Night Head Genesis is one of those series that carries the potential to become great but yet somehow ends up mediocre. The story focuses on the two brothers, Naoto and Naoya, who were born with psychic powers and were thus locked away from society for 15 years until they finally managed to escape. The first half which focuses on Naoto and Naoya trying to recover their lost past is thus quite engaging and interesting, and it helps the viewers to understand the characters better. However, from this point onward, Night Head Genesis rapidly takes a turn towards the worse and steadily progresses from being midly interesting and quite engaging to downright bad.
The main problem with Night Head Genesis' story is that it not cohesive enough. The story could roughly be split up in three parts and none of these parts really have any impact on each other, nor do they help to resolve the plot in a way that feels satisfying. They just somehow seem to be randomly glued together because all three feature Naoto and Naoya, giving the impression that the show had some great ideas but somehow ran out halfway through. Further, the little good there is with the main plot, primarily the first half focusing on Naoto's and Naoya's lost past and how the two brothers have this profound power to always reveal the worst within people, is completely thrown away at some point. It really made me wonder why it was there at all. Maybe I am just a highly disturbed person, but I often thoroughly enjoy watching people more demented than I on the big screen and here Night Head Genesis was far from an exception, as it turns out that basically all characters who involve themselves with Naoto and Naoya, with or without psychic powers, are in fact way worse off than they are. In this sense Night Head Genesis comes off a bit like Dexter, revealing how it is only through the eyes of the demented it is possible to realize the true dementia of the world itself. While not every story told is engaging, there is certainly entertainment value to be found here if you enjoy such storytelling.
However, as mentioned, when the main plot, if it can even be called as such, is revealed, this storytelling is slowly moved more and more into the background. The main plot deals with the organization called Ark and the Ark plot had the potential to be great as well if all the strings had been properly pulled together. Unfortunately, they weren't. The way the Ark arc is resolved still leaves much left to be desired. The final two episodes we are left with in turn seem to mock the viewer further by giving us a small story arc that seems to be horribly misplaced because it doesn't explain nor add anything else of the show. Suffice to say, these two episodes can easily be skipped and it won't harm the viewer at all, as the last two episodes seem to rather be some random afterthoughts thrown together than a well thoughtout addition to the other two arcs. I had honestly much rather seen those two episodes devoted to flesh out the Ark arc.
A huge redeeming character of the series was thus the animation. While not incredible and especially the way psychic powers were displayed felt somewhat cheesy and too shounen-ish for such a series that attempted to at least try to deal with somewhat tough themes, Night Head Genesis is still generally pleasing to look at and the blending of CGI is done in such a way it is barely noticable and enhances the show beautifully. The world itself is detailed and believable and most of the characters seem to have received some thought into their designs, although the static clothing (really, shorts during winter on a 2-3 year old kid?) started to put me off at the end. This is not an issue that only Night Head Genesis suffers from though, but rather most anime and manga in general. For some reason it seems hard for mangaka and anime art designers alike to conceive the main characters in different types of clothing. I also felt that the characters, especially Naoto and Naoya, were sometimes inconsistently drawn, but these complaints are still minor flaws.
An aspect that felt more like hit and miss was the sound. While I think the voice actors did a fine job and especially Naoto and Naoya became better over time, the series' main theme was definitely overused within the actual series. As much as I enjoy the piece for being able create such a mysterious and brooding mood which I think fits the series perfectly, it becomes quite tiresome to listen to over time. Maybe this became more apparent to me because I marathon-watched Night Head Genesis, but the background music could have used much more variation. I do not think it is good to notice background music unless you do because you enjoy it, and I noticed the background music a lot while watching Night Head Genesis. Unfortunately not because I thoroughly enjoyed all the pieces that were used.
This leaves me with the main gripe I had with Night Head Genesis, and ultimately my biggest letdown as well - the characters. As I initially thought the relationship between Naoto and Naoya was interesting, their lack of character development really ruined the potential of the series. While they do receive some, this some is so miniscule it is more or less non-existent. Another aspect with Night Head Genesis was that it liked to introduce the viewers with a huge cast, but because the cast is so huge many characters were often left completely undeveloped. If the cast had been reduced, particularly on the villain-side, I think Night Head Genesis had been much easier to like. It is obvious the villains Naoto and Naoya engage are flawed. However, the villains that in fact do seem to play major roles later are not really fleshed out at all, this also becomes one of the series' greatest flaws for a show that tries to be character-driven. I was also sorely disappointed with Naoto in particular, who kept falling for, literarily, the same mind game for over 10 episodes straight more or less, where some simple character development could easily have solved the beef and made this particular feature of Naoto so much less annoying. Further, the little development Naoya received was taken away from him right away, which is unfair, because Naoya was the more interesting out of the two brothers due to his abilities. He simply deserved that development so bad.
In summary, Night Head Genesis has the heart in the right place and when it really works the series is truly engaging and interesting to watch, such as with the "Doll House" episode. However, when it does not, it falls on the mark of mediocre at best, often feeling uninspiring and boring. For being a show that tried to handle serious themes and general human suffering, it simply did not deliver. It more importantly lacked the story to carry it, and I keep thinking how just a little sprinkle of drama would've worked wonders. Some questions that at least kept nagging me while I was watching were never raised either, such as the human need to feel loved and to love, to engage in a relationship and experience both emotional and physical intimacy (particularly in relation to Naoya) were never explored. My general impression was that both Naoto and Naoya were supposed to be good-looking and the show implies this as well in one particular episode, yet this never seems to occur to neither of the two brothers despite that they are well beyond their teens. All in all, there were still many aspects left unexplored that could've made the series that deep anime that just hit spot on. Now however, all that I'm left with is mostly a sour disappointed that Night Head Genesis had the potential to be that good, but never really delivered.
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