12 Days of Anime #7: “A Game Between Two Worlds” December 20, 2015Posted by navycherub in 12 days of anime, Anime, Essay, Kekkai Sensen.
Tags: 12 Days of Anime, Anime, Essay, Kekkai Sensen
Klaus needs a new computer.
In this episode of Kekkai Sensen, there is a crazy drug going around. Libra needs to stop it. An old monster friend of Klaus’ has information that is necessary to keeping it from destroying society as we know it. Something something, they play a crazy game of chess, something something, everything turns out fine.
Part of Kekkai Sensen‘s appeal is certainly in how it spins absurd stories that a different, more self-serious show would use as an excuse to try and create a complex, detail-ridden narrative. Instead of doing that, Kekkai Sensen tells us exactly as much as we need to know to understand the stakes, and leaves everything else to the imagination. The priority is always on the emotion of it all, instead, which might not work for everyone but is certainly right up my alley.
The most inherently amusing part of “A Game Between Two Worlds,” then, is the titular game. Called prosfair, there is essentially no explanation of the rules. It seems to be some incredibly convoluted form of 3D chess, where the board starts small and simple but grows as the game continues on. The pieces evolve as well, and the game goes on for an absurdly long time, since Klaus and the Don’s game lasts 90 hours and doesn’t even truly finish.
In a way, the game of prosfair itself is a commentary on how Kekkai Sensen prefers to tell stories. In all of its supposed complexity and depth, the game really makes no sense from the viewer’s perspective. Instead of learning the details of the game, we understand its intensity and difficulty from how the players deteriorate playing it, or how Klaus talks about the Don’s capabilities. It also looks really cool, possibly even cooler because of how it grows and affects the characters despite how little we understand of it. Prosfair, like the drug plot in the same episode, is simply a setpiece, a vehicle for the ideas and themes the episode wants to actually express, all without muddling the story with meaningless plot points.
So, if the drug plot and prosfair aren’t the point, what exactly is? Put simply, Klaus himself. Throughout the whole episode we follow Klaus as he puts himself in harm’s way and tries to protect the people around him. When he hears that K.K. was attacked by one of the drug users, his immediate response to seeing her is concern, but not in a condescending way – he knows she is ridiculously strong, but can’t help but fret anyway. He tells the chess grandmaster Ulchelko to not try to checkmate the Don, not because he thinks he is a bad player, but because he knows what Ulchelko is getting into and wants the best for him and for the cause they are fighting for.
Klaus’ desire for safety and peace never wavers, even as he is told that Ulchelko wanted to have him and K.K. killed if he won. The Don questions Klaus about this apparent contradiction, and Klaus answers with a declaration of resounding empathy. Klaus understands that people are flawed, and that in all of their messiness they will make mistakes. But to him, that is no reason to give up on them – doing his best as often as he can for the people he cares about is always worth it.
Klaus has a few moments like this in Kekkai Sensen‘s run, but this is really his first and most overt character moment, and it encapsulates the kind of themes I love the most: an admiration and love for people, despite their problems. Klaus as a character embodies this feeling in everything he does, so combining that with exactly the kind of storytelling I love (ideas and emotions over invasive plot details) makes me come back to this episode over and over again.