? Sure it deals with power an awful lot, it deals with lots of different struggles surrounding this power system created by the slates, but at the end of the day. I think it’s comments on power is a side note. It’s not trying to say that humans shouldn’t be trusted with power, it’s just saying power is a dangerous thing. It’s too easy to lust for it when you get a taste of it (look at the colorless king from season 1) and it does cause problems (look at Fushimi and Yata–became clansmen, got powerful, had a HUGE falling out -OR- Mikoto, lost a friend, decided to use power unreservedly to avenge friend–was he wrong to do so? I don’t think so but I don’t think it was good either). Power is something that yes is used to protect things that are important–but everyone has something–someone else who is important. So power may always conflict when given to all or even any.
But more than this power–more than it’s struggles, K really does seem to be about having a place to belong. It’s more about people. I think it’s common people think they need success–money–power to be happy.But people don’t need all that to be happy. People need people to be happy. Love, friendship–that familial table to sit and eat around; everything we see between the characters of K. And you know, it’s kind of true. When remembering K what are we going to remember? The battle sequences, the displays of power? Or are we going to remember the small things–like Shiro, Kuroh, and Neko naming their clan, scepter 4 defending Munakata, Saruhiko and Yata working things out, Mikoto and Totsuka’s deaths, Seri and Izumo, the boys of Homra. Perhaps it’s just me, but I know it was the tiny moments like these that made me happiest.
And I think that while the second season was slow at times, rushed at others, a little messy, and extremely repetitive, I can’t say it was a bad season. I thought it was a great season. But in order to fully grasp some of it I felt that you had to be familiar with all the side manga as well–with it things made a lot more sense and certain phrases and scenes took up more importance. Yes I’m sure the anime could have been executed better–and the OVA’s that capture important parts of the side material (such as Lost Small World, Memory of Red, or even Days of Blue) could’ve come out sooner, but I rather like K as a franchise overall. Once you put everything together, you may not have a perfect picture, but it’s still great.
So yes, there may be many things that will bother viewers and fans alike, but K is definitely worth watching and thinking in depth about. It certainly doesn’t rely on action to carry the plot on or even to keep your viewership–instead it relies on beautiful animation, stunning music, and endearing characters.
P.S. I could write a full essay on this…I won’t….but I could