Tokyo Majin: Season 1 (Parts 1 & 2) Review
I picked up Tokyo Majin for two reasons: (1) It was available on Netflix and . . . I thought the guy on the cover was cute (yes, I admit it), and (2) A reviewer on Anime Planet mentioned that it reminded him of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my favorite TV shows.
I really wanted to like this show, and in some ways I did. But it was also painfully bad in many other ways. I explain below.
The story line in Tokyo Majin was completely disjointed and nearly incomprehensible. It seemed like the writers were throwing everything together randomly and trying to make it feel coherent. It wasn't.
The season started out with monster-of-the-week episodes, but then grew into longer story arcs that were supposed to be connected in some way, but weren't really - not naturally anyway.
Even if the main plot had been coherent, it didn't turn out to be very interesting. Superpowered bad guy wants to destroy Tokyo, and he's manipulating people to help him do it! Good guys want to stop him! And they do! Wow, really? That's it? Basically, the story sucked.
Also, the "big reveal" at the series' end about the "vessels" and "deities" lacked any meaning because of the problem I describe in the "Characters" section.
The character designs in this show were decent, but kind of weird. Tatsuma had his adorable sweatshirt and trademark finger-less gloves. But then they made another guy, Kareha, that basically looked just like him and robbed Tatsuma of his unique glory. All the girls had hairs sticking out in random directions, which was weird. I did enjoy the design of the first major baddie, Kozuno, as well as Marie Claire, the fiery bug-eyed girl that hung around with him. The Gigantor Nurse was also cool. Other than that, nothing special about character design.
I also didn't particularly enjoy the animation in the series. First, the supernatural elements tended to have a hazy, washed-over feel to them. Second, the action looked stilted and not particularly smooth. Third, the cuts between scenes were really abrupt, which made the show hard to follow and quite confusing.
I loved the mix of music in this anime. The opening theme was a kickass heavy metal song by ACID that was reminiscent of "Howling" (the theme from Darker Than Black). It really set the tone for the anime. What I really appreciated was mixing in classical music - in particular, the dissonant chords followed by the fast 16th note violin passages (a modified version of Vivaldi's "Winter" from the Four Seasons, perhaps?) - during the action scenes. The use of strings really complemented the action on a screen in a unique way - not your average heavy metal action scene accompaniment.
As for the voice acting, it was a mixed bag: mostly unremarkable. I was intrigued enough by Tatsuma Hiyuu's English voice actor to look him up. (Okay, fine, I admit, maybe I was kind of in love with him. So sue me.) It sounded just right for the character - easygoing, unassuming. Aoi's voice actor, of course, annoyed me, as female leads are wont to do. And Daigo's voice actor took too much of a "meathead" approach for my tastes. Komaki's actress was decent, if a little unvaried. And Kyouichi's was fine, if not particularly subtle.
Good god, it felt like the writers took character crack, because this show was a giant character clusterf*ck. Characters that we were supposed to care about sprouted up like noxious weeds and robbed our main characters of valuable screen time. Which was infuriating, because I quite liked our main cast.
But who were the random drag queens? And the gaggle of guys with scars that hung around with Kyouichi? Why should the audience care about the look-alike Oribe twins, who were randomly introduced and had no personality or backstory whatsoever? Who are all of these old geezers that appear randomly to explain mystical stuff and then don't do anything? Why did they have to make mind-control baddie, Sagaya, a regular character, not to mention the nurse that works at the hospital? I'll admit I was a bit intrigued by the rabbit-feeding teacher (who remains a mystery to me), but was I supposed to care about the blonde female teacher? Who was the random blonde chick that they showed hanging around with the bums under the bridge (I have no idea)? Why did they have to bring in some new, random Alan Claude character to be one of the deities? Why did they devote screen time to the random detective and the autopsy guy? And then in the second season, they added even MORE characters in the form of the Martial Fist assassins - one of whom was just a copycat version of Tatsuma, too! Gah!
I was hoping they would come up with something cool for Kareha, the Tatsuma-look-alike (say, perhaps, Tatsuma's evil twin or something), but instead he was an incredibly boring character. Anyway, I digress.
I don't have a problem with ensemble shows, but when you have such a huge cast, you have to DEVELOP the characters for your audience to care about them at all. Otherwise, when old geezer #1 gets shot up with arrows, or blonde teacher gets her arm blown off, all it elicits is a yawn instead of a feeling of peril.
And **SPOILER** when the identities of the vessels and deities were revealed at the end of the season, I felt cheated because 2 of the deities had barely registered on my radar.
The presence of all of these excessive, unnecessary characters took away screen time from the main cast, who I actually kind of enjoyed. The show took the time to develop interesting backstory for Kyouichi, Tatsuma, and Daigo, which I appreciated. However, I wish the show had done the same with Komaki, who came off a bit one-dimensional. As for Aoi, they gave snapshots of her backstory and tried to explain why she feels such a need to protect people, but it wasn't very effective. She was just a very nice, boring character with little depth and annoying, patronizing speeches. And Kisaragi was okay, what with the family legacy burden on his shoulders, but he also had little depth as a character.
The lack of depth is pretty much a running problem in the show, except for maybe Kyouichi and Daigo.
My favorite part of the show was watching the main cast interact with one another, and watching their interactions change as they fought together over the course of the show. Itdid remind me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in some ways: gaggle of young teens fighting against the forces of evil. Except Buffy explored larger themes through its cast and supernatural storylines; Tokyo Majin, not so much.
I did enjoy the romantic undertones, though I wish the writers had drawn more drama and created more tension from them. I mean, Daigo loves Komaki, who loved Aoi, who loved Tatsuma, who's basically asexual but is also loved by Kyouichi, who may also be loved by Aoi, who is loved by Kisaragi? Come on, we needed to see some bitchfights out of all that angst and tension!
But unfortunately, the gaggle of extraneous characters - including the annoying Reporter, who was mostly a useless character - dragged the show down and ate up valuable screen time. So there was no time for bitchfight awesomeness.
I wanted to like this show. Tatsuma was so good-looking. And I loved the little "tch" sound that Kyouichi made every time he scoffed. And I thought Daigo's backstory with his troubled teen years was very well done.
But nothing else in this show really worked. If Aoi's power was so powerful, why didn't she kick more ass? Komaki was given one "backstory" with her archery friend, but not much else. Why not? Oh, right, because the show was wasting time on the gaggle of extraneous characters.
Such wasted potential...