Perhaps not as subtle as its samurai counterpart, but it does what its audience would normally want
When anime is made that targets a certain audience it seems to have a mixed reaction; this, of course, if it does reach its intended audience. Ultimately, though, what is the difference between one within the 'shounen' genre and another? People seem to appreciate longer-running series, it seems, which makes sense considering one develops impressions over so many episodes, but they may also simply like remakes/completely adapted series, of which the latter is also sensible, but this seems 'whole' too, despite its short length.
It is, though, typical of this genre... so, what's the difference, yet again, about, say, FMA and this? There are even superficial similarities, e.g. when it comes to a similar artificial arm, although not when it comes to the background narrative. It is similar in its conflicts... even the overall narrative, if one takes into account proportionally the fewer episodes... but, clearly, people prefer one much more than they do the other, which I don't quite get...
Perhaps, then, it hasn't reached its intended audience? If one watches this straight from its identically named series about samurai and their horror... one might indeed get a different, possibly inferior impression... and they are different, but then I doubt they were ever intended to parallel each other (although, as the samurai one was made just a year before, I assume many thought it was about to copy it, but no, even the colours, besides the narrative, are entirely distinct).
So... what one can only compare it to, if indeed comparisons are needed, is others of this genre... the ayakashi in the samurai version are slightly more subtle, perhaps congruent with their mythology, and while both have an element of romance, it is approached differently... also, while the ayakashi are handled distinctly in this one too (kind of like chess pieces), in both (as Mononoke explicitly distinguished) they impose a malign influence.
But, effectively, this series is more similar to other shounen than a seinen-type that the samurai tales exhibit... it involves this kind of mindset, where, like in a video game, someone at the end needs to be defeated; although, to be sure, what distinguishes this from FMA, HxH, or even KHR, is that in these the villain isn't entirely so, or at least isn't throughout, but that may be due to the length of the series, where time is spent developing all kinds of characters. Perhaps the latter could be the more simplistic, comedically similar to Ayakashi (although in its twelve episodes it had more drama than comedy, with KHR spending the first fifty or so episodes mired mostly in comedy, then changing to drama, although Lambo was comedy throughout). Of these four, I think HxH turned out to have the most subtle villains, with the Chimera Ant arc turning any shounen narrative inside-out.
Was, though, Ayakashi affective? If compared to, say, Mononoke... well, that would be too steep a hill. Graphically astounding, with a mind-bending narrative... but Ayakashi was never intended to be like that, even with its identical number of episodes. Even Mononoke's prequel, the samurais' ayakashi, had a mostly casual story centred around ghosts, and not until the last arc did it 'evolve' into its sequel. So, I suppose, if this Ayakashi had a proper sequel, it might have had potential like all the other shounen consisting of hundreds of episodes.
As it is, though, it fulfils a certain kind of genre, but doesn't go beyond it as HxH does. Is the drama 'powerful', perhaps? It is kind of comparable to Inuyasha, which is also about yokai, practically equivalent to ayakashi mythologically (although in Inuyasha only one side mostly controls them), but again, that had close to two hundred episodes, and throughout it developed the drama well... but sometimes repeated itself, which is what can happen in such a long-winding narrative. Ayakashi doesn't do that, but still, the drama doesn't contain quite as much pathos... Inuyasha had this existential element to it, this idea that death could be around the corner, and even different kinds of such states, but Ayakashi only played with it momentarily, and not quite as effectively. Also, in Inuyasha hair colour meant something, and while in Ayakashi there are all sorts of colours (Inuyasha being more realistic in this aspect), I didn't get how they related to anything. Perhaps different hues of blue indicate forms of relationships, but there were some that didn't fit any sort of pattern, so I wonder whether they were mostly random.
What I did notice, that seemed to differ from most other anime, is the characters' expressions, where at some points they appear exaggerated (more so than is expected in this medium), and while they still made sense I thought they might have perhaps landed the series a source of unexpected comedy... since normally two serious characters in the middle of talking down a classic villain do not look at each other and smile (or was that a giggle?) - sort of breaks the mood, but then again difference is what is interesting.
So, in the end, it doesn't break many moulds... but, if one is in this kind of mood, and one doesn't compare it with others due to their similarity in names and not genre, it can be entertaining. Not as deep as any of the aforementioned, but could still be considered amusing (this is, by the way, solely about this series specifically and nothing else made in relation).
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