Shikabane Hime: Aka is a new anime produced by Gainax. The first episode, “Dancing Death”, starts off with a boy ominously moaning in pain in the darkness. It just turns out to be a boy having trouble getting to sleep because of everyone piling around him, though. He does seem to have a relationship with an ethereal black cat.
Unable to go to sleep, he heads towards the temple and finds a dead girl. However, he’s not freaked out at all since he has no fear of death. This means he’s an abnormal boy who is either a psychopath or has experienced trauma related to death. No doubt he’s the latter. But after witnessing his big brother (no blood relation, he’s an orphan living in an orphanage) holding her and having her revive, he decides to move out to live alone.
After a few months, a crazy but charismatic serial killer jumps from the twentieth floor when cornered by the police. Instead of dying, he becomes an undead thing called a shikabane. Meanwhile, Kagami Ouri, the boy who appeared in the beginning of the episode, finally moves out to live alone. At the same time, Hoshimura Makina, the dead girl he saw months earlier, is out hunting the new shikabane.
Ouri’s and Makina’s paths meet yet again when she falls from the sky in a failed attempt to destroy the new shikabane. Ouri is yet again calm when confronted with the apparently dead girl (again), while the creepy black cat also appears and talks again. This time Makina gets back up on her own and runs off after knocking Ouri down.
Ouri’s unrelated big brother Tagami Keisei arrives in a motorcycle to give Makina a ride in her chase after the new shikabane. When Makina confronts the new shikabane on the roof of a building, we learn that she is also a shikabane, except that she’s one specifically created to destroy other shikabane who threaten living humans. She uses twin submachine guns, though, so I wonder why she’s the main force against rogue shikabane. Couldn’t a group of heavily armed living humans able to do the same job? Maybe there’s no funding source for a fringe phenomenon that most people don’t even believe is real. Or maybe there’s something inherent in a shikabane that makes it indestructible except by other shikabane.
Ouri crosses Makina’s path yet again as he walks below the building where Makina destroys the new shikabane and falls down towards him. The episode ends without the two seeing each other, though. Given the way that a burnt photograph is shown a couple of times during the episode, with an apparently younger Makina with another boy and what are probably her parents, they might be trying to imply that she’s related with Ouri somehow. Or maybe it’s Keisei she’s related to.
From my impressions so far, Shikabane Hime: Aka looks like it’s going to be an interesting show. While the few comedic moments tend towards slapstick, the main thrust seems to be the supernatural element of the shikabane Makina hunting other shikabane, with Keisei and his religious organization being her living human support. We have yet to learn what role Ouri is supposed to have and what kind of relationship he will have with her, however. I have the feeling that the show might go into the question of what “living” actually means.
I’ll be following the show at least for a short while since it looks promising, but I hope it doesn’t devolve into a monster of the week show or inane plots. I’m pretty sure we’ll see some really twisted characters, though, which might include Makina herself.