I watched Kuromukuro because I like to watch 30ish minute shows while I exercise and hey it was just sitting there on Netflix. It’s not a great show… not because it lacks hooky ideas but because it never manages to do a damn thing with them. Ancient Japanese ogre legends refer to a thwarted alien invasion: cool idea. A man out of time who fought the aliens awakens in the modern age: been done, but still cool. The aliens clone humans to do their fighting for them: pretty cool. Earth’s only hope is a high school lout who doesn’t want to get in the fucking robot: oh noooooo. It is pretty neat that for once this character is female, but Yukina is insufferable.
In fact, that applies to almost all of the major characters and most of the side characters that receive any kind of characterization. Kennosuke is at least not actively terrible most of the time, but the show never manages to make anything of his “man out of time” feelings and, in a stroke of incredible stupidity, he goes to the fucking high school. Why are all these people who pilot the only robots that can protect humanity still going to the fucking high school in the middle of an alien invasion? Lack of creativity is my best guess.
I did not care for the high school bits, in case you didn’t notice. The high school stuff doesn’t really go anywhere except at the very last moment, and even that doesn’t feel like a culmination of the character arcs as much as “I guess this will work”. Yukina’s school and her friends mostly exist to create weird coincidences (like a school fair with cosplay) that allow for unexpected attacks, but to get there the show wastes a ton of time and energy on a bunch of stuff I found completely uninteresting. That sets the burden on the war story, but the enemies, inasmuch as they are characters at all, only exist to provide idiot-ball explanations why they don’t do the obvious thing and call for assistance against an unexpectedly troublesome planet.
A consequence of all of this is that the show never manages to establish any kind of tone at all. It seems like the creators couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be a drama or a weird high school comedy, so they go for both and end up nowhere. Kuromukuro is too dumb to be a drama but hundreds of people die every other episode so it’s hard to swallow it as a comedy. Weird touches like the icy loli warrior Sophie, her “butler” Sebastian, and dissection-obsessed Dr. Hauser make it seem like the show isn’t taking itself seriously, but the show asks us to invest when it comes to Kennosuke’s obvious anguish in dealing with the loss of Yukihime and the appearance of Muetta. All the faffing about leaves the show with little time to deal with the serious stuff, leading to a somewhat anticlimactic and expo-dumpy ending.
The only thing that works, really, are the fights, which at their best feature startlingly human animations for the titular mech. Once the mechs leave humanoid architecture behind, however, the action gets weaker, and the really weird enemy mechs are never able to fulfill the promises of their designs. So even here in its best parts Kuromukuro is, as it is everywhere else, a fallow field in which interesting ideas fail to flower.