For me at least, this anime season is continuing its weirdly rocky start.
Honestly, I wanted to like this series more than I actually did. Slice-of-life dramas and dad shows are right up my alley, so on paper at least, a combination of the two should have been an easy pick for one of my favourite shows of the season. So I’m surprised to say this, but something about Deaimon just didn’t click with me.
Maybe it’s that I’ve been spoiled by the high quality of anime titles with similar tones or themes (Usagi Drop, Sweetness and Lightning, Barakamon, Kakushigoto, etc.). Maybe it’s that I was unconsciously seeking one of those quiet, understated soul-soothing shows and was slightly taken aback when Deaimon’s characters instead overdelivered, with both Nagomu and his father seeming to yell half of their lines. Maybe it’s that I was expecting a more realistic kind of setup and was abruptly pulled out of the story when it was revealed that Nagomu’s parents simply started raising Yukihira as their own, apparently seeing no issue in not contacting the police/child services after she was literally abandoned by her own father, complete with an apology note. Most likely, it was a combination of all of these elements.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the base concept of Deaimon, but I definitely think it’s lacking somewhat in terms of execution, and I find the disconnect between the two really jarring, to the point where I’m unsure if I’ll even be back for a second episode.
I’m well aware this might sound completely contrary, but although I often gravitate toward the idea of death games in fiction (Battle Royale is probably still one of my favourite Japanese live-action films, and it’s been over two decades now), I have an intense dislike for the whole “Oooh, look how dark and edgy we are!” shtick that tends to come with them. I mean, I do get that death games are meant to be dark, but I’d argue that this doesn’t mean they can’t have a sense of humour.
Unfortunately, Tomodachi Game strikes me as very much the type of series that takes itself way too seriously from the get-go. By that, I mean everything is played 100% straight, but without any kind of intentional overkill (no pun intended) that would make the proceedings actually entertaining. There’s also no kind of self-awareness here, nor any attempt that I can see to deliver any particular message behind the shock value. What I’m left with is a plot that I’ve seen numerous times before, repeating every death-game trope in the book, purely for the sake of attempting to be grimly sinister and therefore ‘cool’.
Add in the clunky-as-hell exposition, incredibly on-the-nose flashbacks that still fail to endear me to the main character whatsoever, and frankly pretty cheap-looking production values, and I see no reason to continue with this one.
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3 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Deaimon and Tomodachi Game”
Deaimon is my favourite premiere so far. I like the characters, mostly, but above all I like the art style and colours. It doesn’t, so far, measure up to any of the shows you mentioned in brackets (of which Sweetness & Lightning is somehow my least favourte, so it might eventually get there – or slip futher away, who knows), but I do think they make their important points without driving them home (for example, it makes sense that Itsuka’d warm up to Nagomu after hearing that they thought of replacing him; it both relativises her image of the irresponsible runaway, and serves as a point of relatability – without being conclusive enough for a complete turnaround). I can’t see Nagomu and Itsuka as father and daughter, though; they feel a lot more like siblings. I’m sort of worried about Itsuka reacting to the guitar; it suggests Nagomu might have had a run in with her Dad, and I’m not fond of that sort of coincidence in ficiton. But I generally liked the mood, and a huge part of it is the art and colours.
Tomodachi Game feels like a mindgames show written by someone interested more in game-theory than psychology. Utterly flat and dull character, but a thematically fitting game. I disliked it less than I thought I would; the only thing that bothers me is that they’re setting up an unrealistic friendship ideal only to knock it down with equally unrealistic character behaviour. (I suppose that’s what I mean with gamethroy over psychology?) I’m not particularly put off by the premier; it’s definitely not King’s Game level bad. But, yeah, there’s no selfawareness to speak of; no indulgent camp, which a show like this needs to draw me in. Not sure yet how long I’ll last.
I did absolutely like the visuals for Deaimon. I don’t know if they alone are enough to make me stick around, but they’re undeniably lovely.
Oh god, King’s Game. Yeah, Tomodachi Game may not be great but it’d need to be pretty special to reach the lows of the former title.