Kurenai surprised me for much of its opening two episodes - Given its base storyline featuring its protagonist as a young high school student working in 'conflict resolution', I was expecting a more action-oriented experience overall. I was wrong, but in the best possible way, and the third of episode of this series has confirmed that most absolutely.
This third instalment of Kurenai is a fantastic visualisation of a number of the inter-relationships between characters in the show, and more specifically their interaction with Shintaro himself. Of course, his relationship with the object of his protection, seven year-old Murasaki gets plenty of screen-time, but we also see some brilliant realised (and very 'teenage') conversations between himself and Ginko as well as with Yuuno - Two girls who clearly have feelings for him, but none of which he so much as notices, let alone understands. The same can be said of his conversations with Murasaki, where for all his supposed sensitivity he lets each and every important point float over his head.
Much as I loved Spice and Wolf for its dialogue and character interaction, so I find that same kind of love beginning to blossom for Kurenai. While the focus of those interactions are very, very different, the human element to them all in turns fascinating, hilarious and touching, while always feeling very much grounded in reality. Murasaki's tour of Shintaro's school is not far short of being hilarious, while his later conversations with her are really quite sweet in a funny sort of way.
While the animation seemed to take a downward turn in episode three, the realisation of characters has hit near-perfection here - Whether they can keep this up (and keep it interesting) is another matter, but as of right now Kurenai is shaping up well to be a rather fabulous series.