Anime Taste Testing: Night Head 2041 and Sonny Boy

The final two anime on my to-watch list this season, and they’re… well, they’re not great, but at least it’s something. And if that doesn’t sum up the state of the summer 2021 line-up overall, I don’t know what does.

Night Head 2041

This is an interesting one, and not only because the anime is apparently based not on a manga, game, or light novel, but on a 1992 Japanese TV drama (if you happen to have seen this alleged cult classic, let me know in the comments – I’m intrigued).

Funnily enough, while I only looked up the anime’s origins afterwards, I did catch myself thinking more than once while watching that it would’ve perhaps made a cooler live-action series than an anime. There was just something about it that made me feel the pacing would be better suited to a live-action format – although that might just be because the vaguely dystopian futuristic setting, along with the emphasis on the mystery and sci-fi/supernatural aspects, put me in mind of some of the shows I used to watch on TV myself back in the late 90s and early 2000s like Dark Angel.

I think my biggest concern with Night Head 2041 is that despite having plenty of individual ideas that interest me, when they’re all put together, the premise becomes a bit of a mess. There’s so much going on here in terms of base concept that I finished the episode not knowing where my focus should be, or even whether the episode worked at all with that particular combination of ideas. Had the show picked just one of them and ran with it, at least for the time being, it would likely have resulted in a much stronger start. As it was, I found the story dynamic but cluttered, especially considering the relatively large cast. This also meant there was more or less zero time allotted for character development – the premiere was way too busy setting up the plot to be able to properly introduce its characters – or give me any particular reason to like or root for them.

All that being said, this could well be something to keep an eye on this season, especially if you’re into your slightly grittier dramas or action-orientated sci-fi. In a weaker season, I may have been fairly quick to dismiss Night Head 2041 entirely, especially if I didn’t much feel like watching an all-CG affair. However, given the number of shows I’ve now chosen to keep up with on a weekly basis (making for a grand total of three), this one still stands out as being competent enough to warrant a second look.

Score: 6/10

Sonny Boy

As with Night Head 2041, I’m currently in two minds with Sonny Boy. On the one hand, it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve properly watched a survival game-type series, despite there being a surfeit of these in anime over the past few years (all of which I’ve more or less immediately hated – Mayoiga, Ousama Game, Darwin’s Game, Pet, etc. etc.). To be fair, this one might be more Lord of the Flies-inspired than survival game per se, which I’m a bit more into – but again, it’s been a while, maybe even as far back as the likes of Infinite Ryvius and JyuOhSei. So yeah, I’d say I’m about due again for something along those lines.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I loved Sonny Boy’s overall presentation of these types of themes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed that there’s no overt sexualization (touch wood) of its female characters or specifically predatorial cast members – always nice to see that yes, people can be depicted as assholes without also insinuating that they’re rapists (thank you, anime, for making me get that specific about a plot point). However, I’m not entirely sold on Sonny Boy’s delivery. I get that it’s going for something between Kon Satoshi and Yuasa Masaaki, both in regard to the general art style and the surrealist approach to its subject matter, but that’s kind of the point – when something is actively trying to be artsy instead of just doing it, the seams are bound to show. Add to this that I don’t especially like any of the characters, even the ‘good’ ones, and you can probably see why I have such a lukewarm response to such a potentially compelling title, even in the desert of anime that is summer 2021.

For now, I’ll keep watching, but it remains to be seen for how long.

Score: 6/10

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8 thoughts

    1. Hey, that’s awesome. I guess the foremost question in my mind is, how does it match up to the anime so far in terms of plot/characters – does the anime appear to be setting itself up for an accurate adaptation, or is it more along the lines of telling a slightly different story while just being set in the same universe? Also, if you like, feel free to let me know why you enjoyed the original TV drama so much, and whether you expect to enjoy the anime in the same way. 🙂

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      1. As for anime vs original, it’s a full reboot kind of thing – the futuristic/dystopian setting in the anime is completely new, as is the whole “science above everything else” thing. The drama had nothing of the sort, it was set in current times (of the early ’90s that is) and the issue with psychokinesis was that it was feared and not understood, and so people with psychokinesis were either not able to learn to use their powers well (which is why Naoto & Naoya were in the lab, as childre their powers made everyone’s lives, including theirs, a living hell) and/or they were looked at as monsters and/or they were abusing their powers for their own gains. Of course we have people using their powers for good but they still have to face difficulties (there’s a story involving an old man with immense power who uses it for healing but discovered having it in the first place by wishing for some asshole to die, and oops they ended up actually dying; the old man is then framed as a scammer and suffers humiliation and attacks before having to wipe everyone’s minds).

        So no, the anime’s setting is fully original, with the same rough “we fear what we don’t understand/is unpredictable” idea but manifesting in a different way. Also, the Kuroki brothers are completely new characters, and while there are characters from the drama other than Naoto & Naoya (Miracle Mick for example, who is of course a scam, and is SUCH a Shouwa character, heh), they’re different to various extents.THAT SAID – the anime has, and going by the comicalization is going to, retread a stories from the drama, putting a new spin on them. The bar scene for example is taken beat by beat from the drama, except with various twists and changes, and there are some more stories and plot beats in the manga that are from the drama. And perhaps in the end it will tie into the drama’s world in one way or another.

        As for what I liked about the original… 😀 Oh boy. Well, basically, it’s really charming, and scratches my id in ways that I enjoy. 😀 That’s it, really. It’s one is just so unapologetically what it is, and the whole package is so fun, and the brothers have such great dynamic (also, they’re immensely shippable if you’re into that), that overall it’s really… I can’t really call it anything other than charming and overall fun if you’re into weird, silly, pulpy stuff. Now, is it *good*? Oh god no. It barely seems to have a budget, the SFX are cringy even for 1992, and while the acting for the brothers is good, many side characters are… not so good; and for all of that it takes itself too seriously. But to me all this just adds to the overall experience – not in a “so bad it’s good” way, just the way it is. And for all the silliness most of the stories are reasonably good, although the various themes are handled better in the novelization, and the overarching plot is fairly dumb (but at this point who cares – not me!). Also, ’90s Toyokawa Etsushi and Takeda Shinji are very easy on the eye, Toyokawa has a great voice, the brothers have a great dynamic and they’re immensely shippable, so there’s that, too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        And yes, I’m expecting to enjoy the anime for exactly the same reasons. 😀 My expectations are looooow, and I’m sure that objectively speaking the show is not going to be “good” in the popular sense of the word. But I expect it to be enjoyable and fun the same the original is enjoyable and fun. I’m already vibrating at stupidly high frequencies about the first episode, and if it continues to be the same i’m going to love it. (Btw I’m a dinosaur so I have a small Tumblr where I’m indulging in my Night Head love @ skyhopedango.tumblr.com/tagged/night-head )

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        1. That’s really interesting to hear – thank you for giving such an honest and detailed response, much appreciated! 🙂 I’m still not sure whether the anime is something I’ll be sticking with, but I have no doubt it will appeal to plenty of other viewers from the get-go, especially if your response to my questions further inspires their curiosity. I may even try to track down the TV drama, just to see for myself the beautiful hot mess this sounds like, haha.

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          1. Haha, I hope it’ll pick up some fans, although to be honest I expect it to fly under most people’s radar. And I definitely recommend the TV drama, it really is a beautiful hot mess. 😀 It’s been out of print for literally decades, but it’s now being re-run on TV alongside the anime, so I hope it’s either being, er, archived as it goes, or it will be re-released on Blu-ray eventually. In any case I can’t wait to have it in a better quality!

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  1. Nighthead 2041 doesn’t strike me as anything special, so far. The government policy against the “supernatural” strikes me over the top (usually, when you have a policy like that in place you’re opposing some origanisation, like a church?). Everything feels a little on the nose. And then it’s all CGI, which is just a personal turn-off. I had trouble reading the subtext in the bar scene. What was the barkeep’s deal? Depending on where this goes it could be a mystery or shoddy story telling. If the story telling had won me over, I’d probably be apt to see it as a mystery by default. As it is I’m not really curious and just shrug at this. That’s not a good sign. On the other hand, I’ve had trouble getting shows early on, and then when they reveal their hand I saw where I underestimated the show, so maybe…

    ***

    I thought Sonny Boy was decent. I’m low-key curious both about what’s going on and where this is going. I get what you mean about the deliberate-art style (I think). I did look like they quoted styles. I didn’t mind, but it wasn’t really a draw either. We’ll see.

    ***

    This isn’t that compelling a season. It’s no surprise that the carry over (Fumetsu no Anata e) looks to be the season’s highlight, but so far it looks like it’s so by a wider margin than I’d hoped. I really like Vanitas no Carte, Aquatope is okay, and there are some other okay shows, like the water polo one, and even Peach Boy Riverside is better than expected, and so on, but I can’t say anything has me particularly excited. It’s good that we still have the immortal show.

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    1. Yeah, as far as the previous season goes, I’m still watching Fumetsu. Other than that, I think I’m done with all the premieres I wanted to check out from the new season, so… yeah, pretty slim pickings all around.

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