If I could name a handful of series that I came into with initial, yet extremely low expectations, and come out enjoying in the aftermath, Night Head Genesis would be one of them. Based on a 1992 live action Japanese series called Night Head, this animated adaptation walks familiar territory to developing stories that featured psychologically bending situations with an episodic format. I was reminded of series in the progression of Paranoia Agent, Boogiepop Phantom, even a touch of Mokke, in how it deals with children coming of age with unique abilities, when I watched this series.
Night Head Genesis will likely appeal to the mystery/science fiction/psychological viewer who likes progressive story arcs which ultimately lead into a greater expansion, but note it takes its time building to that point with some notable flaws. The premise revolves around a pair of siblings, Naoya and Naoto, born with supernatural abilties. Naoya has an ability to read people's minds when someone comes in physical contact with him, while Naoto hones telekinetic abilities that often activate at hostile situations. After being sent away from their home as children, the brothers are taken to a laboratory where they hone their skills until 15 years later, when they manage to escape from the facility. From that point forward, the brothers undertake a journey to find their past as well as their future.
The premise is rather familiar - I was reminded of the CW TV series Supernatural with both the premise and aim of the show, as the brothers journey on their own to find their parents, battle dangerous foes that threaten humanity, and ultimately play a part in a larger scheme that could topple their world as they know it. The execution wavers between excellent story arcs and lacking significant appeal in others. It's not the type of series you can marathon in one set sitting, but rather in progressively noted context to really pull from what it measures.
The story takes place in a series of three arcs, each with a specific focus, and while I won't delve into what each arc explores for spoilerish reasons, I can say the way they structured each arc was very effective in coming to know the characters and the larger story at hand. The problem, mostly, was the lack of investiment and further development in some of the characters, mixed with some rather intriguing, yet underdeveloped villiains.
I loved the first 9 or so episodes, the action sequences and the interactions between the characters in the building format was quite intriguing, and the series builds momentum until it hits closer to the end of the first arc, where the lack of development and intrigue takes a downturn. The series picks back up and hits the ground running between the second and third arcs of the series, where some major twists come into play and while by series end, not all of the loose ties are quite resolved, the ending does resolve quite nicely, not too farfetched or predictable in progression, but still leaving more to be desired.
Another thing a viewer might note is that there is a considerably large amount of dark humor to be had, so it may be hard for some viewers to really appreciate it. Think about the execution of dark humor contained in Vampire Princess Miyu - same deal, though notably not as episodic. Example, one episode has a villain who goes off on a very trippy tangent that might make a casual viewer note "What the heck are they thinking?", but that villain's "rap", for lack of a better term, is esentially part of the dark humor this series has to sport.
I really enjoyed this series for what it had to offer, and while I wouldn't say it's as strong in execution or characterization as some of its peer supernatural series, I think it's worth the investment to see what it has to offer.
Animation in this series does well for its respective time, I think the coloring and the character designs suit both the dark mood and tonality the series seeks to measure, and I did come from this series thinking about how it tied in with its live action adaptation, because it feels like one. I could compare it to watching something like One Missed Call or the live action version of Boogiepop Phantom.
It also reminds me a bit of the character designs I saw from another recent series I watched: Human Crossing (or Human Scramble). Very clear cut imaging, but its noted that the series lacks animation fluidity, so some of the character movements may seem a bit stiff.
I would say that Night Head Genesis has a very strong, eerie soundtrack. The instrumental tracks are gorgeous in this series, in a way that might be similar to composers Kenji Kawaii (Vampire Princess Miyu, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, Ghost in the Shell movie) and Kuniaki Haishima (Monster). It fits the vibe of the series rather smoothly in most points, though it retains an elder quality that I wonder might have some similar undertakings from the original LA series. The OP themes is well orchestrated, and of the few vocal performances this series has, the second ending appealed to me the most, as Aya Kamiki delivers a lush, pop-rock song to accompany its sequence. The first ending didn't appeal to me, but some who like regular male vocal J-pop probably wouldn't mind it.
Voice acting quality varies a bit, but does well within its respective range. You can tell there are certain voice actors who struggle when the series commences (Naoya's VA can overdo his role a bit, it's a little grating to hear his calls for his brother towards the beginning) but it evens out as the series continues. To be quite honest, I think the VAs worked well within the respective range of their characters, particularly noting the scope and mood of the story.
Night Head Genesis probably would have been a much stronger series in my eyes if the characters had more alluring qualities. I think the development and progression of this series is solid, but Naoya and Naoto aren't the easiest characters to come into. Once you do (or if) the series takes on another level of appreciation from there on out.
Naoto and Naoya are two noted contrasts: the elder brother quiet, seething and hostile at times, while the younger brother is far more sensitive (which makes sense considering his ability to read thoughts, intentions, and delve into the pasts of the people he comes in contact with, so I don't think of this as a bad thing, others may.)
The main characters eventually grow into themselves, but what I had a problem with were the seemingly lack of flesh in the antagonists. Some of them seemed like they could have been great characters, but the series really would have benefited more from this to make the psychological underpinnings of the series a lot stronger.
One of the main, yet subtly prominent at first, characters from this series, Shoko, is very well noted in her role, and she, alongside the brothers, was probably the other of the main protagonists I could follow well.
I think those who enjoy mystery/suspense/psychological thrillers with progressive pacing will be able to enjoy Night Head Genesis for what it brings to the table. Those who can find note in unsubtle dark humor will like elements in this series as well. The arc-based, episodic format may also be noted to those who enjoy those elements. Yet, if you're a person who wants your plot points hit on in rapid succession, you will most likely have a difficult time with this series. Its respective pacing may leave you in limbo unless you're patient enough to see the fruit this series bears.
It is said that humans fear what is different, and that such fears drive much of human behavior. Naoto and Nayao learned the brutal truth of this statement when they see the looks on their parents’ faces, the day they were sent to an isolated laboratory to live out their youth. Their crime? Possessing inherent psychic abilities. Yet now, the brothers have escaped and are at last free to experience the world, but they soon discover that their prison was also their protection from the outside world. The question is, are their powers more dangerous to themselves, or those around them?
I tend to be a fan of slice of life, dramatic and romantic series, but my palette is open to different series of a plethora of genres. I love watching series that engage my senses and imagination, and as a writer, I always appreciate a good story with a great cast of characters. I love when people give feedback on my reviews, because it helps me see things in a different lens, so I encourage you to converse with me if you have any questions, commentary or just want to chat about a series. ^_^