Kyoto Animation's 2013 series Beyond The Boundary was a mixture of many things. It had some surprisingly high octane action, a good sense of humor, a unique philosophy on the subject of light and darkness within the world, and a plethora of characters that ranged from the adorable to the peculiar. However its ending brought forth a few questions that weren't quite given a proper answer. Thankfully that changed with the release of the 2015 double-feature Beyond The Boundary -I'LL BE HERE-, which has finally been brought stateside two years after its initial run.
The first film, with the subtitle Past, attempts to retell the majority of the original twelve-episode series in less than 90 minutes. While you get a fair understanding of who Mirai Kuriyama (Risa Taneda/Kira Vincent-Davis) and Akihito Kanbara (Kenn/Clint Bickham) are, it doesn't quite go into the vast detail of what exactly this world was the series was creating for its viewers. Considering that the first 30 minutes of the film condenses episodes 1-9 and the last hour focuses on 10-12, you lose a lot of reasoning behind their bond as friends, not to mention why the universe has destined them to be polar opposites of one another. To be blunt: if you watch Past without having seen the actual anime, then you will more than likely be confused by this and the second film. Thankfully there are three different places (HiDive, Hulu, and Crunchyroll) one can stream the entire series before diving into these movies, making it impossible for people to miss out on the original show.
Future, the second film, continues right where the series leaves off. Kuriyama has lost her memory, leaving Akihito heartbroken after going through Heaven & Hell to rescue her and the world itself. With the aid of Literary Club siblings Mituski (Minori Chihara/Monica Rial) & Hiroomi Hase (Tatsuhisa Suzuki/Adam Gibbs) and youmu appraisal Ayaka Shindō (Naomi Shindō/Molly Searcy), Akihito decides it'd be best to keep her from remembering the dark past that once caused her emotional distress and certain feelings of unpleasantness. However when a dark entity starts to wreak havoc in their surroundings, it becomes clear that keeping Kuriyama from her past self will lead to far more dangerous circumstances.
Beyond The Boundary -I'LL BE HERE- plays with the themes of keeping down the darkness from within, be it distasteful desires or memories filled with disturbing elements. Its means of reasoning with one's inner turmoils is done so with a surprising amount of heart and care, pushing the concept of one never being alone in battle -- both literally and metaphorically -- to great strides. At times its way with humor can be oft-balance with what occurs throughout the second film, but it becomes a breath of fresh air for those more heart-wrenching moments. (Watching Akihito catch Kuriyama from a great height results in one of Kyoto Animation's finest visual gags, one that'll make you wince while chuckling.)
Moving the tail end of the story to the big screen means a visual upgrade to the animation, with the details of Future and the compilation film Past being as different as night and day. Kyoto Animation already did a pretty good job with Beyond the Boundary initially on television, with the cutesy characters battling the creepy youmu monsters to great detail. It's the smaller additions in Future that make the animation stand out even more so, be it the way Kuriyama's hair blows in the wind, how her blood sword forms from the cut in her hand, or the ink blot-styled youmu's free-flowing movement as it attacks everything around itself. Although it had that moé style that Kyoto Animation stuck by from K-On! to Myriad Colors Phantom World, the look surprisingly fit well with the darker elements of the story being told.
With the Japanese cast reprising their roles for the film, it is apparent that the actors felt very comfortable jumping back into the world of Beyond The Boundary. Taneda comes off more sympathetic as Kuriyama, given the situation that she has been placed in for the second film. Kenn's Akihito pushes far more emotional than in the series, with the thought of losing Kuriyama again being one of the character's main focal points throughout -I'll Be Here-. The English dub also does a fine job with keeping true to the emotional aspect of the films, with Vincent-Davis's take on Kuriyama surprisingly bringing about a more humanistic (and less geeky) approach than Krystal LaPorte's original portrayal in the TV series.
For the most part, Sentai Filmworks' release arrives with not that many extra goodies alongside the two movies. It contains your run-of-the-mill Japanese trailers and promos, as well as previews of other series under the distributor's resume. The one gem in the extras is a full-length music video of episode six's insert song "Yakusoku no Kizuna." Even though the song is your average Japanese pop idol melody, one cannot be unimpressed with the amount of work placed into the detail of the characters' dance moves. (Methinks the art of the rotoscope helped to place a bit more fluidity into everyone's fancy footwork.)
Despite its well-rounded story and great visuals, Beyond The Boundary -I'LL BE HERE- is something that only fans of the original series will find entertaining. If you found yourself watching the anime and not really getting into it, then these two films won't change your mind. With that being said, this double feature showcases exactly what it intended to offer: a reminder of why they enjoyed Beyond The Boundary in the first place, and the satisfying conclusion that the series was lacking. Needless to say, lovers of the main show will not find Beyond The Boundary -I'LL BE HERE- unpleasant in any way.
Beyond The Boundary -I'LL BE HERE-: Past:
Beyond The Boundary -I'LL BE HERE-: Future:
Promotional consideration provided by Mike Bailiff of Section23 Films
Background Noise: Afraid Of Heights by Wavves - The surreal mentality of Nathan Williams & co.'s 2013 record plays with the elements of darkness via a surf punk attitude. Dealing with heartbreak and falling from grace in "Demon To Lean On," battling loneliness in the title track and forcing the blame upon yourself in "Everything Is My Fault," and facing against the enemy of the world in "Paranoid" make this an album that both children of cursed blood lineage and youmus alike can relate to.