I’m a pretty tough anime customer. I like it best when a show gets me to think a bit (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), or shows me something I’ve never seen before (Mushi-shi). But every now and then, like anyone else, I just wanna see stuff get shredded and blowed up really good. Tokyo Majin does such a great job of delivering in that department, right in the first episode, that I was terrified the rest of the disc wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as good. How could they possibly keep up this level of manic energy?
Sometimes it’s just so nice to be proven wrong.
This show isn’t just over the top. It rips the top clean off and throws it back at you. It’s packed to the brim with all the things that drew a good number of us into anime in the first place. Black magic. Zombies. Monsters. Supernatural fighting powers. Zombies. Decadent-looking villains. Teenaged heroes. Zombies. (No, I’m not repeating myself, just being accurate. There’s a lot of zombies.) They screened the entire first episode back at ADV’s panel at Otakon 2007, and my jaw was one of many that hit the floor while it unspooled. Now it’s your turn to be bowled over.
In fact, Tokyo Majin throws so much at you in that opening episode, and so quickly, that you might end up being steamrolled and not figuring out what the heck is going on. Rather than actuallyexplain anything at first, the show simply drops you into the middle of the mayhem and forces you to start swimming. Eventually, after the first episode is over and the second one kicks in with a handy bit of backstory to straighten things out, the pieces click into place—but be warned, there’s such a welter of characters and relationships to sort through that you may be tempted to ignore all that and just soak up the action. Not the worst thing for a show like this, though, but you’d still be missing out a bit.
So: plot. As Tokyo is wracked by wave after wave of ghastly supernatural attacks—everything from the dead coming back to life to demonic creatures devouring people whole—a small cadre of students at a certain metropolitan high school have banded together, despite their differences and their internecine rivalries, to fight back. Each of them possesses powers they don’t fully understand, but are each determined to employ their powers in this struggle, if only for different reasons.
The two characters who swim most immediately out of the morass of people are “the mysterious transfer student, Tatsuma Hiyuu” and “the delinquent, Kyouichi Houraji”—as described by Anko, the school’s nosy, camera-clicking student-newspaper reporter. Tatsuma is tactiturn and almost milquetoast-esque; his biggest indulgence is a carton of strawberry milk every now and then. Once he leaps into action, though, he deals a punch that can send a monster three times his size into the side of a building (and he does that at least once that I can remember). Kyouichi, the no-goodnik, totes around a wooden practice sword in a cloth bag and gets into fights with rival schoolkids (and, occasionally, Tatsuma). A drop of blood from his thumb on that sword, and he’s a one-man zombie demolition machine.
There’s also a pair of ladies in this auxiliary, too. Student council president Aoi Misato, whose power is defensive rather than assaultive—she can generate force fields and slow the descent of falling bodies—is nominally a bit of a wallflower herself, looking after a father who has entirely too much money to blow on frivolities like weird antiques. Komaki, the fiery archery club member, can turn her bow into a weapon of banishment—that is, when she’s not clashing virulently with Kyouichi and Tatsuma over their handling of Aoi. Aoi just wants to do what she can to help, but the boys aren’t convinced she’s got what it takes to really tough it out, and so close ranks to keep her away from the worst of it all. And there’s a fifth — Daigo, the burly brawler from the track team, typically the first one to step in to protect the girls from threats real or imagined. There’s also a sort of a sixth, Kisaragi, a solemn-faced young sorcerer who steps forward to dispense guidance, advice and the occasional bit of metaplot exposition.
Most of these kids don’t get along. In fact, we’re sort of smacked in the face with their internecine bickering right in the first episode—but as odd as this sounds, it actually works in the show’s favor. For one, it forces us to deal with the characters ascharacters, not just walking skill packages, and as with Venus Versus Virus (another enjoyable ADV show I looked at this week) the characters are most interesting when they collide. I liked how Tatsuma is set up, very quietly, as a kind of moral foil to Kyouichi’s hellraising; the “delinquent” just wants to match his strength with a worthy opponent (an always-dependable young-male-anime-character cliché), while the “mystery transfer student” stands at his elbow and patiently corrects his pronunciation on words like paparazzi. The friendship between Aoi and Komaki also hits the skids as things get rough, and two of them end up on the verge of parting ways by the end of the first disc.
And then there are the bad guys—the legions of monsters who descend on Tokyo and try to devour its denizens whole. There’s roughly three tiers of these sorts of creatures: the zombies (the recently-dead coming back to life); the demons (who generally control and direct the zombies, or some other creatures); and the diabolical black magician Kozunu, dressed like a member of a Visual Kei band and with a cute Goth-chick sidekick to boot. His m.o. is to seek out those with anger in their hearts, seduce them with dark magic, and set their nascent evil free by turning them into one of the aforementioned demons. In fact, we see this process played out in front of us in fair detail when he converts one of the members of a legendary underground rock outfit, “Crow.” Thing is, one of the other members of the band is also a wielder of power, and he and our intrepid heroes have to pool their resources to stop the kid. Preferably without killing him.
Miss this one at your own peril. The sheer amount of visual detail and complexity practically guarantees you’ll want to watch this one more than once,and pick up the other volumes the minute they hit the streets.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind