One day high school student Akihito Kanbara (voiced by Kenn) spies cute classmate Mirai Kuriyama (Risa Taneda) seemingly about to jump off the school building. He instinctively runs to Mirai's aid and tries to dissuade her from suicide with a well-intentioned but silly remark about how pretty she looks in glasses. To Akihito's extreme surprise, Mirai inexplicably conjures a sword from her own blood and stabs him through the chest! Mirai is equally surprised that Akihito does not die. As it turns out Mirai is a Spirit World Warrior, the last of an ancient clan that protect humans from otherworldly monsters called Dreamshade, while Akihito happens to be an immortal who is part-human, part-Shade. As their lives become intertwined, Akihito helps Mirai gain the confidence to kill Dreamshade, so that she can stop trying to kill him as practice.
Beyond the Boundary started out as a series of 'light novels', which are the Japanese equivalent of young adult books, written by Nagomu Torii with illustrations by Tomoyo Kamoi. The television series debuted in 2013 and was a hit on both sides of the pond. Well, maybe. Frankly it is hard to gauge judging from the various anime fan forums that echo the mixed critical response slamming the show for its supposedly lightweight characters and perceived lack of substance. That said no anime sires two feature films unless somebody out there likes it. As per a longstanding tradition in anime, the convolutedly titled first film: Beyond the Boundary: I'll Be Here - The Past plays as a super-condensed retelling of the TV series. Despite its predictably episodic nature the story flows well and weaves an amiable, at times even heartrending star-crossed love story that doubles as a fable about adolescence.
Long before Twilight (2008) or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992/97) the anime industry was adept at spinning fantastical allegories about high school life. Working within a tradition that goes back at least forty years, Beyond the Boundary taps the universal teenage anxiety of feeling uncomfortable in one's own skin. Both Mirai and Akihito long for a normality that is beyond their grasp. Stripped of their roles as slayer and monster, she is a studious girl burdened with the weight of expectation while he is a boy struggling with the strange metamorphosis of his body. Normality seems beyond both their grasp yet they feel normal around each other. Which, for all the criticisms leveled at the series, seems a wholly believable rationale for the central romance. The plot contrives multiple reasons to keep the young would-be lovers apart. Our hero and heroine take turns dying and returning from the void in a relationship cycle that, in its uniquely Japanese way, proves both melodramatic and understated.
Dreamy blonde Akihito and pink-haired bespectacled Mirai are characters that are undeniably tailored to appeal to the otaku crowd. Yet they emerge as relatively faceted and more importantly engaging. The comedy moments are overly cute including Akihito's fetish for girls with glasses, the absurd depiction of his mother as an ageless demon-horned sexpot in a halter top and micro-mini, and the inevitable scene with the female characters in swimsuits. It is aimed at teenagers after all. However the gravity-defying action sequences are animated with spectacular fluidity and the graphic splatter effects and offbeat creature designs prove quite striking. The plot takes the concept of monsters as fears made flesh in an interesting direction. Japanese culture tends to encourage introspection. This is something that starts in high school where students are urged to pinpoint their character flaws, anxieties and perceived personal failings as a means of developing a well-adjusted, more productive member of society. In Beyond the Boundary the world-threatening Dreamshade are portrayed as the physical manifestation of all the suspicion, fear and hatred society at large has thrown at Akihito who must ultimately confront his own anxieties. So while not especially groundbreaking the story is more nuanced than its detractors maintain. Plus only the truly stone-hearted would not be moved by the penultimate scene. A post-credits teaser sets up the sequel: Beyond the Boundary: I'll Be Here - The Future (2015).