Anime Taste Testing: Tokyo Revengers, 86, and Shadows House

No, very no, and absolutely not.

Tokyo Revengers

I’ll be honest – at first, I had a hard time telling whether or not this show was meant to be a comedy, or at least whether it aimed to be taken at all seriously. I came to the conclusion that it did, but only because of the lack of any particular appeal in the overly dramatic execution of a concept that’s been done plenty of times before by other shows, and with plenty more flair. The fact of the matter is, pulling off a decent time travel rescue story is probably much harder than it sounds on paper, and harder still to make truly unique given just how many times it’s been tried before. While I have nothing against Tokyo Revengers, there’s unfortunately little here to pull me in, or to suggest that it’s bringing anything terribly new to the table.

My biggest problem with the series is admittedly far shallower though; the character designs had me instinctively backing away as soon as I realized that present-day, working adult Takemichi, whose face is drawn like a middle school student, was supposed to be 26. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast, both past and present, look more like caricatures of their respective stereotypes than fully-fleshed characters. Maybe that was an intentional stylistic choice, but in any case, it lends the series the look of a Cromartie High School while being nonetheless played out with all the seriousness of Erased (albeit with far more in the way of action than mystery or suspense).

In short, this one’s just not for me, although I can see how it might work better for people with a bit more patience (and/or more of a liking for shounen action pieces).

Score: 5/10

86

I’ll get the good stuff out of the way first: this series looks great. Sure, I don’t especially care for the character designs, but animation-wise, this is an undoubtedly good-looking show, and the premiere clearly put its best foot forward there. On the other hand, there’s… well, pretty much everything else.

First, this episode has a ton of dialogue, the vast majority of which is purely expository in nature. It felt like it just kept going and going and going, to the point where I actually hit the pause button to give myself a breather (only to find I’d only gotten to the 10-minute mark). It’s honestly exhausting to follow, and not at all helped by the fact that a fair amount of jargon is tossed in for good measure. Second, this is accompanied by several super-dramatic action-packed flashbacks and flashforwards, which unfortunately served to confuse me further since I’m not about to immediately memorize all the dates thrown up on screen for my benefit. Third, while I’m fully aware that these action scenes are obviously intended to inspire shock and sympathy, they’re so incredibly on-the-nose that I felt more inclined to roll my eyes than get emotionally invested. Indeed, there’s no subtlety to be found anywhere here. It’s clear that the series wants viewers to empathize with the main character, and that’s certainly not hard to do, but only because nearly all of her colleagues are literally drunken army dudes stumbling around using the most vulgar and derogatory of language to refer to their disposable counterparts.

Oh yeah, and fourth, it’s also pretty clear that “empathize with” is basically synonymous with “lust over” in this case. Lena’s military uniform is about the least practical thing you can imagine, complete with miniskirt, thigh-high stockings, and suspenders, of which we get several close-up shots (as well as of her bra in a clothing change scene) – you know, just in case we hadn’t already gotten the idea.

On the whole, it seems evident that 86 is targeted squarely at already-existing fans of the light novel – and given that a second season of this thing has already been announced, I assume there are more than enough of them to go around. Since I’m obviously not part of that (presumably teenage and male-heavy) demographic though, I’m happy to simply move on and forget I ever saw this one, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

Score: 4/10

Shadows House

At first, I thought it was just me and that I was being too overly sensitive/mistrustful, but the further I got into this, the further it became clear that there’s something implicitly predatory about the way our main character is presented. Watching her prance about in her overly cutesy Lolita-inspired outfit, often in her underwear, “adorably” knocking into things and endlessly apologizing in her incredibly high-pitched voice for her clumsiness and lack of knowledge, doesn’t only get tiresome, but progressively creepy. I’m all for experimental concepts and generally enjoy things that venture into supernatural, uncanny valley territory, but that’s only half of what Shadows House appears to be selling here. The other half is all about the pseudo-Victorian-inspired Gothic moe that puts most of its emphasis on making Emilyco, quite literally a “living doll” (allegedly), little more than an object to be fetishized by its target demographic.

Simply put, I’m out.

Score: 3/10

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5 thoughts

  1. @Tokyo Revengers: Yeah, I spent a lot of time confused about the characters age, and I really don’t like the chacter designs either. I’m not sure how far I’ll get, but I’m not quite out yet. Slightly turned off by the boy’s club atmosphere. I mean the main character opens up to his girlfriend’s little brother but doesn’t tell her anything… Yeah, I suppose girls are there to be protected and in turn they perk you up. On second thought, maybe I’m through with this after all. It’s not like the weekend is lacking in anime. I’ll know next week whether I click play or not.

    @86: I like the visuals, and I have to admit I’m curious about what that squad does that burns through that many “handlers”. I’m not really fond of the simplistic expandable soldier set-up, though. You either care or don’t, it seems to say.

    @Shadows House: I really liked that one, though. I wonder if this is going to be a trend this season (what with Higehiro, too)? I’m not particularly fond with Emily being twee, and I’m unsure about the character designs. But I’m very intrigued by setting and curious where this goes once the cast opens up. It’s not often you get see a fantasy anime that descends from the Gormenghast route rather than Tolkien/DnD, Youkai, or urban magic. I’m here just for that. I also generally like the soundtrack, though it’s sometimes a little overdone.

    Curious: are you going to try Fumetsu no Anate e? Seems to be the only interesting premier to still come up (unless i’m missing somehting?).

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    1. Yup, I’ll definitely be trying Fumetsu no Anate e. I’m not sure if it’s the last premiere to come out this season, but it’s the last one on my list that I’ll be checking out.

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  2. I’m quite surprised you considered Shadows House to be predatory? Usually I’m very picky with what I decide to watch and when I saw that Shadows House was getting an adaptation I was so excited to the point of making my family watch it, as I’d been reading the manga for a long while and it’s easily one of my favorite series. There are no sexual scenes in the show, and scenes that could easily turn into fanservice moments never do, like when Emilyco and a few others take a shower. I will say Emilyco’s bubbly personality is quite frustrating in the beginning of the anime, and definitely feels more natural in the manga.
    Emilyco being nothing more than an object is essentially the point of her existence in the Shadows House, as she’s made to believe that she’s a “living doll” that exists to server the Shadow family. This ideology later gets broken when Emilyco realizes that she is much more than someone who is meant to serve the Shadow nobles and reclaims her identity as a human being, with Kate at her side as a friend.

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    1. For me, the biggest issue there wasn’t any particular scene that I felt was predatory, but rather the rather over-the-top moe-cute thing as a whole in terms of Emilyco. While I get that Emilyco is intended to be objectified (in the most literal sense) given her very existence as a “living doll” in the Shadows House, the feeling for me was very much that her character was framed in a similar manner for thee audience, which always rubs me the wrong way. Finding out after watching the first episode that the anime was based on a seinen manga therefore came as no surprise to me. (And on a much more harmless note, yeah, I have to admit that Emilyco’s overly bubbly personality got annoying pretty fast for me.)

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