Anime Taste Testing: Ikebukuro West Gate Park

A PSA on Japan’s stance against drugs. Remember kids, weed is evil!

Look, I’m not going to delve deep into the whole anti-drug thing (even if I did think that weed scene was utterly ridiculous) – the Japanese government has long held extremely uncompromising views on all manner of drugs, including pot, and that’s not about to change any time soon. Personally, I tend to loathe any form of entertainment media that’s big on moralizing to its audience, but I’ve tried to put this issue aside for my first impressions post of Ikebukuro West Gate Park… if only because the show does an excellent job of damning itself in plenty of other ways.

For the sake of the story, I’ll also even buy into the frequent declarations of Ikebukuro (known mostly for its enormous department stores and being a major commuter hub in its region of Tokyo in real life, incidentally) being a hotbed of bloody violence and gritty street crime. After all, Durarara!! seemed to pull this off just fine, and it’s been an entire decade (crap, I’m old) since the first season of that dropped. So, despite far overselling its premise, I was willing to give Ikebukuro West Gate Park a decent shot going in. Unfortunately, IWGP’s biggest problem isn’t that its setting is unrealistic – it’s that the show seems to have no interest beyond its opening scene in establishing Ikebukuro as being at all menacing. Sure, everyone keeps talking about what a wild and dangerous place it is, but when all the action scenes are short-lived and almost laughably undynamic, and when the vast majority of the story happens via narration rather than on-screen action in the first place, something’s clearly gone wrong. And make no mistake, IWGP is extremely dialogue-heavy. The addition of the in-your-face exposition (literally including an “as you know” line just in case it wasn’t awkward enough) was enough to induce repeated cringing.

The situation goes from bad to worse once it becomes painfully obvious that, for being an apparent breeding ground of violent crime and disaffected street youths, this version of Ikebukuro lacks any kind of ambiance whatsoever. Forget the bad writing, forget the main character lacks much of a personality beyond ‘tough-guy champion of justice who also preaches about drugs’ – the production itself is downright cheap-looking at times and completely lacking in atmosphere overall, with precious few background details and background music (such as it is) that sounds like something you’d hear in a chain hotel lobby. Hashtag NotMyIkebukuro.

I could also go into the limited animation, bits of badly-integrated CG, and character designs that look surprisingly decent in some frames and weirdly sloppy in others, but I’ve probably dunked on IWGP enough for one post – I’m sure you get the idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to go re-watch Durarara!!.

Rating: 3/10

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