Kurenai is based on the light-novel series by author Kentaro Katayama and illustrator Yamato Yamamoto. There is a manga adaptation, which began serialisation in Jump Square Magazine in 2007 and is currently ongoing. The anime adaptation by the studio Brains Base started and finished airing in 2008, consisting of 12 episodes in length. The director, Kou Matsuo, was also responsible for the anime series Red Garden.

I originally saw the first and second episode of Kurenai when it aired, but ultimately chose to postpone the series until recently. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t, for what followed was an engaging and conflictive story of friendship. The plot is simple in principle, but what distinguished Kurenai among others of its genre was its characterisation, which is truly the strength behind the series. In addition to Kurenai and Murasaki, the primary pair, the remaining cast were also believable and relevant. Each character received the appropriate development and background. Kurenai, the titular character, possessed a seemingly calm and considerate disposition, but also a dark and troubled past, which is explained throughout the series. Murasaki is the instantly likable, but quick-tongued, seven-year-old, born into the revered and wealthy Kuhoin family. The development the two shared was endearing and refreshing. Murasaki’s voice actress (seiyuu), in particular, did a wonderful job bringing the character to life.

The production was good, everything considered. The animation by the studio Brains Base was original, particularly the fluidity of the fight scenes (not to mention, the highly amusing musical episode). The character design, similar to its light-novel counterpart, was attractive, lending itself to a stable style, while injecting an element of originality. I liked the attention to detail of Murasaki’s long strands of hair, which would move freely and realistically. The soundtrack by Ken Muramatsu was solid and set the mood well in each scene. The opening song ‘Love Jump’ by Minami Kuribayashi was catchy, while the ending songs, ‘Crossing Day’ and ‘Tenohira no Taiyou’ by Ryoko Shintani were both listenable after the first screening.

On the whole, Kurenai was highly enjoyable, both for its well-developed characterisation and interesting premise. This is recommended for those who like something that’s slice-of-life, but also has an equal share of action, drama, comedy and even a subtle hint of romance.