Nabari no Ou
Miharu is an unemotional and detached boy who has no memories of his past. As it happens, Miharu has the most powerful ninja power dormant within him, known as the Shinra Bansho. It can't be removed, so Miharu will have to decide how it's used. If he can master it. It's just as likely he'll lose control and go insane if the power awakens. A ninja clan offers to help in order to prevent misuse of the Shinra Bansho. They want keep it dormant, and Miharu agrees as he wants nothing to do with it. To bind the power, it's decided to gather the 5 scrolls of forbidden techniques distributed among 5 different ninja clans.
A rival ninja clan wants the power for themselves, and set out to gather the 5 scrolls before Miharu's side can. One of the rival ninjas named Yoite is a wielder of a forbidden technique. His only desire is to use the Shinra Bansho to erase his existence. He forms an alliance with Miharu, although they remain on opposite sides. Both sides to turn against the two if they can't get the Shinra Bansho before the clans find out about what they're up to. And ninja aren't known for treating traitors well.
I thought I had Nabari no Ou pegged after the first episode. Ninja kid discovers he's got special powers, and they gather 5 forbidden scrolls to bind the power within him. Gallivanting from ninja village with fight after fight, all the while it's a race with a rival ninja faction that wants the Shinra Bansho for themselves. Except that didn't happen, nor did it go the direction I thought it would.
The story of Nabari no Ou is a slow moving narrative which flows well from episode to episode. It picks up a bit in the middle and then tapers off again. Not a lot happens in any given episode. I began to wonder what the point was, but I realized my expectations were wrong. The core feature of this anime is the relationship between Miharu and Yoite. They start as adversaries, then form a secret alliance. As things progress they get closer and closer... maybe too close. Yoite wants to use the Shinra Banshou to erase himself as if he had never existed. As Miharu becomes more attached to Yoite, he becomes torn between Yoite's wish of obliteration, and his one desire to help him. The two are caught between fighting ninja factions as Yoite gets closer and closer to death each day.
It sounds like I contradicted myself with complexity in relationships, yet lack of accomplishment in the "plot". The true story of Nabari no Ou lies in the interaction and progression of relationships between characters. It's NOT stuff blowing up, or ninjas fighting. It takes a while for that to sink in (if ever). Typically relationships are background fodder in anime, so it's easy to miss what's happening. A lot DOES happen, but it's between the characters. Whether you'll like that approach or not is hard to say.
The end of this anime is also noteworthy. The climax happens in the second to the last episode, but it's not the end. The final episode deals with the aftermath, and what happens with Yoite and Miharu. What's special about this last episode, is that it tenderly takes it's time to resolve things in a way that feels perfect. I possibly liked the conclusion more than the rest of the anime.
Nabari no Ou is only so-so for an action based ninja anime. It does have some action, and it's awesome in parts, but there isn't a whole lot of it. On the other hand, it's very deep from a character perspective. Fangirls will especially love some of the ambiguous relationship between some of the boys. I'm not sure it's quite worth the watch at 26 episodes (should have been around 12). It's hard to recommend due to the slow pacing, but might be of interest to those looking for an heavily character focused anime.
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